Games of the Decade: The Last of Us is a masterclass in silent storytelling

November 25, 2019
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“Is this really all they had to worry about?” Ellie asks, perched on a stained bedspread beneath the faded posters of a now long-forgotten teen. “Boys? Movies? Deciding which shirt goes with which skirt? It’s bizarre.”

The Last of Us is stamped with what once was and never will be again. It is a world so ravaged by death that still, decades later, it offers little respite for its survivors. Bodies rot under the midday sun, as others – bloated and moist – decay in sewers. They sit mouldering in vehicles choking off-ramps and cower behind boarded-up windows in empty suburbs. It is an endless, relentless reminder of yesterday that offers scant hope for tomorrow, but it is also Joel and Ellie’s reality. As such, the poignancy of this broken world – and this broken man – gut-punched my emotions in a way I didn’t quite expect.

I couldn’t acclimatise to Joel’s life of scavenging and savagery, though. I rarely felt safe. Each confrontation, be they human or otherwise, felt too desperate, too distressing. I couldn’t comfortably pick through the grimy remnants of someone else’s life, pushing past unfinished dinner plates and teddy bears and candid holiday snapshots to rummage through cupboards and sideboards in search of unlooted supplies.

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