Analog Analysis: ‘The Last of Us’ Part 2
I must warn you in advance this article will include FULL SPOILERS, so if by some chance you have not finished The Last of Us it is best to read our thoughts after your finish the games. You have been warned.
The Last of Us has released to critical and commercial success, providing gamers with one of the best games this year. Naughty Dog’s most recent foray on the PlayStation 3 has been on everyone’s mind since its release, some claiming it may be Sony’s best exclusive title yet. Analog Addiction’s George Sinclair gave The Last of Us a perfect 10 stating, “The Last of Us might just be the finest game of this generation and everyone with a PlayStation 3 or at least access to one, owes it to themselves to play this game.”
In this 3 part series of ‘Analog Analysis’ we hear thoughts from George Sinclair, Ryan Livingstone, Rob Gisbey and Jamie Briggs as they analyse every aspect of the game.
In part 1 we discussed the emotional start of The Last of Us and if it was effective at establishing the world, how combat worked and if it successfully implemented, our thoughts on the real-time crafting system and their use of environmental story telling.
Now in part 2 we will now discuss the relationship between Joel and Ellie, our thoughts on the game’s conclusion and our multiplayer impressions.
How do you see Joel and Ellie’s relationship and what, if anything, makes it special?
Jamie Briggs: Joel and Ellie’s relationship is a complicated one, probably one of the most complicated in gaming. They both start of disliking one another, but bond together because they need one another. Joel still hurts from losing his daughter and Ellie fills that void, but he eventually comes to love her. Ellie on the other hand has never had someone there before, so she feels a strong bond with Joel because he seems to care. This is best showcased when Joel is injured, Ellie fights to keep Joel alive no matter what, even though she could just as well think of her own life instead. She was willing to sacrifice her life for Joel, and as they say actions speaker louder than words.
Ryan Livingstone: Naughty Dog’s use of the first scenes we see of Sarah as how we see Joel’s love for Ellie towards the end. Right from Joel’s first meet with Ellie it was always a complicated scenario. They were paired together to fulfill a deal that would benefit both parties, the Firefly’s would get Ellie, and Joel would get his weapons. Looking back now, you can see how little that deal matters throughout the entire journey. He only carried on because of her, and she wanted him to be there.
The only way I can describe this relationship is, a father-daughter relationship. They cared about each other, risked everything for each other, and believed in each other. Naughty Dog created this relationship so perfectly with the beginning of the game with Sarah, the little looks at Joel’s broken watch, and promises to do ‘normal’ things at the end of it all. Every small and big experience they share together is something you truly experience. From the expertly crafted narrative, to the emotions they convey and the experiences they encounter not only make it a special relationship between them, but also us gamers.
George Sinclair: I think what makes the relationship between our two protagonists special is that they’re both products of the game’s world but at the same time they have such different experiences that it’s so interesting when they interact with each other. Their relationship is something you’ll have to play the game to understand.
Rob Gisbey: Joel and Ellie’s relationship is an extremely complicated one that changes dramatically over the course of the narrative, spanning roughly a year’s time. Understandably Joel is initially very guarded and chooses to keep his distance from Ellie, viewing her more as cargo than a person. This creates a certain degree on animosity between the two, but eventually Ellie’s idiosyncratic-yet-endearing personality breaks down the walls he’s built up and a mutual affection begins to form. This bond only strengthens over time as they endure more hardships and begin to make greater sacrifices on each others behalf’s. In essence they become each others whole world and Joel begins to think of Ellie as his own daughter as she repairs much of the psychologic damage inflicted on him over the years. It’s a touching and profound relationship that takes its time to establish and therefore is much more powerful and emotional for us as players to experience.
The game’s unresolved ending has been quite polarising with fans. What were your thoughts on the conclusion of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic tale?
Jamie Briggs: The ending really begins when you burst through the door to save Ellie on the operating table, I didn’t hesitate killings all 3 surgeons and apparently I am one of the few. When Marlene explained they would be killing Ellie, gloves were off, everyone was dead. Even though a possible cure was on the line, nobody ever spoke about killing a young girl to make it happen. I wouldn’t allow a second child to be sacrificed for what other people believed was the greater good, and though many believe Joel is selfish, unlikeable and the practically the bad guy because of it. I can literally say I wouldn’t have acted any differently. Society has crumbled, people are untrustworthy and cities are demolished, not to mention infested with the infected. If somehow a cure was made, society would still have to deal with the army of infected who are still very much deadly even without the ability to infect others. Let’s not forget most humans have go to the point where they don’t trust one another, so I couldn’t see going up to a bunch of scavengers yelling, “We have a cure” ending in any other way than your own demise. In the end I loved the ending, it didn’t cop-out and give you a rainbows, puppies and all things happy sort of ending. It left the world as it is and it left a very interesting situation between Joel and Ellie, one that is up to the player to decide how it ends. Though the game presents a linear narrative and the games conclusion is set in stone, the player is able to determine their own ending, which gave the ending a powerful conclusion.
Ryan Livingstone: My first thought of the ending was quite mixed. I felt so reluctant to kill the people in the hospital, especially the surgeons, yet I was glad I did. I would have liked to see what might have happened had there been an option to choose an ending, but I know it would have taken the emotional touch off the story. It is Joel’s story, and I can see exactly why he did what he did. He had two options; lose his new foundation that is Ellie or start a new life that included Ellie.
Losing Sarah meant he had a massive void to fill, and Ellie slowly became that salvation. From Joel’s perspective, it is the perfect ending. He can embark on a new life that includes Ellie, and able to teach her everything he promised throughout their adventure. It was a selfish decision on his part, there is no denying that. It is a decision everyone who played this game would be happy with, the emotional investment and the things you experience with those two is something worth keeping alive. I am also very glad that it ended the way it did; it means that Naughty Dog can easily expand on the story with DLC’s and even a sequel.
George Sinclair: I absolutely love the ending of the game. Naughty Dog could have been expected to take the safe route by allowing Joel to make the sacrifice and let the Fireflies kill Ellie for the cure but instead they had the sheer audacity to do the opposite. Joel kills many Fireflies and the surgical team to rescue Ellie because at this point, she’s like a daughter to him and he can’t deal with losing another like he did Sarah. And to add to this brilliant ending, Joel lies to Ellie about the whole incident. He lies about her being the sole hope for humanity and that the Fireflies have stopped looking for a cure. He also doesn’t tell her how he murders Marlene, Ellie’s de-facto adoptive mother. Ellie, obviously knowing Joel isn’t telling her the truth, accepts his lie and moves on. The ending made me think. By the end of the game I was so invested in these characters that when Joel committed all these terrible acts, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same if I was in his position.
Rob Gisbey: For me the ending of The Last of Us was perfect and one of the best conclusions to a game of all time. I’ve heard many harsh aspersions cast on Joel and his “selfish” decision to save Ellie’s life at the expense of a potential cure for the world. I’m not saying I completely agree with his actions but I can at least fully understand them. He is a broken man who’s lost everything he ever cared about, and now here’s this girl that has saved him both figuratively and many times literally. An amazing individual who has filled a void inside him that has tortured him for over twenty years. She deserves to have a life or her own and he’s supposed to simply let her be sacrificed at the hands of this deceitful fundamentalist faction? That is NOT going to happen; not again! He did what he had to do and made a choice which is ultimately very human, and I have a lot a respect for that. When Ellie asks him if he’s being truthful in his account of recent events at the game’s close there is a wretched poignancy in his lie. He’s shouldering the burden of the truth so that she doesn’t have to. And even though his decision is ultimately for his own sake as much as hers, I can’t say I would’ve done anything differently.
Multiplayer in The Last of Us was shrouded in mystery practically right up to launch. How do you think it turned out in the end and did it live up to its potential?
Jamie Briggs: I played for a few hours and the multiplayer just never clicked with me, not to say it wasn’t decent, it just didn’t provide an experience that even came close to the single player. Even when I tried to play like I would in single player (slow, methodical, precise) other players would ruin the experience by playing like a run and gun shooter, though not every player did this but it was enough to hurt the experience. It wasn’t just that but the lack of the characters I cared about and that amazing dialog we were given during the single player, we instead deal with silent, faceless characters that I simply don’t care about.
Ryan Livingstone: I see it just as a fun addition. They didn’t have to put it there, the single player was all I needed, but they still added it. I played a couple hours of it, and while it was a fun experience, the type of players that it attracted turned me off of it. CoD players were rampant, running and gunning with no sense for stealth kills. It is no more than just a fun extension of the game that doesn’t hinder the overall package, and one you can skip and not feel like you’re not missing out on anything special.
George Sinclair: Multiplayer was fine. I’m sure the game could’ve done without it but it doesn’t hinder the overall package at all. It’s there for people who may want to play it and it’s enjoyable for them.
Rob Gisbey: On the whole I’m not a big fan of competitive multiplayer in gaming, but as with the Uncharted series I uncharacteristically really enjoyed these elements of The Last of Us. Unlike a lot of typical third-person shooters, the pace of combat in this mode is slow and considered. If Uncharted’s multiplayer is checkers, then this is chess. It retains the things that made the main game so engaging, such as its shocking brutality, elegant crafting system and necessity of stealth. But by combing them with other players you get something really fresh and engaging, with a level of tension that is largely unrivalled in my experience. I really hope that more modes are added in over time though; a match-type where AI controlled infected roam around the map would really change the dynamic of combat and make it that much more intense and alarming.
Keep an eye out for part 3 of our analysis series coming very soon, until then let us know your thoughts on The Last of Us below and if you agree or disagree with our thoughts so far.
You can find George on Twitter and his blog on IGN. Jamie Briggs is on Twitter @JamieAA and on YouTube. Rob Gisbey can be found on his BandPage and on the VxM Videogames Podcast. Ryan Livingstone is part of the contributing staff at Analog Addiction. You can also follow his blog on MyIGN.