Everything wrong with The Last of Us (big spoilers)

18 Jun

I suppose I should preface this by saying that The Last of Us is an excellent game that anyone with even the most unreliable access to a PlayStation 3 should make every effort to play. I love it.

But it’s not this flawless wonder of human achievement that’s currently consuming Earth’s entire supply of the number 10. And since lots and lots of people have been talking, probably in much more florid prose than I could manage, about The Last of Us’s many triumphs, I’m going to be That Guy and focus entirely on its flaws.

Combat

There’s too much of it. I never agreed when this charge was levelled at BioShock Infinite, because tossing grunts around with magical Vigours was one of its key pleasures. But here, it often feels more like something that’s getting in the way of me exploring this gorgeously broken world or getting to know the cast at a decent pace. The introduction of one particular interesting character is fluffed by a sudden 20-minute action sequence, after which he and I simply sat back down and continued our conversation like nothing had happened.

The Last of Us combat

The Infected enemies are a mixed bag. The blind, shambling Clickers are great; not tedious to fight, but dangerous enough to make sneaking past at an ultra-slow crouch-shuffle feel almost unbearably tense. Runner, however, are basically just humans who move too erratically to take down stealthily and too fast to shoot economically. Bloaters are the worst, the thoroughly unwelcome stars of woefully incongruous boss fights. Ordinary dudes are the most fun to fight, both quietly and openly, but there’s still too many of them. Weirdly, despite Joel being a much more convincing murderer than Naughty Dog’s other leading spree killer, Nathan Drake, The Last of Us’s enormous bodycount is even more logically-challenged than that of the Uncharted series. If most of humanity has been wiped out, what ludicrous proportion of the survivors must have turned to Generic Henchmanning for the generous waves of bad guys to make sense?

It’s a shame, because it’s easy to imagine a version of The Last of Us where combat is used sparingly, but perfectly. Some bits – a brutal ambush by ruthless scavengers, a breakneck chase through an infested school, a terrifying escape from a walled-off cannibal sanctuary – would have been far more effective if I hadn’t still been fatigued from the last several gunfights.

The Last of Us horse

Oh, and the shotgun takes two shots to hits a man on Normal difficulty. It is – or should be – common sense that videogame shotguns are meant to be loud, have a lot of kick, and can immediately turn a human being into what merely resembles a flying sack of meat where his hit points used to be. Come on guys, this is BASIC STUFF.

AI

I honestly don’t care about Ellie or whoever being undetectable by enemies, because the alternative – followers cocking up your stealth maneuvers and getting you killed – is far worse. But I do take issues with some of the human enemies; from simple stuff like close-range shotgunners not moving or attacking distinctly from riflemen to the more pressing matter of their superhuman accuracy.

Like in Uncharted, the untrained goons of post-apocalypse America can hit a sprinting target at 100 paces and even score bullseyes on someone behind cover, without having level their gun as they pop up from behind their designated chest-high wall. I lost count of how many times this happened on the final level, watching Joel get knocked to the ground by another twitch-aiming MLG pro. If I can’t even hold a gun straight, my foes – who, as we’ve explained, outnumber me 10,000 to 1 – shouldn’t be able to plug me with the swiftness and sharpness of River fucking Tam.

The Last of Us Ellie

Sarah

It’s hard to moan about the opening too much, because it really is one of the best in years – witty, charming, heartbreaking and perfectly paced. But thanks to the years of trailers, screenshots, previews and interviews that precede game releases as surely as night precedes day, it was never a question of if Sarah was going to die, it was a question of how. So I sat through the entire prologue trying, and failing, not to guess which aspect of the immediate surroundings would cause her demise. Oh, she’s going to be attacked in the house. Oh, she’s going to be hit by a car. Oh, she’s going to be swarmed. Oh, that guy’s going to shoot her.

“Oh my God, that guy shot her!” – Nobody who already knew anything about The Last of Us, ever

Naughty Dog were always damned if they do, damned if they don’t with this particular sequence. I understand completely, but it’s still a bit of a shame that a game in which you almost never think “I know what’s going to happen now” begins with an intro where you pretty much do.

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