Today's post is a little different from the kind of thing I usually write about. I wanted to write about a game I recently played for no other reason that that it resonated with me. We seem to live in an age where everything requires some sort of justification but I'm not going to try to convince you why you need to play this game. It was meaningful to me and you're reading my blog.
I remember playing the first Last of Us game four or five years ago (this was long after it had been released) and feeling a great deal of conflict about the story, but also a sense that I'd been very lucky to experience it. While I sometimes feel torn about spending my time playing games these days, I don't feel any regret having played this.
It's disappointing to see this instalment receive so much negative comment online, especially the reviews by fans on Metacritic etc, because having played both games in the series I can also say, as a fan, that I thought the story was totally mesmerising. I think it's one thing to say that you didn't like a story but another entirely to say the story didn't have any merit; but anyway I digress. It's a story that made me feel so many different emotions as a player: love and compassion, contrasted by hate and fear. Its characters are unequivocally flawed and while at times we're forced to do things that make us feel uncomfortable, at others we feel determined and self-assured. In saying this, the central theme of this story is perspective; seeing both sides.
I haven't played a better-looking game than The Last of Us: Part II. The visuals are breathtakingly realistic but also highly stylised, something I imagine that's only possible with very clear creative direction (especially considering the number of people to have worked on the game and the time it took to make). In fact, the breadth of detail and artistry is apparent in every environment you find yourself in, enhanced by extraordinarily crisp sound design and Gustavo Santaolalla's haunting score.
What's most apparent is the way the environment accentuates the story, not merely complement it. Clear intentions are punctuated by blue skies, anger and sorrow by storms and rain, uncertainty by darkness and fog. And when we're fed up of it all, our characters are returned to warmth and comfort.
I can't remember the last time a game (or any piece of mainstream media for that matter) made me feel so insignificant in a world; a feeling of genuine fear for my characters and their outcome. As players, we can only hope our characters make the right decisions for us, which in this story I feel they do.