The last of Us, the reasons for a masterpiece
The story of Joel and Ellie set in the brutal post-apocalyptic world created by Naughty Dog was a great success with critics and audiences: but what are the elements that made the first The last of Us so “special”?
For several years now, Naughty Dog has become one of the main development houses in the videogame field. Thanks to the talent of its staff, the commitment made in each project and the desire to compete in new challenges that has always distinguished the most important teams from those of the second floor, the Californian software house has become a brand synonymous with quality. And if the spectacular Uncharted saga has made her reach the pinnacle of success it is probably with The Last of Us that Naughty Dog has reached maturity and has been able to leave its mark more, creating something unique and fascinating. The story of Joel and Ellie, a man and a girl who find themselves almost by chance having to live together during their journey in a post-apocalyptic world, between devastated and dangerous lands and new human communities in which they meet characters of all kinds, it has in fact conquered both critics and audiences alike. But how and why did he do it?
The Last of Us is in the form a survival horror, however, grafted on an adventure and stealth game basis, in which the narration and the evolution of the relationship between the two protagonists, temperamentally at the antipodes but at the same time complementary to each other, namely the surly Joel and the little fragile Ellie, they play a vital role. The title therefore takes place between exploration and moments of relative tranquility, dialogues among the characters that make them feel their fatigue and increase the player’s empathy towards them, breathtaking landscapes and opponents that must be faced openly, avoiding them or killing them without making a sound. And without excessive remorse. Because the end justifies the means, and the violence that permeates some moments of the game is never free, but necessary.
The world that Naughty Dog gives us with his adventure is from this point of view bleak and brutal, without rules. And every action, even the most barbaric, is considered natural. Most survivors often don’t care kill other individuals if it serves them or their communities. In short, the infected are not the only cause of the collapse of civilization. In this context, Naughty Dog had the courage to dare, to deal with strong themes by delving into the deepest self of mankind through the deeds and actions of its protagonists, proposing natural, complex and morally ambiguous characters, whose actions are constantly in hovering between what is lawful and what is is not. And this makes them unique in many ways.
Joel is one of the two protagonists of the title, the one used for most of the adventure. We see him surviving in a seedy apartment within one of the areas of forty still active, created by the US government in the aftermath of the outbreak of the epidemic that has decimated mankind. But he, perhaps, would have preferred to die from the start, and avoid the torture of having to drag himself yet another day through hardship and pain. And among the memories. The terrible memories of those who did not make it and is no longer there. As his daughter, lost twenty years earlier during the first outbreaks of the pandemic. The tragedy that hit him made him a man apparently unable to feel emotions, a little selfish, closed in his pain. He doesn’t even notice that the smuggler’s friend and colleague, Tess, feel something for him. Or maybe she pretends she doesn’t understand it because she doesn’t want ties.
Joel looks dead inside, a tired zombie crawling around waiting not even he knows what. Without hope for the future, without dreams, without love. Yet he does not have the courage to end it by himself. The other protagonist is instead the opposite. The purity of mind of him, his desire to heat human, the desire not to give up and to want to live on a planet other than the one in which it was born, I am in antithesis with Joel’s darker temper, and with the cruelty of what’s left of humanity. Ellie does not want to bow to harsh reality, does not accept it even in the face of the ********** of deformed creatures or evil people whose actions, despite everything, cannot wipe out dreams that animate it.
Even in her perhaps most difficult moment, after the escaped violence and averted death at the hands of David, that spark of hope remains in her, that conviction that perhaps with her sacrifice civilization will be reborn and monsters like David will automatically disappear from the face of the earth. . And it is enough for her to see the unspoiled nature represented by a herd of giraffes a Salt Lake City, with their elegant gait, to find again the word and the smile, that desire to live that made her little by little special in the eyes of Joel, and consequently to those of the gamers. If Joel is somehow the past now resigned to a decadent and dreamless future, Ellie portrays the hope of a better tomorrow, the new one that wants to revive civilization.
The whole story is then assisted by an exceptional artistic direction, by a splendid soundtrack and by one film script well integrated with the classic gameplay of a video game. The narration is in fact different from the usual also from the point of view of the form: the interlude sequences blend perfectly with those of the game, the dialogue between the protagonists is constant and credible, the camera is always positioned in the right place and the absence of any information on the screen for most of the time increases that sense of identification and involvement that is perceived in all phases of the adventure. One of the strengths of The Last of Us is undoubtedly its ability to recreate a universe credible also through playability and images. Even the landscape is the protagonist in Naughty Dog’s work.
In fact, the main events often surround the underlying themes developed through real subplots, experienced by the player through the stories of some secondary characters, or indirectly, thanks to the vision and discovery of material that belonged to the many unfortunate individuals who died before, during and after infection. Exploring the game areas, in fact, the story unfolds further under the more attentive gaze of those who like to dwell on details and steal every little secret or element fromanalyses of an environment or objects of common use. So here is that a bicycle abandoned on the sidewalk in front of one of those terraced houses typical of certain areas of the United States, or a time-corroded pot lying on the unlit stove of a kitchen, left in a hurry by those who were cooking, “speak” to indirectly tell what happened to their owners.
Fragments of lives passed, interrupted in a flash. The narrative power of the work lies in these nuances as well. The title of Naughty Dog therefore stimulates the imagination of the public, and pushes him to to explore better every ravine not only to retrieve useful objects, but also to savor certain details. All the pain, the drama of millions of individuals told without the need for anything else, of particular scenes, video clips in computer graphics or special effects. This is The Last of Us, a great story of humanity in which it is impossible not to get excited, lived through the voyage on the road of two normal people, who can represent any of us for this very reason. Indeed, “the last of us”.