Last of Us, The

Tagged: Game

Videogame (2013). Naughty Dog. Designed by Bruce Straley, Neil Druckmann. Platforms: PS3.

In the future, Zombies will rule the Earth. This apocalyptic scenario is a common preoccupation of early twenty-first century pop culture, the central conceit of works ranging from Max Brooks's novel World War Z (2006) – filmed as World War Z (2013) – to Robert Kirkman's Comic (later a television series and Videogame) The Walking Dead (2003-current). In the action Adventure The Last of Us, victims of the global pandemic which creates its brutally mundane Post-Holocaust world are not technically dead; instead, as in the UK film 28 Days Later (2002), they are the victims of an infection which transforms them into subhuman killers. While the game's setting is not especially original, it succeeds in telling an exceptionally powerful and involving story in an entirely linear way (see Interactive Narrative). As in the best of the films and comics which preceded it, The Last of Us is primarily concerned with the survivors rather than their enemies, the "Infected". There is a great deal of credible barbarity amongst the deftly characterized remnants of humanity, of whom the most significant are the embittered drifter Joel – the player's primary persona within the game – and Ellie, a teenage girl born after the disaster who is perhaps the milieu's only truly sympathetic character. Gameplay concentrates on exploration, climbing and leaping in the manner of a platform game (see Videogames), and grimly realistic combat; there are no Superheroes here.

Players of The Last of Us can readily become immersed in its narrative, and perhaps even be personally transformed by their participation, but have very little agency, or ability to shape the story as opposed to the actions of Joel (and occasionally Ellie) within particular segments of the overall plot (see Game Design). This suggests that a story of this kind could be as effectively presented in another visual medium such as film or television, since the interactivity offered by the game does not extend to its core narrative. Arguably, however, the experience of playing through most of the game in the role of Joel makes it easier for the participant to become emotionally attached to Ellie, whom the initially despairing loner comes to see as a surrogate for the daughter who died in the initial outbreak. Ultimately Joel chooses to preserve Ellie's life at the expense of creating a vaccine for the plague which has destroyed civilization, believing the world well lost for love. For many players, he will be doing what they want him to.

Related works: The Last of Us: American Dreams (2013) is a four-issue comics series which serves as a prequel to the game. [NT]

see also: Triple A.

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