I feel like I’ve been a bit hard on Last of Us. There are issues with the gameplay and good lord, the save points at times are terrible. But the characters in this game are truly amazing. It’s not just that the game features interesting types of people, but the game handles them with truth and subtlety. That and the fact that when the gameplay lines up correctly, there are some fun scenes. The game is warming on me, and while the annoyances are still very annoying, the strengths are quite strong. Spoilers within.
I die many more times in this scene before I try a new tactic — I let Bill take out all of the clickers. As soon as they touch me, I’m dead usually, but that has no effect on him at all as an NPC who clearly has to live. It’s such cheap shit, but it works since he can’t die. We make out way through the school halls where I stealth kill first clicker and then just bum rush the infected while Bill takes out the clicker. I melee take down three more infected in the next hallway, and walk to end of the hallway to a double door. Bill and I have to push (hit square) against a door to open it. We CS get inside and drag some tank in front of it to block it, but Bill says that won’t hold them for long. We turn to see we’re in a gym. The doors bust in on the other side and there’s a giant clicker there. I get control. The giant clicker is pretty slow except for short bursts. I die a couple of times , but then I realize I just have to run around the level avoiding its grasp. It’s throwing bombs that I guess are doing damage but don’t seem to do anything. Basically, the battle wastes a lot of ammo, but the giant is no threat when I figure out I can outrun it and I kill it. Once it’s dead, Ellie asks what it is and Joel says it’s a bloater — an infected that’s been around for a LONG time. Bill says he wants to cut short the biology lesson and asks Joel to boost him over some bleachers to windows going out. I boost the two of them up, and then three infected appear in the gym. Why don’t my companions pull me up so I don’t have to fight them? Oh well. I kill them and THEN they help me climb out.
We go outside, and have to make a quick run outside to a ladder over another fence. I climb it after the other two, having to fight off one infected. In CS, we clear the fence and run into a house. Bill shuts the door. Ellie says that was close, but then realizes that was a wrong thing to say and goes to explore the house. Joel asks about the plan B now that there’s no battery. Bill says this was plan A to Z and gets angry that Tess set this screwed up mission up. Joel tells Bill not to talk about Tess, and they start yelling at each other when they notice someone hanging from a rope from the ceiling behind them. Bill says that was his partner Frank — no one else would wear a shirt like that. Bill is very broken up and cuts Frank down, and as he does, he notices Frank had bites on him. Joel says that Frank must have killed himself to avoid being infected. Bill says fuck him. Joel and Bill hear a noise and see Ellie is in a car trying to start it. The battery’s inside but it’s not charged. Bill says we have to push it to get it started. Joel tells Ellie to drive while they push, but Bill says to search the house first.
I wander around the house finding a bunch of resources and tools. I also find a note from Frank saying that he hated Bill and that Bill was a coward to not come this far, but he guesses Bill was right that the trip would get him killed. I then head back to car, and decide to give Bill the note. He reads it sadly and says Frank was a fucking idiot and asks if I’m ready to go. I start pushing the car as Bill opens the garage and it rolls down the driveway. Ellie doesn’t start the truck properly when we roll it out of the driveway despite her saying that she knows how to use the clutch. Bill says nice job and Joel says that’s not helping. We start pushing the car again and we pass some infected (I keep wanting to say walkers), and we need to stop pushing the car to deal with them. I die fighting them and to my horror, I respawn back in the HOUSE, BEFORE I FUCKING SEARCHED IT. So I search it again and push the car again and die again, and have to do it over and over. — FUCK YOU GAME!!!!!!! WHY IS THE SPAWN POINT BEFORE THE SEARCH? WHY DO I HAVE TO REDO THE NARRATIVE TEN TIMES? After several deaths, I finally make it far enough down the road so that when I die one more time at a third battle outside, the game FINALLY respawns me there, but then I die again at that point, and I respawn encounter FROM HOUSE AGAIN. This is unbelievable. Finally, I take them out and we push the car to a hill. Ellie starts the car. As she does, we get attacked again, but I figure if I can jump on the car this scene will end. I hit triangle to dive into the truck bed and it does end. In CS, Bill jumps with Joel, and Ellie drives off as the infected chase us.
There’s a cut to a CS of Bill and Joel in the bed of the truck at sunset. Bill tells Ellie to stop and she does. Bill gets out and says girl nearly got us killed. Joel says she held her own. Bill gives Joel a hose so they can get gas during their drive. Joel thanks him and says it was a tough deal back there with his partner. Bill ignores that point, and asks Joel if they are square. Joel says yes, and Bill says to get the fuck out of his town. We cut to raining outside, as they are driving around sunset. Joel asks her why she’s not sleeping. She says she’s reading a comic that ends with a to be continued, and she hates cliff hangers. She has a tape of country music that she says he might know, and he laughs that the tape is older than him. She also has a gay porn mag that she jokes about then throws out. I have to take off my hat to this moment — it’s not just Bill is a believable gay character, but having Ellie looking at a magazine of naked men and making a sticky pages jokes, that’s just an amazing honesty about a moment. Whatever issues there are with the game, Ellie is a character I have never seen before in a game — a real fourteen year old girl. Kudos, Last of Us.
Joel says she should sleep, and she says she isn’t tired, but then we cut to hours later at dawn with her asleep and him driving into Pittsburgh. Joel sees an inter-pass blocked with cars down to a single lane and he’s worried about something, but says fuck it and goes anyway. As they drive through ruins of the city, a guy comes out claiming to be hurt. Ellie, waking up, asks if they are going to stop. Joel says the guy isn’t hurt and guns it. The guy pulls a handgun, and Joel hits him with the car and keeps driving. A bunch of bandits attack from the buildings as Joel keeps driving. They get a bit away from the scene, but then a bus rolled down a hill hits the car and knocks them into a garage. They black for a moment and come to. Ellie says she’s ok, then Joel says to get out of the car. A guy suddenly grabs her and drags her out of the truck as another guy grabs Joel and tries to impale him on a shard of broken glass. It’s a very slow qte for me to hit square to impale him instead. I run up to a guy fighting Ellie and ram his head into a desk until he dies. More gunmen show up and I die in the fight because I somehow forget the controls. The second time I spot the enemies from far away and shoot them before they arrive. I kill them all pretty easily and we have a moment of peace.
After a quick search of the garage and street outside, I hold open garage door up with triangle as Ellie goes inside. She says there’s nasty stuff inside, but he tells her to prop the door. She does, and he slips inside and lowers it. She says to look, and when I turn, I see tons of stolen stuff and bodies on tables. I find a smoke bomb and other tools as I search the room. Joel says they are hunters and that he was stupid to drive the truck into the city. Ellie says they lived so it’s even. As we exit the room to a staircase, Ellie asks how he knew about the ambush. Joel says he’s been on both sides on this. She asks if he’s killed a lot of innocent people. Joel grunts, and Ellie says she’ll take that as a yes. Joel says she should take it however she wants. We climb stairs and find where the hunters slept and more supplies including a health kit boosting manual. I find a tool bench and make a second pistol holder (don’t know what it does but what the hell). Oh, it lets me quick change between pistols without the long delay of searching my backpack. That’s useful.
I climb up steps outside after passing burned bodies that weren’t infected — Joel tells Ellie to ignore them and keep moving. Joel sees a yellow bridge that he tells Ellie (and me, thank you Joel) is our goal. Ellie is already heading there and tells Ellie to let him go first. Ellie successfully whistles in a throwback to an earlier aside. I head up this clogged highway of abandoned cars, and see enemies approaching coming over a large wall. I approach to kill them, but get spotted and die twice because of fire bombs. The third time I think to throw a bottle distraction. With that, I creep up and kill them all easily. Ellie says she nailed a guy during the fight and Joel tells her to try to be careful. Ellie picked up a joke book from these enemies and starts reading bad jokes. I climb over bus to keep moving, and we come upon an old military checkpoint. Ellie says it’s strange to see it with no soldiers. Joel says that this is what a checkpoint after a mutiny looks like. I find some gears and a note about the soldiers losing a mortar launcher to the revolt and retreating. Ellie is starting at some graffiti and I have to triangle her to get her to move. She’s reading a screed about rations and Joel says sometimes the government didn’t have enough and sometimes they hoarded them. She doesn’t say anything and we move on.
We walk around and hear hunters up ahead. It’s a very large maze-like room with a second story that looks down on the first. There are a ton of hunters here. I throw a bottle wrong again and die when they spot me. I then stealth around a bit and kill a couple of guys and get to an upstairs section. Once there though, I die a lot of times up here because I don’t know where the enemies are. It’s a kind of fun stealth scene, but I can’t help thinking that if I had some better way of knowing where everyone was, I don’t think it would just be more fun — it would be more realistic. I mean, I just feel like my ability to look around is limited and I can’t figure out when and how the hearing thing is supposed to work. I die many many times and takes a while, but I finally defeat them all in a fun stealth scene of lots of sneaking around, stealth kills and hiding. When Last of Us gets the gameplay right, it’s very right.
Once we finish, Ellie says wishes she had more room in her backpack for books (we’re in a library). We wander for a while and then find way forward by accident. We see soldiers strung up and Ellie comments on how stupid people have to be to string up soldiers. Joel confirms that the people they’ve been killing are probably the people who mutinied in the first place. We wander around the outside of buildings on walkways and come to a large open stretch that leads into a lake of water over this road. There’s a CS of them seeing guards and hiding. The guards leave on a destroyed bridge that’s up ahead and I get control back. The water is deep and I can’t climb up to the platform out, but Ellie can reach it if I can find something to carry her up there. (She’s hung back because she can’t swim.) I swim ahead and see a car pull up and hear guns fire. Joel says this place is bad as he waits for the car to leave. I find a palette and swim it back to Ellie. She climbs on and I ferry her to platform. Once she’s up there, she puts a board across and climbs to the other side of the bridge. I have my own way up, and searching, I find a way to swim under the bridge into an old coffee shop where there’s a ramp that I can climb on to the bridge. Ellie asks if Joel visited coffee shops and he says he did, for coffee.
I back across the bridge to go where the hunters went and it’s clear. Ellie marvels at the look of this hotel lobby. The staircase going up in this large room is destroyed so we have to find another way up. Ellie starts roleplaying as if she was staying in the hotel. Joel laughs and calls her weird. Ellie finds a ladder when I can’t, ad we use it to go to the second level. Up there is another stealth kill section against hunters in a set of hallways. There are LOTS more guys than I originally notice, so I die once, but then I kill them all on three floors with a combination of stealth kills and pure muscle. On third floor, I see a ladder in an elevator shaft. I open the shaft with triangle presses and climb. We climb further into the elevator shaft and have to get on top of a stuck elevator to cross to the next floor. We stand on the elevator and I boost her up to next floor. I tell her to find something to lift me up to where she is, but while she’s searching, the elevator collapses and I fall into a flooded basement. She tells me I scared the shit out of her. I tell her to stay put and I’ll find my way up. I go toward an exit, but when I open the door, the ceiling collapses behind it. I dive into the water through a subbasement to come up on another floor. There’s more swimming and game gives me a hint I don’t need as I keep moving. I dive to go around gate and see spores on the wall (a bad sign). I see bats coming out of darkness as I go forward. There are a set of empty rooms here that I search, and when I do, I find a key card. Suddenly three infected appear and attack. I die once, but then kill them. I walk through a slightly flooded room with defunct electrical equipment and climb a flight of stairs to find cool hallway with lots of fungus growing out of the walls and spores in the air. There’s a door with a key card lock, but when I use the key card but it doesn’t work. Sigh. Oh wait, maybe I have to turn power back on or something. It’s late though, so call it a night.