The Worst of Us: Examining Polygon's Controversial Review of 2013's Crown Jewel

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Posted by cbeers2513 (32 posts) -

It is difficult to describe the anticipation one feels before the release of a blockbuster game. After months of rumors, unbelievable gameplay trailers, and massive hype from all forms of media, you expect nothing less than a masterpiece time and time again. Naturally, this inherent gaming mentality leads to disappointment. But, on some rare occasions, a game climbs the insurmountable mountain of expectation and receives universal acclaim from the entirety of the gaming community. The Last of Us was one of those games.

Never before have I seen a game so loved by both critics and fans alike, winning perfect scores and awards across the board. It seemed that the tales of gaming perfection would not end. When the time came, I picked up my copy from a local Blockbuster, put it into my PS3, and proceeded to dedicate the next 20 hours of my life to one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever experienced in any medium. Joel and Ellie became faithful companions who I grew to love through each successive hardship. We grew as a team, we faced adversity, and I dreaded the moment when I would have to let them go. But once that time came, I looked back on it all and realized that The Last of Us is on a level far beyond that of Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto. This game, this cinematic voyage through dilapidation and despair, was unforgettable in every sense of the word. The characters, settings, and flawless conclusion will never leave me, and I'm glad that such a wide majority of gamers had a similar sense of satisfaction.That all being said, it came to me as a shock when one day, while perusing Metacritic, I scrolled to the bottom of the list of positive reviews to find an outlier. Polygon had given the game a 75, stating that "It achieves incredible emotional high points about as often as it bumps up against tired scenario design that doesn't fit its world." In most cases, a 75 is a respectable score. However, in this day and age, the gaming community associates anything lower than an 8 as a disappointment. Naturally, this raised plenty of agitation and controversy from devoted fans, many claiming that Polygon was a Microsoft-sponsored corporation that was attempting to bring down the greatness of this PlayStation classic. This begs the question: Was Polygon's review justified?

The first and most noticeable line in the review states "The Last of Us made me feel sick to my stomach." This serves as Philip Kollar's main point throughout the review, trying to support his argument that The Last of Us is simply not a fun game to play. I can concede that the game's tone is far from cheery. You will be witnessing countless decapitations, lose several close friends, and constantly look back on your decisions with a tinge of regret. It shouldn't be a fun time. But it is.

The true satisfaction from The Last of Us doesn't come from the killing, unlike so many other modern games. The real enjoyment comes from the growth. Watching Joel and Ellie transform throughout the story, both slowly learning to inch out of their protective shells and learning to trust one another, is a luxury that can't be described in words. You learn to care for Ellie. Through all her awful puns, bitter swears, and sad questions about life before the apocalypse, Ellie becomes the reason you play the game. Unlike Elizabeth, who I felt was a useful game gimmick for extra life and ammunition, Ellie was a real person who I would protect from the deadliest of Infected. The more you struggle and the more people you hurt, the more you understand that Ellie is closer to the happy life she deserves. For me, that made all the violence worth it.

Another complaint that Kollar cites as a negative is the combat.

"Combat against the zombie-esque infected is especially frustrating. Not only are they faster, more aggressive and more unpredictable than human enemies, but multiple types of infected have an instant, one-hit kill if they get in melee range."

This, along with the shakiness of Joel's shooting mechanics, made Kollar look poorly upon the game, especially when pitted against unavoidable hordes of enemies. Again I feel conflicted. While the gunfights aren't the game's strong suit, it never detracts from the overall experience. The shakiness adds intensity to each battle and makes victories seem more satisfying, especially when you consider that a middle-aged man and a 14-year old girl took out a pack of armed thugs with limited scraps of supplies scattered throughout the world. As for the Infected, I also had no complaints. By making the contaminated enemies overpowered, each infested area feels like a chess board, requiring both skill and calculated risk to stay alive. Each version of the virus is unique, adding suspense through bone-chilling clicks and half-dead moans. Both of Kollar's arguments end up being a necessity to establish this unparalleled realism in such a devastated environment.

The rest of the arguments come from nitpicks, such as a somewhat shoddy AI system that ruins the immersion of Naughty Dog's post-pandemic world. For some, these can make or break a video game. For me, I could care less.

After all is said in done, I looked back on Polygon's review and wondered. "Is there any right way to judge The Last of Us?" In the gaming community, the scores of these esteemed publications can be either an alluring sales pitch or a disappointing detractor, and in order to truly strive there are certain numerical standards that must be reached. While The Last of Us received a 95 overall on Metacritic, mediocre scores such as Polygon's can cause serious doubt in the mind of an uninformed gamer looking for his next big purchase.

In the end, while criteria and opinions will always differ among the gaming elite, there will always be one constant theme: They don't matter. While Metacritic is a necessary consolidation of critical reviews, as well as a reliable indicator of quality, its scores should not serve as the final factor in a gamer's mind when considering buying a game. Variables and preferences differ too often between reviewers, and common misconceptions between "good" and "bad" scores can cause many solid titles to be left in the dust.

Beauty is in the eye of beholder, and nothing wowed me more than The Last of Us in 2013. While Polygon's review score was satisfactory, it did not represent my amazing experience and underwhelmed its brilliance as a work of art, a thrilling narrative, and an unforgettable game. However, it's just an opinion. Many gamers will find The Last of Us overrated, tedious, and far from the masterpiece other critics have made it out to be. The only way to find out is by experiencing it yourself and making your own judgments.

To grow as a gaming community, we must learn to accept that the vision of a critic is but one of thousands of different perspectives on a game. No matter how much we crave 9s and 10s to justify our love for a title, our love needs no justification. For that reason, I happily disagree with Polygon, but concede that their voice, as well as my own, are mere constituents of the double-sided masterpiece that is The Last of Us.

#1 Posted by gamenerd15 (4423 posts) -

The Last of is definitely not a game for everyone. The AI can sometimes be unpredictable. I am playing as Ellie in the snow area trying to avoid those university guy to get back to Joel and I cannot seem to win. I will get it. This game also depends on how you are at stealth games. I am not good at this type of game, but I still wish to play it anyway. The one hit kills thing from clickers can be annoying in the crowded room sections of the game where you have to fight off a lot of different types of bad guys at one time.

#2 Posted by LoG-Sacrament (20369 posts) -

i think it's amusing that people never take outlier reviews at face value. the reviewers are always either payed off by the publisher or the competition or they have some other devious motivation.

even then, the definition of an "outlier" is getting broader and broader. this isn't a 4 next to the metacritic score of 9.5; it's a 7.5. the polygon reviewer felt that the game was good like many of the other reviewers did. gamers are demanding such a homogenous critical response that it's unacceptable to disagree with the degree of high quality a game has.

#3 Edited by cbeers2513 (32 posts) -

@LoG-Sacrament: I definitely agree. Gamers need to accept that a critic's review, no matter the score, should come after their own personal opinions on a game. Until that happens, I'm afraid the community will keep growing more and more hostile towards dissenting opinions, even if they aren't that critical to begin with.

#4 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (8246 posts) -

"Watching Joel and Ellie transform throughout the story"

Cutscenes! Its a video game dude, and should be treated as such. I sure as hell wouldn't say Passion of The Christ had an awesome story if had to read all the dialog from the subtitles, it wouldve made a decent book though. And TLOU wouldve made a decent movie.

"This, along with the shakiness of Joel's shooting mechanics"

And yet the enemies with guns don't drop ammo after you kill'em. See, The Last Of Us only makes sense when it feels like it. I don't care how scared Joel is, when I weild him, he better shoot straight, if the game was really good then they would designed so that the player experiences the tension naturally not forcing it on you.

The Infected AI is extremely predictable even in stealth and was not fun or challenging at all, sneak up behind and kill'em, easy, and if you get spotted, they'l run straight at you, no strategy no self preservation, it was very uninpired and a huge 180 from the human AI which was very satisfying to tango with.

When all is said and done, all you need to know is theres no such thing as GOTY, not objectively anyways, why didn't Formula 1 2013 or Super Mario World win ? One can't argue inferiority or superiority because these games don't have a single common factor to allow for objective comparison.

Its all subjective, mostly.

At most one can say is its Stealth Shooter Of The Year, thats more truthfull.

And lastly did you just review a review ? Did I just review your review of Polygons Review ? Whos gona review my review of your review of polygon's review ? my head hurts. :(

#5 Edited by cbeers2513 (32 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: Here's my review of your review of my review of Polygon's review. I agree with what you're saying about the subjectivity of gaming awards. However, I don't agree with your comment on cutscenes being separate from, and less important than, the actual gaming experience. Naughty Dog is a company that uses a combination of cinematic moments and story-driven gameplay to create an engrossing experience. A game shouldn't be based solely on gameplay. It should be based on the entirety of the elements it throws at us.

For instance, the game called Device 6 is pretty much what you're talking about: a text-based adventure that emphasizes the story and interacting with the text over actual gameplay mechanics. However, it creates its eerie atmosphere extraordinarily well because of this narrative, making the game extremely fun to play.

In the end, it's entirely based on preference. I'm one of those people who needs a strong story to invest in a game, and generally the actual gameplay (while still a vital part to my enjoyment of the game) takes a backseat.

#6 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (8246 posts) -

@ cbeers2513

My argument wasn't exactly about importance as it was to relevance, picture this, in order to understand the movie, Captain FacePuncher: The Punchening, you have to read the book, Introduction To Face Punching. Now the book is extemely important to the movie but the book doesn't take full advantage of the visual medium. The book, although relative to the plot, is not relevant to the narrative of the film. Samething with The Last Of Us and its cutscenes, designing the game in such a way that its mandatory to watch the cutscenes to understand whats going on in the gameplay is not evidence that cutscenes are important to games, its like me kicking you in the face repeatedly to prove you need medical attention, its scocth taped together.

Like many other games The Last Of Us Played it safe, when the gameplay starts the story is put on hold and vice versa, the two barely overlapped (only in the Prologue and that part with the surgeon, and alil bit in the winer season.

Look I'm not saying story is less important, I'm saying passivity is less important, at the very least the story should not impair the gameplay, the least they could do was let me keep gutting clickers while Joel and Ellie talk about the good old days, kinda like Valves games. And the best case scenario is for the game to tell its story more interactively, Kind of like (Insert Quantic Dream Game).

Its not preference, its common sense if a project just isn't taking advantage of the medium its on then thats just wrong, objectively, without a doubt. Books use words, Movie use Imagery, and Games use Interactivity, if you want to tell a story: in a book you write, in a movie you show, in a game you uhm.... Make it interactive (can't find the word.... Interacterize it ?).

You can have your story, just have it interavtively. Wich TLOU didn't do me. Luckily Beyond Had Me Covered last year so I got what I wanted.

#7 Posted by cbeers2513 (32 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: That's a well-stated argument. Do you have similar views on the Uncharted franchise?

#8 Posted by ankor77 (932 posts) -

I always try to dismiss the worst outliers when looking at reviews especially from consumers. Also you shouldnt let some other persons take on a game get you down. Just because gamespot gave it an 8 doesnt mean someone was or was not paid off. I liked the last of us a lot, but a few of my friends havent even finished it because they simply didnt have fun playing the game. To me the best part of the game is the story, not the actual gameplay. I think there is room for criticism for the actual gameplay. The story, voice acting, etc were all top notch.

It wasnt my game of the year(dota2 by a long way) but it was definetly top 5 for me.

#9 Posted by Blabadon (25110 posts) -

Crown jewel of 2013, what

#10 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (8246 posts) -

@ cbeers2513

Oh yeah, most definately. But unlike Uncharted, TLOU actually has good gameplay.

Uncharted is just way too ambitous, in U3 I got stuck in that garage (the one the car dissappeared into because level was designed counterintuitively, the game didn't explain you leap to hang on the other side of a wall nor did it give me reason to do so because I can't see on the other side anyway. Thats just bad, the fighting was pretty good though.

#11 Posted by cbeers2513 (32 posts) -

@ankor77: I agree with your first statement. Sometimes, though, it's hard to tell an outlier between a legitimate opinion and an obvious bribe. With such a heavy emphasis on critical opinion, the gaming community desires something that, by definition, can't exist: an unbiased group of reviewers. With so many varying opinions on what a game should be, as well as those who write solely for personal profit, I don't think this is a possibility.