We’ll start with a clarification: Much of what follows was written last year, back when I bought my PlayStation 4 as part of a “The Last of Us” promotional bundle and I cracked and bought the console a good year before I had planned to… the lure of getting the game bundled in was too much, it was the only exclusive I liked the look of, and that was enough to break down my resistance to buying the console… please keep that in mind when reading what follows; 17 March 2015
So… when you buy a new game with a big, respected, name behind it just what do you really expect to find when you start playing?
In the case of an existing series (think Final Fantasy) do you expect them to keep to the tired (not a spelling mistake) and tested gameplay? Do you expect little tweaks to the gameplay that improves (think the combat in Mass Effect 2 compared to the original) upon the firm basis laid by the previous title?
If it’s a new IP do you expect them to try something different as was the case with both the cell-shaded graphics and the RPG elements in the original Borderlands?
What if the game you’ve picked up is a re-make or “Remaster” of a game that won over 200 awards the year before in its incarnation? What would you expect from a game like that?
I’m all set to start the game that prompted me to buy a PlayStation 4 a year earlier than I had planned, the game that encouraged me to spend over £400 on a console that I’ll not use that much until the inevitable swathe of JRPG’s start to work their way onto the European market… The Last of Us.
I’ve been challenged to rip it to pieces… the “Jewel in the Crown” of the PlayStation 3 and, as such, a natural cash in remaster to milk the Sony Ponies for a bit more cash as they wait for the release of proper games and not the tidal wave of Indie releases that prompts the usual jibe, “the PS4 has no games” from the tools and retards that inhabit the pages of IGN.
September 2nd: I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to start the game played as a teenage girl… was seriously not prepared for that one… but following a cut scene I’m exploring a house looking for my father… I’m fairly impressed with the reflection in the mirror but then I’ve been seeing that in games since Resident Evil 2 and the interrogation room scene where a licker jumps through.
The game gently prods you in the direction it wants you to take, drawing your attention to the phone and eventually you reach the kitchen where you father appears… seems the whole world has gone to hell following a mysterious infection… this much I knew before… I’m still coming to terms with playing as a young girl.
I had also “heard” that the intro sequence of the game was supposed to be a bit of a tearjerker and it becomes clear why later… in an attempt to escape the chaos the girl is hurt, time for dad to take over and carry the girl as we flee the crowded streets and reach the highway where we suddenly face the barrel of a loaded, government soldier controlled, gun and the soldier has clearly been told to let nobody out… in the cutscene we run, we get hit… the girl more than the father and the mood is set.
Hop forward 20 years, the old boy hasn’t aged that badly, just a few more grey hairs and the country is still in the grip of the infection, gun toting soldiers are everywhere and gang warfare reigns within the quarantine zones… so much so that the training level is hunting down and taking out someone named Robert.
Now this can be done, it’s safe to say, with a lot more stealth and panache than I managed… I don’t mind stealth if I’m given the choice… I can creep around caves in Skyrim using my bow to take out enemies at long range, I can sneak around camps in Far Cry 3 to turn off the alarm boxes so reinforcements can’t be called… but I don’t generally like being “made” to play stealth… hence my loathing of the second “Burial At Sea” DLC for Bioshock Infinite.
I take out a few guards by choking them, use one as a human shield and then shoot my way through the final couple… due to my general lack of ability at games I’ve set the difficulty to “Easy” for my first run through so there are more bullets around than I’d imagine being able to find on the harder settings.
It’s all nice and paced, the world looks… well… I’d say gorgeous but that would be wrong when you take into account the desolate, derelict locations we’re walking through so I’ll say that they look in keeping with what you’d expect, but a hell of a lot more detailed than I expected to see… the power of the machine shines through… the only thing that really lets it down is when you’ve killed somebody and the pool of blood that surrounds their body is almost perfectly round, regards of whether their laid out on wooden boards, a cobbled bridge or plain concrete… it looks a little sloppy compared to everything else.
With Robert cornered and incapacitated we meet the rebels of the piece, the Fireflies, who have been sold some weapons, by Robert, that he didn’t rightfully own… we can have them back and more besides if we undertake a smuggling operation for us.
This is where Ellen Page, I mean Ellie, comes in… she’s the package that needs to be smuggled out of the city and this is where the game I was expecting kicks in… seems a good place to save for the evening.
NOTE: Now it’d be fair to say that the game hasn’t grabbed me in the way I’d expected it to… at time of writing it’s been more than 2 weeks since I got as far as I did and I’ve just not touched it since… on the other hand I knew from the start that the PlayStation 4 purchase was a long term investment… while there isn’t anything out this side of Christmas that I can’t play on the Xbox One if I wanted to come next year and there looks like more “must have” games on the horizon, the first of which seems to be “Persona 5” as I’m a bit of an RPG addict.
So while I’m not playing it as much as I ought to be considering how much I paid for it all just 4 weeks ago it’s not something I’m going to give up on either… I had planned to go back and spend a few hours with it this week but got distracted by the bangs and crashes of Prototype 2 on the Xbox 360, and as I was finishing my first play there the Forza Horizon 2 demo went live and Valiant Hearts went on sale and I had to buy that so it’s now Thursday and I’ve still to play… no rush though… no rush.
September 18th: Over two weeks since I last played and I finally load the game back up… having previously saved at what had appeared to be a nice cut off point two more minutes of play takes me to an even more convenient save place as Joel and Ellie rest up waiting for dark… my bad.
The plot does thicken as we make it about 20 yards across the wasteland outside the controlled zone and we’re captured by guards… pretty bad start considering the length of the journey ahead, but it does get around to explaining why Ellie is so important to the Rebels… she’s infected but clearly fighting the disease… instead of curling up and playing dead inside a couple of days she just has a bit of a rash after 3 weeks… I know the plot of the game is already common knowledge but it is nice to see it explained in a such an interesting way.
It’s the most interesting part I’ve come across so far and potentially the last as I hit a wall of anger and frustration.
Those who read my rants on the second part of Bioshock’s “Burial at Sea” DLC may remember my disappointment at being made to play in a stealth like manner… it’s not for me… I can happily use stealth when I want to such as exploring a dungeon in Skyrim or wandering around an old military base in Fallout, but to be made to playthat way all the time is not my idea of fun.
Having escaped the guard who caught us, we’re faced with a courtyard type area and another patrol, who have to be avoided by distracting them via throwing bottles or bricks to make a noise elsewhere and then dashing from one bit of cover to the next… and I’m terrible at it… a dozen or so failures and I partially blame the AI.
I have no feeling that I’m being followed by Ellie and Tess, so I tend to make sure they’re with me which has me doubling back and then getting spotted, on other occasions they’ve ran ahead of me and I’ve not seen them pass, or they take a different route to me so I get to my destination and they’re already there… I’m all set to slap the disk on Ebay when I manage to get passed and onto the next section.
This is more like it… working my way through a crumbling building to get around a large sink hole which was also explained… after the outbreak and the setting up of the controlled zones huge areas of the city were bombed to try and take out as many of the infected population as they can.
Back in my PlayStation 2 days I played a weird little game called “SOS: Final Escape” which was published in the US as “Disaster Report” where a journalist was trapped on a man-made island that suffered an earthquake and was slowly falling apart… much of the game was spent wandering a city in ruins, bypassing large holes, building rafts to make use of newly formed rivers formed by burst water mains all the time trying to work out why the disaster had happened as it was no accident… who was behind it all.
It was a niche title to end all niche titles, using coat hangers as zip lines to pass over raging fires, ensuring you had enough water to survive and keep yourself hydrated… it was great and massively under-appreciated, and as I work through an abandoned building it all comes back to me.
This I like, granted the puzzles are no big deal but it fits in with the story, dead bodies of soldiers who have been killed by the infected add to the atmosphere and ramp up the tension when you find out that the first one you come across died whilst waiting for back up having become over-run by enemies… as you charge through one stuck door you meet your first “clicker” as you stumble.
It’s a nicely timed scare, and a far better introduction to the infected than the next phase when we come across a group of “runners” who are clearly infected but not to the point where they’ve been blinded by the infection which has covered their head like the clickers… I take the first one down by creeping up behind and choking them, the rest are battered using a blunt instrument.
As you scramble through the building and the various floors you can’t help but notice the game looks stunning, the level of detail is jaw-dropping especially as you open up new areas or edge around the outside of the building to get past black staircases and corridors… and then the game reminds you it wants you to play a certain way and it’s ruined for me a little with the train station.
Having stumbled across the dead bodies of the rebels who were meant to meet you with Ellie to have to get out the station through a waiting room crawling with clickers, while stealth and distraction is clearly the way to go… I instead use Molotov cocktails and burn half a dozen to death so I can walk freely around… it’s satisfying to the max, even doubling back a little to open a safe I found in one store for “parts” doesn’t feel like a chore… as I leave the station and get back to the outside world I call it a day.
Being honest… to me the game is a 6/10 maybe a 7/10 thus far, I don’t like being forced into playing one way and that’s happening too much. I know I’m only a fraction of the way in but for a game with such pedigree behind it I already know that were Naughty Dog to produce a sequel then I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
April 3rd: I gave up… this evening the game hits Ebay.
I’m of the opinion that gameplay matters more than graphics… that a game can look totally stunning but be an absolute mess to play… DriveClub being another case of “looks great, plays meh” and, being honest, the gameplay of The Last of Us never grabbed my attention.
I don’t want to be forced into playing stealthily, I don’t want to be creeping round all the time… part of me really hates it when you see a huge pile of ammo on the ground and the game only gives you 3 more bullets to play with… that really destroys a lot of the immersion for me.
With everything I have downloaded demanding my attention, and the games I know are coming over the next couple of months I can’t see myself going back to this and getting any further… when I bought the console I had nothing else to play save a small RPG (which was, admittedly, one of my favourite games of 2014 but still) and had the game grabbed me I wouldn’t have stopped playing until I reached the end.
I don’t doubt there is a great story in there… but the gameplay just didn’t make me want to experience it… the gameplay let me down big time.
This is now the second game I’ve had on the PlayStation 4 where this has happened, where it seems too much emphasis has been put on the look of the game and not how it plays and I’m really hoping this doesn’t continue (we’ll not go into detail on why I’ve avoided The Order 1886 here but I think you’ll be able to guess) going forward as otherwise I’ve bought a console that is not going to get that much use.
That said I have ordered “The Witcher 3” on the PlayStation 4 to arrive in May… we’ll see how it goes after that… but I’m praying to the great Spaghetti Monster in the sky that we start to see games that are actually fun to play rather than just good to look at soon.