The Last of Us - Overrated?
This is a bit of a rant thread, but an interesting one. This subject is almost deserving of an article, but I decided to keep it to the forum for some reason.
I'm sure everyone has noticed all the praise going on for this game. It has gotten perfect scores everywhere, everyone says it's the best game ever. Needless to say, I feel differently. I haven't finished the game yet, but I've played quite a bit of it. Essentially, my reaction was this.
I'm not easily impressed.
With that being said, I'd first like to say that it seems like a good game. So before any narrow-minded worms criticize me for saying it sucks, give that line a good read. I'm not saying it's bad -> overrated and bad are two totally different things. I also find Half-Life 2 and Bioshock to be overrated, yet Half Life 2 still sits in my list of... top 20 favorite games of all time.
So, has anyone else here played this game? For those who live under a rock, it's a PS3 exclusive, story-driven post-apocalyptic "survival game", made by Naughty Dog. This is the same developer who made the Uncharted series, which I also find to be overrated.
Everyone raves over the story, gameplay, and atmosphere of The Last of Us. I wasn't impressed by any. Starting with the story, everyone loves the cinematic storytelling which definitely is pretty cool. However I don't feel this type of storytelling is heading in the right direction for video games. The Last of Us tries to be a movie; the cutscenes, the camera angles, everything about the storytelling mimics a movie. The thing is, if people want a movie, they'll watch a movie.
No matter how hard a game tries, no matter how good the voice acting is, it won't ever reach the same level as a movie. There's never going to be a mesmerizing performance in a video game, since there's much more than just voice acting that goes into a performance. No game is going to have anything close to, say, Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of The Lambs. They'll never come close to the cinematography that some filmmakers are able to pull off. Game developers such as Naughty Dog need to stop pretending.
Video games give the player control over the game. Movies don't have this. Games should use this to their advantage when it comes to storytelling, whereas The Last of Us only uses this for its action segments, just like most games. Why not tailor the game to player choice? Have the story react to the player's decisions, like other games have done. I'm not asking it to be an RPG either; a number of non-RPG games have such storytelling methods, such as The Walking Dead, or even Metro: Last Light to a lesser extent. Anna: Extended Edition also does this, but in a very... different way.
But my biggest complaints are regarding its gameplay. I mean sure, storytelling could have been better, but it's still above average without a doubt. The gameplay isn't fundamentally bad either, unlike the Uncharted games. It's going in the right direction, but as a survival game, I can't help but notice how The Last of Us is years behind others. Darn me for my gaming PC and my awareness of mods! If I stuck to consoles, perhaps I would have been impressed by The Last of Us.
One of the best things about good survival games is the intensity: the fear of death, unpredictability, and knowing that every step could be your last. Having to carefully plan every move you make is what makes survival games so amazing to play. This is all absent from The Last of Us. On Normal mode, you're a juggernaut so I won't even bother discussing this. But regardless of the difficulty, you can't ignore the dumbed down, simplified gameplay.
The thing that good survival games have are extra, more complex, and often innovative gameplay mechanics. Ranging from Fallout's crippling system to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s bleeding system, all the way to Metro's gas mask filter system, or Underhell's unique stamina/endurance simulation. Ideally, I would have liked to see all of this in The Last of Us. That is asking for a lot, but even something along these lines would have been nice. But they had to keep things simple for its mainstream audience, who bark at anything that requires thought.
On a similar note, enemy (specifically creature) design is disappointing. There's poor variety, just four humanoid enemies from what I've seen so far. I'm sure we all feel that we've seen them before. Fighting these things is also straightforward; having a more strategic and specific way to fight enemies is mostly a thing of the past, but it still exists. Metro: Last Light has such enemies, among other games.
Stealth leaves a bit to be desired too. When sneaking, your companion is invisible to all enemies. This can ruin immersion; you can be hiding behind a fence, with an enemy right on the other side, unaware of your presence. This would normally be an uneasy situation, but then you have Ellie sticking out in clear line of sight of the enemy. But nobody notices a thing. :eyeroll:
There's also just an overall lack of alternate sneaking routes, something thoroughly present in Metro: Last Light, and virtually any stealth action game. There's definitely no replay value in this game.
Last but not least is level design and atmosphere. Again, they didn't do a poor job here, but they didn't do an extraordinary job either. The Last of Us is actually a little bit less linear than Uncharted, but barely. There is still very little exploration and invisible walls everywhere. I hate this; if it looks accessible, it should be accessible. I'm not asking it to be open world, the Metro games are linear but don't suffer this problem much. Wow, Metro shows up quite often in this post, doesn't it?
But these aren't even my real problems with atmosphere/level design. In fact, it's not so much problems with level design, it's just that they're lacking. There's not much detail in the world compared to the Metro games, much less the likes of Fallout 3. You see, Metro and Fallout do a good job making every area seem like different people had been there. Fallout 3 does this best (especially with mods); you can go into every house in DC, and each one feels like it had different people living it.
And, like Metro, there's just a personal touch and attention to detail not seen in other games. For example, let's say you find a sewer drainage pipe in Fallout 3. But you look inside, and you find all sorts of personal belongings, perhaps next to a skeleton wearing a cowboy hat, with a dozen bottles of empty whiskey, a revolver, and a single bullet casing beside it. Maybe you'll find a goodbye note next to it. You'll find lots of detail like this in Fallout 3 and Metro: Last Light, but not The Last of Us. This detail is what brings immersion in those games to another level, and make it feel like you aren't just wandering through video game maps.
The Last of Us is not a heavily lacking, huge disappointment. I like to make this especially clear. It is essentially what I expected, though I didn't expect the story to be so similar to Children of Men. As a survival game, it lacks the intensity and complexity needed to make it a really good survival game. As a story-driven game, it's good but not headed in the right direction. As an immersive, atmospheric game, it's nothing special. As a whole, it's not a masterpiece. Like most console games, it has zero replay value. Replaying it would mean the same exact experience again, you can't do things differently.
The Last of Us is just nothing new, overrated, and not impressive for me. There aren't too many games like it, the closest being the Metro games, and you'll find that these do a much better job in terms of survival gameplay, attention to detail, atmosphere, and creating a story that responds to the players actions. Everyone is raving about The Last of Us, but the best game of 2013 so far was released already.