[This piece has huge spoilers within, from the basic plot to the ending, everything is talked about so please don't ruin the game for yourself if you are yet to finish it.]
For those reading this that haven’t played the game, and don’t care about the massive spoilers in this piece, the story is as follows; It is in essence a buddy road trip movie like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the main difference though is that Steve Martin is Joel, a man whose child died during the start of a fungal zombie plague and John Candy’s character is Ellie, a 14-year-old girl who is for some reason, that I didn’t fully understand, immune to the virus. This immunity was discovered after she and her friend got love bites off a zombie and only one 14-year-old girl walked away without craving human flesh.
There is something about getting sucked into a world and game, there’s one section of the game where this happened to such a degree I had to stop playing for a moment, have a cigarette and think about whether I should be worried about how much I game. The penultimate section of The Last of US takes place in a hospital; the game had a horrible habit of making you think it was coming up to the credits rolling but then throws in a couple of extra hours. The hospital was a slog, after this long journey of trying to save this girl that you had grown attached to it is easy to follow the motivation of Joel, your main character for the game. After hearing Ellie can save the world you’re overjoyed, but then realising she will die in the process led to a proper reaction from me, I was protective of some polygons.
The final battle of the game was hard work, lots of soldiers protecting the operating room you are trying to get to, I had taken them all down except one. At this point I was loaded with all the ammo and MacGuyver gadgets I could ever need, but instead I declined the high road and instead went for the slightly unhinged road. Rather than just kill the virtual enemy and move on, I actually was stressed out and wanting to vent, I threw a brick at his face, jumped a desk and caved in his skull with my trusty lead pipe. For a moment and the sounds of hollow metal and skull interacted I realised there was something wrong with me, I pushed on knowing I was near the end of the game.
Moving into the operating room I was greeted to three surgeons about to get to work. They had one scalpel, not a real threat, yet still I shot two of them in the knees, as I went to pick up Ellie I heard cries of “You’re a monster!”, this was from the mouth of the final surgeon, a woman cowering in the corner. In retrospect I’m pretty sure there was a non-conflict resolution, but I didn’t take that, I walked over to the whimpering lady and showed her the bottom of my size 10s.
I’m not proud of that, it honestly was a moment in gaming where I just saw myself and thought “what the hell is wrong with you?”. There are games like Running With Scissors’ Postal 2 that you know the lay of the land, you know that although there is a non-conflict resolution to the whole game it’s more fun to pour petrol everywhere and then set fire to a marching band. With The Last of Us it was different, I could have done ‘humane’ killings with headshots, and for most of the game I knew I was playing a game, I knew the only reason I did head shots was because I was conserving ammo and killing faster. In these final scenes it was something different.
I guess there’s three potential reasons for my slight unhinging, the first is that it is a great story that’s deeply immersive and draws the player in to feel something for the characters. The second potential reason is that I had played the game for about 9 hours already that day and this was just the side effect of barely even bothering to go to the toilet, let alone have a break every now and then.
The final reason could be that there is slightly wrong with me to begin with and given a world with no consequences I’d do some pretty messed up things. When I play games like Fable, Army of Two or any game with a moral system I always play the good guy, often, like in life, it’s harder to be a good guy when all the temptations and rewards are there for the douches of the world. In The Last of Us though I guess it really came down to a sense of “awww hell no”. I tried shooting Ellie numerous times during the course of the game, whenever she annoyed me or was grumpy I trained my cross hair on her, when someone else tried to take her away all I could think was “No, that’s my girl to kill”. She’s an emo nuisance, but she’s my emo nuisance.