When I think of The Last of Us, the first thing to come to mind is how it makes my eyes hurt. I can’t explain it. I got The Last of Us for PS3 ages ago. I started playing it on PS3. I never finished it because playing it for long stretches of time made my eyes hurt. Maybe it was the color. Maybe it was the radically high detail in every environment. Maybe it was the degree of focus I was putting into what I saw on screen. This time around, I completed The Last of Us Remaster on my PS5. I still felt some of that eye pain but not as badly as I did before.
The Last of Us looks expensive. Everything looks amazingly high resolution. Everything is littered and dirty and realistic. The look of the game is an accomplishment in itself.
To call The Last of Us a fun game is sort of a misnomer. Is there fun to be had in it? Sure. But it’s mostly a stress game. I could never carry too much crafting supplies, too many crafted items, or too much ammo. There’s something a little funny about being able to pocket three molotov cocktails and nail bombs, but only one bottle or brick. If I’m not trying to trick humans into going somewhere else without shooting them, then I’m trying to trick infected into ignoring me. If I have to fight, then I spend ammo and supplies I can’t use to fight later. I played on “normal” and never felt like I was forced into stealth, but that’s mostly because I made that choice to avoid conflict myself. I knew what I was getting into from the start.
If The Last of Us isn’t a fun game, then is it a enjoyable game? Why would anyone play this? I liked The Last of Us for three reasons. The first is that wildly high graphical fidelity. It’s really impressive to see. The second is the story, and the third is the pacing of that story. While the story isn’t wholly original, cobbling together pieces of survival/post-apocalypse fiction into a new but familiar package, it’s effective at telling that story.
The contrast between the pacing of Final Fantasy VII Remake and The Last of Us could not be starker. Where I felt like Final Fantasy VII Remake was herky-jerky from start to finish, with the last couple hours being some real slogs, The Last of Us built to a satisfying conclusion with a real gentle ramp in stakes. When I achieved the narrative goal, I was expecting some gameplay knife in the back. It never came. I got to the end and achieved the goal and the game was over. A game that put me in a fictional post-apocalypse with a emphasis on being grounded in a real world didn’t end with an outrageous boss fight.
The Last of Us is a game that I’m glad I played but I’m not sure I’d ever play it again.