Double Take: The Last of Us

Steve recently played The Last of Us, one of Keith’s all time favorite games. In this Double Take, they discuss the game’s ending along with other highlights and frustrations. There are heavy spoilers, naturally.

Steve
solid game
but i don’t know if i liked that ending
i’m gonna need to let this one marinate a bit

Keith
oh man i loved the ending
and i especially loved not having a choice

Steve
i’m torn
the ending is true to joel’s character in that he is selfish and unconcerned with other people
but it’s such a disappointing moment, as a human being

Keith
i hear ya
and that’s why it resonated with me so much
and it broke my heart to be playing as joel at that moment
but i’m glad i had to
i’m glad they told the story they wanted to tell

Steve
yeah shooting the surgeon in the face was not fun
in a cynical way i think this ending leaves room for a sequel

Keith
i wouldn’t mind a sequel, but i don’t want to play as joel
i really don’t think they did it just for the opportunity for a sequel

Steve
i don’t either

Keith
i think ultimately the ending was true to joel as a character
as heartbreaking as that is
and in a lot of ways i can understand his decision

Steve
yeah i think it was
but that’s the interesting question when it comes to video games compared to movies
the illusion of player choice
a growing trend is to let the player decide the ending to a degree

Keith
i’ve never been as enamored with choice as most people are
i’ve always wanted to be told a story in games like this

Steve
sometimes i think “choose your own ending” is overkill
and i’m fine not having a choice here
but i think i love this as a movie ending and just can’t tell how i feel about it as a video game ending

Keith
yeah we differ there
there’s absolutely no way this story would have resonated with me the way it did if i wasn’t such a part of it
but it’s ultimately a story i’m being told, not one i’m determining
i think it’s so strong because you actually had to pull the trigger

Steve
in a certain way it makes the whole second half of the game feel pointless
we end up where we were halfway through the game, plus a lot of trauma and bodies

Keith
for me the game is all about joel and ellie’s relationship
and it’s debatable how much any of the actual gameplay plays into that
though the trauma and bodies impact how i feel about both of them

Steve
yeah totally

Keith
the one thing i’m sure about is that most games don’t cause me to have any of these internal discussions in my head
and it struck the right notes for me

Steve
right
that’s definitely true
i think for me it’s as much a problem with the genre as with the game

Keith
it took a genre that is beyond played out
and is typically mindless
and turned it on its head in a lot of ways

Steve
in any other circumstances i understand joel’s actions – don’t sacrifice my only loved one for the sake of anyone else
but the firefly leader – marlene? – was right
they’re all doomed anyway without ellie’s cure
there is no saving ellie, but you could at least have let her death be salvation for mankind

Keith
oh yeah i mean joel is as selfish as they get in that moment

Steve
when ellie dies within five years or so, it’s a pointless selfishness

Keith
but is the game better for you if joel is selfless?

Steve
it’s just that his selfishness was short-sighted and irrational, i think
that’s what’s not sitting right with me

Keith
oh of course it was
but love is irrational
and i’m not saying that’s the point
but i think if the ending is that he allows her to be sacrificed, the game becomes about the journey, just getting ellie from where she is to where she needs to be
which it really wasn’t, for me

Steve
the theme you need in any zombie apocalypse fiction is hope
hope for a cure, hope for a return to normalcy
without hope, why go on?
and by saving ellie from the fireflies, joel killed that hope

Keith
but who is to say that ellie’s the only one with this immunity ?
like if you want hope, there’s still some

Steve
hasn’t it been 20 years in the game since the outbreak?
this immunity mutation seems truly rare

Keith
maybe it took that long for it to develop in some humans
why does 20 years time lead to the conclusion that she is the only one like her?
to me it was a fun game that told an engaging story that ended in a way that stuck with me for a long time

Steve
i mean it’s an ending worth chewing on
i did not get the ending i wanted or expected
but that’s often a great thing in movies
so why am I struggling with it here?

Keith
oh yeah i didn’t expect it either
but i didn’t want her to die
but i also didn’t want to murder people and discover that i’m basically the villain
in video games we are always the heroes
and in this case we weren’t
so i think that’s unsettling

Steve
there were some scenes early on that I thought established pretty well that joel was not the hero
in boston

Keith
yeah but there are bad guys that ultimately redeem themselves
and we’ve sorta been trained to expect that

Steve
yeah it’s almost like joel’s growing fondness for ellie doomed humanity

Keith
it did
but ultimately those decisions show how imperfect humans are
like most people can’t make selfless decisions like that
and on one hand you hate joel for his decision
but on the other hand
you can completely relate to valuing certain people’s lives over all others

Steve
what’s interesting to me too is there are people out there who play this game and absolutely think joel is the hero at the end there
so at least we’re on the same page in being bothered by the ending
but whereas you loved it, i’m not sure if i do

Keith
i think the ending is completely unsettling
to this day, when i think about the ending, i’m still unsettled by it
i remember how awful i felt pulling that trigger
and no game has ever had that sort of impact on me before or since

Steve
you’re right
it’s a deeper ending than it first appears
switching gears a little, what was your favorite and least favorite segment of the game

Keith
i thought the puzzles were weak compared to other portions of the game
most of them involved ellie being inept

Steve
like the rafts and ladders?

Keith
yeah
finding beams to walk across, etc.

Steve
i agree and i thought they controlled a little clunky
there were lots of times i put rafts and ladders in the wrong spot by inches

Keith
oh definitely
it’s not a perfect game by any stretch

Steve
i think my least favorite part was winter

Keith
like when ellie transitioned into a hunter?

Steve
yeah, the game suddenly shifts to ellie’s point of view and she’s playing rise of the tomb raider in the snow with deer and arrows
and yes, i know the last of us came out before rise of the tomb raider

Keith
yeah if i’m being honest i forget large portions of this game (it’s been a few years)

Steve
it basically goes boston, pittsburgh, wyoming/colorado, ???, utah
where “???” is winter, in some snowy lakeside cabin community

Keith
yeah, winter sticks out to me as incredibly jarring in hindsight
and i wonder if its inclusion is just to hammer home the point that ellie is tough now
even though she still can’t swim

Steve
there were points during the game where I had no idea where to go next because I hadn’t checked every window of every house
and that’s impressive, the amount of environment they designed
but it was also annoying
and I thought that hit its peak in winter
in a snowstorm

Keith
yeah i mean it definitely exists in a weird middle ground between completely open world and linear
which i agree is frustrating, especially when your brain has been trained to function a certain way in these games

Steve
it’s linear with a path so wide you can get lost going sideways on it

Keith
i think i reached for a walkthrough in two or three spots specifically for this reason

Steve
i made it through sans walkthrough but it probably cost me at least an hour of wandering

Keith
winter was a strange section of this game
serving as a way to remind us that this world still sucks I guess

Steve
yeah it’s when the game felt the most “walking dead” to me
there was that crazy guy who wanted to befriend ellie, but then also eat her, and maybe rape her?

Keith
for the most part when i was wandering i was usually able to find materials to make shivs, etc.

Steve
my favorite part of the game was boston, at the beginning
for two reasons
one, hometown bias, and they did a pretty good job mixing real life landmarks and generic fill
two, as with any game, i was never more afraid of being seen by zombies or other people or whoever than i was early on
my guns all sucked, i had very little ammo
i’d never dealt with a clicker before
it was like in bioshock, the first time you take on a big daddy
just completely outgunned and afraid

Keith
yeah
it was at its most survival horror at that point

Steve
yes
and it’s funny, i don’t really like the genre
but i liked that section a lot
it felt like survival horror done right
but by the end of the game it was very much uncharted with ammo constraints and no parkour elements
“time to take out 12 heavily armored men”
stealth and cover never lost their importance, which was nice
how about you, got a favorite part?

Keith
there are a few that stand out
i really liked going through what i believe was a campus of some sort

Steve
yeah, eastern colorado i think

Keith
i liked the small story delivered entirely in clues that you found around a broken down boat
but my favorite part is when ellie and joel find two brothers in an apartment building
sam was the younger brother
henry was the older brother
it was a heartbreaking encounter
ellie and joel see first-hand how dangerous it can be to love someone so much that you make irrational decisions
i think the henry and sam interaction was our first real taste of how dark this game was going to get

Steve
it wasn’t when sarah gets killed ten minutes in for you?

Keith
yes and no
naughty dog always does openings that are supposed to catch our attention
so i was sort of expecting it
especially because sarah was nowhere on promotional material

Steve
yeah that’s what got me too
“wait a minute, this isn’t ellen page…”
oh, so get this
i spent the entire game thinking ellen page voiced ellie

Keith
i can’t blame you
they essentially stole her likeness for it

Steve
yeah, i totally thought it was her because of that

Keith
but i loved so much of this game
in my opinion it’s got the best voice acting of any game ever
every character was just so great

Steve
it had nolan north, as all games must

Keith
and troy baker

Steve
where was john dimaggio?
but yeah, i played this game with a lot of hype baked into it
not just from you, but from the consensus at large
it had a very high bar!
that said, again, survival horror isn’t my genre of choice
so i tempered my expectations accordingly
and i think this met them
i probably can’t go as far as you in calling it my favorite of the ps360 generation
uncharted 2, infamous 2, bioshock, and valkyria chronicles all come to mind
but it’s up there
and figuring out exactly where is a task for another day
a future rank & file, of course

Keith
to me this game just exists on its own
there’s not much i can compare it to
not necessarily from a quality standpoint
just for how it made me feel
the experience it gave me is unlike any other game
and i think i played it at the right place at the right time
and it’s absolutely unforgettable to me
but i won’t begrudge anyone for putting the games you listed above it
personally, it’s one of my top five games of all time
but i’m glad you enjoyed it
and that my hype didn’t ruin it for you as it often does

Steve
no not at all
i can only hope the same is true when you get around to final fantasy vi

Keith
and what a double take that will be

Steve
oh, lastly for this double take, did you play the left behind dlc?

Keith
i haven’t played that yet
i was sort of waiting for a reason to play it
but if you’re looking to play it next, i’ll play it

Steve
let’s do it


Double Take is a recurring gametimebro feature in which two (or more) bros have an in-depth conversation about a game they’ve both been playing.

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