This game is stunning. Everything about it stunning.
Losing his daughter at the start of the outbreak destroys Joel.
As the game progresses, you see him oh so slowly soften, and Ellie, who was once just a package to be delivered worms her way into his heart, to the point where he would damn all of humanity, including himself, to save her. He is no less hard or dangerous, but he is softer, at least where Ellie is concerned.
By the end of the game, it seems that Joel has healed from his past trauma, talking openly and easily with Ellie about the daughter he previously tried so hard to forget.
This character arc for Joel was masterfully handled by the game. Mad props to the writers, the actors and the animators on this one. Holy shit.
As with Uncharted, Joel's design is fantastic. Again, he's not over-muscled. He looks like a real dude. He's not especially tall, it seems, nor is he the "Hollywood ideal." He looks on the boxy side, and he looks strong without being a parody of strength as so many heroes of the masculine persuasion tend to be.
In short, Joel as a character is exactly the kind of man I'd want on my side if everything suddenly went to shit.
Unlike Joel, Ellie doesn't really have a character arc. She remains her feisty self throughout the game without changing all that much except, perhaps, in her levels of affection towards Joel.
Ellie is the kid I wished I could have been. There is a lot to admire about her, most notably in how well she stands up for herself when Joel is being a colossal arsehole... which is pretty often, let's be real. The number of times I said, "You tell him, Ellie" in game is a little ludicrous.
Ellie is believably fourteen here, not just in her behaviour, but also in her appearance and the way she moves on screen.
They got it right, and that is nice to see. There is a danger, after all, of her design and character being a patronising account of what an adult might think a teenager to be. She's not that. They got her right.
In the end, it turns out Tommy's way was better.
Sounds noble, right? Well, not so much, given her methods. Once again, a full character. She's not evil, making the events at the end of the game difficult to play through, but she's not good, either. More on that in another post.
It's unclear whether Tess and Joel are intimate parnters as well, though it seems likely given some of the dialogue and the fact that Joel faces the dangerous cross-country journey to bring Ellie to the Fireflies because Tess asked him to. Surely he felt something for her.
What impressed me is that the game developers did with Bill's sexuality what storytellers everywhere should do. It was there, but it was not omnipresent. It was not the reason Bill as a character existed. It was merely an aspect of his character. What was important was that he was grumpy and a recluse and owed Joel a favour.
I was also impressed with how they wrote Joel while dealing with Bill. Joel didn't care about Bill's sexual preferences. He warned Ellie that he was a grump and a little unpredictable, but that he was basically a good guy. That was it.
Thank you, Naughty Dog, for that. It wasn't a huge part of the game, but it was surely worth a mention.
David. That bit with David. I've never come so close to throwing up while gaming, watching or reading before. It was tough to deal with; quite triggering.
This game made me cry. Twice. I also screamed a bit, and swore a lot at the studio. A common refrain during my live streams of this game was, "Fuck you, Naughty Dog."
The story was so brilliantly laid out, and the scenes so wonderfully brought to life, I am in absolute awe of the writers at Naughty Dog.
They also managed to make me sit back and think—genuinely think—once the game was done. It was brilliant. They made me think so damned hard that I am planning a whole other blog post about these thoughts.
While Ellie is the main female of the game, there are other supporting characters who happen to be women, who are all brilliantly written and fully realised. Once again, Naughty Dog has evaded the trap of one-dimensional women, or terrible tropes involving women in the game.
Sure, Ellie is more of a side-kick to the main dude, but damn if she isn't the most capable, awesome chick to have around. I have been saved by Ellie and her knife more times than I can count while playing.
All the women in the game are capable, even if they're not all good. Tess is so capable that her mere presence opens doors for Joel. She arrives on scene and everyone is immediately well behaved... except the goons hired to protect someone who has crossed her. And, well, they get what's theirs, I guess.
Marlene, leader of the Fireflies, is a commander and a fighter. She's put into a very tough situation when she learns Ellie is immune, and makes a very difficult decision. Is it a decision all of us would have come ti? I don't know. More on that in another blog post.
Tommy's wife Maria is a tough lady, but also one who clearly cares for the people under her command. She runs the town Tommy is part of rebuilding, and by all accounts, seems damned good at it. Clearly, she has the respect of the men working beneath her. But she is not without emotion, either, being very upset when Tommy tells her that he's going to do what his brother asks of him.
So, once again, well done, Naughty Dog. You manage with ease something that other developers somehow have failed to even grasp.
This game is fantastic at creating awful, terrifying, tense moments. From the scarcity of much needed supplies, to the erratic nature of the infected enemy, to the cold calculation and utter lack of humanity in the human enemies, this game had me on the edge of my seat practically the whole ride.
I was irritated by the weapons sway, I have to say, particularly coming from Joel, who, it is assumed, should know his way around a variety of weapons and be able to hold the fuckers still, goddammit.
But honestly, my frustrations with the game play are wholly and fully the result of my own ineptitude, which I have in spades.
While I'm less keen to return to the world of The Last of Us and play again, as I am with Uncharted 4, this game holds a special place with me, and I cannot wait for the sequel.
Goddamn, Naughty Dog. Just... Goddamn.