Quick review – The Last of Us Remastered (and my issue with gun combat in modern games)

Wouldn’t you know it, Honest Trailers just did The Last of Us the same night I beat it. Synchronicity is nifty, isn’t it?

So yeah, I just finished The Last of Us Remastered last ni… well, technically this morning. I can see why people were all gaga over the PS3 version last year. The Last of Us is easily some of the best writing and cinematography I’ve seen in a game, the world has that same feeling of post-apocalyptic authenticity I get from Stephen King’s The Stand, and it had a good mix of linearity and exploration for a survival-horror game. I can also say this is a game where I don’t think they need a sequel as the first one is, like a great novel, a complete experience in itself… but if The Last of Us 2 happens, I wouldn’t mind seeing an adult Ellie dealing with the consequences of finding out the truth (if you’ve played it, you know what I mean). The Last of Us earns a solid A, will play again… especially since it looks to have a new game plus feature. (Good old Chrono Trigger, the gift that keeps giving. I wish more games would steal from it.)

That said, there was still plenty of yelling at the TV due to it having a lot of the same problems polygonal games still have 20 years after the birth of the Playstation, issues that didn’t exist in the days of 2D sprites. I could growl about a few parts that didn’t work as well as the developers probably hoped they would–for example, Ellie’s fight against David frustrated me because I had to get perfectly behind him before the knife prompt would appear and the game cheaped me several times (being a crazy cannibal cult leader gives you spider sense, I guess), and there are sequences where it seems stealth would be an option but the game effectively forces you to fight anyway (or at least soak up damage while you run)… and oh fuck, the bullshit part with the sniper where I finally just said to hell with strategy and did a hell-run past all the bandits up to his room in the house because fuck trying it the “right” way for the fifteenth time–but the main problem I had with The Last of Us is, welp, the same problem I generally have with modern games: the gunplay.

My big issue with most modern games that use guns for combat is this: in real life, if I shoot someone in the shoulder, the leg, the chest, whatever, that motherfucker isn’t going to keep standing there firing at me. You put a round in someone, chances are they’re staying down due to shock and pain. I’m tired of enemies in games following the whole “it doesn’t matter how many times and places you shot me if you didn’t get me over some arbitrary damage level metric” pattern. If I shoot a dude in the leg, he needs to not be able to use that leg anymore. If I shoot a dude in the stomach, he needs to stay down and bleed out, not stand back up and keep shooting at me like nothing happened. I’m not talking the zombies here either, I’m talking the throngs of bandits and other human NPCs spread throughout the game. Sorry, but if you’re going to use realistic graphics, you need realistic enemy reactions to wounding; otherwise the whole suspension of disbelief comes crashing down the moment an NPC gets back on his feet after taking a point blank shotgun blast to the face. And then I yell at the TV some more.

This isn’t a flaw in just The Last of Us, of course–I could say the same thing about any GTA, the BioShock games, the Saints Rows, pretty much any modern game that uses firearms as the primary form of conflict resolution. Hell, even in modern games that don’t involve guns the enemies just soak up way too much damage–check out classic 2D Ninja Gaiden where the emphasis is on quick gameplay and most enemies take a single well-timed slash to kill vs. its modern “hit shit over and over again” incarnations. It’s frustrating losing yourself in a game and getting in the groove of pulling off what should be enemy-disabling shots–you know, the whole immersion thing developers are going for–only to have someone you just head-shot with a hunting rifle stand back up and continue single-mindedly firing at you. It’s time developers took a look at bringing gameplay to the next generation along with the graphics, and more realistic enemy damage metrics would be a great place to start.

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