The DigestVideo

Games Of June 2013: The Last Of Us

We dig into the patient, heartfelt The Last Of Us and play Tweet That Treat!

By John Teti • July 23, 2013

My guests and I have complained on The Digest before about games that start too slow—I’ve complained more strenuously than most, I’m sure. The Last Of Us is that rare game that earns its slow start, and in the first episode of this month’s chat-’n’-chew extravaganza, Drew Toal and I talk about why that is. Everybody’s experience of the game will be different, of course, but for me the game popped into focus at the end of the summer segment. (The game’s act breaks are structured around seasons.) Not only did The Last Of Us become more meaningful for me from that point on, but the end of that first act also retroactively lent a profound richness to what I had done before. Pretty good for yet another zombie shooter.

This week’s digestibles are nostalgic candies, starting with candy cigarettes, which I was somewhat surprised to find on sale in 2013. We’re also playing Tweet That Treat all this week, in which the Digest guests have to compose on-the-spot candy reviews that are Twitter-ready. The object is to come as close to 140 characters without going over. Watch the video to see how Drew fared.

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  • Staggering Stew Bum

    What bothers me most about The Last of Us is that Joel can craft shivs, smoke bombs, health kits etc, but the guy can’t fix his backpack so the shoulder strap stops annoying him. Just fix it Joel! It’s annoying you, but not as much as it is annoying me watch you constantly adjust the damn thing.

    Anyway, I abandoned The Last of Us about a month ago, probably 4 or 5 hours in. I started yelling at the TV in frustration when I got to one of those ‘have to shoot upside down’ sections, and this was when I realised it was time to give this game a rest because it was simply no fun. It’s not like I expected this to be Uncharted 2 with zombies (okay, I kinda expected this), but come on make the game a little bit enjoyable. Anyway, it might be time to give it another crack, now that Ornstein and Smough are giving me the shits.

    • Blatherly

      As great as Joe’s survival instincts are, I actually think he’s pretty crap at crafting. The things he makes by himself initially are shivs and health packs, the shivs consisting of sharp object + tape (to hold sharp object?), and the health packs are basically cloth soaked in alcohol. While the health packs are basically mini miracles (But I suspect its a combination of adrenaline/placebo/faking injury), his shivs are of such poor construction that they break in one go. Oh, and molotovs are essentially wine bottles with a drenched cloth stuck down them.

      Everything else is basically a variation of those. He’s shown how to make a few other things by someone else, and seeing as we’re not shown the process, I assume it takes painstaking hours.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Not that this isn’t a horrible, stupid thing for the game to do – but I’ve heard (not just in this video) that it’s around the 5 hour mark that the game actually makes the shift from being frustrating and limiting to being actually really good. It might be worth revisiting, since you’re probably at/near that point.

    • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

      What Soul Level are you/platform are you playing Dark Souls on?  Perhaps you require some jolly cooperation!  Or at least reverse hollow yourself and summon Solaire for aid.

    • TheMostPopularCommenter

      Huh. For me, the upside down shooting section was where the game really became gripping, just because the visuals were so disorientating. 

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       That scene lasts maybe 3 minutes and is the only example of its type in the game.  Me, I found the sudden change in perspective to be a bit challenging, considering that I had, to that point, been one badass motherfucker in the post-apocalypse.  Bandits, zombies, I didn’t give a fuck, I killed them shits as fast as they popped up.

    • Sleepy Cat

      Ornstein and Smough. No other boss but Gwyn himself gave me such a #$%@ hard time. Those bastards.

  • TheBryanJZX90

    Uh usually I’m not that guy complaining about spoilers and whatnot, but I’ve been studying for the past two months for a test, and so in a couple weeks I’ll finally have enough free time to dig into this game. Is this video something I can watch or is anything major spoiled?

    • BillyNerdass

      Somewhat spoiler-y. If you’ve avoided everything so far, hold out for those last couple weeks.

    • Dave Dalrymple

      I’d avoid the comments as well. The Digest is often a “Spoiler Space” for deeper discussion of the game.

    • Green Arrow

       Bar? If so, good luck! If not, good luck!

  • http://mrglitchsreviews.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

    For when the next Tweet That Treat falls short.

    • PaganPoet

      It even comes with a bright, red Gameological button!

  • BillyNerdass

    While I really enjoyed the game (and think the animation and voice work is probably the best I’ve ever seen), I can’t shake the feeling that all I did was play a well-done mainstream movie. In the same way that the Uncharted formula is really well-done playable action movie, TLOU is a really well-done playable zombie/post-apocalypse movie. Games trying harder and harder to emulate film is, I think, one of the worst things they can do. It’s a different medium, with similar but very different strengths, and games will only suffer in the comparison. With Uncharted, that comparison was easier to stomach because it was emulating the big dumb fun of action movies. TLOU’s more serious tone doesn’t help it on that front.

    • JamesJournal

      What is wrong with a really good action game also being a good movie?

      • BillyNerdass

        I think that when storytelling in one of the big narrative artforms (mostly talking fiction, film/TV, and games here) could be easily adapted to one of the others, it must necessarily be ignoring some of the features that make its medium unique. Games are obviously capable of telling stories like movies do, but I don’t think that’s their real strength.

        I enjoyed the hell out of Uncharted and The Last of Us. It’s not really a problem for me as much as it is a nagging wish that developers would spend less time trying to emulate a medium that they don’t work in and more trying to push games’ envelope.

        • JamesJournal

          I guess I see where you are coming from, I just can’t bring myself to feel the same way.

          TLOU is a great horror/action game, and as an added bonus it is about 50 times the zombie movie World War Z was. (Much like the Uncharted games are strangely more entertaining than many tentpole action movies.) And there isn’t a moment when it feels like the game play has suffered for the story.

          To use an extreme example, Alpha Protocol was a brilliant interactive spy movie, with a broken shooter/RPG hybrid stitched to it.

    • TheMostPopularCommenter

      I was totally disinterested in TLoU for this very reason until all the 10s came in and I felt like I had to at least check it out. While it’s undoubtedly true, it’s definitely the pinnacle of the super-linear-Hollywood-Aper genre by some distance. I think Earl Brown’s performance may be the best mo-cap acting ever.

    • Ben

      I see your point, but there are things The Last Of Us does that no movie ever could. One of them is just spending 15+ hours with the characters, walking around the environments and spending time with the characters. Another would be the way they tell the story with the mechanics, in ways I won’t get into to avoid spoilers.

      • BillyNerdass

        Definitely agree that spending a nice long time in the world and with characters is one of video games’ biggest strengths.

      • JamesJournal

        To be fair, this is also an advantage books and TV have over movies. You are forced to live with the characters and their world, and not just watch everything fill its one perfunctory duty to move the plot along.

  • PaganPoet

    John Teti is really good at smizing. Tyra Banks would be proud.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      And he’s even better than Tyra at thunking the game box against his cheek!

      • Chum Joely

        He really pressed it in there this time. I wonder if that’s a subtle indicator of how well he liked the game… just trying to read the Teti leaves here…

    • Chum Joely

      Please translate for the non-gay. Smiling… with your eyes? Without them?

      • PaganPoet

        You’re on the nose! Smiling with your eyes.

  • Posthummus

    Wait wait wait -the opening for the game needs defending? Next you’re going to tell me the bombing run on the Death Star was an overlooked sci-fi gem. Okay, sure, there’s no way it can be for everyone, but that’s probably the best 20 minutes of a game I’ve played all year. Just the way it sets the baseline for the characters with regard to how they experience violence is really really impressive. Any other game would have you controlling Joel to shoot the neighbour as a tutorial exercise, but instead, you’re a helpless bystander. It’s scary as hell for Sarah, but you see it in Joel as well. His entire arc doesn’t work unless you first establish the person that existed before killing became an everyday activity of the new world order. 

    Also, the car ride sequence is really incredible. Definitely felt like a nod to Children of Men for the use of unbroken continuity. What I find interesting is how Cuaron doing a long take can strike some viewers as showy and immersion breaking, but because the editing of games usually involves following a character over extremely periods, you don’t have that same issue. 

    • Matt Gerardi

      It’s not the opening that they had a problem with but the several rough hours that followed it. As Teti said in the video, things didn’t really click for him until the end of the summer section which is quite a ways into the game. 

      • JamesJournal

        Even with that, they seemed to agree that it would have been impossible to “fix” the slow start and its current state was probably for the best.

    • Drew Toal

      Yeah I actually talked about the opening sequence at length in a part that didn’t make the cut. I really loved it, and then it was kind of difficult for me to switch gears down to fetching ladders and not running fast enough.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       God damn those first fifteen minutes.

  • Haughty Todd

    Audio: “Every stairwell has file cabinets blocking the top floor.”

    Video: Zombie takes axe to the face, is decapitated.

  • Blatherly

    “She’s mouthie, she doesn’t listen very well, she misbehaves alot.”

    I could have sworn Teti was talking about another Ellie there.

    I liked the opening. Most games don’t really bother with slow starts for world building etc but this one did and I appreciated it. I didn’t love it though. I worry the zombie/post-apocalypse scene has been too played out for me and I found myself comparing the plot to the Walking Dead game too often.  

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Zombies were already played out sometime around 2005. But it seems like some folks are able to wring something worthwhile out of it.

    • Raging Bear

      I, for one, never get tired of seeing the world of man in ruins. Does the heart good.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        The bear takeover has already begun.

    • Enkidum

      “I could have sworn Teti was talking about another Ellie there.”

      Take my video game correspondent, please?

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      You mean this Ellie?

  • Enkidum

    I love how John pushes his glasses out of line with the case when he presses it against his head. And how he was finally able to be the game show host he’s dreamed of for decades, for a few seconds at least.

    Game sounds very much worth picking up… in a few months or a year when I can afford it.

    Goddam candy cigarettes are awful.

    • Jackbert

      There are three kinds of candy cigarettes: chocolate, sugar, bubble gum. The chocolate ones are the worse. You have to unwrap the inedible paper to get to the chocolate, but if you put it in your mouth, the chocolate melts and sticks to the paper. The sugar ones are terrible as well, because the sugar tastes like ground chalk, as does the edible paper. The bubble gum ones are okay though. They taste slightly better than the sugar, plus when you blow, bubble gum powder actually puffs out the other end. Sadly, bubble gum ones are the hardest to find. I’ve always felt the best way to fake-smoke is with Red Vines, which are thick, hollow pieces of licorice. They’re about twice as long as actual cigarettes, so biting them in half nets you one to smoke now and one to save for later. Of course, being red and textured, they don’t look very realistic. I wonder if you can buy the paper used on candy cigarettes separately? Wrap Red Vines in that and they’d be the perfect delicious gateway to lung cancer.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    Weird technical thing: The video is not showing up for me in Chrome, though it works fine in Firefox. It’s always worked fine in the past, but the video player looks slightly different, so maybe something has changed and is functioning differently?

    • dreadguacamole

       That’s odd. I can start watching it on Chrome, though it loads painfully slow and dies about a couple of minutes in. On internet explorer 9 I just get a non-interactive picture.

       Not too bothered, as I haven’t played the game yet, but I will want to see the Rogue Legacy digest!

      • George_Liquor

        It does appear to be viewable in IE9. If you right-click on the static image, there’s a ‘play’ option. I’m guessing that’s how IE treats embedded HTML5 videos.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      They did recently change the video player. I’m really sorry you’re having trouble. It will be a big help to me if you file a little report here:

      http://www.avclub.com/contact/

      Tell them your browser, OS version, and the nature of the glitch. They DO read those reports, even when they’re unable to find + fix bugs right away.

      I’d love to be able to look into the problems myself, but I just use the AVC video widget.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Will, do, Johnny-Boy. FWIW, I just C+Ped the URL into Firefox, and it works just fine there.

    • Citric

      Chrome has a weird flash incompatibility, but I can’t remember how to fix it. You have to disable one flash so the Chrome flash and it don’t fight.

      This is why I’m not in IT.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        I disabled Chrome Flash a while back, as there was some rhythm game thing that got a lot of press, but which had timing issues with Chrome Flash. So I’m not sure if it’s the issue or what.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          …and apparently the Chrome Flash had turned itself back on, probably during an update. Now it seems to work.

    • ProfFarnsworth

      One way to fix it…If you right click where the video is, then click ‘refresh frame’ it magically reappears.   At least that worked for me.

  • Dave Dalrymple

    I’m old enough to remember when “Popeye Candy Sticks” were called “Popeye Candy Cigarettes.”

  • missmoxie

    I’m just here to defend candy cigarettes which I think are delicious with their wintergreen chalky delivery. I’m a fan of all candy cigarettes and while I used to be a huge fan of the bubblegum cigar the maker has made a grave error in switching the green cigar from mint to green apple. I can’t wait until this green apple craze is OVER!!!

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Yeah, I’m not really a huge fan of candy cigarettes, but if i see a box of them i’ll probably buy it, or at least want to buy it. It’s chalky sugar! What’s not to moderately enjoy?

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a flavored one though, which seems weird now that I think about it.

  • sag969

    The video doesn’t show up in firefox/chrome/IE – I just get a picture.

  • http://twitter.com/closedmouth Annabelle

    Another game that I will never play because it’s only on a console. Great marketing strategy.

    • Dwigt

      It’s funded by Sony as a showcase for the PS3 and it’s supposed to help selling systems, as it’s an exclusive. Which is a completely valid marketing strategy.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Yeah, I mean, it kinda sucks if you don’t have the console but that’s the whole point. Does anyone complain about Mario only coming out on Nintendo hardware?

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Lots of people do, actually. But console manufacturers need to sell systems somehow.

        • George_Liquor

          I got a feeling that Nintendo’s slowly going the way of Sega, and in the not-too-distant future, Mario will turn up on some other company’s console.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          I don’t think nintendo will stop making hardware anytime soon. Maybe, MAYBE I could see them dropping out of the console race in favor of making handhelds, but I don’t really see them not making a console next gen just because the WiiU is doing poorly now. The Wii was fucking HUGE, I think people tend to forget that. Everybody has a fucking wii. and that was after the sub-par performance of the gamecube and, to a lesser extent, the N64.

      • Fluka

        Is a game like The Last of Us really a console-seller, though?  It’s great, but it’s not really a huge cultural event like Halo or what have you.  I guess the appeal is having access to lots of PS3 exclusives.  But man, there are so many games these days that I’m fine shrugging and go “Eh, can’t play them all.”

        But I guess that’s why game companies don’t market to me.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

            Perhaps not solely on its’ own, but I think it’s one of those titles that’s really appealing to have as part of the whole PS3 portfolio.
             I think it contributes to the overall theme of what you can find on the system that may make it more enticing than the XBOX or Wii or… WiiU…, I guess?   

        • Jackbert

          Not this late in the generation, but games like Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid 4 were PS3 sellers. If The Last of Us had been a PS4 launch titles, it’d definitely be used to justify purchasing the system.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Game companies don’t market to you because you have ladyparts. :(

        • Fluka

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus Yeah, I fully admit that these exclusives do make me think “If a terrible new world order took over and console ownership became a requirement for citizenship, I would totally buy a PS3 instead of an Xbox.”  

          @Merve2:disqus Yeah, there are a lot of reasons. :(

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

           Kinda.  I mean, I bought the game, took it home and then learned that my PS3 blu-ray drive had took a shit.  So got a new blu-ray laser for my drive.  Managed to fuck up the install bad enough to basically break the entire blu-ray player… note to readers: make sure you unplug that teeny-tiny-ass power lead on the corner of the blu-ray drive *every* time or you will split those hair-thin wires, and then you’re fucked.

          So then I went and bought a used PS3 Slim off Ebay for $150 and sold my old, broke-ass one on Craigslist as a source for parts cannibalization.  Threw in the new blu-ray laser for $30 (what I paid for it).  So I ended up paying only $70 for the PS3 Slim.

        • SamPlays

          At this point in the PS3 lifecycle, I’m not sure it’s about selling consoles. (In my opinion, Uncharted 1 and 2 were the console-sellers.) The Last of Us seems more like it’s late for the party. I always find it unfortunate that as soon as developers get a firm grasp on current technology to maximize their product, the tech side of things gets reset (but with more cowbell, so to speak). 

          BTW, nothing says cultural event like a $600 console that plays NBA 2K7!!!!

        • Citric

          I’m not sure whether it’s a console seller or not, but Sony’s not going to fund anything that could possibly help the competition, and I believe Naughty Dog is second party.

          I think Sony’s exclusives are pretty good at selling the console though. I’m not a PC gamer really, and not just because my PC is kind of not great at the moment and making it great will cost hundreds of dollars, so I’ll always have at least one console. While there’s stuff on other consoles that is intriguing, I’ve never really regretted going with the Sony box, or have been tempted to get a 360, and it’s their exclusives that made the difference.

        • Dwigt

          @SamPlays:disqus It stil brings prestige to the PlayStation brand by having regularly outstanding exclusives. Even at the end of a cycle, they still make parting gifts to their customers, and Microsoft as a result looks like they’re only focused on the next gen and are forgetting the 360.

          Between this and Beyond: Two Souls, they’re trying to be HBO, keeping the brand in the spotlight with some quality product even if they’re not a huge seller, before they release the new generation.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    I just got this game this weekend, having traded it for two Shadowrun character portraits.  It feels like an appropriately themed post-apocalypse barter exchange in a particularly nerdy currency.
       I’m only about three hours into the game, but the goodwill engendered by that phenomenal intro sequence is enough to propel me through the slow first few hours.
       It is astonishing how the game so far does absolutely nothing new, either from a narrative or game play stance.  But it is all done with such surety and craft -and actual pathos- that it’s very difficult to not be willingly swept up in it.
         

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       Exactly this.  About the only thing “new” that this game does is have context-sensitive conversations between Joel and other characters that you have to be paying attention for.  While a lot of them take place at obvious times and set-pieces, and give you the pop-up button indicator, after my first few play-throughs I’m still missing half a dozen conversations that I simply cannot figure out when or where they’re supposed to happen.  Part of that problem, I think, is my play-style; I tend to forge ahead to check for traps, clear zombies, strangle dudes I drug around a corner, and otherwise clear the path for Ellie to follow.  Pretty sure that she’s not close enough to me when I pass the trigger-points for these conversations to see the interaction indicator.

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

     I had a problem with the original review for The Last of Us. It was far too snarky, and far too glib. This had some actual analysis, while with some levity. The original review avoided criticism in order to do jokes, which is very much annoying and, worse, bad writing.

    • Drew Toal

      But doing jokes is the best!

      • ChicaneryTheYounger

        Jokes are good when appropriate, and not constant. It was like reading a Cracked dot com review of The Last of Us or a ZAZ version of [GLOG].

        We’re calling it [GLOG] now. I’ve decided.

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

    I loved the slow start, not retroactively, actively. This was mostly due to cohesion, which a lot of developers over look. Everything was placed in the world on purpose, things weren’t randomly strewn to make a “level”. Everything flows, and it’s all because of careful placement of textures and models. It wasn’t “here is the industrial zone”, “here is the Aztec zone”; it was a slow progression. You can see grass breaking through concrete and entropy in general. It seems completely natural, and that’s what makes it so delightful. The exception is leaving the Boston quarantine zone, but that’s because that was constructed specifically as a barrier between the artificial and the natural.

    It’s a rarity in videogames, a game world that feels naturally constructed and that I’m more than happy to work through slowly rather than rush through. Even in New Vegas (which I love) and Skyrim (which I don’t), the world feels actively separated by developers. It rarely feels like a real world, but often feels like a series of set pieces and areas that you must go to. For example: I have trouble reconciling Falkreath with Markarth, as they’re only a few miles apart, yet look completely different. It’s because there’s little transition. It’s a spring forest until it’s suddenly a snowy stone citadel.

    • Fluka

      Wait, so how much of this game takes place in Boston?  Because, you know, fighting shuffling hordes of zombies in the dystopian wreckage of the T subway system?  That sounds like my old daily commute!  *Slide whistle!*

      • ChicaneryTheYounger

         There’s about an hour in Boston. Fun fact, Boston is in better shape after the fungus! (Wow, that was tasteless. I’m sorry idiot backward Southies.)

        • Fluka

          Hehe.  Wonderful, stupid Boston.

          There are rumors that the next Fallout game might take place there.  More post-apocalyptic T for everyone!

  • Fluka

    Between this and BioShock Infinite, the AAA year so far really feels like it’s been about the perfecting of craft rather than innovation.  They have extraordinary environments full of immersive details.  However, violence and shootiness is still the primary mechanic for interacting with the world, and we’re still randomly grabbing hot dogs from dumpsters for health.  The games are well-written and adept at creating a sense of empathy and attachments with the characters, with a focus on fatherhood slightly more mature than other games.  You’re still playing a gruff, world-weary brown haired white guy protecting ladies in both cases, though.  

    Hell, (at least according to many critics) they’re both really good games about gruff white guys shooting their way through a dystopia while rooting through trash cans for pills.  Like John says, though: now that we’ve done this really really well, do we need to do this again?  With the new console, can we get something new please?

    • Ben

      I think The Last Of Us innovates tremendously, mostly in the areas of storytelling. Have you played the game? There aren’t many video game stories like it, especially told the way that The Last Of Us does it.

      When is the last time a AAA game has been really, truly innovative though? That stuff just doesn’t really happen with gigantic budgets and 4 year long development cycles. New consoles will probably help, but if you want to try something that is really different, buy a 15 dollar game, not a 60 dollar one.

      • Fluka

        Well, having just (finally) finished Portal 2, I’d say that those two games are something truly different.  But, admittedly, that series did start as a $15 throwaway.  It’s definitely true that most of the innovative games recently, like The Walking Dead, have been cheaper titles where companies are willing to take risks.  Still, last year alone we had Spec Ops: The Line, an otherwise normal shooter which takes some major, unusual narrative risks, and we also had XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  While that game obviously takes its inspiration from the past, it is pretty unusual to see in the modern AAA landscape.

        I fully admit to having not played TLOU, cuz I’m terminally PC-bound (also, a cheapskate).  Out of curiosity, though, what do you see as the innovation this game offers?

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

           Well, while you do eat hot dogs out of a trashcan in BSI, there’s not much of that in TLOU.

          In fact, other than your medpacks, the only health-regen items you find are food items that were very recently in the hands of a dude you just killed, same with recovered medpacks.  You find these either in the caches left behind by other survivors, or in the places that the bandits/soldiers/other people you just killed were camped out at.

        • Ben

          I’ll be intentionally vague to avoid spoilers, but mainly it innovates for video games with it’s narrative. It is dark, subtle, and filled with ambiguity and uncertainty. Basically the main character is different from Nathan Drake in every way. These are things you don’t usually see a publisher take chances on in an expensive game. Why can’t the characters be more likable? Does something affecting REALLY have to happen there?

          And as far as the gameplay goes, everything is contextualized. Why you kill so many people, the objects you find and craft into weapons and items. All the time spent wandering around the gorgeous, unique environments (and I mean unique, not a single object is duplicated it seems) is justified by the setting and story. It is wrapped in a third person stealth/shooter package that I personally enjoyed, but is probably the most standard thing about the game. And again, for a AAA game, you’re not going to get some weird experimental music-rhythm game with an incredible story. I’m not sure I would want the game to be more “out there.” Are we ever going to see that in video games? Apart from the leap to 3D and the invention of the major types of genres, what else is there to do? I’m sure eventually we will get there, but expecting that out of every game that gets praised is unreasonable. 

        • Fluka

          @disqus_MRrx5GUqGH:disqus Thank you for the in-depth reply!  See, that to me sounds more like “Doing a really good job with modern videogame narrative and gameplay,” but that’s probably a matter of perception.  For all my complaining about innovation, this sounds like an excellent game, and one of the few which makes me regret not owning a console.  But yes, I’m nothing if not unreasonable about what I want from the games industry these days, hehe.

        • Ben

          Hah, you’re welcome. I just think it’s a great game – by no means perfect, but sometimes it feels like there is no room on the internet to like something while still acknowledging it’s faults.

          I loved Portal 2, The Walking Dead (a game you barely play, and has massive technical issues), and XCOM. Spec Ops… not so much. I bet you would like The Last Of Us! I got a PS3 basically for it, but there are a lot of fantastic games out there for if you’ve got the money.

        • JamesJournal

          You’ve played games that have done what TLOU does, but not it the way it does them, and nowhere near as well. 

    • PaganPoet

      Your choices are dumpster hot dogs, trash can hamburgers, or wall turkey roasts, Fluka. How are you not satisfied?

      In defense of Bioshock: Infinite, though, I don’t think it’s so much that you’re “protecting” Elizabeth, as she proves to be very capable and smart in her own right (I still laugh at the video GS posted a while back of Elizabeth gasping and rolling her eyes at what an idiot Booker is everytime he starts blasting at the enemies). I think it’s closer to accompanying her. It’s quite a welcome change from the ordinary escort quest.

      • Fluka

        Sorry, yeah, “protect” was the wrong word there.  (And I loved that Elizabeth video, hehe.)  That was more meant to highlight the “Player character = dude, Female NPC companion = lady” dynamic, which has been with us since the days of Alyx Vance.

        • PaganPoet

          I’m currently playing Ico for the first time, and what a difference. As cool and unique and beautiful as the game is, I’m really frustrated by how helpless Yorda is. Is there a reason they couldn’t at least make her run away from the shadow monsters when they’re trying to capture her?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Yeah, mechanically speaking, you’re not protecting her at all. In fact there’s a popup telling the player “Elizabeth can take of herself.” Narratively speaking, though, Booker is assigned to protect Elizabeth. To the game’s credit, the mechanics and narrative never feel at odds in that regard, but at the end of the day, it’s still a game that involves a middle-aged dude accompanied by a girl.

      • JamesJournal

        Well Bioshock Infinite completely cheats by making Elizabeth impossible to kill (enemies don’t even acknowledge her existence) so even that “Elizabeth can take care of herself” thing is crap.

        In universe, the fact that she had superpowers vital to your survival makes her more of a sidekick than a damsel.

    • ChicaneryTheYounger

      SPOILERS

      You’re not protecting Ellie all that much in The Last of Us. She’s actually pretty useful in combat, especially after Joel gets impaled, and there’s a few times that she protects Joel. The Last of Us is honestly far less white and male than every other AAA title.

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

         You gotta protect Ellie in the moments where it makes the most sense that you, Joel, a burly-as-hell, 50-year-old brawler, would have to protect a 14 year old girl: namely, when people and things bigger and stronger than her manage to get a hand on her… although this is not always the case.  In certain circumstances, she will stick that switchblade in some mofo’s knee or eye, allowing herself to get away and you time to close the distance and break that fool’s neck.

        • JamesJournal

          Exactly, this is not Resident Evil 4.  Joel and Ellie have more in common with a young Drake and Sully than anything else.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        I actually just laughed out loud (LOL, if you will) at “the last of us is less white and male than other AAA titles.” 

        You play as a rugged white dude. You always play as a rugged white dude.At this point, “female NPC sidekick who can fend for herself, but not really she still needs you!” Is a trope that’s getting increasingly tiring and noticeable. Sure Alyx was pretty cool in Half Life 2, but it’s really fucking limiting.

        • ChicaneryTheYounger

          I’m not saying it’s not white and male, but compared to the other AAAs of the last few years, it’s less so. It’s less hyper-masculine than Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, DmC, and Batman: Arkham City for example.

        • signsofrain

          Just for accuracy’s sake you don’t always play as Joel. There’s an Ellie section as well. I agree that TLOU doesn’t exactly break new ground as far as female protagonists go though. When they described her as “spunky” I rolled my eyes. 

        • JamesJournal

          There are sections where you play as Ellie, who is sadly, a pretty unique kind of character in the video game world.

          In my opinion, the Ellie section effortlessly did everything the Tomb Raider reboot wanted to to and then some. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/leon.vacher.5 Léon Vacher

           A) you don’t always play as a rugged white dude. B) MAHOOSSIVE SPOILERS – the rugged white dude turns out to be a selfish, lying murderous bastard, not a rugged hero at all.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          I didn’t mean “You always play as a rugged white dude” to apply to The Last of Us, but games in general, just for clarification. 

          I haven’t played TLoU and probably won’t (i’m not much for that kinda game) but the fact that there’s a section where you play as the girl doesn’t really make anything better. Nor does that the fact that the main character is a jerk or something. The main character is still a white dude.

          And I’m curious as to what you mean by “the ellie sections do what the Tomb Raider reboot wanted to” comment, because as I recall that guy who was doing press for the TR reboot said that they wanted to make you feel like you were protecting a poor defenseless woman from bad guys.

          This is pretty much unrelated, but there’s a section in Paper Mario where you play as princess peach while she’s being held by whoever the bad guy was in that game. You still mostly play as Mario and it doesn’t really forward the whole “women being represented in games” thing.

        • JamesJournal

          “And I’m curious as to what you mean by “the ellie sections do what the Tomb Raider reboot wanted to” comment, because as I recall that guy who was doing press for the TR reboot said that they wanted to make you feel like you were protecting a poor defenseless woman from bad guys.”

          I’m not familiar with that comment, but as someone who played both games I felt like they presented you with vaguely the same scenario, only every element plays better in TLOU.

          Ellie is a more interesting character than Lara Croft, and so were the creepy older people trying to kill and potential do worse things to her.

          TLOU’s survival mechanics and the impact of violence works better to. When you play as Ellie, the game does not forget that you know have physicality of a teenage girl, which leads to some brutal situations.

          I mean, once you’ve been chased down a hall by a guy twice your size, toss a bottle in his face then jump on his torso stabbing him repeatedly with a switchblade … well … ouch 

        • Me, motherfuckers

           If you haven’t played it then you can’t judge the game at all.  Having the main character being a rugged white dude in this instance is done purposefully to subvert the macho hero stereotype. But you wouldn’t know that until you’ve played it so you should probably refrain from lumping it in with other games with rugged white men as the lead.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Yeah, I don’t really buy that, Mr or Ms Motherfuckers. Feel free to use spoilers to elaborate on your point, I’m interested to hear how the game subverts these tropes. 

        • JamesJournal

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus 

          Seriously if you can’t be bothered to play the game at least watch this.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJpXI8Ao-9I

          This is not your standard macho power fantasy. And if anything the parts of Joel that resemble your standard game character are subverted and exploited and critiqued.

          Are the “heroes” of the games we play really “heroic” is the whole idea.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Speaking for myself, two games that succeed in addressing such relationships (as I think they do) doesn’t signal the trope being wrung out.
         I’ve been playing games for thirty-plus years and have just now in this last one played two games that have some real emotional resonance for me. I don’t want to keep using Gameological as a forum for my feelings on fatherhood.  There are other dimensions to me.  I’m also a test pilot for jet cars (please do not attempt to verify).  But I’m still excited to see that these themes are beginning to connect within video games in a nuanced way.
         We all like coming here because we have pretty similar aspirations for the medium; namely a spirit of experimentation and inclusiveness.
         And neither Bioshock nor Last of Us are perfect by any stretch; they are both white-on-white.  And they are both very shooty.  And they both have you scavenging a broken civilization’s leavings to satisfy the abstract of health regeneration.
         But still, I think both of them stand as evidence of the medium moving forward, not that it’s hopelessly mired in stagnation.

      • Ben

        Well said! I agree that neither game is perfect (I have specific issues I could point out with both), but the fact that people are arguing so much over little nitpicks in these two very playable games is mind-boggling to me.

      • Fluka

        That’s actually really good to hear.  Mainstream games like these are finally reaching into actually mature themes, decent characters, and well-written stories, and people are realizing that AAA shooters can be more than badass wish fulfillment.  As the baseline gets raised, I think a lot of people (myself included) have correspondingly raised their expectations.  As an example, a lot of articles on TLOU have talked about how a lot of its accomplishments should be the least we ask of games.  That shouldn’t obscure the fact that they’ve apparently made a mighty fine gaming experience that has spoken to a lot of people, though.  I’m just all the more impatient to see what other, new places we can go.

  • billjonesink

    I’m not sure how anyone thinks the start to Last of Us is a “slow start.” I’d argue that it’s one of the hardest-hitting, most emotional openings to a game I’ve ever played, and within the first 15-20 minutes.

    • Telamon

      As mentioned above I think, it’s not the prologue that folks are talking about.  It’s the entire “Summer” segment really, so basically all of Boston and Pittsburgh, that feel a little slow, partially from a gameplay perspective but I would argue mostly from a narrative perspective.

      • billjonesink

         I think you need that narrative to get things going there, which is I get what this piece is saying in terms of it earning that “slow” opening, but if that’s the case it’s not slow as much as appropriate for the narrative and gameplay style. I think it worked well. It’s not as bombastic as some of the Uncharted games have opened. It’s not a Call of Duty game, and I think calling it slow in some ways was expecting it to be something it’s not — looking at it from that perspective of it just being a zombie survival game or something. I think it’s expertly paced from front to back. Every time I even had an inkling of things dragging, Last of Us gave me something new to make me forget about that thought.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Re: “I get what this piece is saying in terms of it earning that ‘slow’ opening, but if that’s the case it’s not slow as much as appropriate”

          A game’s pace can be both slow and appropriate. Indeed, the entire point of the discussion is that the game’s slowness is appropriate to the arcs that it draws, as opposed to games that start slow because they’re, say, larded with tutorials. If you say the slow pace is appropriate, and therefore the pace is not slow, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The slowness is an essential part of the good pacing! The game is fittingly patient, and that is an admirable quality.

        • billjonesink

           @JohnTeti:disqus I get what you’re saying, and I probably didn’t explain that correctly. When I’m looking at how the piece is framed, it’s defending a game for being “slow,” so in that context slow is inherently a negative assertion that has to be defended. When I say appropriate, I’m saying it’s in the line with the pace of the game. When I read slow, in comparison, I guess I’m reading “too slow,” or “too fast” (if you want to turn it into a Goldilocks scenario), being the other side of good pacing. There’s a sweet spot, and the game can deviate to either side of it. So in context, I guess I’m just saying I don’t think it’s “too slow,” but the way it should be. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

    • Ben

      I agree, and I’d say the next 3 hours or so aren’t so either, especially if you’re at all interested in the characters and story.

  • Telamon

    **SPOILERS**

    For me the game really, REALLY clicked when Joel got impaled.  I realize that’s pretty late in the game to get hooked, and it’s not like I wasn’t enjoying it until then, but I guess until then I was waiting for it to become AMAZING.  And then, holy shit.  Everything from the opening sequence of Ellie hunting in the snow onwards, I was just constantly thinking to myself, “this game is remarkable and I am SO glad I am playing it”.

    The “Spring” segment is also pretty strong (and flies by before you know it), but, holy shit, I can’t say enough about how awesome I thought “Winter” was.  

    I think John and Drew are probably right, though, that everything that follows “Summer” works so well because the game took so much time to build up the relationship and how much you care about Ellie and Joel so that it really earns the pathos and “wow” moments that come later.

    In comparison, I’m currently playing Uncharted 3 for the first time, and while, for instance the burning french chateau escape sequence was visually pretty cool, it doesn’t feel even a tiny fraction as intense as moments in The Last of Us like stalking/avoiding David’s cannibal buddies in the blinding snowstorm, or the final showdown with David in the burning lodge.

    PS Did anyone else feel like David reminded them of Goodwin from LOST?

  • Thomas Crane

    My Joel has murdered about 1000 people so far. When I went against the guys at the resort, I wondered why they were so keen to run into the buzzsaw that is Ellie and Joel. How many dead men would it take? At some point those guys needed to cut their losses. It’s like when you see thugs and criminals in movies fight to the last man against a vastly superior opponent. Sometimes it makes more sense to run away from danger then to confront it. Apparently the residents of Silverlake needed to learn that the hard way.

    • DrFlimFlam

      That’s something that’s always bothered me about games. Even Super Mario, who has murdered his way through as many as 31 levels at this point, finds willing combatants in world 8-4. I know everyone thinks THEY are the exception to the rule, but come ON.

  • doyourealize

    Enough has been said about the story and relationships in this game, and most of it is right on, even the controversial stuff that people disagree on. This game deserves to be analyzed. From faces that show actual emotion to a deserved slow start to superb acting, this game’s characters resonated with me more than any other game’s, and I say that with a good amount of confidence. Vague spoilers if that’s a thing. It works even up to the morally ambiguous ending that gave me what I wanted and then made me wonder if that’s what I should have wanted. End of vague spoilers.

    Often, however, I hear people talk about it as “just another zombie apocalypse shooter”, albeit one that does the zombie shooting just right. What it does right, though, is something that you really can’t say about other games. When you learn how to do something, you’re actually going to need to rely on that thing fairly often. Stealth isn’t there just to start off a fight until you get caught. You could get caught, start shooting, and then find some new place to hide. Melee is effective in real situations where melee might be effective. There’s places to use every single one of your gadgets and different types of guns. Ammo is actually scarce (plenty games tell you ammo is scarce, but I can’t thing of any others that actually mean it).

    And about how the planks are always perfect size, I’d send you over to this early Gameological article. In games, you can’t really get as much clutter as you do in real life. Just like Adam Jensen isn’t going to run through a to-scale Detroit littered with long stretches of nothing, Joel can’t spend his time sorting through hundreds of planks to find one of the correct length and strength.

  • NakedSnake

    Did this digest infringe on French copyright law or something? I can’t watch the video from this page anymore (didn’t get a chance this morning when it was there), and it’s not on the youtube channel, either!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6848349 Matthew Hogg

    Sweet Unglued Squirrel token!  Was that there in previous digests?

  • Trevor La Pay

    The slow-to-start and “It didn’t grab me until Summer!” sentiments highlight an important question: Why do these kinds of games all need to be twelve hours long? The Last of Us is a perfect example of a game that could have easily transmitted its messaging in half that time, if not less. One could argue that the relationship between Ellie and Joel is stronger and more believable because of the repetitive combat, but where do you draw the line? Would it have been as effective to have Joel clear five bandit-infested buildings with Ellie, or did it have to be twenty? I would have been fine with two or three.

    The Last of Us is also a bleak, cynical, and more or less draining experience. I get that this is on purpose, but I didn’t have much fun or learn anything new while dragging Joel and Ellie through yet another depressing subterranean hellscape. Mathematically speaking, it’s a good game – it looks really nice, the menus are all in the right place, and the characters aren’t farting out of their mouths when they talk, or anything – I just would have appreciated much less of it.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       My first play through clocked in at 15 hours, and even I felt that it was too short.  I could easily have spent another 5 to 10 hours teaching Ellie how to survive in the Outside and listening to her banter.

    • PPPfive

      I disagree, I found the game exhilarating in both its execution and cynical view. It was absolutely marketed as a straight-faced nightmarish bleak-out so it seems silly to deride it for being so… If you want something sparkly and fun, the ps3 has acres of great JRPGs, though they nearly all last even longer.

      • Trevor La Pay

        I enjoy nightmarish bleak-outs as much as the next guy, but narrative-driven games typically don’t gain anything by being 15 hours long. In the push to make a $60 game last more than a dozen hours, developers are forced to repeat themselves over and over and add meaningless padding to stretch things out. Clearing out my 10th clicker basement was tiresome. There are diminishing returns.

        • PPPfive

          I think there’s maybe 4 or 5 clicker encounters in the whole thing…I really didn’t feel like repetition was a problem with this game. In fact taking into account the sparse encounters, the quick narrative pacing and the stripped down roster of enemies, I might dare describe it as ’lean’.

          I cannot think of one game that does not employ repetition as a base for its gameplay. Obviously some games push this repetitiveness to the point where the game is no longer involving, and clearly you think this happened here, but don’t be hard on games for being repetitive, it’s inherent. I found this game far less repetitive than Bioshock Infinite or any of the GTAs for example, even less so than stone cold classic like Deus Ex or System Shock. Can you name one game less repetitive than TLOU?

          • Trevor La Pay

            Looking at the gamefaqs walkthrough, I verify that there are at least ten chapters that feature Clicker sequences. But that’s beside my point, which is that I don’t see why these narrative-driven games all need to be fifteen hours long. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and don’t have the free time to devote to games anymore, but why can’t I play through an engrossing story with a beginning, middle, and end that doesn’t take a week and doesn’t overstay its welcome? I shouldn’t need to spend 20 hours gathering pigeon feathers or performing the same old stealth kills in order to feel an attachment with a character.

            Obviously, this only applies to narrative-driven games. Tennis is repetitive, but that’s because the repetition is part of the point. If you enjoy the activity that’s being repeated, then you’re playing the right game for you; for me, violently clearing out maps – which is the crux of most narrative-driven games – is boring. I’ve done it thousands of times, and I don’t get any pleasure out of that anymore.

  • gizmochimp

    I was really excited about Last of Us. I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series and I hyped up Last of Us to all my friends. Got it the first day and excitedly popped it in… now several weeks later I’m still only two hours in. I generally play games to have fun, but I just didn’t find it fun. The combat was more grueling than exciting. The control mechanics actually seem kind of clunky. (Sometimes a button will throw away what you’re carrying, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you can jump, sometimes you can’t.) The story is obviously well-told but depressing and slow. I dunno.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       You can only carry 1 brick or bottle at a time, is that what you’re throwing away?  You’re also limited (iirc) to 3 shivs, bombs, molotovs and medpacks (each) at a time.  I can’t think of any time where I threw away something on accident where I was not, say, swapping a bottle for a brick (because smashing some asshole bandit’s head with a really fuckin’ big brick is cathartic).

      And, yeah, the combat is grueling.  “Visceral” I think I would call it.  None of the people involved in the fights are, like, MMA fighters, it’s all just knuckle-brawls and face-smashing into available hard surfaces/sharp objects.  You are definitely better off sneaking by crowds if you can pull it off (just like real life, such a feat ain’t easy).