So first, some stats before I talk about it. I beat the game six days ago and finished at 14:30 with 97 deaths. I started the first half on normal, then changed the difficulty in game to hard mode. Naturally when I beat the game, it only counted as normal, but that’s besides the point. Now, for my thoughts on the game. Be warned, there will be spoilers.
The game was precisely what I had hoped for in this game: a captivating story that would put you through an adventure that very rarely any game can do. It’s very hard to describe every single detail about the game without doing an entire narrative of everything that I have played, so I’m going to just mention all the things that I liked. I am going to talk about this assuming that you, at the very least, know a base background of the story and who the characters are. With that said…
I have NEVER played a game where there has been SO many small details added to a game. There are so many small notes that are left by people in the game. While you read them, Joel (the character you play as) will often make a comment about what he just read.
Just like in the real world, there are no real maps that are just handy to you. When you are left to find the destination you need to get to, you are given a generic path to head to that destination, but there are various ways to get there. Sometimes you’ll run into houses, rooms, buildings that have been destroyed, rummaged through, left behind. Joel will sometimes make note of what he even sees. Not just Joel, even Ellie (the girl you end up traveling with) will too!
Not only is the world detailed, the AI is VERY impressive. If you are in a gun fight (and you will be), there WILL be times where you run out of bullets. If you accidentally try to fire again (which I’ve done only once), the AI will recognize the sound and make note of it. I had TOTALLY forgotten about that feature in the game and thought I was screwed… until I remembered that I had been saving up all my ammo for every other weapon that I carried.
There are times in the game where the creators intentionally break off your habit of doing certain things. There are numerous times where you will have to boost up Ellie to get to a ledge in order to go farther. There is one point towards the end of the game where Joel gets ready to boost Ellie up, however she doesn’t come. I found this quite astonishing due to the fact that it just dawns on you that this is truly a story at work. Ellie, who had her mind somewhere else, did not notice what Joel was doing and did not immediately come. Just from that small event, you are given a reminder that this is more than just a game, this is a story.
Now this may not be something significant to a lot of people, but I think this is what really helped define the characters tremendously within the game. The game’s entire PURPOSE was to tell a story.
As you go on your adventure through several different places, your companions (or even group of people) will often make note of what they see. The AI reacts to the environment which just BLOWS MY MIND. There was a memorable part of the game that I thought was just simply outstanding. Ellie had just seen a poster of an attractive model girl and was asking how and why she is so skinny. She begins by asking, “Say Joel, didn’t you say that you had a lot of food in your time?” Joel responds by saying that they did, but there were people who would not eat to stay pretty. Now Ellie, who was born a few years after the outbreak had started, could not grasp this concept and dismissed it as something stupid.
These kind of conversations are something you almost never see in a game! The more you “talk” with Ellie as you play the game, the more human you begin to feel within the game. It gives you such an awareness of the fact that… everyone is a human. They almost never feel like they’re some kind of AI that was simply programmed into another model lookalike.
This was one of the few survival horror games that REALLY made you think carefully whether you want to use your ammo or not. Ammo is so scarce and when you actually get some, it’s only a few bullets here and there.
During the first part of the game, I desperately tried not to kill anyone because I felt like they didn’t need to be killed. The more I progressed, however, I soon came to realize that there really was no way around it. What’s more interesting was the fact that you are killing more people that are alive versus killing the ones who are infected. Because of the fact that they are simple, it’s easy to get around them and take out only a few of them. The people who are actually alive are more frightening and deadly than those who are dead (or supposed to be dead).
I really just have to make a small shout-out to all the characters. The voice actors for practically every single person was top-notch. There were times where I teared up, choked up, and cried as I was playing because these actors were just SO good at their job. The intro to the game was easily the most heart-wrenching part of the game. The voice actress for Sarah did so well to make it seem like she was just like a little girl who was confused. When Sarah was dying, I could FEEL the confusion and pain that Sarah was feeling. Not just Sarah, I could feel the pain of a father who had just lost everything.
This was perhaps the most important part of the game and it got me hooked. Even my little sister, who doesn’t really play games, really wanted to watch me play. I really enjoyed having her company so even while she wasn’t there to watch me, I played all the cutscenes that were saved to have her caught up to where I was. She cried a lot more than I did, but the feeling was there. She felt the adrenaline rush of when I was going through Runners and Clickers, she felt the fear as I saw some people coming after Ellie, she felt it all.
Now there were many people who condemned the game due to its ending because they ended up not liking Joel. Now be warned, this is a TREMENDOUS SPOILER ALERT RIGHT HERE. In the end, Ellie was about to go through some surgery that would end her life in hopes to find a cure for all mankind. Joel, who had just gone through practically a whole year with Ellie, could not bear the thought of not having Ellie anymore and took her back. In the very end, Ellie had asked Joel if he wasn’t lying when he said that the Fireflies could not find a cure. Joel then looked straight at Ellie and swore that he told the truth. My sister and I agreed that Joel was very selfish at the end and he kinda became the “bad guy” that we did not really expect to see.
Here’s the thing about that.
As you play the game, there are many times where you just have to kill a lot of people. You constantly think that you are the good guy because you are thinking that everything that Joel does is for the good of humankind. The irony of everything is the fact in the end, he’s still a murderer. Joel has killed countless people and he has even hinted that he was both on the “good” side and on the “bad” side. It is only until he makes an undesirable decision at the end that we decide that Joel is a “bad” guy. Can you really blame him though? Can you honestly blame Joel for making the decision that he made? I’m not saying it’s the right one, but I’m saying that I can’t blame him.
The game was an adventure. It took me to places that I would have never imagined seeing in such ruins. There were some odd parts that I thought was a little outdated (such as having tube televisions in houses… the world went into shit in 2013. Wouldn’t there be more flat screen LCDs instead?), I feel that they have done an excellent job with this game. The main purpose was to tell a story and my god, they did just that. I felt as though I had watched a television series rather than play a game. Only about 3-4 hours of the entire time I’ve played would have been in game cut scenes or CG cut scenes. The game play was well done, characters were outstanding, and the small details pretty much blew my mind.
Out of 10, I can confidently say that this game would be a very, very hard 9/10. If the gameplay was something new and innovative, I would have gone nuts. If anything, it sure as hell would be closer to 9.9/10. I would easily recommend the game to anyone and would definitely like to play it again (even if it did not have the replay value bonuses in it). Now the only problem is to wait for my co-worker to finish and return it ahaha.