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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Denison chapter.

Naughty Dog has yet to fail the art of creating games. I’m fully aware of how bold that statement is, but it’s a claim that will defend through my blood, sweat, and tears. From this company hails the classic Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted, all games that are arguably top tier levels. But there is something different about The Last of Us. It’s a game that demonstrates Naughty Dog’s high level of storytelling that is creatively interlaced in gameplay mechanics, scripting, scoring, animating, and directing. The Last of Us sores above and beyond all expectations and sets a new standard of what video games can and (hopefully!) will achieve. If there’s only one thing you can take away from this, it’s this: Buy this game. It’s worth your time. You can thank me later. 

Compared to the more light-hearted tales in their previously published titles, The Last of Us is a stark comparison, like the new, distant, mysterious cousin that gets introduced at a family reunion. There is tension and uncertainty upon approaching it, but once they open up, you’re in for an experience that you wish you can hold onto and never let go. 

You play as Joel, a ruthless survivor in the twenty years aftermath of a breakout in this cordyceps fungus that has infected humans all across America. As you play, you get a glimpse into the different kinds of survival tactics that people take on, which can range from a variety of approaches. You get paired off with this young girl named Ellie, who has only experienced life in this dark world. The two of you travel on this quest that could possibly change the course of mankind in this dystopian world. 

The relationship between Joel and Ellie is one of the (many) game’s strong points. The constant change and pacing between them gives a sense of realism and is the only shining light in a world that is designed to rip you away from it. You will encounter a lot of scenarios that will reaffirm the trail of death and misery that is left behind each survivor in this game. Everyone has encountered their own version of loss, and it is those tragedies that shape people into becoming a dark clone of who they once were and, as a player, you get to witness that transition to a point where it could take a toll on you. Many people could easily ask the question, why go on? Why are we fighting every day to live in a world that is just going to relentlessly screw me over? In our case, it’s Ellie ad Joel’s relationship that retains that sense of innocence and hope that fights through this broken world that has chewed us up and spit us out. 

By no means do I suggest that Ellie lives is a naive world where she believes that nothing is wrong, people who kill are bad, love prevails all, and blah. Ellie has killed, she’s smart, she knows that everything is not that simple—it’s more like she doesn’t know any better. The infected world that we get introduced to, is the world that she was born into. Ellie is grounded during battles; she holds her own and can be surprisingly badass at times. But what really makes her special, and what makes us players so attached to her character, are the small interactions that she has with objects that connect us to the world that once functioned as a normal society. There’s one part of the game where you have the option to explain to Ellie what ice cream trucks were, and the idea just makes her mind explode. It’s simple, yet touching. Joel’s hard presence gets slowly worn down the longer he’s with Ellie, which makes him want to protect her more and more, whether she needs it or not. After seeing and hearing all of the cruelty that Joel has done to people, it’s as if Ellie is Joel’s redemption arc into being the human being he was once. 

In gameplay, there are different types of infected people in this world, and each one can be attacked with a variety of approaches but, stealth is key. While this can’t always ring true in every battle that you come across, you will be able to sustain more of your health and slew of supplies in this way. Joel can be equipped with weapons that you can upgrade, depending on the number of tools that you pick up along the way. Joel can also craft his health kits, bombs, and Molotov’s that are incredibly beneficial but could also be your biggest downfall if you’re not smart about your use of them. If you’re not, the quick cutscenes of the Infected ripping your face apart and the bloodcurdling screams that echo into the fadeout to black is terrifying and, frankly, it’s difficult to see no matter how many times you fail.  Along with the Infected, you will have battle humans, who are smarter and faster, but that could also fluctuate on the difficulty mode that you choose to play on. With the superb combat system, you will develop and hone new ways that can battle the Infected and humans. 

The Last of Us questions your morality. It presents you with a dark world and presses you to find the illumination throughout it. The characters are fleshed out beings that you forget were once sketching’s and ideas that Naughty Dog ended up turning into something wonderful. From beginning to end, The Last of Us will keep you thinking and questioning what humanity can do to a person and how it molds the role that you get the chance to play in.