The Last Of Us and Remember Me

The Last Of Us is, according to Mr. Internet, an unrivalled explosion of holy brilliance. Possibly the greatest example of the gaming medium thus far created. Here is a selection of extracts from TLoU comments threads (all taken from Eurogamer because I already had the tab open and I’m lazy):

“Another masterpiece by Naughty Dog. They’re unmatched at this moment.”

“The last of us is gaming at its very best.”

“Best game of this gen, easily.”

“TLOU is gaming perfection and I would play it happily again and again.”

Hmm.

To each their own, of course. But something about the near-universal TLoU love leaves me feeling a bit disenfranchised with the gaming community at large. Maybe I’m just out of touch.

The Last Of Us is, when boiled down to its essential components, a perfectly average third-person action game. It plays identically to all the other not-bad third person action games. It adds nothing new or interesting or different, it just does the normal stuff well. Then, on top of that, it has above-average storytelling. This is what we want from our games? This is the pinnacle of our beloved medium? What kind of message does this send to games developers and publishers?

TLOU1

I don’t hate The Last of Us. I don’t think it’s bad. Gameplay-wise it’s a tried and tested formula, and there’s nothing wrong there. I don’t need to play a game that does that ever again, so I’m surprised that others find it so exciting. The truth is, I don’t believe that any of the TLoU fans really love it for its gameplay. They love it for its story. But, it doesn’t tell its story in a ‘game’ way, it tells its story in a cinematic way, which is something we really should be moving away from already.

Besides which, when we talk about how good the storytelling is in The Last Of Us, what are we comparing it to? If we’re comparing it to games which tell stories through gameplay, it’s worse, because it’s a weaker approach not suited to gaming. If we’re comparing it to other games with cut-scenes, it’s better, because it’s not awful. That’s hardly high praise. If we compare it to cinema (which is the most appropriate comparison), it’s much worse, because all that pesky gaming gets in the way, and in all seriousness the script really doesn’t stand up to the better examples of film or television.

So how good is the story, then? It’s alright. I can see why it would be seen as better than, say, teen fiction. Not sure why there are so many adults getting worked up about it though. I guess these days adults are meant to be reading Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, and that’s just the modern way.

The day that TLoU‘s DLC Left Behind came out I was playing Remember Me. The combination of reading yet more absurd over-the-top praise for this average game whilst playing a largely-ignored, very similar but much better game left me with the feeling of disappointment that inspired this article.

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Remember Me is a third-person action game with decent storytelling. Not Hollywood-good, or The Last Of Us-good, but better than games-good. The action is strong and it has some new ideas that work well and are interesting. Gaming wise, it’s a superior product to The Last Of Us. I don’t think it’s a brilliant game, but it is very enjoyable.

What I don’t understand is why The Last Of Us saw such an overwhelming response whilst Remember Me didn’t. The only answer to that question that makes any sense is that people en masse prefer the cut-scenes and story to the gaming that goes in between them. That’s really quite depressing.

So The Last of Us might have ‘won’ Game of The Year, but if story is the criteria we’re judging that on, I’m not sure how much of an honour that is. Remember Me wouldn’t be my GOTY either, but I do know that if I had to pick one of the two, I’d pick the one with above-average gameplay and decent storytelling over the one with average gameplay and excellent storytelling.