“Holy shit, I’m actually outside!” exclaimed Ellie. My sentiments exactly when I left the house the first time after playing “The Last of Us.”
The experience stayed with me; I felt its atmosphere chilling my spine as I drove down moonlit country roads, my eyes darting every which way for deer… and possible clickers.
I’m 31 percent through the game, with a more stable opinion of it than last time — Joel is far from unlikable and the game’s plot points are far from emotional manipulation. So far, everything serves a purpose.
By the way, Joel is reminding me more and more of Llewelyn Moss (“No Country for Old Men”) by the minute. And his name, Joel? Joel Coen? The director of “No Country for Old Men” and several other seminal flicks of mid-western and town-y lore? Ahem, anyway, The Last of Us is incredible, and its language help make its point.
Twenty-years in this dystopia hell-hole, since Joel’s daughter died in his arms. Joel doesn’t so much fight as he unleashes himself. Every day is a battle. The way he holds his gun, his hands like beacons of nerve damage.
Joel is an animal. Who else could listen intently enough that he can pinpoint the position of Clickers when they’re just standing there, breathing?
Only someone whose life is a constant dice roll between life and death. He could be Batman if Ben Affleck wasn’t already. (Speaking of Clickers, why do they move like uncoordinated newborn babies and suddenly become triathletes when they spot something?)
Then there’s the color palette.
Most games opt either for dark or light colors, but the Last of Us throws it all at you. You experience deep blacks, foggy grays, dirty yellows, and lush green forestry against blue skies. The latter can lull you into a false sense of security, which I nearly learned the hard way when a Clicker hiding in a shed in Bill’s town tried to give me the business.
The Last of Us’ dynamic range lays its theme out like ammo on a dank wooden desk. Sometimes beauty can come from ugliness.
Before I put the game down for the night, I encountered perhaps the best set piece ever in a video game. Where “Uncharted” needed buildings collapsing and cars exploding, “The Last of Us” simply flips your perspective upside down.
Firing with one arm while dangling from the ceiling, I fended off monster after monster, my heart in my throat, as I’m sure Joel’s must have been.
Hats off to Bill’s entrance, which is one of the best character introductions ever in a video game. I had to put the controller down and leave on a high note.
After, I went outside to smoke a cigarette. It wasn’t dark anymore, but lit with a yellowish hue bouncing off lush green trees. A Clicker could be waiting just in the bushes…