Help me: I want to care about The Last of Us
Sometimes you watch a reveal trailer for a game and you say to yourself, "Damn, that looks awesome! I really want to check that game out when it launches." Sometimes you don't even need a reveal trailer. Sometimes all it takes is the game's announcement, some screenshots, and a few paragraphs of descriptive text. Last year, games such as Mortal Kombat, Shadows of the Damned, Outland, Terraria, and Saints Row: The Third really got my attention, so I went out and picked them up immediately (or in the case of Outland and Terraria, I downloaded them).
This year we've got plenty of potentially impressive games to look forward to. Street Fighter X Tekken, Lollipop Chainsaw, Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story are just a few of the games that are currently on my "buy at launch" list. For many gamers, watching the announcement trailer for The Last of Us was enough to place Naughty Dog's upcoming post-apocalyptic action-adventure title at the top of their lists. For me, however, it just seemed like a cool idea that I just didn't really care about.
Now, before you judge me as some douchey, snarky video game journalist who's looking to lash out at one of the bigger releases of the year, I need to assure you that my disinterest in The Last of Us isn't calculated. I want to care about the game. It's not like I dislike the genre; I love action-adventure games. For some reason, though, I just can't find myself caring about The Last of Us, and that bothers me a bit.
I enjoy games set in post-destruction wastelands. Rage and inFamous are two great examples of games I really liked that employed grimy environments rife with human devastation and the debris of lands that were once fruitful but sadly fell victim to demolition. The Last of Us looks to feature a setting also abundant with depressing solitude and ravaging ruination. Strangely, though I usually love entering those types of disintegrating worlds, I don't feel compelled to set foot within the land in The Last of Us.
People originally thought the game was going to be yet another zombie tale. When it turned out that the enemies in The Last of Us were going to be mutated fungus creatures, a lot of people released a sigh of relief. I don't mind zombies at all. I also don't mind crazy fungal monsters. That said, while they may be different in theory, I think it's safe to say that The Last of Us could have been a zombie game and featured exactly the same reveal trailer. I don't understand how people can be burnt out on zombies and so openly welcome the threat in The Last of Us. Still, I really hope Naughty Dog uses this whole fungal destruction thing to mold the game's story and setting.
Maybe it's the reaction The Last of Us received that really irks me. I find it a bit nonsensical that the same people who said, "This better not be another zombie game," also said, "Phew! It's not a zombie game!" despite the fact that The Last of Us essentially seems like a zombie game with re-skinned enemies. My lack of interest in the game may spark from the ridiculous nature of this type of reaction. That said, I've never been one to hate on a game just because other people love it. No, I hate on games that I genuinely dislike. But I'm not trying to hate on The Last of Us — I'm just trying to figure out why I'm not stoked to play it.
Could it be the game's characters? To be quite honest, I haven't really paid any attention to the lead protagonist. People have said he's Nathan Drake-esque. Is he really? I never even noticed. I barely realized the dude had a beard after seeing a promotional image of the game just now. The fact that I wasn't even bothered to notice the main character's appearance is indicative of my lack of enthusiasm over The Last of Us.
Or maybe the reason I didn't notice Nathan Drake — err, I mean, Joel — is because I was too distracted by his female sidekick. Seriously, I found Ellie a lot more interesting than Joel when I was watching the trailer for The Last of Us. It should go without saying that her Ellen Page-ness was crazy uncanny, and it's obvious there's some inspiration there. I mean, Ellie looks like Ellen Page, she talks like Ellen Page, and I'm certain Ellen Page would act very similarly to Ellie if she was cast in a zomb — umm, fungal creature movie. Hell, her name is Ellie, for goodness sake!
Personally, I like Ellen Page; I think she's one of the more enjoyable actresses to watch these days, even though she starred in Inception, which I hated. (That van is still falling back into the ocean as we speak.) Despite the fact that I think Ellen Page is cool, I don't think I like the idea of an Ellen Page-like character in a video game, unless she's being voiced by the actress. That factor makes it hard for me to care about Joel's partner in crime, or as is the case in The Last of Us, partner in survival. Yes, I think she's more interesting than Joel, but I'm not so sure I fancy the idea of Ellen Page not actually playing Ellie.
It saddens me that I don't care more about The Last of Us, its setting, its concept, and its characters. All of the elements I like are there: action-adventure gameplay, a messed wreck of a city, and Ellen Page(ish). For some reason, though, these elements don't come together to create something that I'm genuinely interested in playing when it launches. Who knows? Maybe I'll be more interested in the game come launch when I read more about it, check out some gameplay footage, and get the full details. Or maybe The Last of Us just isn't for me.