During my time with The Last Of Us at PAX East, it became clear that the game was incredibly unforgiving, challenging, and difficult.
Then I realized my controls were inverted. Oops.
Things went a little smoothly after that issue had been fixed, but the game was still kicking my butt. Joel, the game’s protagonist, isn’t a marksman. He doesn’t have an unlimited supply of ammo pouring out of his pockets, nor does he have the ability to regenerate health. In a word, Joel is human, and his humanity helps to create a tense and realistic combat experience.
But it appears that I’m not the only person in the world that has been frustrated with the game’s combat. Several reviews have mentioned that the game isn’t necessarily fun, that the gun controls are frustrating, and that the combat is realistic. In The Last Of Us, you’re not a super soldier with perfect aim.
This brings me to my personal question of the day: Is a game better with or without this realistic gun control? Honestly, you could say that it strictly depends on the game’s material. The Last Of Us is about everyday people finding a way to survive, not kill. The control’s imperfections help enhance the already tense nature of the game. 2012’s The Walking Dead plays in a similar manner. While not an action game, the nature of the game’s point-and-click adventure style doesn’t give you the option to kill every zombie in sight, instead keeping the pace of the game steady and deliberate, allowing you to focus on the characters instead of the action. You could argue that The Last Of Us does the same thing, but instead of an adventure game, it brings the steady and deliberate combat pace to the action genre. While it makes for a fantastic game, as our review indicates, does it make it any fun?
Various forms of multimedia entertainment can be fun, but this isn’t always the case. Movies such as The Road, as well as the book it’s based off of, are the exact opposite of fun. They’re real, grim, and depressing tales that are able to grab ahold of our emotions until the story ends, and it ends with us reaching for a box of tissues. As video games continue to mature, they’re leaving behind the notion that they have to be fun.
The world of video games has been associated with fun since its beginnings. Classics like Pong, Asteroids, and Missile Command are fun. Modern titles such as Borderlands and Burnout are also fun; though, to be fair, these games aren’t really known for their narratives. On the other hand, some know Far Cry 3 for its narrative, thanks in part to its memorable villain Vaas and the transformation of its hero Jason Brody.
Jason starts the game as a tourist. The first time he kills in Far Cry 3, Jason feels uneasy. The hundredth time is more comfortable. The thousandth? That’s routine for Jason Brody. But there’s a similarity between the first and thousandth bullet fired: Jason is a natural shot. His aim is steady and nerves are calm. Within five minutes of jumping into the game’s open world, you can slit the throat of a tiger, sneak up a hill, jump on top of an unsuspecting gunman, and throw a grenade that kills two others as you shoot the jeep that’s bringing in reinforcements. If Joel is ever able to do that in The Last Of Us then I will run across a major highway in a chicken suit. This is not realistic in the least bit; tigers are incredibly dangerous and can’t be eliminated with such ease. While it’s not realistic, it is a hell of a lot of fun.
But, as I said earlier, video games continue to mature. As they do, they’re starting to tell deeper stories. BioShock Infinite was able to combine a deep message while delivering an entertaining and overall fun gameplay experience. With The Last Of Us, Naughty Dog isn’t aiming for the best of both worlds. They’ve spun a tale that’s going to help gaming, once again, transcend its medium. It’s going to be a worthwhile experience, but don’t expect to have any fun.
So, let’s look back at my original question: Is a game better with or without realistic gun control? Sticking to my first point, it indeed does depend on the game’s material. But while Far Cry 3 and BioShock Infinite make good fun out of turning the main character into an action hero, they have a tendency to eventually become routine. You go through the motions as your superhuman character destroys everything in sight. But if you dare go through the motions in The Last Of Us, you’re going to die. The constant need of perfection can be frustrating, yes, but it leads to a more mature, realistic, and possibly even better gaming experience.