Confession: The Last Of Us isn't the best game I have ever played, but it comes goddamn close. For that reason, I'm about to stop playing the game altogether. Here's why. Spoilers ahead...
Ellie and Joel have really been through it so far. We outsmarted the military to get out of the Quarantine Zone, evaded the Hunters, barely escaped the winter cabins and made our way through underground hell to get to the Fireflies, not to mention all the goddamn Clickers and Runners we've dealt with. I haven't picked up the controller since we were rescued by the Fireflies, and I think that's for the best.
By all reports, I'm nearing the end of potentially the best game I will ever play, and I know that it's all building to something really traumatic. So far, the game has kicked me square in the feelings several times, but I think what's coming is really going to throw me for a loop.
The last thing I want is to end up how I was after I finished Half-Life 2. That game had a cliffhanger-ending following the best gameplay and story I have ever enjoyed. Nothing was tied up neatly in a bow by Valve, and I was left in a gaming vacuum. You could argue I still am thanks to the lack of Half-Life 3 in our lives. Sequels aside, Half-Life 2 was the best game I have ever played, and finishing it was crushing. It was like my friends had moved away.
I tried upping the difficulty and diving back into City 17 for another run, but I knew all the nooks, crannies and secrets. I knew what was going to happen and where to expect it. I knew how to pass tough boss fights and where the conversations were going. It wasn't the same.
The magic was fleeting, and that's exactly what I'm approaching with The Last Of Us: a brilliant game with an emotional ending that's going to leave me without another brilliant game to fill the hole.
Once I finish it, that's that. Replaying it won't feel the same and playing something else won't be as good. To save myself from the heartbreak of not having it anymore, I'm seriously considering not finishing the game. I want to just put down the controller and pretend Ellie and Joel live happily ever after.
Maybe he teaches her to swim, she listens to him sing and play guitar. They maybe visit Joel's brother who has finally secured the hydro-electric plant from bandits. Perhaps they even make themselves useful amongst the Fireflies in overthrowing the military? Who knows? That's the beauty of avoidance: I can imagine any ending I want for my two favourite characters.
For me, the game has already reached its emotional climax with the sight of a herd of giraffes. I stood on that rooftop for what felt like an hour and just watched them graze their through the remnants of a baseball field. It was a moment to step back and reflect on where we had been and where we had to go. A beautiful moment of clarity in a world full of storm clouds. It was perfect.
It's not big, mature or clever to just flat-out avoid the ending of a story: quite the opposite, but couple the emptiness of no The Last Of Us with some weird stuff going on in my personal life right now, and I'm left wondering if I can take being rattled that hard. I know that when it's over I'll have to wait for another brilliant game to come along to fill the hole The Last Of Us and Half-Life 2 left in my life, and that's a long winter I'm not yet ready for.
To finish The Last Of Us, or not to finish?
You creep behind cover, you place the cursor on the head of the faceless enemy, you hold L1 and pull the trigger. The body ragdolls and falls dead. You've seen this animation before -- more times than you dare to count. You are comfortable here. But this may be the last time you pull the trigger like that. The last time you kill a man. It might be.