The Last of Us: Remastered is out right now, exclusively on PlayStation 4. For some, this definitive version will provide a good excuse to dive back into what we voted the best game of 2013. For others, namely those who have yet to the play, do yourself a favour and give this article a miss for now, unless you have absolutely no intention of playing the game, ever.
From here on in, it’s spoilers all the way.
As we’ve said countless times in the past, despite its solid web of gameplay mechanics and jaw-dropping visuals, it’s the narrative in The Last of Us that really ties the whole thing together. Naughty Dog has created likeable characters in the past, Nathan Drake and his fortune-hunting friends being particularly stand-out examples. However, with The Last of Us, the acclaimed developer wanted us not just to associate with the collection of polygons on-screen but to care about them too.
Given its post-apocalyptic backdrop and persistent themes of entropy and isolation, the game presented fertile ground in which to develop a grounded story. Needless to say, The Last of Us has some shocking stand-out moments though, upon closer inspection, these are almost dwarfed by the number of poignant, tender scenes that play out especially towards the later half of the game.
Personally, my particular stand-out moment comes shortly after the assault on Tommy’s dam. Upon arrival it seems like, for a moment at least, Joel has reached the end of his journey. Having lost Tess, he’s weary, disillusioned and just wants to get the whole ordeal over and done with. To his surprise, however, Tommy refuses to take Ellie off his hands. Having heard the two discussing what to do with her, she flees the dam in the midst of a hunter siege, taking a horse and heading into the wilderness. Joel and Tommy eventually track her down to an abandoned farmhouse, to Ellie flicking through the pages of diary belonging to a young girl who once lived there.
Given that she was born and raised after the outbreak, there’s so much about the old world that Ellie is unable to grasp. Instead of worrying about teenage crushes or what film to watch, she’s had to endure unthinkable horrors and even kill people just to survive; for her, luxury has never been an option, but a distant dream. What follows is perhaps the most dramatic dialogue found throughout the entire game.
Coincidentally, Matt’s stand-out moment from the game comes straight after. Having laid everything bare, Joel and Ellie return to Tommy’s dam, the two agreeing to go their own separate ways. Something clearly changes in Joel, however, as Matt points out. Although he never says it Joel realises that, in becoming too close to Ellie, he would only be setting himself up for yet another tragedy. Whether it was his parting promise to Tess, his memories of Sarah, or his belief in a cure for the infection, he changes his mind at the very last moment, agreeing to take Ellie to Colorado. “Ellie’s expression at that moment brings a smile to my face every time.”
Stefan went for something a little less obvious when cast his mind back to the game:
One of the more understated and yet quite powerful stories comes from a character that we never meet. Ish, who lived in the sewers some time before you come through with Ellie, Henry and Sam. He took refuge in the sewers from the outbreak, but eventually found survivors and came to invite them to live underground. It seems to have been a time of happiness in amidst the chaos, but a simple mistake, one little error led to calamity, allowing the infected to get in.
As you play through this area, this story is told by way of collectibles dotted around the location, and there are some really quite haunting low notes to their tale that can be seen in the environment.
He also mentions the part in which Joel and Ellie cross paths with Sam and Henry:
These were two characters that I had come to really enjoy having along for the ride. The budding friendship between Sam and Ellie was quite joyous, and it was a sign that maybe, just maybe, this could be a path to happiness for the four of them.
However, almost every high point is savagely undercut in TLOU, and this was not to last. At some point in the preceding chapters, Sam had been scratched by one of the infected, and how Henry is forced to react to this was easily one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the game for me.
For Blair, his particular highlight came right towards the end of the game during winter, saying that only then did The Last of Us truly blow him away:
Yes, it’s a rather large section but there was one stand-out moment for me, where the game split the narrative, between an intense boss fight with Ellie – which was brilliantly executed and brought the game’s stealth mechanics to a new and exciting place – and Joel, at the end of his tether searching for her, battling his way through enemies while the clock tower chimed in both timelines.
It’s a beautiful way to tell the story, and just an excellent way of using multiple characters and their perspectives to show you the complete thing – this would’ve been lost if it were Joel searching for Ellie while you didn’t know her whereabouts. Overall an incredible moment for storytelling in video games.
I found that there’s also an eerily chilling part of the game that comes earlier in the winter chapter. With Joel seemingly on his way out, Ellie is forced to trek out on her own for food and supplies, eventually tracking a wounded deer to an abandoned mill. Here she encounters David, another survivor who at first seems hostile but in the end agrees to trade her meds for the deer. In this particular section of the game, the two of them fight back an infected horde before fleeing into the mill, only to fend off even more waves as they come pouring in. Surprisingly, there are no casualties yet it’s a moment short lived when David finally opens up, confessing to Ellie that many of his men have recently been killed by a madman and his companion. A young girl…
So there you have it. Though we all confess to finding the over-arching story both grounded and fascinating, these are just some of our stand-out moments. Drop us a comment below and tell us what your particular stand-outs were, however obvious you think they are.