Zombies, Women And Citizen Kane: The Last Of Us Makers Defend Their Game

The Last of Us is one of the most critically acclaimed big-budget games of the last year. All the same, it's gotten its fair share of criticism. Is it too difficult? Too much like a movie? Are female characters relegated to the sidelines? And why the heck aren't they just called zombies? I took these common complaints to the game's creators. SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE LAST OF US.

Last week I got on the phone with The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley to talk in-depth about the process making the game.

We've already covered several of the things the three of us talked about: We covered the many ways the game's climactic sequences could have been different, from the final lie to the operating room shootout to those awesome giraffes. We also talked about the DLC plans (vaguely) and which characters might feature in a sequel (even more vaguely). And of course, we talked about those cursed phone-sex numbers that made their way into the game.

Here now, everything else we talked about, from zombies to difficulty to sexist tropes all the way to Charles Foster Kane himself. Pour a cup of coffee and grab a seat; we're gonna be here a while.

Why Not Just Call Them Zombies?

Zombies are everywhere. Zombie movies, zombie games, zombie TV shows. And yet they're almost never called zombies. They're called "runners" or "walkers" or "infected" or some other term that means zombies without actually being "zombies".

I (half-jokingly) asked Druckmann and Straley, why not just call them zombies?

"I guess it's the baggage that comes with that." Druckmann said. "I mean look, when we talk about our inspiration and the kind of stories we're into, we don't hide that we were inspired by 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later and Walking Dead. When we talk about that BBC video, we refer to them as zombie-ants. But I think as soon as, in the narrative, in the fiction of the world, if you call them zombies, at least for us, it conjures walking, dead people, coming back to life. And [The Last of Us] is more about this disease, this infection that's grounded in reality."

"I think it separates it from the stereotype," Straley said. "When you say zombie, you're suddenly thrown into B-movie, jokey, shooter domain. And we're not making another zombie film, another zombie game. We're not making another zombie trope-thing, we wanted these characters, a story and a world."

"Honestly it's one of those things where sometimes we say 'post-pandemic' to not say post-apocalyptic, but it doesn't matter," Druckmann said. "Ultimately it's the story of Joel and Ellie, and that stuff doesn't matter."

"As long as that stuff resonates and people," Straley said, "they get the message that it is a story about these two characters and this world and humans, then…"

"They can call it whatever they want," Druckmann finished.

How Hardcore Is Too Hardcore?

One of the unusual things about The Last of Us is how difficult it is, particularly for a big-budget "tentpole" game. It's terrifying and tense and at times will stop even seasoned players in their tracks.

No single aspect embodies The Last of Us' difficulty as fully as the clicker. Easily the most terrifying enemy in the game, the clicker is a blind, powerful monster that hunts by sound. If it touches Joel, it tears his throat out. Game over.

Straley said that they had been iterating on the clicker constantly, and that while they knew their goals, for a long time they hadn't quite nailed the formula. The game wasn't working how they wanted it to. In fact, they were still trying to work it out just before time they let the press go hands-on with the game.

"We're doing basically a big public playtest with the most critical motherf**kers in the industry," Straley said, "and it really came down to the final hours.

"It really just wasn't fun," he said, "and we weren't getting the tension that we wanted. Without the one-hit kill, we just weren't getting the tension, the stakes weren't high enough for people. We were debating it back and forth," He laughed. "It was controversial!"

Straley: "We needed a Chainsaw Guy from Resident Evil 4."

"There were two things," Druckmann said. "We didn't have an enemy like the clicker, and we had a push-off mechanic, where as you were wrestling with infected you could push them off. And by removing the mechanic and making the clicker one-hit, all of a sudden you had all this tension. And people were now using all the stealth mechanics that initially they were just not using."

"We needed a Chainsaw Guy from Resident Evil 4," said Straley. "We needed somebody that was just gonna destroy you when you touch him. That's where we were equating it to."

The first prolonged infected encounter in the game (as outlined in my helpful tips post) is jarring and savage: Joel is dropped into a room full of runners, as well as a single clicker. He's got minimal ammo, and the player hasn't yet been required to take on a clicker head-to-head.

I would estimate that about 98 per cent of players become clicker-food more than once on this section. It's a wonderful slap in the face if you're into that kind of thing, but could be a roadblock for more casual players, particularly as it happens pretty early in the story. I asked Straley and Druckmann if they'd considered making that section easier.

"I saw Bruce stressed out many nights over how you train people for this game," Druckmann said, "and whether we're making it too hard, and how do you appeal to the hardcore gamer while still [letting in] all these people who are somewhat casual gamers that play Uncharted.

"Can you appeal to both?" he asked. "Is it possible?"

As with most aspects of The Last of Us, the key was iteration. "We have a Naughty Dog audience," Straley said, "a fanbase that wants to play the game and just chill out on the weekend. And the story and the world definitely had to have a sense of tension, [to have] survival aspects to it. And we [at Naughty Dog], as players, we want to play something that's challenging. We want to hit the wall sometimes and have to re-think. That's what's fun about games. [It was a challenge], the balance of this game, and trying to find that tone between the survival-horror hardcore niche and trying to make it as accessible as possible."

Just Another 'Cinematic Game'

Chief among the criticisms levelled at Naughty Dog games is this one: They're more movies than games, and you could just watch them and get the same experience. I asked Druckmann and Straley, do they think that's a fair complaint? And are cinematic experiences like The Last of Us and Uncharted limiting what games can accomplish?

"No," Druckmann laughed. "We pride ourselves that we use every tool that we have. We see being cinematic as being like film, but using the visual language that cinema has established that is well-known to people to tell better stories. And that means subtlety. That means show instead of tell. A lot of games suffer from very heavy-handed expositional dialogue, which, to us... that dialogue is very un-cinematic."

Straley chimed in: "I think people get caught up in... I don't really know how to say this. I think it's easier to say things like that than it is to do them. How many games are there that truly tell the sorts of emotional stories that Naughty Dog is known for, inside of a completely open-ended world? I don't know. I'm trying to think of a game where [that happens].

"You can create your own narrative, and that's the argument, right? And the beautiful thing about this medium is that you can create a little puzzle game using colourful blocks, or you can create a character-driven game, or you can try to create an open-world game where you create your own narrative as a player and get more investment by interacting with something in the environment. Suddenly I have an attachment with that thing in the environment. But why not try to do all of those things? And that's kind of like what we do."

Druckmann: "Sometimes the implication with that criticism is, 'This would work better as a film.' And for us, we feel strongly that's not the case."

Straley compared the arc of progression in their games -- growing a tool-set, increasing skills, overcoming more difficult enemies -- to the narrative arc of the story, saying that, "These are gameplay concepts, but at the same time, this is Joseph Campbell's breakdown of story. So when you look at the similarities between these two, a narrative in a novel or a movie and a narrative and interactivity in a game, and you see the parallels between them. We're just trying to exploit what we're discovering. Our medium is still so young, man, I think we're all poking and prodding to try to figure out how to really juice it."

"To expand on what Bruce is saying," Druckmann added, "sometimes the implication with that criticism is, 'This would work better as a film.' And for us, we feel strongly that's not the case. You talk about that giraffe sequence, I don't think that would be as effective in a passive medium. I really don't. I think there's something about you playing through that, you experiencing that, you having played alongside Ellie and Ellie having saved you in combat multiple times, you form a bond that's not the same as if you were to just watch it on the screen."

A Game "By Men, For Men And About Men"

Of other criticisms levelled at the game, one of the most resounding came from The New York Times' Chris Suellentrop, who in his review lamented the ways that, for all its strong storytelling, The Last of Us still relegates female characters to the periphery.

"It does some things better than any other game I've played," Suellentrop wrote, "but I found it hard to get past what it embraces with a depressing sameness, particularly its handling of its female characters." To his eye, despite the initial appearance of a mixed-company narrative, "Almost throughout ... it is actually the story of Joel, the older man. This is another video game by men, for men and about men."

That last line is particularly punchy: Just one more game by men, for men, and about men. I asked Druckmann and Straley if they thought that was a fair assessment.

"That statement was... I think it was unfair to us," Druckmann said, measuredly. "We have a pretty high percentage of women that work here in the studio, and we all felt that we're doing a dual-protagonist story. We're presenting Joel and Ellie as the protagonists, so there's just that game 'by Men,' that's already not fair.

Druckmann: "You could make the argument that it's just Joel's story. But for us, our artistic intent was to create a story both for Joel and Ellie."

"And then a game 'about men'..." he continued, "you could make the argument that it's just Joel's story. But for us, our artistic intent was to create a story both for Joel and Ellie. They both have pretty significant arcs, they both affect one another, and they both are really changed by the end. And ultimately the final decision is made by Ellie, not Joel, when she says, 'Okay.'

"And the last part of that statement," Druckmann said, "which is 'for men.' We fought hard to get female focus testers both for gameplay and for marketing. We had to specifically ask for [them]. We reached out to our agency and said, 'We need both female and male focus testers.'" Druckmann said that they also asked their marketing partners to focus-test the game's marketing for both men and women. "We felt like we did the opposite of that statement."

The Daughter In The Refrigerator

Related to that, I asked about the fact that the game begins with another potentially problematic trope: The "woman in a refrigerator," a trope recently illustrated so well by critic Anita Sarkeesian. At the start of The Last of Us, Joel's daughter Sarah is killed by a soldier. It's an event that in many ways provides the dramatic impetus for Joel's entire inner journey.

As I said in my write-up of the game's ending, I think that the ending of The Last of Us -- and really, the entire journey -- didn't just redeem that opening trope, it depended on it in an honest way that most video games don't. But I was curious what Druckmann and Straley thought. I asked, had they seen Sarkeesian's videos and did they worry about the fact that they were opening The Last of Us with such a shop-worn video game trope?

Druckmann said that they had indeed seen Sarkeesian's latest video, though they were conscious of the trope well before that. "The problem with that trope," Straley said, "is when there's no character there. Then it's just a device that's used to progress the male character's story.

"But it becomes more complicated when you have a fully three-dimensional character that has different wants and needs and has interesting contradictions. And that's what we tried doing with Sarah, with the time we had with her. And again, we felt like we used the power of mechanics in the fact that you embody Sarah, and you see how she moves and how she reacts. And you can look at her room and see all the stuff that she's into.

Druckmann: "At the end of the day, you have to be a slave to the story. … Abstract it enough and you can find these tropes and these conventions everywhere. So all you can do is say, 'What is honest?'"

"Here's a girl that has a lot of agency; she went out of her way to somehow get money and buy her dad a watch. They have this relationship where they can banter with one another. As much as we could, we tried to really flesh out her character. So that you know, we're working toward that moment when she eventually dies, [and] you don't feel like… I think that scene wouldn't have worked if she was a very flat character.

"The other thing: Where that trope is usually used in games is to fuel a violent revenge story. That's almost all of the examples that were used in Anita's video. Where here it's like, yes, Joel becomes a violent man, but it wasn't necessarily because of Sarah's death. It's because of what the world has done to him. If anything, Sarah's death has shut him down. He didn't go on this [rampage], 'I'm gonna go kill every soldier, I'm gonna find the guy that ordered the soldier to shoot my daughter!' No, it's about this man that has completely shut down and is pretty much dead inside, until he meets Ellie."

"At the end of the day," Druckmann said, "you have to be a slave to the story. You can't worry yourself about these things… abstract it enough and you can find these tropes and these conventions everywhere. So all you can do is say, 'What is honest?' What was honest for the prologue was to show a snippet of what this family had to go through, how they were ripped apart, so that you can imagine what happened to the rest of the world. But you're seeing it from a very personal viewpoint. And then you just try to make those characters as real and as grounded as possible so that you can buy into that drama."

The "Citizen Kane Of Games"

One of the more enjoyable things to come up in the critical response to The Last of Us is the hoary old Citizen Kane of Games meme. The old phrase is as well-worn as any of the zombie tropes in The Last of Us, and yet whenever a game this good comes out, inevitably some critic or other will compare it to Orson Welles' groundbreaking 1941 film.

Like clockwork, Empire released their early review of the game and ended by saying that, "It may also prove to be gaming's Citizen Kane moment." Across the Internet, a thousand heads met a thousand desks.

I asked Druckmann and Straley if they thought that was a fair assessment. Is The Last of Us is the Citizen Kane of games? At first, Druckmann laughingly tried to turn it back around on me, asking what I thought the comparison meant. I said I was more interested in what he thought.

"It's already been attributed to several games, and now it has become almost a joke?" Druckmann said. "Like, I think Metroid Prime was called the Citizen Kane of video games."

(He's right, it was.)

"Who knows, right?" he said, more seriously. "You hope you leave some kind of mark and you inspire people. Look, we're into narrative-driven games. We hope that there'll be more games like this, games that take story seriously, that really work hard to combine story and gameplay. I hope it leaves some kind of mark, and it inspires more people to make games like this, and to try to push it forward even further."

Then he laughed. "There's gotta be a Wayne's World of games."

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Comments

    The difficulty was perfect. Challenging enough to keep you concerned but not too damn hard like Uncharted 3. That game was insanely difficult.

      I think my biggest problem with Uncharted is that the gunplay always seemed like an unfair difficulty. Enemies were bullet sponges, there were up to a dozen at a time trying to kill and flank you (the flanking was brutal, in an impressive way though), and it just felt really un-fun to die repeatedly and have to redo those moments that weren't very tight to begin with in light of the much more fun exploration facets. I felt like I didn't have the tools to win those fights with guns, the aiming was too unwieldy and Drake would drop like a ton of bricks far too easily. I usually ran in and punched my way out. I don't think I even passed Uncharted 2 because of that difficulty side of things.

      I was very apprehensive choosing 'Medium' difficulty for The Last Of Us. I didn't want my enjoyment of the game to be ruined by Naughty Dog still not nailing that combat side of things. I was very impressed and relieved I had nothing to worry about and they finally got it right.

        I totally agree with you regarding the enemies being bullet sponges. They barely even react to being shot and when they did it was the same animation over and over. Uncharted would have been better without guns even. At least in the last of us the gun play was better!

        I think the major difference between Uncharted and TLoU from a combat PoV is the 1800 Henchmen deal. In Uncharted, enemies are abundant gun toting drones that spawn all over the shot. TLoU however has, by limiting the amount of enemies, crafted a far more believable world. The leader of the bandits sends a car with 5 guys in it to check out the perimeter and those 5 are all you will run into. That group is then referenced a bit later as not returning. As you stumble upon camps etc, you expect a few more but it never feels like they are coming out of the walls. Even the infected scenes have a similar "This feels like the right amount of enemies" tone to them.

          Im not sure you've played it properly or on a harder difficulty, but this game does have a habit of "respawning" enemies at certain times - making it very unfair

          For example, when you first get to the high school, the area before the science room there is an infected and two clickers. If you make a noise in this scene, the two infected and the other clicker in the science room will come out and attack you as well. If you manage to defeat them all, when you get to the science room, those two infected and the clicker will respawn (as its part of a brief cut scene) - meaning more enemies to defeat (I did this bit so many times, this is exactly what happens)

          There are other sequences later where you know there is only one guy left in a scene, then you accidentally trigger a sound, that guy alerts the next wave of guys from the next bit, you defeat them, and those same guys reappear in their correct scene

          I've seen others report this same issue - and its not run (this also occurs in the section where Ellie is sniping for you in Pittsburg adding three more unnecessary enemies to the scene if you do it 'wrong')

            The aggroing other packs wasn't really my point, the idea is that the amount of enemies you run into during your time in the game feels like the logical amount that would inhabit a particular area whereas uncharted felt like there were unending waves of enemies by comparison.
            (Survival mode sniper Ellie section at the moment but loaned my game to a friend to play it through, I suspect that the lodge with the snowstorm etc will be problematic when I get there though)

    It's really hard to read a good article when you know there are spoilers and you havent played the game. I wanted to read it, and skipped over most spoiler parts because I was very interested in the depth of development that went on here. I am now planning to buy this game. Thank you.

    Can't wait to finish TLoU so I can go back and actually read all of these articles *sadface*

      Not to be a tease or anything, but this was a pretty good article too. ;)

    Awesome writeup. This game was a masterpiece even though many people will attempt to pick things and put elements of it down.

    The story felt like it was about Joel and Ellie, not about just Joel. I guess that's open for interpretation given that you mainly play as him, but to me it always felt like it was about their relationship more than anything else.

      Yeah, I think it's very unfair for them to be criticised about female characters. Name 3 others, no wait, name ONE other game that gives a female that much agency over the plot?

      I bet you it's a pretty short list (not you Mike, you're cool, just soapboxing now).

      I just played through the resort level again so I could do new game + on hard, I played it on survivor this time round and it was ball tearingly difficult. And all of that happened to Ellie. Joel was back in the hut, trying to stay alive.

      For people to still criticise them is really strange, weird and I don't think correct at all.

        not you Mike, you're cool

        The feeling is mutual. :)

        And all of that happened to Ellie. Joel was back in the hut, trying to stay alive.

        I loved that part! Especially when Winter first kicks in and you think that Joel is probably dead and Ellie is all alone. :( That part is one of the most memorable bits in gaming for me.

          And she hunts the deer. I thought that was totally a citizen kane moment of gaming. Never seen that kind of tempo shift in a story driven game before. It was beautiful. When the guys start swarming her later all I could think was "why can't you guys just leave me (her) alone???"

          Because everyone else in that world seems to be a terrible person.

        Also I'd like to say I find the fact that sexism is brought up even slightly at all to be, to take a leaf out of their books, highly offensive.

        Spoilers below will explain why.

        Think about every female you meet in the game, the grown women:

        Tess, clearly a woman who commands respect from everyone (all men you'll notice) around her "sorry Tess, I didn't know you two were together". Completely unsexualised, wearing appropriate clothes, and more the capable of fighting and surviving.

        Marlene, the leader of The Fireflies, a figurehead for a group that commands respect and even adoration, she is calm, collected and in control always. She isn't sexualised at all, and is given real motivations and goals not related to men whatsoever.

        Maria, Tommy's wife, is also 'In charge of things around here' and everyone seems to answer to her, she is Tommy's equal. She is a wife and clearly has motherly instincts (taking Ellie aside to eat with her and talk), but still protects Ellie and can handle guns. Another leader.

        The younger girls:

        Sarah, a young teenage girl who is comfortable being alone at home at night, is capable enough to save money for a watch for her father, and is kind and honest. She is also completely freaked out by the events and seeks protection from her Father, as a normal, real girl her age would do. How many games start you as a teenage girl?

        Ellie goes without saying, she saves Joels life many times, protects and looks after herself, hunts, kills, argues, etc. You play an entire chapter as her, and she is arguably the main character of the story (although Joel could easily be viewed as the main character also).

        No other game I have played has EVER portrayed women in this light, realistically, confidently, and in an engaging way. The fact that the game is sexist is even brought up is just astonishing. It boggles the mind.

    I couldn't form my opinion on this game into proper wording. While I am a massive supporter of getting more story telling in gaming, I couldn't just place my finger why I disliked this game, but I found it summed up by a critic quite nicely.

    Went through it all, and Last of Us is pretty meh for me. In the end, it's just a Zombie (no glorification there) story that would be found in an alright, semi-average Zombie movie. As an actual movie, it would get decent ratings, but in the end, it's no masterpiece or anything particularly memorable.

    I'm still holding out for that Citizen Kane of Gaming, because Last of Us certainly is not it.

      What I didn't like about it was that every single person in the game apart from Ellie, was a nasty person. Except for maybe Tess, and even then that's because we didn't learn much about her.

        I think that's the point. It is hard to know with The Last Of Us how to feel a lot of the time. And I think many of the moments that you take issue with, that I took issue with, were entirely deliberate.

        Those moments when you've just completed a difficult part, and then the game just throws another at you (the lift in the hotel section is a good example), and you think 'Jesus this is irritating me I don't want to have to go through this now', were probably constructed to create exactly that feeling of frustration.

        Is everyone you know in real life a nice person? Aren't you tired of these selfless, one-dimensional save the world heroes in every other game? Or wise cracking devil may care types who smirk in the face of death over and over?

        I think the biggest strength of The Last Of Us is that it doesn't let the audience tell it what to do, it's telling a story, a real story, for once, in an industry that desperately needs it. And saying 'If you don't want to stick around to see it through, then there's the door'.

        I think the games industry is like if Hollywood only released The Expendables and instead of getting the 4's to 6's it deserved, the critics gave it and its endless sequels a 9. It's good to see something with brains and heart for once.

          Yeah I agree. But I didn't take issue with too much. There were things I didn't like, which I've talked about a fair bit, but really, that was the ride that they wanted me to go on and I liked it.

          But because I find the whole world a bit of a 'downer' world, i'm going to let it sit for a little while before I replay it.

          I know what you mean by not everyone being a nice person in real life. But by the same coin, not everyone I know in life is an awful person. But in the last of us, everyone was pretty awful. And that gets a bit annoying. Or they're nice and they die. Horribly. If you know the bit I mean, that was a real "uhhhhhhh" moment for me. Not allowed to have anything nice in that world. Not even friendship.

          Again, still loved the game, not really a critism. That's the story they told and I loved the journey. Just not super-keen to jump straight in again. But I will. And soon.

            "I know what you mean by not everyone being a nice person in real life. But by the same coin, not everyone I know in life is an awful person. But in the last of us, everyone was pretty awful. And that gets a bit annoying. Or they're nice and they die. Horribly. If you know the bit I mean, that was a real "uhhhhhhh" moment for me. Not allowed to have anything nice in that world. Not even friendship."

            I think that when you come across something like this in the game you need to legitimately ask yourself why it's there. Why is everyone an asshole? You see, other than "no reason" I think we're supposed to explore the idea that the new world with new rules changes even the best of people. I don't think you're supposed look at people as inherently evil, just following their choice of survival. I never got how some people find one thing in a story and don't even consider alternative viewpoints. I mean if you think of something it's at least better than hating it without understanding why it's even there, right?

            Like, I saw the "trope" (i wouldn't call something a trope unless it actually becomes one) where your daughter dies at the start and immediately hated it. But then I stopped, I thought "actually... this character has been written far better than your average dead relative..." I continued to see a foreshadowing of Ellie. I started to see the subtle details the writers have written into their relationship. I began to see Ellie understand who she really is to Joel mostly by the actors' performance. Then, it became pretty clear that no, this game is in no way, shape, or form "an alright, semi-average Zombie movie". I mean, really to even make that comparison, there are two prerequisites: 1. You didn't even play it. or 2. You don't know what you're talking about. What would anyone consider an "average" zombie film? 28 Weeks Later? Resident Evil? Because if you do, I challenge you to grab any scene from either of those movies and compare the dialog, acting, composition and writing. See, what I mean?

              I think that when you come across something like this in the game you need to legitimately ask yourself why it's there.

              No I don't. This isn't an english assignment, it's a game! It's a story! I don't over-analyze. I sit back and just let it wash over me and then I say how it made me feel afterwards.

              And... it made me feel a bit bummed about the whole thing. It's depressing.

              Why is everyone an asshole? You see, other than "no reason" I think we're supposed to explore the idea that the new world with new rules changes even the best of people.

              Dude, it's just a story that they wrote, and they wanted everyone to be an arsehole in it except for Joel's daughter and then Ellie.

              That's it. You don't have to look any harder than that.

              But by all means, you can if you want to.

              Still a great game though. Game of the year for me and it's only July!

                Stories have many facets though. Characterisation is a subtle and intricate thing when done correctly. Maybe if you've never had any experience writing or studying narrative, but people don't just 'do things' for no reason. Every character is there to add something to the story, the way they act, the things they do, these are deliberately written to convey themes and ideas, and to progress the narrative arc.

                In the case of "What happens to good people when they try to survive in an unfair world?", that theme is smacking you over the head repeatedly throughout the game, so it's definitely there.

                I think with sub-par stories (almost every game before The Last Of Us) characters can have no real motivation or purpose. But with this particular game, the story is the thing you're playing for. They obviously got somebody who knew what the hell they were doing to craft this thing, and their story idea wasn't "I want everyone except Sarah and Ellie to be an asshole, because, what the hell, right?".

                And I believe also that there's no two ways about it. If you're coming to these conclusions, to put it bluntly, you're coming to the wrong conclusions, and you're missing a lot of what the story is trying to convey.

                If your enjoyment isn't hampered by that, then no problem, as you said it's your Game Of The Year. But if that's the case, maybe let people who do actually want to discuss the story in a mature way have these discussions, without saying because you personally can't see something it must mean it isn't there.

                  Bahahahaha! Oh games snobs how you slay me.

                  I'm so sorry you feel that I'm enjoying the game 'wrong' because I'm not doing it like you are.

                  You seem to think writer's are all knowing gods when they pen a story but I can tell you that most aren't. It's just a story designed to evoke a feeling. That's what stories do, and that's why humans have been telling them for thousands of years.

                  Once you start meta-analysing past that, you're missing the forest for the trees. It was a very blunt point they were trying to make, but I'm not going to argue about it. You feel what you feel. I feel what I feel.

                  Carry on you purveyor of story excellence in games! Maybe you can become a critic and youtube yourself with a glass of red wine and a cravat, talking about the noveau-riche aspect of the middle act?

            I think the situation of the setting what with zombies everywhere sort of threw 'nice' out the window a bit haha.

            It's a world where everything is in chaos, and it's a fight for survival. The social conventions like "nice" are long gone.

            I think Naughty Dog should be applauded that they made nearly every character have realistic motivations. Even the "evil" characters like David make sense when you think of things from their perspective.

        The majority of characters were nasty, but you still had peeps like Bill and Henry. Not necessarily nice people, but i guess survivors with decency. Joel himself alluded to being a hunter/marauder.

        The military/government themselves govern/enforce much more harshly. Its just the "survival of the fittest" world TLOU throws the player into, which I guess being nice gets you dead.

      I wish I hadnt known how critically acclaimed this game was before i played it. This just sets it up too high on a pedestal and I just spent the whole experience deconstructing and criticizing the ways that it failed perfection. Good game, certainly one of the best this year, but nobody will be fondly remembering it in 5 years.

        I disagree. I heard all the acclaim before I played it, but it surpassed all expectations and hype for me.

        And the more I think about it after the playing, the better it's getting as you pick up on subtleties you overlooked while playing.

        I think in 5 years it will be remembered even more fondly than it is now, for being a landmark game but also (hopefully) for ushering in a new era of deep and complex gaming experiences.

          I agree 100%, this game is more important than people realise. Bioshock Infinite had this story that got everybody talking with its maturity and complexity of ideas, but it pales in comparison to the mastery of The Last Of Us. And that says a lot, that a game lauded for its narrative can be so humbled by an amazingly conveyed experience that stands out in ALL mediums, not just video games.

          I feel like I can't play any other games I once took seriously, including what i've seen of games like Watch Dogs and The Division, because The Last Of Us has shined a spotlight on the terrible mediocrity of the games industry as a whole. The facial animation and acting especially look more 'next-gen' than what was seen in that first Watch Dogs trailer.

          The storytelling is streets ahead of many hollywood films, I doubt hollywood could take a story like this (a more action packed The Road) and execute it without completely overdoing the action and simplifying the characterisation.

          When will we get to play another story for adults after this? I worry it's going to be longer than is fair.

          Agreed, I read 10/10 reviews, and it still met my expectations, surpassed them in certain moments :)

    The game really wasn't that hard. I played through it on medium and there were only a few moments where I had to try again, but that was because I screwed up, not because the game was too hard. I am in the process of playing it through on the hardest difficulty now and I am finding it even more rewarding.

      Enjoy the resort level if you don't think it's that hard.

        I think I fluked that bit first time round. I had a good run of arrow kills.

          I discovered the fun of throwing a bottle at someone then rushing them with the knife... very satisfying!

    I didn't think the game was so much hard but I did feel as though some of the deaths felt a bit cheap. For instance, I found that on multiple occasions, Joel would swing his weapon at thin air. It was especially a nightmare when trying to hit enemies standing on a staircase. The weapon would basically clip through them. On other occasions, the escort NPC would get in the way of a run and so, insta-death by clicker would result. Also, enemy detection was a bit erratic, sometimes it was as though their senses were totally off and other times it felt as though they had wall hacks on.

    I've always had issue with people saying a game is too cinematic for them. It was the same with MGS4. Cinematic games are pretty much Naughty Dog's MO. All of the Uncharted games were built around cutscenes. The audience should have expected nothing less from TLoU. I think a cinematic game should be considered a genre. Just like how Dark Souls is considered a game for people who like a challenge, TLoU should be a game that is considered for people who enjoy a cinematic experience.

      MGS4 was ridiculous though. That was too many cutscenes.

        No way! I looked forward to every single one.

          Really? The story was SO bad and some of them were over 40mins long! Some of us have lives and don't want to sit for that long just so we know what the hell is supposed to be happening.

          But horses for courses.

            I agree with kaflooey. The gameplay in MGS4 was pretty awesome but I was always impatiently rushing through it so I could get to the next story section.

            But like you say, "horses for courses"!

    I want difficulty then try playing it with one hand.

    I know a lot of people have discussed the fact they see Ellie as Joel's Sarah replacement - however I wanted to take a different angle on this - I saw their relationship as a 'friendship' - even though there was the whole father/daugher thing going on, I think Joel saw Ellie as his best (and only) friend - the only person he could trust.

    Maybe I am looking at it the wrong way

      I think the brief time you spend with Sarah implies that Joel has a friendship-like relationship with his daughter. I think in this way the relationship with Ellie is much the same.

    I didn't find it too hard - I think it was easier than say this year's Tomb Raider. I suspect the issue is that it forced the stealth mechanic onto people. There seems to be a significant proportion of gamers (and game reviewers/ critics) who have no patience for that mechanic, and will rail against it heavily. Some games let you get away with it if you're really good, but this one didn't.

    The sexism angle for this game is horse-expletive. Pick any hostile environment in which survival relies on aggression and savagery, and it will almost always be male-dominated (not just limited to homo sapiens). The female characters generally behave in a fairly masculine manner as well. The game was going for realism in that regard, and that's the reality. If you want the fantasy version of survivalist fiction, again: Tomb Raider.

    The trope stuff is somewhat valid - though I think the death is more random than is required for the trope to apply - but the counter is that tropes aren't always bad. If it's well handled and makes sense, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Woman in the fridge. Tropes are narrative shortcuts - ways of getting you invested in the story quickly. Frankly, if someone employs a trope well enough for me to get a lump in my throat before the titles come up, they've used it well in my opinion. Also, Sarah embodied several tropes: Daddy's girl (to Joel's Bumbling dad), with shades of One of the boys and When you coming home, Dad?, for starters ...

    ... I'd also argue that her death is more Sacrificial lamb, because if you look at where she was hit, if Joel hadn't been carrying her, the shots would have hit him square in the chest. In this case, it proves authorities Would hurt a child, which very quickly puts you in the iconoclastic, survivalist frame of mind.

      Am I gonna have go visit TvTropes.com again? 'Cause I don't have an entire afternoon to waste! :)

    Ellie is far and away the most important character in the game, and to accuse Naughty Dog of making a game "about/by/for men" does them a great disservice.

    Throughout the game, Ellie comes into her own, culminating in Winter. But because this is a game, it'd be no fun to play as a useless Ellie throughout the first two acts; the game has to give her room to grow - the first person who dies for her, the first person she kills. You watch her go from being a burden to being useful - there's that sequence just after the hotel, where she gets a gun and suddenly is picking guys off everywhere, where you suddenly feel "I can rely on this girl". The game then takes her agency away once Spring hits, but that's because the world has. All of a sudden she's just a pawn in the hands of Joel and the Fireflies again, a macguffin instead of a person.

    The game tells Ellie's story beautifully, and it uses every trick it has to make you feel it.

    Wait, what? A game "for men"? Does Chris Suellentrop think all girls play is Candy Crush Unicorn Robot Farm?

    The 'hide and seek' sequence in the burning restaurant with David was truly terrifying. And the tension and the build-up was just perfect: there was always something "not quite right" about him. The voice-acting in that scene was Deliverance-level creepy - when he snuck up behind me and stuck that machete through Ellie's chest, I screamed aloud. I didn't do that even during RE4.

    As a girl, that sequence scared me more than any clicker. That shit was creepy.

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