The Last of Us
How does one improve upon game that displayed, in some form, the heights of the gaming industry. This title raised the bar and has transformed cinematic storytelling in games, hopefully for the better. It was moving, engaging, heartbreaking, powerful and always a thrill to engage with. From its combat to voice acting and graphics, The Last of Us remains one of my favourite art pieces in the world.
Therefore, when Naughty Dog step up to make a sequel to something so incredible, what's the first thing that must go through their collective minds? The intense pressure placed upon the team to create a game of sublime quality is ever increasing, and with The Last of Us in the title, gamers will come to expect a great deal once they grab hold of their controller.
Therefore, I wanted to take a look at what made The Last of Us such an impactful experience and examine the ways in which Naughty Dog could improve or simply alter the ways in which they carried it out before.
How? I ask. How can you possibly improve upon the story that was gifted to us in this game. The apocalyptic setting is something which popular culture is obsessed with at the moment, from The Road and The Walking Dead to the likes of The Book of Eli, RAGE and Fallout. Therefore, the manner in which Naughty Dog carried out the narrative flow of The Last of Us was remarkable. The game had a fascinating take on this trend, following more in the steps of McCarthy's sublime work.
The opening moment with Joel and his daughter Sarah seated upon the couch works so well. It's a small and subtle introduction to the relationship between two characters, how close they are and how they adore one another is apparent in less than five minutes. Therefore, when the shocking development takes place 15 minutes later, we already care enough to be shocked and moved.
Naturally, the experience only improves upon its initial moments as we become familiar with Ellie and gain a deeper understanding of the emotional pain that Joel suffers through every day that he is in her presence (of course that changes towards the end). Naughty Dog need only continue upon this process of emotional involvement through intelligent use of cinematic visuals, sparse and well scripted dialogue and adhering to the age old favourite of 'show don't tell'.
I have no idea whether Gustavo Santaolalla, would resume his position of the composer for The Last of Us, but I for one would insist upon his return. His music was as vital to this game as any other narrative aspect. The mood that was set through his sparse use of guitar, ranging from almost silent to sporadic and chaotic, underscored so many of the greatest scenes in the game. Just after Sarah's death, the opening credits are filled with exceptional music and the score that plays during the moments you run out of the hospital with Ellie was heartbreaking.
It's also important to acknowledge Naughty Dog's understanding of the use of silence. Rather than simply shoving in music where it doesn't belong, they allow the diegetic sounds of many scenes to fill your ears.
It would be extremely difficult to match the emotional power of Santaolalla's score, and if he was replaced, god help the poor composer that would have to compete with his score.
The combat system in The Last of Us was continually engaging. It was satisfying to pick someone off with a sniper, punch them full force up close or hide behind a box and shoot around the corner. I still remember how tense it was to hunt that deer playing as Ellie or how horrifying it was when you accidentally let a clicker know where you were. The crafting elements and distracting tools were perfectly utilised and never overused.
Still, though it has all of these incredible attributes, I always find Naughty Dog's gunplay a bit unusual. For example, I'm not a big fan of it at all in Uncharted, it feels like I'm not totally in control and it feels clunky. This was certainly improved upon for The Last of Us and I hope that Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us 2 will fix all of these issues right up!
The Last of Us put my old backward playing PS3 to the test. The initial loading screen took so long that I went and made a cup of tea every time I started up the game. Granted though, it worked perfectly once I started moving, just certain moments that moved from gameplay to a cinematic took a little too long and took me out of the moment. This was all due to the fact that the PS3 was being pushed to its very limits with this game and I'm sure the PS4 version has all of these fixed already.
Therefore, all I can say is that the great work needs to be maintained. Their games are beautifully crafted and have a distinct aesthetic. I'm sure that Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us 2 will blow our minds on the PS4. The only problem is that I have to wait for both of them.
Let me know what you guys think Naughty Dog should transfer over to The Last of Us 2!