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Uesugi-dono Blog

Heart of Darkness

spec ops

Just in time for the 4th, I'd like to point out something that I just learned about 2012's underappreciated (Gamespot: 6.5) gem, Spec Ops: The Line. Still free on Plus right now, did you know this game is actually based on 67th out of 100 best novels in the English language of the twentieth century (according to the Modern Library) and is considered by scholars to be part of the most influential and important body of work in Western Culture?

Heart of Darkness

That novel is Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Published in 1899 (you can read it here) Conrad's novella (inspired by his own experiences) is a journey into what occurs when civilization falls into savagery and the repercussions of imperialism and the racism that endows it. Conrad himself described the story as "A wild story of a journalist who becomes manager of a station in the (African) interior and makes himself worshipped by a tribe of savages." The tale was not without its detractors; Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe described the novella as dehumanizing Africans, denying them language and culture and reducing them to a metaphorical extension of the dark and dangerous jungle into which the Europeans venture," but Conrad himself declared "Heart of Darkness is experience ... pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case."

Apocalypse Now

The story is more familiar than you may think. The most famous adaptation was Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, which moved the tale from the African interior to Vietnam. Adapted for the screen by John Milius, who also wrote and directed Red Dawn and my personal favorite: Conan the Barbarian. This Academy Award winner sprang from Milius' idea to adapt Heart of Darkness for the Vietnam era. The film was also deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2000 and was ranked the 14th greatest film by Sight and Sound in 2012.

Far Cry 2

Spec Ops isn't the first video game adaptation of the original story; Far Cry 2 beat them to the medium by four years. (Ironically Gamespot and I flip-flopped on the scores of these two games: 6.5/8.5 for Spec Ops and 8.5/6.5 for Far Cry 2.) The likeness is very loose, however, Far Cry 2 puts you in the role of a mercenary tasked to hunt down an elusive arms dealer; not quite something that appeared in the original. In fact the most striking similarities between this game and the novella is the setting of Africa and the name of last chapter of the game: Heart of Darkness. While I found Far Cry 2 underwhelming I should mention my 6.5 score reflects the fact that I was several years late to this game. By the time I got my hands on it games had already made a noticable leap forward in graphics and gameplay, so it should be noted that I did not get to appreciate some of the more innovative features while they were still innovative. Honestly I would welcome an HD remake of this game so that I might be able to better immerse in the tale.

Spec Ops 2

Spec Ops: The Line moves the setting to Dubai. In the wake of a series of freak sandstorms, the worst in recorded history, Dubai is abandoned by its politicians and wealthy elite, leaving countless Emiratis and foreign migrants behind with no way to escape. Lieutenant Colonel John Konrad, a nod to the novella's author Joseph Conrad, the commander of the fictional 33rd U.S. Infantry Battalion, volunteers his unit to assist with the evacuation but the 'Damned' 33rd deserts when U.S. Command orders them to abandon the relief efforts and the refugees along with them. As the storms only intensified the 33rd attempted to lead a caravan of survivors out of Dubai but they never made it. Officially disavowed as traitorous the 33rd is then lost along with Dubai as a whole, declared a No Man's Land by the U.A.E. travel to the entire region is forbidden. The player assumes the role of Captain Martin Walker (as voiced by Nolan North,) the commanding officer of a trio of Delta Force operatives tasked with performing reconnaissance after a weak but identifiable radio distress signal is picked up from Lt. Colonel Konrad and see if they can make contact with any survivors.

Spec Ops 3

Praised for its hard-hitting, graphic depiction of the horrors of war and the breakdown of civilization, Spec Ops: The Line pulls few punches, using a shock-an-awe approach to rattle players from their COD-inspired fantasy depictions of modern warfare. As the full abomination of what has happened to the 33rd comes into focus the team's sanity begins to slip "with Walker having visual and auditory hallucinations, and his executions of enemies becoming more violent, his team orders and shouts becoming increasingly angry and ragged versus his original stern command voice and kill confirmations of enemies degrading from professional in the beginning to outright psychotic. [5]"

Spec Ops 4

Walt Williams, lead writer for the game, has called Spec Ops: The Line a "deconstruction of the shooter genre, and Call of Duty in particular, with the game mechanics, the actions available to the player, and the responses resulting from said actions contrasting pointedly with many mechanics of popular FPS games, and that the game deliberately used shooter genre cliches in order to illustrate how ludicrous they are in comparison to real warfare." He went on to state that the combat presented in The Line is not meant to be a fun experience for the player but rather serve as a critique on the genre as a whole and how, despite claims of realism to the contrary, most shooters in the tradition of COD are just "morally ambiguous escapist fantasy." Although some critics panned the game's violence as unecessary and exploitive, especially the white phosphorus scene, Williams defended it as a plot device intended to invoke anger from the players and, in addition to the 4 endings featured in the game, that a valid 5th ending was for the player to simply put the controller down and walk away.

Spec Ops 5

Although closer to the novella than Far Cry 2, Spec Ops: The Line nevertheless tells its own story; a tale of the brutality that humanity turns upon itself when the rules of civilization break down and the price that all of that savagery can command from a man's fragile psyche. Overly violent? Yes, but with good reason. Like the literary classics we are forced to consume in our education, Spec Ops: The Line should be on the Required Playing list of every gamer who enjoys military shooters. It is an unflinching portrayal of the tolls of war on the minds of men and a dark expose of post traumatic stress in a genre that often depicts modern warfare as little more than a fun, competitive diversion. This game, like the novella before it, exposes that thin line that separates civilization from savagery.

Spec Ops 6

Spec Ops: The Line - 8.5

The End of Us, Crap-gladiators, and an Unexpected Pleasure


- I finished The Last of Us and all I can say is wow. Do you remember the ending in Red Dead Redemption? That's how well this game ends. A perfect, full circle video game story. The Last of Us truly stands out as a fantastic story, easily the best of the 'zombie' genre and arguably the best of this generation. Such a perfect end to such a fantastic story.


- My brief love affair with Spartacus Legends is fast coming to an end because.... Free-to-Play. That's just a persuasive way to say Pay-to-Win. I was doing great until I started meeting people who, unlike me, spent real cash to buy digital gold in game with which to purchase super-charged equipment. You see, otherwise the only way to get gold is 3 gp a time when you go up in level. Unlike a traditional online multi-player experience your level in this game really doesn't mean squat. All that matters is gold. You can be like me and have tens of thousands of silver, but no way to exchange it for gold. Leaving the ONLY avenues for obtaining a 33 gp piece of equipment to be either A) making 3 gp per level for 11 levels or B) spending 4.99 to buy 50 gold online. Say what you will about supporting developers and such, I would have happily spend 60 bucks on a good version of this. I will NOT allow them to nickle and dime me to death just because the PUBLISHER chose to try and shove Jupiter's cock up gamer's backsides with this FTP bullshit. I pour hours into this game and grind up levels only to encounter someone who has has exactly 2 fights but has a 200 point higher rating because he used his mommy's credit card to buy god-like equipment. Sound like butt-hurt? It is, because Ubisoft screwed us on this one.


- Gamestop ran a deal during the holidays where if you put a fiver down on GTA V you got the collector's edition of Max Payne 3, complete with a statue I don't need, for 20 whole dollars. I took it but Max has sat on my shelf since then. I decided to give it a whirl saturday night and man, what have I missed! Rockstar has outdone themselves again. Max Payne plays more like a movie than a game with a gritty narrative, decidedly on rails, that you get to jump in for action sequences. This game is outlandishly fun and extremely hard to put down. I'm a Max Payne virgin, never seen game or film, and I was able to immerse fully in this fantastic experience. I am especially impressed by not only the seamless transitions between action and cut scene, but the fact that environmental damage sustained during the action carries over and appears in the cutscenes. That's just incredible design, folks, such attention to detail is, I predict, a hallmark of the next generation. It's my shame that I let this gem of a game slip by me for so long.

Max Payne 3 - 9.0

In Defense of... Tom McShea?

(Sorry @lepracahne I know I really have no business pulling you into this but I feel like you need to hear this.)

I wrote a blog and review yesterday concerning Spartacus Legends. Ultimately I feel as though the game is a VAST missed opportunity; a perfect scenario for online multiplayer that just misses the mark because it was not given enough resources in development. I rated the game 5.5, but I also concluded that it was, by all measures, fun. Since yesterday I've found myself spending even MORE time with this title. It is truly fun to play, despite not being all I'd hoped for. In my blog yesterday leprecahne defended the game against my score and some of the points I made (sorry man, they didn't sacrifice graphical fidelity for a superior online performance; especially when a glitch that forces both players to disconnect can result in your gladiator LOSING HIS LIFE) and, given my increase of time with the game, I started to wonder if I had been too harsh. Then I read McShea's review of Deadpool, also given a 5.5, and I got to thinking about it. I don't think that Tom is wrong...


Everyspotter's favorite reviewer.

Before I am consumed in the all-too-righteous flames of Spotterhate allow me to explain one of Gamespot's most reviled editor's motivations as I've come to see them: Here at GS we have a 10 point scale, but we only tend to use 5 points of it. The scale, as designed, gives us a wide array of expression far and above other sites that only use a 5 point scale, but somehow we resent that? Spartacus Legends is a good example to use: (Since I have yet to play Deadpool) it really is a fun game. At the price of Free it really should be played, yet how many of you out there will look at a score of 5.5 and think "this game is sh*t?" It's not, and it shouldn't been seen that way.


"Does a 5.5 mean this game is sh*t? I think not."

As designed a 5.5 equals Mediocre; meaning the game is alright, but it does little to stand out and above many other games. That doesn't mean the game is worthless and devoid of entertainment. @TomMcShea (and another prominent editor that I frequently disagree with) is simply trying to use this rating system as intended. He gets a ton of hate for it; gamers famously have little tolerance for people who disagree with them, but is this really deserved? In his narrative McShea explains his experience and, if you read it, it usually doesn't come off sounding as bad as the score initially seems to represent. I don't think that's McShea's fault, instead it's ours. We, the Spotters, seem to be incapable of embracing the ratings system we've been given; such to the point that I've proposed taking a McShea or KVO score and simply adding 2 points in order to divine the 'true' score of a game as seen by the rest of the community. Doing so would raise Deadpool's score to a 7.5 - Good. Which is, in fact, what the User reviews put it at. (Presently a 7.3)


"Should this game live or die by a 5.5?"

So, in effect, what I'm getting at is I stand by my 5.5 score for Spartacus Legends. Despite the fact that I will continue to play this game, and enjoy it, everything I said remains factual from my perspective: this could have been a great game but the decision to take it FTP not only derailed its development, it also spoils its implementation. That shouldn't deter you from trying it, hell for the price everyone should try it. Maybe if enough people log on to the servers Ubisoft will give this game the attention, and updates, it deserves.

A Breakup Letter to Xbox

This is actually my second blog today; to read my earlier blog When Good Ideas Get Bad Implementation just click on the title. What's below I took from the humor site cracked.com. It's so completely true I couldn't resist.

A Breakup Letter to Xbox

By:John CheeseJune 27, 2013Add to Favorites

Dear Xbox,

I'm so sorry you have to find this out in a letter, but after everything we've been through, I just couldn't handle doing it face to face. I won't beat around the bush or lead you on ... it's over. I would tell you that I'm sorry, but the harsh truth is, I'm not. And I won't give you some corny excuse, like "It's not you -- it's me," because the even harsher truth is that it is you.

You're just not the same console I fell in love with. You've changed, and it's not for the better. Lately, you've been strutting around, bragging to your friends that I'll buy into your changes no matter what, and if I don't, then I can just **** right off. It's extremely disrespectful and, to be perfectly frank, insulting. You aren't the magical God's gift to gamers that you think you are, and I think it's high time I put my foot down and showed you that I have some uncrossable boundaries.

I can't take your rampant jealousy anymore. The night you came home drunk and bellowed out so that the whole neighborhood could hear you that you would be installing a camera in the house to see and hear everything I do and say ... it was beyond embarrassing. When you were asleep the next day, everyone on the block came over to find out if what you said was true, and I couldn't even begin to defend you. They couldn't believe you gave me that kind of bizarre ultimatum -- that if I wanted to be with you, I had to accept and welcome your spying and total distrust.

And don't think I've forgotten about your other jealous outbursts and attempts to lock me down. It was only a few weeks ago that you were demanding that I call you once per day while you were at work to make sure I wasn't cheating on you. And if I had a friend visiting, you wanted me to call you once every hour to make sure I wasn't letting every person in the neighborhood press my buttons. You said if you didn't receive that call, you'd just kill yourself. What the hell?! It was beyond ridiculous. And yes, I am well aware that you finally came to your senses and took it back, but the damage had already been done.

I understand you've been through some pretty bad relationships in the past. You've had so many people hurt you and use you -- taking from you and never giving back. But I'm not one of those people, and I don't deserve to be treated as if I am. You're acting as if you're a prize that I have to earn, but nothing could be further from the truth. I invited you into my house, not the other way around. I supported you by giving you so much of my hard-earned money. My kids loved you so much, they gave you their time and money as well. But this new you ... you look at us all like we're out to screw you over the first chance we get.

We are not criminals. We are a family who loved you.

I wish we still did. But you make it so hard, demanding more and more of us every time we try to get closer to you. It got so bad that at one point you wouldn't even let me hang out with my friends without demanding some form of payment in return. That isn't healthy in any relationship, and I just can't live like that anymore.

Again, yes, you did eventually lighten up on that rule, but sometimes changes are just too little, too late. What happens if I give in and invest myself in this relationship, and six months into it you decide to change all the rules again? I cannot feed your insatiable greed anymore. And I can't take the chance that somewhere down the line you won't just slip back into your paranoid ways, accuse me of cheating, and lock the whole house down under your iron grip.

In the interest of honesty, I think it's only fair that I tell you this before you find out from someone else ... I have been seeing another gaming device. Not just a random stranger, but one of your relatives. Xbox, I'm sorry, but I've rekindled my old relationship with my PC.

Before you even say it, yes, I know that the PC has flaws and demands of its own. But the PC never tries to be something it's not. It never treats me like a criminal. It is up front with its demands, and at the very least, I respect that. And let's face it, it is so much stronger than you. Not to mention its liberal lack of inhibitions. Just the other day, I played StarCraft II with eight other people. We played all night long, baby, and it felt soooo good. Know how much it cost us? Not a goddamn thing beyond the price of the game. No fees, no microtransactions, no downloadable content. Just us, a game, and the frantic mashing of buttons and keys.

I'm sorry, I know that's mean. I shouldn't have rubbed it in like that. It's hard to not be mad at you after all you've put me through, but I just really hope that you're able to treat the next person you find with respect and dignity. There are literally millions of people out there who want to love you ... if you let them. They are willing to take you in and care for you. They're willing to give you a home and money and attention. But I promise you that if you go into that relationship assuming that they can't live without you, they will very quickly -- like me -- show you that they can.

So this is goodbye, Xbox. I genuinely wish you the best. Take care of yourself. If you ever decide you're tired of living life in the fast lane and want to slow down, trim off some of your monetary demands, ditch your paranoid spying devices, and just hang out with normal, everyday people, give me a call. Until then, I'll be butt-****ing Borderlands 2.

On Steam.

When Good Ideas Get Bad Implimentation

So, Spartacus Legends is out. In many ways this is exactly the kind of game I've been waiting for; you own a Ludus (Gladiator School) and you buy and train gladiators to compete (online against other players) for glory and honor. Literally there couldn't be a better idea for an online multiplayer game. So someone took this GRAND idea and sh*t all over it.

- Free-to-Play is the industry's new way to say "Golly gee, I hope we can convince idiot gamers to spend 150 dollars on a DLC pack that gives them 3000 gold!" I know this because this is HOW MUCH a 3k gold pack costs for Spartacus Legends. Notice the word 'hope' in that equation. They're not totally stupid; they know full well people will most likely elect NOT to spend 150 REAL dollars for 3000 digital gold coins to spend in a single video game so they chose to NOT give Spartacus Legends a decent budget to develop on, as evidenced in the pictures below:

Here's what they promised... SL 1

... and this is what they delivered: SL2

Notice a difference there? Spartacus Legends is a 5.5 at best. Many will call it far lower. It is, however, fun... if you can get past its horrid, terrible, almost sinful flaws. You can buy gladiators, train them, (although training is a loose term for 'fight computer opponents.') and then go online against other people's champions (through a broken match-making system that can actually lock your system up when your opponent decides to wuss out of a fight and disconnect after seeing your level compared to theirs) but you just cannot do any of these things to a satisfactory degree. Gameplay is primitive, which is actually the nicest thing I can say about it, and the damage models on the characters are always the same, just like Dragon Age: Origins. Just one missed opportunity after another. In all honesty the best way to describe this game is it looks like a port of a PS2 game.

If you do decide to devote any time to this game you can have some fun, it's actually possible, but it will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. This game was done WRONG. Free-to-Play is wrong. This is just another example of just why it's wrong.

Spartacus Legends: 5.5

The Fairer Sex

**** WARNING ****

Mild spoiler from The Last of Us ahead

This is NOT a story spoiler, but you have been warned.

- So let's talk about Joel. He's rugged, he's violent... a true survivor. He lived in the world before the fall of civilization. When I am Joel I am cautious, deliberate, careful... and afraid. Infected, humans... it doesn't matter. Being Joel is accompanied by a sense of palpable fear for me. I am acutely aware of my pathetically low supplies, intensely conscious of how low my health is, and obsessed with the length of time it takes to craft needed items in combat.

Then I got to play Ellie. When I am Ellie I am a predator; souless, fearless, deadly in every sense of the word. I stalk my hunters with a sense of pity scratching at the back of my mind. These fools, these idiots want to hunt me? For some reason all fear evaporates as Ellie. Maybe it has something to do with her being a native of this world; a survival nightmare. Maybe it's her knife. Maybe if Joel could manage to find a frickkin knife instead of fashioning shivs out of duct tape and broken scissors then he could be a badass too. As Ellie I race around the battlefield, taking out hunters on the fly. They creep about, hunting me, all the while unaware that I already have their number. Then I'm Joel again; a bit more confident, but still vulnerable. Is that weird?

- I reached Utah today and, after an intense morning of brutal murder accompanied by clenched teeth and buttocks, I got to experience quiet beauty. Utah opens with a delightful change. It was a real pick-me-up right before I left for work. I can't wait to get home and get back into it...

... where I will no doubt find something horrid and KILL it... alot.

A Modest Proposal

-Act 1-

"Hey, Peter, we're collecting input on the next generation of consoles.Mattrick

What would EA like to see happen with the next Xbox?"

EA "We want consoles to DIE."

"Sounds reasonable. I'll get back with you." MS2

-Act 2-

MS3 "We're gonna call it Xbox One, so forget about all those other Xboxes. Also

Used games? Yeah, f*ck em. You peons don't own sh*t. Also people without high speed internet? F*ck you too. And f*ck people with funny accents; we'll know because we'll always be listening to you, and maybe watching... if you're hawt."

"I am SO in love with you right now." EA2

-Act 3-


-Act 4-

MS4 "That... didn't feel so good. Are you sure about this?"

"Oh, grow a pair you big puddy," EA4

-Act 5-

ea5 "EA is proud to announce that the Online Pass is DEAD."

"And we're always gonna be BFFs, right?" msea

-Act 6-

sony 2

-Act 7-

ms8 "The whole used game issue? It isn't us! It's the publishers!"

ea8 "Don, what the f*ck are you doing?"

" I'm sorry! I HAD to! Sony was FISTING us!" ms9

-Act 8-

ea9 "EA will allow trading of used games! It wasn't EVER our desire to screw

our loyal customer! EA wuuuuuuves gaymers, um, I mean GAMERS! hehe."

-Act 9-

ms7 "I'm proud to present the Xbox One Eighty!"

"Serious, Don, I thought you were my b*tch. Wtf?" ea8

ms10 "Your move... b*tch."

-Act 10-

ea10 "Um, the, um... Online Pass.... um, it's... still dead. *sniff* "

ms11 "I'm so sorry baby... we'll get em,once they're nice and comfortable

we'll get them once they stop paying attention. DAMN YOU SONY!"

sony3 "You mad, bro?"

I Hate Blanka Redux + MS Hates Themselves

Blanka Redux http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3Jb4UJ_1SU I give up. I guess video embeds just don't work for me.

So yesterday I came across a story about how the Navy Times very vocally came out against the Xbone. They even quoted Don Mattrick's incendiary comment: "Fortunately we have a product for people who arent able to get some form of connectivity, its called Xbox 360. If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device."


- So it's no surprise to wake up today to the news that the Xbox One has been renamed the Xbox One Eighty. Mattrick, the same douchebag who so gleefully dismissed gamer's concerns about an 'always on' connection and used game fees now pretends to give a shit. How many people out there does this please? I'm willing to bet plenty, but they're still fools to buy a machine that always watches, always listens to your home interior. I predict someone will rapidly find a way to hack the Kinect 2 and see inside people's homes; hell, I bet Anonymous already has a team just waiting to start work!

So rejoice, Xbots. You can take your Xbone offline and even trade in used games. (Guess Gamers really rode you hard, eh Mattrick?) But I bet the Kinect will still be a source of trouble in the form of license restrictions for movie/game playback, not to mention the privacy concerns. My money is on the Pentagon expressly FORBIDDING the Xbone due to the Kinect alone, but time will tell.

Hehe, but I have to say it...

Suck it, Microsoft.


Endure and Survive

The tension is palpable. Four of us are huddled, hiding from three armed hunters who are inbound to search our area. Something goes wrong and they'll call that armored humvee back down on us. I move forward with a determination that gives me an aura of bravery; my real motivation are my companions though. Not only do I have Ellie to look out for but our new companion, Sam, also has Henry, a boy near Ellie's age. I don't have much to work with: no arrows, a handful of bullets but I don't want to risk gunfire and call that .50 cal back down on us. Hunter number one is easy; I blindside him with a punch and then choke him out... it takes time. The others are near my companions. In a bigger hurry I hurl a brick at Hunter 2 and then shiv him in the carotid, but I've been careless. Hunter 3 grabs me in a chokehold. He's got me dead-to-rights, no doubt about that, but I've got a wildcard: Ellie climbs up his back and wraps her arms around his neck. He releases me and I turn the full fury of a lead pipe on him till he's still.


Endure and Survive.


- Such is life in The Last of Us. You survive from moment to moment, encounter to encounter. I am playing on Hard at @katzenbalger 's suggestion and I think it's a good idea. Trying to figure out how to get through a flooded basement filled with infected and carrying only 7 shotgun shells and a brick is surely a challenge, especially when you need to start a loud-ass gas generator to get out of the area! But make no mistake: at least the infected don't shoot at you.


- What's left of humanity is, by far, more dangerous than the various degrees of the infected. The latter are predictable: Runners run, Stalkers wait, Clickers, well, click but are also relatively easy to sneak by. Hunters, on the other hand, patrol, investigate and, if you're spotted, flank your position. I was in one situation where I thought the floor below me was clear so when a Hunter seized me from behind while I engaged a bottleneck of enemies I nearly pooped my pants. Needless to say this action led to my hasty demise. And demise is certainly at hand in nearly every situation you encounter. Just remember: Feeling like Batman will get your silly ass killed in The Last of Us.


- The Last of Us already holds a distinction for me. There have been several games that have been tear-jerkers at the end but this game gets you right at the beginning. Despite a review to the contrary, I identified with Joel quickly and it's easy to see how he descended to what he became. I can see a parallel between this game and Red Dead Redemption; Ellie is clearly Joel's ticket to redemption. As for the girl herself she is spunky, clever, and instantly likeable. Thus far the supporting cast of characters have all been pretty likable (or despicable as the situation calls for) and I am especially pleased with Joel's Texas drawl; it gives him an air of realism in a genre dominated by a handful of recurring lead voice actors... least that's what I thought! I didn't recognize Troy Baker as the same voice of Red Faction's Alec Mason or Persona 4's Kanji Tatsumi. (That last one just makes me like him more!) The accent is subtle but real; probably because Baker is from Texas. At any rate Joel comes off as a geniune character, a man who has had some bad sh*t happen to him and whose dreams of the future end with tomorrow morning.


- A LOT of praise has been heaped on Ashley Johnson's portrayal of 14 year old Ellie, and for good reason. Despite the fact that she has never voiced a 'serious' video game character before the 29 year old actress nailed Ellie; breathing life into the character such as to make her strong yet vulnerable, likeable yet fiery... she's a realistic blend of an all-to-mature teenage girl trying to be both brave and, at the same time, just be a girl who is full of wonder and curiosity at the world she never knew; almost like an orphan yearning to know about the parents who died before she had a chance to know them. I found it particularly touching how Joel tries to shield her from the corruption around her yet, before long, must accede to the fact that she has to learn how to protect herself... and him as well.


- A lot has also been said about the brutal level of violence in this game. Is it visceral? Yes. It's it vulgar? Not really. Is it necessary? Absolutely. We live in a post-Mortal Kombat age; accustomed to violence-as-comedy. Is this level of violence funny? Not at all, but it actually shies away from what I was expecting. (Although there was a scene with a morbidly facinating arterial spray.) It is definately the most violent sounding game I think I've played. Sound design is excellent and every brick you smash into an enemy's face just sounds like hurt, but I guess I was expecting a horror-of-war type of experience with guts blown out with every shotgun blast. You'll be spared that, but otherwise The Last of Us pulls no punches. Most of all no regenerating health here. Every drop of alcohol, every scrap of bandage is all very precious... like Gollum precious, because you need it for creating health kits. You need it MORE for health kits than for infected-destroying molotovs, despite how effective those really are.


- Admittedly the AI of your companions can get a little ridiculous. They are effectively invisible to the enemy, which can be immersion-breaking. They can also act as roadblocks if you decide you're not quite done with the area and turn around to investigate more, but they do try to get out of your way. I haven't noticed any clipping, such as others have mentioned, but I will offer a warning: while you can save at any time I recommend you do it after you clear an area. On several occasions I have been bum-rushed immediately after loading a game if I stopped in mid-combat. True to Naughty Dog's word Ellie will never be a concern in an encounter, but that's also a little disappointing. It kind of takes you out of your role as her protector because you literally never have to worry about her or any of your other companions. The encounter I mentioned at the beginning of this piece; my companions we never in any danger. I could have taken my time and used stealth to kill all three hunters but, for me, that is immersion breaking. I prefer, instead, to still act as though they are in my care. It means waiting for all of my companions to get up a ladder before me while waiting nervously in a zombie-filled room when I could just scoot to safety myself and not give them a second thought. It means me taking huge risks when a Hunter gets too close to Ellie instead of slipping quietly away and conserving ammo. Such moments are less immersion-destroying than if I just worry about Joel. I respect what ND was trying to do but, honestly, I would prefer a little more concern for the 14 year old girl I'm supposed to be protecting.

- Overall believe the hype. The Last of Us is not only a powerful and moving experience, it is clearly Game of the Generation material. While Bioshock Infinite may take local GOTY awards due to its multi-platform nature, The Last of Us deserves to win the crown. Naughty Dog has created a beautiful swan song for the 7th generation and you'd be remiss to let it pass you by. Beg, borrow, steal, or just work your ass off to get a PS3... this is one of those ICO-like games that people will be talking about for many years to come.


The Last of Us - 9.5