The Last Of Us is perhaps the greatest swansong that any generation of consoles has ever seen. A pitch-perfect experience on every level imaginable, Naughty Dog’s magnum opus is a fitting tribute to a console that has seen more than its fair share of trials and tribulations.
But what does The Last Of Us really do that hasn’t been done before?
Zombie apocalypse? Check. Third-person cover-based shooter? Check. Environmental puzzles? Check. Resource management, character-driven story and pseudo-stealth? Check, check and check. On paper, then, there’s not one single thing that the game does that hasn’t been done before. So why all of the gushing praise and acclaim and why isn’t there one single voice pointing to the lack of originality and genuine progress?
Ahh, the old knife-to-the-zombie-head routine. How refreshingly different.
Because, dear Voxelites, progress is at best nothing more than an illusion and at worst an easy scapegoat for jaded critics to point at when they’re in a particularly dark mood. It’s one of those concepts that we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced is a pre-requisite to a game’s excellence. Much in the same way that we’ve allowed journalists to convince us that ‘linearity’ is always bad thing.
The Last Of Us, then, is the swift, powerful uppercut that we so regularly need to remind us that it’s not about what you do – it’s about the way that you do it.
So, no, there’s isn’t really one single ground-breaking gameplay development featured in the game whatsoever. Nor are there any narrative or stylistic elements that we haven’t seen before in any number of mediums. What there is, however, is a an indisputably masterful mixing of existing elements to create a genuine tour-de-force that leaves you quite simply breathless.
Heston Blumenthal: further proof that it’s not about your ingredients – it’s about what you do with them that makes you stand-out as cutting-edge
What’s really the difference between a local pub band and U2, Foo Fighters or Coldplay? They’re likely as not using very similar equipment in a very similar, if not identical, line-up and using largely the same effects. In fact, the musicians could swap places and instruments and the net result would be almost the same: the pub-band would sound pretty average and The Edge and Dave Grohl would rock a phat one. The difference, then – the only real difference there ever is – is the raw talent, skill and imagination of the musicians.
Naughty Dog, then: the Foo Fighers of the gaming world, the U2 of the development community and the Coldplay of the bedroom coders. This is a group of individuals at the absolute peak of their game, proving that it’s not about being new, shiny, progressive or avant-garde; it’s about being a god-damned genius that’s capable of taking what already exists and elevating it into something new.