I never owned a Playstation 4, but I did pre-order a Playstation 5 that I’ve had for a little over a month, which has meant I’ve spent a little more than a month devouring as many of the PS4 favorites and some PS3 favorites that I have never been able to play before. I’ve spent time playing Spider-Man, which I loved, and Madden, which remains fun even after all these years, but I was absolutely not prepared for how blown away I would be by The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II.
The Last of Us, which came out for Playstation 3 in 2013 and was remastered for the PS4, tells the story of a smuggler, Joel, who has to escort a 14 year old girl, Ellie, across the country, 20 years after a zombie apocalypse. The Last of Us Part II picks up on the story after the events of that original game and totally subverts the audience’s expectations for where things are going. The stories are incredibly dark and upsetting, and extremely hard-rated mature titles, but if you’re willing to explore that world, they are both knockout experiences.
I’ve played video games for most of my life, but The Last of Us was the first game I played that I found myself deeply invested in the storyline. The games delve deeply into moral relativism and the sacrifices we’re willing to make for the ones we love, as well as the dangers of feeling true hatred and the cost of obsession. While video games have long been easy targets for people criticizing kids who waste their time, stories like The Last of Us show off what a rich storytelling tool video games are.
The creators can make you sympathize with the characters because you… are the characters. They can desensitize you to a decision or an act of violence, and then flip that desensitization on its head by actually dealing with the fallout of those decisions. They can force you, the player, to do things you don’t want to do, and then examine those events from another perspective in a way I’ve never experienced before.
Looking back on 2020, there are several movies and television shows I truly, truly loved, but I’m fairly certain that the best storytelling experience I had this year, and the one that will most stick with me moving forward, was The Last of Us Part II.
The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II are both available on the Playstation 4 and 5.
I’m Evan Rook.