September 26th, 2013. Not a date that rings a lot of bells, but it was a pretty significant day in the history of video games. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was released on the PlayStation 3. Now on the anniversary, we celebrate The Last of Us Day (formerly known as Outbreak Day, which is a much cooler name for the day in my opinion),
I figured I would take this opportunity to go over all of Naughty Dog’s announcements over the weekend, as well as the significance the series has had on my life and on the video game world in general.
There were no major announcements made from Naughty Dog, which isn’t out of the ordinary. There was no word on the upcoming multiplayer for The Last of Us 2 (which doesn’t worry me), no word on the PS5 version of TLOU2 and nothing on the upcoming HBO series based on the original game. That doesn’t mean that the day was without excitement.
I think the coolest thing announced was the vinyl, Covers and Rarities. You can pre-order a physical copy here : https://mondoshop.com/collections/all/products/the-last-of-us-part-ii-covers-and-rarities-ep It’s only $25 USD as well, which is a pretty great price for such a fantastic collection of songs.
You can also stream it as of right now, on Spotify, Apple or presumably wherever you listen to music. I already have a bunch of times. It is incredibly beautiful, but also devastatingly sad. I don’t know if I will ever be able to listen to any of the songs without tearing up, but Joel Baker’s version of “Future Days” and Ashley Johnson’s “Take On Me” are particularly impactful.
https://direct.darkhorse.com/products/the-last-of-us-part-ii-joel-statue Here is the link to the newly announced figurine of Joel. It is incredibly well detailed, but also incredibly expensive. Still well worth it if you are a fan. If money was no issue, I’d get it for sure.
Naughty Dog also announced that they will be running back the photo mode competition for TLOU2. Simply play the game, take your best screenshots and upload them to Twitter, using the #TLOUPhotoMode. Don’t forget to @NaughtyDog!
Finally, more merchandise was announced. A new backpack, beanie, shirts, guitar straps and more can now be purchased on the official PlayStation Gear Store.
Now for my thoughts on the franchise. I’ll try and keep them to a minimum, but there will be spoilers ahead. If you have never played them before, I can strongly recommend it.
I didn’t get The Last of Us when it first came out. At the time, I didn’t really keep up with new releases. I would just visit the game store once or twice a week and buy something that was on sale. I had such a huge back catalogue that I didn’t have time for new releases. A friend eventually suggested that I check it out, so I did.
That was the best decision I ever made. I was simply blown away by the whole experience of playing TLOU. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have played it since. I guarantee it is a lot. I know the game better than I know most things. I remember the first time I tried to play on “Grounded” difficulty, I couldn’t do it. I thought it was impossibly hard and ended up rage quitting. Now I can play it on “Grounded” and avoid taking damage for the most part, if not all together. I still enjoy it though.
The gameplay holds up now as well as it ever did, but the story seems to get better every time. It’s like the story ages as I do. As the world does. It is consistently relevant. I would say that every time I play it, I’m touched a little bit more. It could be because I’m a father now, but the dynamic between Joel and Ellie is fantastic. Every time Joel lets her down, my heart is genuinely broken. Not that I hate Joel, I just find him incredibly relatable. My heart breaks because I have the same flaws, and would make the same mistakes.
I remember how sad the first game was, but it was also hauntingly beautiful. Because at the end of the day, no matter how tragic things were, Joel and Ellie had found one another. As long as they were together, everything was going to be ok.
It ended on a pretty good cliffhanger. Joel lying to Ellie about what happened with the fireflies. You could sense that she suspected as much, but responded with an ok and that was a wrap.
We had to wait almost 7 years for the sequel and the aftermath. I was at the store at opening to grab the game. I couldn’t wait. I can genuinely say that TLOU2 did not disappoint me, like it did for so many others. I don’t really understand why so many people hated it, because it was such a strong story. It’s been over a year and I still haven’t come to terms with it. It still makes me sad to think about.
I would argue that whilst I like the first games story better, that the story of the second game is the best. It is confronting, tragic, devastating but incredibly powerful. It really, genuinely moves you. I was miserable for days after completing it. It really sat with me, and still does. I think it always will.
When Joel was murdered, I didn’t cry (eventually I did, but it wasn’t until Ellie was going through Joel’s empty house). Sure, it was sad as shit. But I was just so angry. I vowed on the spot that I would follow the murdered to the ends of the earth and finish her.
Then the game put me in her shoes. I didn’t care. You could show me why she did what she did, you might even make me understand her, but you could never stop me from hating her. The game continued to make me play as Abbie, getting to know her and her past. I never once lost sight of the mission.
When playing as Ellie, I was as focused as ever. But as time wore on, I saw the effect that her revenge quest was having. The toll it was taking on her. It was consuming her and she was ruining her life for it. Pushing away her loved ones. Causing immense harm to herself, both physically and emotionally.
Towards the end of the game, I didn’t even care about revenge anymore. I didn’t like Abbie and I couldn’t forgive her. But I just wanted Ellie to be ok. Joel wouldn’t want that life for her. I don’t want that life for her.
The game took the characters on such a wild emotional journey, and it took me along with it. At times, I was so angry my blood was boiling. Others I was so sad that I didn’t know if I could ever bounce back. Sometimes I was so drained and just wanted it to be over. I don’t know if I have experienced a story like that.
I only played TLOU2 once. It genuinely hurt my heart and as much as I wanted to play it again, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I am ready, but a friend has my copy. D’oh! Soon. I’m curious to see my thoughts on it now, a touch over a year later.
Honestly, I would give both games a perfect rating. They will be games that I will play over and over, likely for the rest of my life. I am eagerly awaiting a third title (if one even gets announced), I can’t wait for the HBO series either.
Whether you are a fan of video games or not, I can recommend checking out this series. It does such a wonderful job of moving you. It is overwhelmingly tragic, but it is not without it’s beauty. There are some truly lovely moments in the game, and they stay with you long after the credits roll. It’s been 8 years and thinking of Ellie and the giraffes still brings a smile to my face.