Thoughts On The Last Of Us From The Two Of Us… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Thoughts On The Last Of Us From The Two Of Us…

Naughty Dog, the developers behind the legendary Uncharted series, achieved what many are calling the leading Game of the Year contender; one of the best games they've ever made; and even one of the best games ever made. By now, you've almost certainly heard of The Last of Us, but if you haven't, trust me when I say this - "You want to." It's a remarkable game, from the emotional roller coaster you'll experience, to stunning visuals and some of the best voice acting and dialogue ever to be found in a video game.

Since the game will undoubtedly cause a different emotional response from the various people playing it (just look at all of the blogs), I'm joined by mojomonkey12 to discuss the first hour of game play. Clearly experiencing the totality of the game is necessary to form a final opinion, but a one hour snapshot will allow us to discuss our initial thoughts and impressions, without spoiling it for you (or us) by experiencing the ending. And just to note, we will make every effort to ensure it is a spoiler free discussion.

We'll start off with something easy...

Saint: "After an hour of game play, where are you and what are your thoughts."

Mojomonkey12: "Never mind the first hour, the first twenty minutes!  Anyway...

At the 01:04:00 mark I was just about to finish my first real confrontation with the guy that apparently owed some cash to the Fireflies.  Keep in mind, my play style tends to be of the roam and wander variety.  I spend lots of time doing nothing but looking.  I would guess you likely made it a bit further?

My thoughts on the game so far is that it is truly amazing.  I will say I have experienced some minor technical issues, and enemy detection of AI is...interesting. Other than those two very insignificant blips (Navy reference, I think/hope), the game is stunning.

The first hour elicited more emotion than many games do in their entirety, at least for me.  If that is a sign of things to come, I am terrifyingly excited to continue the journey."

Saint: "Sounds like we have similar methodology in the way we play games - explore and try to find everything. I made it a bit further, but used that encounter as my one hour marker too. So it sounds like our pacing was similar. Indeed it is truly amazing and like you hinted, you realize within the first few minutes after one of the game's emotionally charged scenes - anything goes. In most games, there are certain events and/or character types that are sort of "off limits", but I don't think this game is going to have any sort of boundaries or out of bounds.

One of my favorite elements of the game is the dialogue and voice acting. I can easily say it's the best I've ever heard. Even though I expected this level of quality from the creators of Uncharted, I was still blown away with how real the characters speak - certainly no "Jill sandwiches" here. What are your thoughts on this part of the game?

Mojomonkey 12: "The dialogue and voice capture is beyond anything I have really experienced.  Uncharted comparisons are impossible to ignore, but with the grittier and elevated maturity level of The Last of Us, it just has more of an impact than the mostly playful banter of Drake and friends.  What really impresses me in this regard, is the facial animations that go along with the dialogue.  They are so subtle and seem as natural as I have experienced in any game, including LA Noire.  This is much more noticeable further into the game.

I feel the writers did a fantastic job of throwing in some lighthearted moments, but they generally relate back to the game setting.  Ellie has a future in one line comedy.


Saint: "Besides this element, what other feature or features do you think set the game apart from other similarly themed games?"

Mojomonkey12: "I think the one element that sets it apart for me is the crafting and mini leveling system.  Sure, other games have done this, quite frequently in fact.  I think that Naughty Dog has struck a nice balance with their system.  It's there, but it isn't overburdening and doesn't require a ton of inventory management.  The reason for that is because there isn't loot lying around everywhere.  You have to explore and seek it out, and then use it wisely.  I have enough ingredients/components in Skyrim (as one of many examples) to craft anything dozens of times over, if not more.  That is cool, but it does distract me from the actual game."

Saint: "I certainly agree with your perspective. I'm not a huge fan of crafting and leveling. I understand why the developers include it, and it does add a certain extra element to the game, but many of these types of games I play strictly for the story and it can sometimes be distracting to collect trinkets to craft into gear. Tomb Raider had this feature too, and I thought it was a bit much - The Last of Us certainly hit the right balance. Similarly, I liked how they kept the screen clear for most of the game. Obviously the inventory and health meter would flash on the screen when needed, but overall, the screen stayed clear of any sort of traditional HUD type data; it added to the immersion.

The game isn't perfect though and you already admitted a few flaws you noticed. What's your biggest grievance with the game and how much impact does it have on your overall assessment of the game?

Mojomonkey12: "The technical issues I am experiencing are mostly minor, however, from time to time an AI partner will get hung up somewhere (walk into a car, and keep walking in motion), and if I don't notice it, I will be on the other side of the map and start talking to myself. I realized after the second time this happened, that it was the AI partner talking, and I was responding, only I couldn't hear what they had said because I was too far away.  Like you, I choose many of the games I play based on story potential, so missing out on those conversations was disappointing.

The only other thing I don't like so far, and this has happened to me throughout the game, including the first hour, is that level design and enemy AI make playing this game kind of easy at times.  I've experienced it on several occasions, where I will be sneaking, quite a ways away, and then I will hear "what was that", and the enemy AI will start walking slowly toward me, one or two at a time.  It makes it terribly easy to get through the level, because in many cases, the enemies from the entire checkpoint come, and don't really use cover, or common sense.

I don't think these issues are enough to impact my overall assessment tremendously, but it would likely prevent me from rating it a 10 so to speak."


Saint: "That seems to be the common complaint and is certainly mine as well. In one instance, I used a stealth kill to take down a bad guy. Another bad guy started to approach so I took cover behind a crate, but his comrade's body was lying in plain view. He walked right up to it, nearly tripped over it, looked around and said something like, "I guess it was nothing." And walked off. I quickly jotted that down. It almost happened again later on, but as he started to walk off it was like he all of a sudden noticed this dead body and raised the alarm. This is a common problem in some games - AI can be a tricky thing to tweak and perfect. So I chuckled about it, but certainly didn't throw my arms up in the air in frustration or think any less of the game. My biggest grief is my own teammates, and their AI. They continually run out in the open or block doorways I'm trying to go through. I've also noticed sometimes when they're out in the open, the bad guys don't seem to notice them near as quick as they do when I poke my head out from behind cover. Very minor annoyances in the overall scheme of things and the story is so good it's easy to not even really notice it when it does happen.

I'm really enjoying playing the game as Joel. He is such an amazing character. I kind of view him as a mash up between Nathan Drake and John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. Agree, or disagree? If they were going to make a movie version of the game, who would cast as Joel and Ellie?

Mojomonkey12: "Yep, I'd say the flaws, if we call them that, are nothing to really fret about.

Joel is an amazing character, and I am sure the development of his story/plot will only deepen as we both delve further into the game.  I'd say Nathan Marston or John Drake would be a dead ringer Saint, good call!  Agree for sure.  I was expecting one of your famous "if this, then who" questions, I just wasn't sure which angle you would take, and this one is a good one!  Let's see...I am not a real cinemafile, so my knowledge of real man actors is somewhat limited.  Remember that I do live 60 miles one way to the nearest cinema theater and all.

Anyway. Joel would be played by none other than Josh Holloway, of Lost Fame (Lost/Last...no?).  He played Sawyer, the conman.  I didn't specifically care for Sawyer the character, but the actor did a good job, and I just kinda see Joel as the same general personality. Distant, but can be won over, slowly.  I am sure there are others, but he comes to mind at the moment, also I recently watched Lost, so there's that.

Ellie, easy, Miley Cyrus...yeah right!  So, I was thinking about this, and Who's The Boss era Alyssa Milano would be great for this role, but it's not 1987.  So next I thought about who the most badass (sorry Saint) young lady actress I know right now.  This happens to be Maisie Williams.  Maisie is best known for her role as Arya Stark, in the hit HBO Show Game of Thrones based of the series of books by George RR Martin named A Song of Ice and Fire.  There are certainly similarities in their characters, and even more, Maisey fits the bill in real life.  She is of an age with Ellie, has similar enough looks, though she has a strong British accent, if Rick and Maggie can pull it off in The Walking Dead, certainly Maisie can fake an American accent.  Look forward to hearing who would get top billing in your production.


Saint: "Hah, great picks. Sawyer would be great. I didn't even think of him. The game reminds me a lot of The Road, so I was thinking Viggo Mortensen. I had no idea about the girl...I didn't really know any young girl actresses. Until I read your pick. Now, I couldn't agree more. I only recently started watching Game of Thrones and that is a perfect pick.

Mojomonkey12: "Doh! How could I forget Aragorn! Viggo would be great, never saw the movie, but read the book and loved it."


Saint: "Other gamers have noted some similarities between The Walking Dead series and this game. Do you think so, or does the game remind you of any others?"

Mojomonkey12: "I certainly see similarities between the two on an emotional level. There are the obvious common threads, such as the infected/zombies, and the older man traveling with a younger girl scenario, and of course, the end of days storyline.  Both Telltale and Naughty Dog have mastered telling their respective stories, using their individual gameplay approaches, I think that is the biggest thing for me.  Story, and the way it's told so brilliantly in both.  As far as reminding me of other games, I haven't played Spec Ops: The Line, but I have heard some people compare it to that, i.e., dark storyline, etc.  Of the games I have played that come to mind, I'd say Enslaved has some common themes, and is great on its own, in my opinion."

Saint: "Good points. I think perhaps the most striking similarity between The Walking Dead and The Last of Us comes down to the relationship between the survivors. Since we're only talking about the first hour (although it happens throughout the game) you have chance encounters with other people who are just as scared and are trying just as hard to survive, and you want to help, but you can't always just do that without endangering you and your own. There is a scene when Joel and his brother are in the truck (part of the opening scene) and people are yelling for you to stop and help...but you just drive around them and keep on going. I've always been fascinated with this element of any apocalyptic game, and The Last of Us certainly implements it with such an emotional impact.

Okay, well I suppose we should wrap this up. Any parting words or final comments?

Mojomonkey12: "Naughty Dog and Telltale Games both did a great job with showing those relationships, and most often the hostile relationships.  Really in both universe's, it seems to be the human element still causing as much if not more damage than the infected, and I think that is shown very well.  Regarding the scene you mentioned, I would likely be the one pulling over and trying to help.  It really is hard to say if that is right or wrong in that situation.  Personally, if I am all alone and can at least try to help, I will.  Where it becomes tricky, is when that choice also endangers the rest of the group.  I am not sure if you have finished, so I'm going to end here.

Since we are focusing on the first hour here, I do want to mention that there is a scene about 15 minutes into the game that is just...well it is something else.  The baffling part to me is that I saw it coming, and I am not even that smart. I'm sure we ALL knew something would happen, I mean how could you not.  Yet when it happened, it had the full emotional impact on me as if I was caught completely off guard. That is a sign of putting all the pieces together just right, and that is what Naughty Dog has accomplished with The Last of Us.

Saint: "Indeed. We all saw it coming, yet it was just as shocking and gut wrenching as if we were caught completely off guard. That's some powerful scripting and story writing if you ask me. Well, I've enjoyed chatting with you about our one hour of game play. I'm nearly done with the game and imagine you are too (if you're not already). Hopefully we can sit down again and chat about our experience playing the game all of the way through.

Until then...keep your head down and your powder dry. And no more crying! It's just a game.

Cheers mate.

Hope the rest of you enjoyed this. Stay tuned for our final thoughts, coming soon to a blog near you.

 

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