“The Last of Us has ruined games for me.”
My roommate uttered that as he finished Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, let’s call him Zack. After finishing a brilliant game such as The Last of Us, it’s hard to follow that up with just any game. Now, I have my own quibbles about Uncharted 3 and am
pretty very vocal about them; at one point Zack even called me a “backseat gamer”. However, witnessing him watch the ending without a hint of emotion caught me a bit off guard. Uncharted 3 isn’t that bad is it? Then he followed it up with those interesting choice of words, and I was intrigued. Before I go on with this story, I should tell you that he has yet to play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune nor Uncharted 2: Among Thieves yet. Shocking, I know.
So far, I’ve seen Zack beat The Last of Us, and now Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Before those two, I’ve never really seen him play too many video games. He used to play a lot and actually owns all three current-gen consoles in the house. However, when The Last of Us released, to rave reviews nonetheless, his interest was piqued. So one day, I came home from work with a copy in my hand, and before I knew it he handed me a check and it became his copy.
During his playthrough of The Last of Us, he was completely absorbed, and it’s not hard to be immediately immersed in it either (especially by how it begins). While he was playing, he would explore every nook and cranny of every room, unnecessarily hoard every item (normal mode pfft), and even increase the volume every time there was a dialogue string. I told him he could adjust the volume of the dialogue in the options and even after doing so, he continued to raise the TV’s volume, especially during the cutscenes. As meticulously as he played the game, it was somewhat understandable. Stealth plays a vital part in The Last of Us and is one reason for its careful pacing. He made sure he received the full experience. By the time the game was over, it was obvious that The Last of Us would be his choice for game of the year.
Even though I’m sure you’re all aware, I have to say it, The Last of Us is a marvelous game. It excels in almost every way: storytelling, gameplay, design, and even the multiplayer (though not the best ever conceived, Nate Wells). It’s well deserving of Zack’s own personal game of the year award. Once his “high” had left him however, he began searching his collection for a substitute to further fuel his addiction; thus he began Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
Charting was not as dire as survival.
It’s possible that a player might leave The Last of Us, or any great game for that matter, with higher expectations. Zack fell victim to this phenomenon. Having just beaten Naughty Dog’s more recent title, Zack started Uncharted 3 on the “Hard” difficulty setting thinking he was up to snuff. Little did he know, or perhaps he just forgot, that Uncharted’s pace is much faster compared to The Last of Us. Just by having the ability to quickly swap inventory, use the environment against multiples of enemy AI,and shoot while moving hastens the gameplay immensely. Players are more prone to death with the amount of freedom in character control while at a faster pace compared to The Last of Us, and that’s exactly what Zack did, he died… a lot (185 times).
It wasn’t just the gameplay that was different, but he didn’t feel as involved with the story as he did with The Last of Us. I can’t really blame him here; Uncharted 3’s story isn’t as strong as its previous installments and seemed to focus on a lot of over the top moments. By the time Zack reached the final chapter of the game, he said to me: “I don’t even know the villain’s name.” He came up with a name a few seconds later, but the fact that it wasn’t memorable enough to him to just come up with right away is, surprisingly, not an example of Uncharted 3’s poor storytelling, it’s a testament to how unforgettable The Last of Us really is. How’d I get there from here you ask? Well, that name he came up with for Uncharted 3’s villain: “Marlene”. Marlene is the main antagonist in The Last of Us. The villain in Uncharted 3 is “Marlowe”.
Then I thought about it some more; Uncharted 3 is by no means a bad game. Heck, if Greg Miller of IGN rated it a 10/10,then it has to be pretty good, right? Or at least on the same level of The Last of Us, which also received a 10/10 from IGN. Like so many others, I also left Uncharted 3 rather disappointed. But this wasn’t because another game ruined it for me, it couldn’t be… or so I thought.
Remember Uncharted 2: Among Thieves? I played Uncharted 2 endlessly until the day Uncharted 3 released. Every criticism I have about Uncharted 3 actually stems from my experience with second installment. Uncharted 2 had everything, and did it extremely well. Unlike Zack, I wouldn’t go so far as to say Uncharted 2 ”ruined” Uncharted 3 for me though. Uncharted 3 released with many issues, my biggest frustration coming from the botched aiming mechanics. The multiplayer was fun, initially, but was ruined by an abundance of lag and multiple weapon tweaks causing an imbalance in gunplay. I’ve never played a game that has players trade kills due to lag as much as in Uncharted 3. I guess it’s a good thing Zack has yet to touch the multiplayer.
The Last of Us doesn’t bring a lot of new things to the genre but does everything very well, much like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves did at the time. The deeply intimate story with its characters is only augmented by its gameplay: from the close 3rd-person view of Joel to the aid provided by Ellie. At its core, The Last of Us is a game about a relationship, and for Zack, it was a relationship that ended prematurely. Perhaps it was just too soon for Zack to take on another endeavor right after his thrill with the last one… or maybe he should have played Uncharted 2: Among Thieves instead. At some point, we’ve all parked in the wrong garage.