Last of Us EP3: Hug it Out

By Shamus
on Sep 19, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Rutskarn is right. This only looks silly because the world looks so real. Older stealth games had mechanics that were just as ridiculous, but we understood them to be representative. They were a metaphor, as part of the language of a simplified cartoon world. But now we’ve got this thing that looks “real”, and we’re throwing a bottle directly through a guy’s field of vision without them noticing. And strangling a grown man to death in a quiet space while his friend stands just two meters away, oblivious? Looks like everyone decided to put on their silly pants today.

Also strange is the way the game is still so video-gamey about the guards. Those nameless, clueless, powerless rubes you gun down on your way to Robert. In real life, I’d be extremely worried about that trail of bodies. At least one of those guys had a mother who loved him very much, and who probably had other sons. At least one of those guys was married and took care of a family. At least one of those guys had a brother about the same age. If I was Joel I’d be paranoid that tomorrow the buzz would be all over town: Who shot all those guys? It’s not like they didn’t conspicuously pass multiple people on their way to Robert. Word would get around. Somewhere out there would be someone (probably a group of someones, maybe even a posse of someones) who would work just as hard to solve these murders ad Joel and Tess did to recover their guns.

Of course, that not how the game works. Those guys didn’t have names of histories or families. They were mooks to be killed because this is a shooter. It’s just that as games get more and more visual fidelity, stuff like this looks increasingly strange to me. And to be honest, I don’t know what the solution is. You could lower the body count, but only at the expense of having less shooting. So we can either have a game with little shooting (Walking Dead) cartoony graphics (not gonna happen in the gritty AAA game space) or we end up playing a casual mass-murderer. I suppose you can also set the game in a world with lots of foes that can be killed guilt-free (aliens and Nazis) but that does tyend to narrow your options with regards to what kinds of stories you can tell.

Despite my bellyaching, I really wish I’d played this game. I’m dumping on the shooting from a narrative / tonal sense, but it looks fun.

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A Hundred!206There are 126 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

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  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Stealth in video games generally is very underdeveloped,even in stealth games.

    Yahtzee had a great article once about how cool it would be if we had a game where you could pick one of three classes,and all three were guys focused on three aspects of stealth.One focusing on sneaking around,one focusing on disguises and one focusing on fast talking and conning the people around him.And its not like we lack the tools to do that now.We already had dialogue duels in human revolution and alpha protocol,and the other two were used in various games.

    • Ivan says:

      I really wish someone would make a good stealth game. There are plenty of games out there with stealth elements but none of them are satisfying because they all miss the point of stealth. Just to pull from the spoiler warning resume, Deus Ex had stealth, so did Dishonored, even Skyrim could claim to allow the player to play as a stealthy thief type. All these games failed to achieve stealth gameplay that was any fun though. Stealth couldn’t work very will in any of these games because stealth is about a dis-empowered player overcoming foes that they could not have possibly beaten in a fair fight. That’s why Thief was so rewarding, because you’re constantly outsmarting and outmaneuvering guards who could kill you quite easily if they could ever find you.

      I would love to play a game that realizes these three stealth concepts, it might even make for a very cool co-op game where you work as a team to approach one objective from multiple angles. Player interaction could be really cool too if any action by one player were to arouse suspicion that could then be alleviated by one of the other two. Like the sneak gets into the camera room to find the objective and guards, then the spy volunteers to check on the camera room when they stop behaving normally, or the conman calms everyone down and assures them that it was nothing.

      • Isaac says:

        I thought that Deus Ex did stealth extremely well because of how smooth it was to control from being able to switch sides while in cover to dragging bodies. There was also the sizeable arsenal of non-lethal weapons you could use. The A.I. was competent and the patrols were really good.

        Dishonored’s stealth suffered from relying too much on using detective vision (due to the lack of a strong sound system like the one found in Thief) and having too many vertical “stealth routes” which made stealth really easy. So much so that it’s good patrol routes couldn’t pose a challenge. The powers (like the stop time one) also made things way too easy. The DLCs involving Daud kind of rectify the some of the main game’s stealth problems (more NL gear, better level design which meant less easy vertical pathways, better patrols, more stealth inside buildings).

        Skyrim’s stealth was okay. It was pretty ridiculous how you could shoot someone literally in the face with an arrow only to have them calm down and go back to normal if you hid for long enough. It also lacked any real non lethal weapons or ways to take out light sources such as torches. The patrols were really simplistic too. However, the main problem with stealth in Skyrim was how easy it was too easy to level so you got OP really quickly.

        • Ivan says:

          See, I just don’t agree that stealth was good in any of those games, having played all three. It was best in Deus Ex with multiple ways through a level but I still feel that it didn’t answer the question of “why don’t I just kill them all” well enough. You could answer “morals”, but the game doesn’t really respond any differently to a psychopathic murder Jensen than it does to a pacifist. You could answer “for the challenge” and that’s fine if it does it for you but when I play for a challenge I just turn it up to the hardest difficulty. I’m not much of a fan of placing arbitrary limitations on myself, as I prefer to use every too at my disposal. Unfortunately though there is no difference in difficulty in ghosting the game on hard verses easy. Also while you have tools for dealing with guards I never liked the knock out verses kill dichotomy that is usually brought up when stealth is mentioned. This is because that either option for dealing with guards makes the rest of the mission easier. For every guard you knock out or kill there is one less set of eyes to think about, and the game doesn’t compensate for this by calling in reinforcements, the game simply gets easier and so less fun (for me) the longer the level goes on. I prefer something like Batman, where they know you’re there, and they fear you, and so they behave differently. This is not the case in Deus Ex (Human Revolution) though.

          In Dishonered, like you said, stealth in that game is laughably easy. I never actually finished the very first mission (where josh branded the dude as a heretic) due to getting lost and then bored. Although even when I got caught it was almost a non-issue to escape by teleporting away. I don’t mind the detective vision so much, maybe because the last game I had played before that was Arkham Origins, but everything I’ve read about the game seem to say that the least interesting way to play the game is as a pacifist, and I had more fun too when instead of running away (or reloading) when I got caught, I just killed everyone in whatever creative ways I could come up with. In Dishonored you’re just simply too powerful for stealth to be interesting.

          I really have to disagree with skyrim though. You can barely even call what they had in that game stealth. Like you said, it levels too quickly and so you completely bypass the sweet spot where it’s just effective enough to be useful but not so effective that you can’t get caught even if you’re surprised or careless. Also yeah, the fact that taking an arrow to the face “must have been the wind” is unforgivable. If an arrow were to wiz past my head right now and embed it’s self in my monitor I would not rest until I knew who shot it. Hell the first thing I would do is scream and alert the whole house. I mean in order to outsmart something it has to have a brain to begin with, and the act of outsmarting a superior opponent is stealth at it’s most rewarding. One last thing about skyrim is that it simply doesn’t have the proper level design to support stealth gameplay. I mean it’s ok in the open world, but the dungeons and caves are far too linear for a stealthy approach. You often couldn’t sneak through a room if you tried because you would end up bumping into someone in the confined spaces, not that you’re really rewarded if you do so. You get less loot, less money, and nothing that you couldn’t have gotten if you hadn’t just killed everyone in the place, unless you’re trying to avoid a bounty.

        • cassander says:

          from the POV of the player, there was basically no difference between lethal and non-lethal weapons in Deus Ex. the non-lethal weapons were a bit less powerful, but eliminated mooks from the level the same way killing them did. DX amazing work in letting you sneak around without using any weapons, I’m pretty sure you could beat it without using any weapons at all, but lethal vs non-lethal weapons were entirely an aesthetic choice.

      • Aldowyn says:

        what about something more abstract, like a lot of indies? Mark of the Ninja or something?

        • Ivan says:

          I have tried to play Mark of the Ninja as well but I can’t remember why I never finished playing it. It certainly didn’t quite do it for me but it’s hard to place my finger on exactly why. Maybe it was because you still feel like a badass even if you shouldn’t charge a guard head on, or maybe it’s because there is so much less to explore in a 2D environment. Maybe it’s because the 2D perspective gives you too much information so that the game feels more like solving a puzzle than outsmarting an opponent. Or it might have something to do with the fact that guards can only patrol left and right.

          I think I’m going to have to go with I thought it was a bit too abstract for my taste.

          For the record, I liked the stealth in Thief III (never played the other ones) and Hitman Blood Money, and for slightly different reasons. I guess you are a sneak in one and a spy in the other.

          • mhoff12358 says:

            Why would solving a puzzle make it seem /less/ like you were outsmarting an opponent?
            That seems like a perfectly good analogue for coming up with a clever way to bypass the guards’ paths.

            Perhaps its that, like you said, the puzzle was too abstract. Meaning you want to solve a puzzle, but one that more literally relates to actual actions the guards would do.

            • Ithilanor says:

              From my experience with MotN, the abstraction was a bit too much at time. It felt less like finding my way through a living environment and more like, “here’s puzzle environment #1! here’s puzzle #2!”, with guards obeying highly constrained behavior.

    • Isaac says:

      So Yahtzee basically wants Deus Ex?

    • Rack says:

      Saying we have the tech to make a game that has a dozen dialogue duels so we should be able to make one that has 2,000 is a bit like saying we’ve been to the Moon we have the tech to get to Neptune. The scale of what you’re trying to achieve is so radically different as to make the extrapolation meaningless.

      • Ivan says:

        I think you’re being too dismissive. What if instead of blowing all their money on spectacle and motion captured cut scenes they hired a few writers instead?

        • Aldowyn says:

          There’s already been games (AAA ones, even, depending on how loose your definition) that have been primarily focused on that kind of challenge. L.A. Noire comes to mind.

        • cassander says:

          the problem with that is the problem grows exponentially. it 3 sets of 3 choices mean 9 possibilities, 6 sets of 6 options means 216. and as you add more content, just managing it gets difficult. when you have just one writer, it’s very easy to maintain a consistent tone, but adding more people will often dilute that. this is not to say that it’s impossible to do, but it isn’t as simple as just hiring a couple decent writers.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Guys,theres one huge thing you are missing about that article,and I know I forgot to point it out:

      No killing.Real stealth is about avoiding too much interaction with the enemy,either by never letting them see you,or by never letting them see your real face.So yes,deus ex,hitman,mark of the ninja,etc all had massive options for stealth,you still had the option to just murder/knock out everyone.

      Contrast that with the highest difficulty of thief/thief 2,where you didnt have that option at all,and where stealth was everything.

      • Ivan says:

        I think you’re right, I think the game that I want to play is the one where you play the conman. Infact, in almost every single game out there (and now I don’t just mean AAA games) the only way to interact with foes is violence. It would be difficult to pull off though if only because no one seems to care about having good AI, which would be essential to pulling off something like this. Also I think it would be the first in it’s genera and they would have to figure out how to make a game where instead of violence being your only means of interaction with the AI, words were your only means of interaction.

        For the record though I think Hitman Blood Money pulled off stealth very well. Technically you were a bit of a badass and could gun down the guards in droves if you got them to all come through the same door (which is quite easy). But stealth was so much more rewarding that it was much more fun to get through a mission with as little violence as possible.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So why does the infection spread through bites?Spores are not this omnipresent thing in every part of the infected organism all the time.They have to develop and mature,and only then do they get released.

    • Tychoxi says:

      The spore thing is annoying to me but for a different reason. Like, everyone would have been infected by now! I can understand, it’s a gameplay mechanic, but unless I see they used it to good effect to enhance tension with your gas mask it was a dumb decision.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Like, everyone would have been infected by now!”

        No,they wouldnt.Just how everyone didnt die of the spanish flu,or how not everyone in the world got infected with tuberculosis before vaccines were found out.And unlike viruses and bacteria,fungi spread even slower.I really doubt that a single spore could infect even a child,but breathing in a big gulp of them could easily be fatal.

        • Tychoxi says:

          You are making the agent of infection air-borne and largely invisible. I understand that “everyone” is an exaggeration but in essence big cities would have been covered in spores. Let’s say half the human population got infected, can you imagine 3.5 thousand million spore generators? There would be clouds of spores from the big cities blanket covering everything in their wake and creating new spore generators everywhere they reach. You think you are safe? Just wait till wind changes direction, and you wouldn’t even know until your neighbor turned into a zombie.

          • guy says:

            Uh, did you notice how a majority of the human population is dead and most of the world is overrun by zombies?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “You are making the agent of infection air-borne and largely invisible.”

            As the game presents it,the spores are really visible when they are in the lethal dosage.Which makes sense,fungi spores are often large enough.

            “Let’s say half the human population got infected”

            Doesnt seem to be what the initial game shows.Maybe 1% got infected in the initial burst.But that was enough to kill of and infect the rest(plausible,due to the shock,looting,and the ensuing chaos).Plus we still dont see how long the incubation last*,and the initial stage(aggressive zombies) is vulnerable and probably not infectious(if they are,thats dumb).

            *Someone mentioned the number going into decades,which,if true,is frankly idiotic.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            You tend to find spore clouds in lower areas like basements and tunnels. I don’t know if it’s because the spores are heavy, like mustard gas, or because the fungus prefers to “flower” (what do you call fungus reproduction anyway?) underground, or both. But it’s probably their handwave as to why every city hasn’t been wiped out.

            • BeardedDork says:

              Fungus “Fruits” mushrooms (generally) are the fruiting body of a sexually mature fungus. Fungus also (generally) reproduces both sexually and asexually.

    • syal says:

      I can see the gums being a good breeding ground for spores. Or the lips. Or maybe they’re really sticky and most of the airborne spores get stuck in a person’s mouth and nose.

      • It’s not like the human mouth is a clean place to begin with. Mix what we usually have in our gobs with the fungus’ effect on its victims’ biology and it’s not hard to assume some kind of immuno-suppressant allowing final zombification-infection to take place is at play.

  3. Tychoxi says:

    Yes, this is probably what I disdain more about the quest for “realism”: it did away with abstraction but didn’t remove the “gamey” aspects. This is especially notorious in RPGs and the reason why I’ll be forever thankful to Kickstarter and Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Tides of Numenera and more.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Indeed.We should really tone down on plenty of this if we want to tell a realistic story.So what if in the end it only takes 2 hours to complete,it still would be a fun ride(if done right).

  4. Jake Taylor says:

    I think this is where that lovely thing called “suspension of disbelief” comes in. Whenever I enter into something like this, I try to figure out what gets filed under “this is how things work here”, so that it doesn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of anything else.

    Sure, parts of this gameplay don’t make sense – but you can either let that bother you and have it tinge your enjoyment, or accept it as “okay, so that’s how this works”. Like sound in space in Star Wars, or genetics in Jurassic Park, sometimes “realism” is sacrificed at the altar of “fun”. Nowhere is that a more appropriate sacrifice than in a video game – even a video game with a very serious, realistic world and story.

    • Vermander says:

      I think his point is that the more detailed and “realistic” video games become, the more difficult it is to suspend disbelief. It’s easy to accept that when Elmer Fudd is shot in the face he just gets a little sooty, but we wouldn’t accept the same thing happening in a serious police drama.

      This is especially true in a game like this, which takes itself very seriously. We’re more willing to handwave inconsistencies in a heavily stylized game, or one with a ludicrous fantasy setting, like Saint’s Row, or even Skyrim, but this game feels like it’s trying to tell a story about real people.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        That,plus the realism of the story*.You dont mind the inconsistencies in the airplane,but if you were to see a guy sniff glue and then be upside down for no reason in scarface youd be yanked right out of it,and hard.

        *By that I mean the way the story is being told.Of course a fungus apocalypse is not a real thing,but it deals with real issues and real emotions.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Suspension of disbelief is the writer’s job, not the player’s, it’s about what the writer can sneak past the player, not an active thing done by the player. The writer gets a certain amount of faith on the part of the player that the world makes sense, modified by art and gameplay style, the player’s genre expectations and how engaging and distracting a particular segment is, and that forms the writer’s budget for what crazy and/or expedient shit they can throw out and expect the player to just swallow in any given moment.

      • Ivan says:

        I was trying to figure out how to say something like that but you put it pretty well. I just want to add that something like “sound in space in starwars” falls more into the “rule of cool” category of suspension of disbelief. For the most part, I don’t care that there is sound in space because it’s cool and it doesn’t affect the plot in any way. You never have a character react to something they “heard” out in space unless it hits the hull of the ship. They kinda stretched it with Jango Fett’s sonic detonates but it could have easily been some other explosive macuffian, although I doubt the alternative would have been as cool.

        But lets get back to the last of us, if biting can transmit the infection then punching a zombie in the face is a really stupid idea. However it would have been significantly less stupid if Joel were wearing gloves. I still feel that engaging a zombie in melee combat is the last thing you ever want to do, but every zombie game ever thinks it’s the best plan since sliced bread so whatever.

        • Nidokoenig says:

          That first one’s also affected by reality being unrealistic, in that even someone with a PhD in physics is going to see a silent spaceship and have to engage their brain to realise that’s right. All that stuff going on in perfect silence counts as crazy shit, as far as human instincts are concerned.

          The absolute disregard for zombie juice as a threat unless ordained by plot is weird when stories where it’s a factor go out of their way to establish exposure to even one drop being enough basis to kill whoever’s exposed. It’d be a great excuse to dress up in leather from head to toe like Indiana Jones, too. That guy’s not wearing all that leather in spider-infested jungles or snake-ridden deserts (just) to look sexy, he’s just living in a world without the anitbiotics and antivenins we can take for granted.

          • Aldowyn says:

            I bet astronauts really dislike noisy space scenes.

            @Ivan I don’t think rule of cool and suspension of disbelief are mutually exclusive. Probably beneficial partners, even.

          • syal says:

            You can justify it by saying the other ship radars have explosion sound effects for when you shoot or hit stuff. Like how modern-day radars have the option to simulate swirl on the screen even though the radar doesn’t spin anymore.

            • Nidokoenig says:

              I’m more of the opinion that you should just recognise nonsense and abstraction as just that and not try to explain them away in-universe, since going down that rabbit hole just raises more questions, like why the sound system isn’t making more abstract sounds that are easier to discern, like explicitly saying where a hit was scored, or simulating a siren for a moving ship instead of a silly whoosh since the former is designed to be easier to pinpoint.

            • I prefer it when “explosions” are handled by the musical score. It happened occasionally in Babylon-5 and BSG, though far too often they relied on sound effects as if there was an atmosphere.

              Another technique is to cut to the interior of the ship being hit, where it makes sense to hear impacts resonating through the hull.

      • syal says:

        I think suspension of disbelief is a two-way street. The writer should do everything he can to avoid needing it, but at the end of the day, if you aren’t having fun then you’re the one who loses.

        • Aldowyn says:

          if you’re actively trying to suspend your belief, you’ve already lost.

          • syal says:

            You’ve been inconvenienced. If you don’t suspend it, you lose out on the rest of the movie/book/game. 5 minutes of inconvenience versus 5 hours.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Its not 5 minutes.Its not something you can do by sheer power of will alone.

              • syal says:

                You can’t change your mind or ignore something by trying? Bull.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  If it were that easyelephant,then earworms wouldntfriday fridaybe a thingget to da choppa!.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  It’s not as simple as “changing your mind”. Suspension of disbelief is a contract between the audience and the author.

                  The audience subconsciously agrees, simply by starting to read a work of fiction, that so long as the logic in a world gives off the impression that it is internally consistent, they will suspend their disbelief in it, no matter how unlike reality it is.

                  However, if the author begins to rely on that trust, and uses too many contrivances of illogical/unlikely scenarios, then the audiences disbelief is broken.

                  While both parties are involved, the primary onus of the contract is on the author. It is their responsibility to avoid overly relying on the audience’s disbelief. This level of tolerance is variable, depending on the person, but it is also finite. The audience will always start from disbelief, the author need to maintain enough plausibility to keep them at that state.

    • Ithilanor says:

      “Suspension of disbelief does not mean hanging it by the neck until dead.” – Marion Zimmer Bradley

    • Kingmob says:

      The problem is that only works when the game follows its own logic. So in the case of Star Wars you can’t suddenly start using the absence of sound in space as a plot device later on, it would pull even the most dedicated suspender-of-disbelief out of the story.

      Translating this to a video game like this; If you set up your game as realistic, ignoring the non-realistic parts becomes harder for the audience. The way the game is set up, the realism is strongly implied, so you can’t hand-wave it away later.

      To say it in another way, when the reader/watcher/player is pulled out of the story because of these things it is generally the fault of the writer, not the reader/watcher/player.

  5. Gunther says:

    Wait, you haven’t actually played TLOU?

    You’re missing out. It’s great in the ways all Naughty Dog games tend to be great; tight controls, beautiful art, well-realised characters and fantastic pacing. It unfortunately has the major Naughty Dog problem as well – the focus on realism hightens the ludonarrative dissonance of the game-y combat. It’s worse in the Nathan Drake games, to the point where mainstream reviews complain about it, but the odd shifts in how realistic the game world is depending on whether or not you’re shooting at things are noticible in TLOU too.

    That aside, pacing in particular is something this game just nails. It switches focus (between puzzles, exploration, stealth, zombie combat, bandit combat, etc) just as you’ve had your fill of what you were just doing. I’m not sure it’ll really come across watching someone else play it, but it’s got that same feel Half Life 2 had, of just being a really well paced game.

    • Tychoxi says:

      Maybe we’ll play it when Naughty Dog and Sony decide they want money from PC gamers.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “You’re missing out.”

      Eh.So far I dont see anything Id really want to play.It seems functional,but I dont feel like Im losing much by just watching it.

      Ok,that opening was great,the switch between the daughter and the father was seamless,and everything clicked.But this?Ive already played this,maybe even better,in tom braider.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Thank you,Todd in the shadows,for helping me understand what Rutskarn is referencing.

  7. Gruhunchously says:

    Disappointing, you go through all of Troy Baker’s major roles, yet neglect to refer to his magnum opus performance, Kai Leng.

  8. Isaac says:

    For anyone interested, here’s an ongoing YT video series that is bout analyzing TLOU: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNoslgGRRhA&list=PL7vAeDYh8SvShredLiTbOX7optQMNN39m&index=1"

  9. fdgzd says:

    So after Ruts’ mentioning of Sam Fisher I went through the wikiquote for Chaos Theory … The dialogue is quite good. It’s still very Tom-Clancy-gruff-badass dialogue but it actually has wit between the obligatory gruff sections. I’m pleasantly surprised.

    • Rutskarn says:

      Yeah! I couldn’t remember any good stuff, but here’s a decent example of what I’m talking about:

      Fisher: Give me some intelligence or you’ll be pushing up daisies in a cemetery full of guys just like
      Guard: I don’t have any intelligence.
      Fisher: Hey, you just called yourself stupid.

      He does the whole “grim, violent, intimidating badass” thing, but it’s always clear it’s just a tool of his job. He *can* pull it off, because he’s the extremely skilled scary guy in the combat gear, but it’s not who he is. And most of the time, when he’s not putting on an act, he prefers to look at the funny side.

      • el_b says:

        this was always my fave Interrogation.

        Sam: You know any Elvis?
        North Korean soldier: Wha.. how did you get in here?
        Sam: You’re spoiling the mood, I’m not here for chit-chat.
        North Korean soldier: Oh, shut up!

        I hate what they’ve done with sam and the splinter cell series. Now it’s all just about killing whereas Chaos theory used to have A score based around not killing or being seen, Which was a lot closer to his character, because even though he was a soldier, he wasn’t just some cold-blooded murderer. He’s also been made considerably younger even though he should be close to 60 at this point. He was grunting From strain and struggling to move around in chaos theory, and then two games later he’s practically running across the sides of buildings. also i miss ironside, He will always be the perfect voice actor for that character.

      • Alex says:

        Yeah, my only real exposure to Splinter Cell (apart from recognising the sneaking suit) is watching a youtube video of Sam Fisher’s headlock heart-to-hearts. It’s the sort of comedy I love best, the sort that comes from having witty characters.

  10. AJax says:

    As contrived and silly some of the stealth mechanics are, it’s really a mechanically tight game where it’s at its best when you’re playing a game of cat & mouse with the enemy AI. Tight controls and mechanics is the one aspect Naughty Dog have consistently been really good at. Despite a few issues with some sections and the enemy, TLOU is easily one of my favorite stealth action games.

    I do agree with your comment on the realism of the visuals versus the silly video gamey logic but honestly I can’t see triple A games stepping away from such contrivances any time soon.

    • Carlos Castillo says:

      The part of the stealth mechanics that is most jarring to me is that until you are “detected” by the AI, your allies are for all intents and purposes invisible.

      I understand that it’s meant to reduce player annoyance by preventing your allies from breaking your stealth streak, and to their credit, they often do a good job staying behind cover and away from enemies. Every once and a while though, Ellie will end up crouch-walking into an enemies’ legs to be able to take cover next to Joel and no-one’s the wiser.

      • AJax says:

        I do wonder at what point in development they realized they were being a little over-ambitious with their goals. I mean enemy AI is already hard enough to get right, especially in a stealth game, ND wanted to add an escort mission on top of the stealth mechanics?!

        I get that they didn’t want to over complicate the mechanics by letting the player micro manage friendly AI but the end result makes the game look completely absurd. And unfortunately I can’t think of a simpler solution the developers can do aside a massive redesign of levels and encounters which would’ve been unfeasible late in development. Yeah it’s unfortunate it turned out the way it is but it still looks hilarious. :P

  11. Isaac says:

    “Also strange is the way the game is still so video-gamey about the guards. Those nameless, clueless, powerless rubes you gun down on your way to Robert. In real life, I’d be extremely worried about that trail of bodies. At least one of those guys had a mother who loved him very much, and who probably had other sons. At least one of those guys was married and took care of a family. At least one of those guys had a brother about the same age. If I was Joel I’d be paranoid that tomorrow the buzz would be all over town: Who shot all those guys? It’s not like they didn’t conspicuously pass multiple people on their way to Robert. Word would get around.”

    Its implied in the beginning of the game just how dangerous Joel and Tess are perceived to be by the criminal underworld in Boston, so I think that there aren’t going to be too many eager people hoping to get revenge on both of them. If anything, the pair taking down a big crimelord like Robert should definitely keep vengeful people the heck away from them. Besides, good luck finding two inconspicuous smugglers in military-quarantined Boston.

    “Somewhere out there would be someone (probably a group of someones, maybe even a posse of someones) who would work just as hard to solve these murders ad Joel and Tess did to recover their guns.”

    Like who? A military who could care less about the slums of Boston let alone the murders of a group of criminals? I think they have bigger problems on their hands such as the Fireflies. At most, the annihilation of Robert’s gang would just leave a power vacuum in the criminal underworld of Boston.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I think they have bigger problems on their hands such as the Fireflies.”

      From the stuff shown,it doesnt seem like it.That car bomb didnt kill any of them,but Josh and co just killed at least four soldiers(I didnt really count).If that trend continues Im going to be really surprised why the military cares so much about the annoying insects when the psycho killer is going around murdering them by the dozens.

      • Isaac says:

        I think an ongoing insurgency is more trouble than two random smugglers

      • Carlos Castillo says:

        To be fair, only 2 soldiers “must” die by Joel hands, and that happens later in a cut-scene. Once you escape the Boston area, you never encounter them again, and nearly everyone else (until the finale) is trying to kill you (or worse) *before* you’ve had the chance murder dozens of them.

        Also, as hinted by the animation when leaving the dock (barricading the door), escape is a viable option at certain points as well. Being spotted doesn’t immediately make guards shoot, often if unexpected, they’ll get startled before doing anything. Several areas in the game are like this and have either special exit animations or level design that prevent / discourage pursuers. Not all encounters are escapable though.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          So what youre saying is that the game presented in the cutscenes is often at odds with the game seen while playing it?Can someone tell me if there is a convenient,easy to use term describing this?

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          Maybe it was just me, I remember feeling like all the marketing and E3 demos making it out that there would be fewer enemy encounters because each fight would be this tough scrape with every bad guy possibly being your equal, making stealth (the kind where you avoid people, not the kind where you kill everybody) attractive. I may have just been imagining it, but I definitely got that vibe from the promotionals.

          Because of that I did have a moment of “….What?” when the first combat against people had you kill like 20 dudes.

          Don’t get me wrong I still enjoyed the game, it just wasn’t what I had been led to believe it was.

        • straymute says:

          Yeah, you really can stealth the vast majority of the game and rarely ever kill anyone and on the normal difficulty the stealth is pretty forgiving. I mean sure you can go on a mass murder spree, but you could also do that in Dishonored, Hitman, Splinter Cell, MGS, and Deus Ex too. None of these games including The Last of Us are really about killing dozens of dudes unless you choose to play them that way.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “None of these games including The Last of Us are really about killing dozens of dudes unless you choose to play them that way.”

            Um,hitman is.Its right there in the name.If it has more than 12 missions,you are killing at least a dozen dudes.

            As for the last of us,we already saw him torture a guy and participate in his execution.And it really doesnt seem like this was their first time(heck,the casual talk about killing two people they have in their first meaning shows us how cruel these two are).I see that you can stealth through a bunch of stuff,but from everything I heard about the guy,I doubt he is really that pristine even if you go for 100% stealth.

            • straymute says:

              well first off dozen is not dozens and second the guys like Sam Fisher and Snake have some darker history to them too, still the game is not about murdering dozens of dudes unless you make it so.

  12. Akri says:

    “So we can either have a game with little shooting (Walking Dead) cartoony graphics (not gonna happen in the gritty AAA game space) or we end up playing a casual mass-murderer.”

    You could also add an element of sci-fi to the setting, and give the player a gun that only knocks out enemies without doing permanent damage. Or, if you don’t want to go for something clearly sci-fi, just give the player rubber bullets and declare that they’re always nonlethal and never do lasting damage.

  13. Robyrt says:

    Agreed – I thought the strangling animations were a little too brutal and noisy to make sense compared to how freely you can use them. Ironically, the zombies are way more likely to stop you from doing crazy stuff than the guards are.

  14. Carlos Castillo says:

    IMHO, the voice acting in this game is very well done, not only do the leads do good work, but they’re also far less recognizable than usual. Obviously everyone knows Joel is played by Troy Baker, but he definitely sounds quite different than his other roles (both older, and more Texan). Some of the other major roles are even more unrecognizable:

    – Merle Dandridge (Alyx Vance) as Marlene
    – Robin Atkin Downes (Roth from Tomb Raider, The Prince from Warrior Within, Byron from Babylon 5) as Robert
    – Nolan North (you should know what he sounds like) is almost completely unrecognizable as David

    The only real exception is Ellie (Ashley Johnson), when I was recently re-watching The Avengers immediately recognized her as the waitress.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Nolan North has a set ‘this is me doing my generic video game protagonist’ voice.

      And sometimes he actually acts.

      This is true of a lot of voice actors, actually.

    • Eruanno says:

      I was really surprised when I noticed David was actually Nolan North. I think they talk a bit about him doing a really creepy nasal voice instead of his normal stuff in the behind the scenes documentary.

    • Hitch says:

      If you check Robin Atkin Downes’ recent credits, you’ll see that he’s one of those guys who’s in figuratively* every video game with voice acting these days.

      *Since literally has lost it’s meaning lately, I’m going to start a campaign to replace it with “figuratively.” A word that gets so little use that I figure people will have no idea what it means and embrace it for the exact opposite reason they should.

  15. Nano Proksee says:

    I hope that gun the guy threw at them was very heavy

  16. Isy says:

    You could have a game that is basically your life spiraling out of control because you shot some dudes in the intro, along the exact lines Shamus mentioned. That might be considered a bit SpecOps: The Line, though.

    • Otters34 says:

      We could stand to have a few more things ‘like’ Spec Ops: The Line. Just introducing consequences to normally inconsequential acts is such a game-changer I’m surprised more games haven’t done it. Especially considering how “deconstructions” are both trendy and widely-used these days to shake up genres. Even genres that make no sense to deconstruct.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      My first thought was that in a world without a big, slow-churning justice system that probably depends on summary judgements, you don’t just want to not shoot dudes, you want to ensure there’s never any suspicion that you shot a dude. If you’re seen going down a certain alleyway and Big McLargeHuge’s little brother’s corpse just happens to be there, you’re not going to want to argue your case to Big himself or a soldier who has better things to do with his time, you’re going to make like a library and book. Although being framed and getting your life ruined is a fairly common plot.

      • Isy says:

        it’s true, although as many people have pointed out, in most those games where you’re framed you wind up shooting five-million more dudes on your quest to clear your name. It would be pretty funny if one of those games wound you up in prison anyway for all the murder, arson, and obstruction of justice you committed while proving yourself innocent.

  17. Carlos Castillo says:

    There are a few mechanics that go unexplained (tutorial wise) that many players might miss. On easier difficulties they aren’t really needed, thus explaining the lack of on-screen prompts and tutorials, but can be very useful on harder difficulties. Some are explained in loading screen messages, which only happen if you die.

    – Enemies react differently depending on the weapon (or lack thereof) in your hands, and where it’s pointed.
    – Bricks and bottles can be thrown directly at enemies to stun them for quicker melee kills, and easier grabs (otherwise you can only grab unaware enemies)
    – Like Uncharted shooting most enemies “stuns” them, again allowing for easier melee kills and grabs.
    – Bricks also count as melee weapons if you have one equipped, and can kill opponents both faster and draw less attention than most proper melee weapons (aside from taping a shiv to a weapon). The downside is that a brick is a single use item: you can only kill one thing, then it breaks.
    – Melee weapons (including bricks) work on clickers, but require good timing, their attention elsewhere, or stunning them first. This can save on shivs.
    – You can use humanoids as a shield when grabbing them, and depending on the opponents, they may actually not shoot at you, and/or try to flank / melee you.
    – Despite there being prompts for Strangle and Shiv (no strangle for clickers/stalkers/bloaters), during grabs you can also drag enemies around (as shown by Josh), as well as fire your weapon while not aiming to instantly kill your captive.

    These techniques help significantly on harder difficulties where the game severely limits both ammunition and crafting supplies, as well as making basic melee less viable. The random bricks and bottles strewn about don’t get affected as much (if at all) by difficulty.

  18. Nidokoenig says:

    With regards to the Fireflies being unrealistic, I dunno, the way the military drags people out of houses, waves a tricorder over them, and then guns down half of them, even if they have a perfect, unassailable reason for doing that, there’s going to be friends and relatives who are seriously pissed and want to smash the system just from the instinct to strike back at people who harm the people close to them. It’s not rational, and a big part of effective policing and peacekeeping is to not escalate situations unless absolutely necessary and to get the populace to view the enforcers as allies, precisely because the worse a job you do of that, the more violence and insurgency you get, and in drastic situations like this it’s pretty much unavoidable that there’s going to be a lot of angry people with dead loved ones.

    The “Post comment” button looks particularly ominous right now.

  19. Hamilcar says:

    I had the same problem with Uncharted 2. I continually felt like I was playing a mass murder simulator (wait till the 90s Doom haters see the Uncharted games!). It actually made me deliberately drop the guns and just run around knocking out guys so that I could(quote Terminator 2 and) say “He’ll live.” to myself.

    I can’t think of any other game that made me feel so dirty for shooting people. It’s too realistic and Nathan Drake is just too whimsical about it.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Wasn’t Uncharted 2 the source of a lot of the original popularization of the phrase ‘ludonarrative dissonance’?

      *edit* also for anyone that doesn’t realize this – the Uncharted series and the Last of Us are made by the same dev, Naughty Dog

      • krellen says:

        Being a PC gamer, I never got to follow Naughty Dog into their “realistic” foray, so this is still Naughty Dog to me. It’s kind of weird – and kind of not – that they’re doing these kind of games now.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Even more recently, in the PS2 era they did Jax & Daxter and and in the PS1 era, Crash Bandicoot. All of those seem pretty representative of the AAA trends in the period.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            Though it was far from the majority, there was a subset of Jak and Daxter fans that were very upset with Jak 2 for it’s significantly darker tone compared to the first game.

            Really, the Jak and Daxter franchise was where Naughty Dog’s transition from warm, light-hearted adventures to gritty, more realistic storytelling can be felt. The Uncharted games went another direction with Indiana Jones-inspired adventures, but it’s still a noticeable departure from the ND of old.

  20. Chris Davies says:

    I wonder which game is going to be the first to abandon the ludicrous crouch to stealth thing. I think we’re getting to the point where we have enough computing power and artistic resources going in to these AAA games that they can do some nicer environmental interactions to make it clear you’re trying to move around unseen. The kind of things they’re already doing with fighting in this game is about 80% of the way there.

    It’s bad enough in first person games where it’s left to your imagination how absurd you look crouch-walking around, but in a third person game like this it’s all out in the open and looks hilarious. I’m sure once the first person abandons ship, we can say goodbye to this relic of games past in short order.

    • Aldowyn says:

      The thing is you need *some* kind of visual shorthand. I’m sure there are better alternatives, but there’s plenty of worse ones, too.

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s so prevalent that there were quite a few vitriolic complaints about Divinity: Original Sin replacing it with their take on it. People who miss the entire tone of the game and also the inherent ridiculousness of the thing they’re defending in the first place.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Really?Because divinity does it:
        a)Much better
        b)Much funnier
        c)Shows awareness of how ridiculous the concept of hiding in plane sight in such a fashion is.

  21. Lucithana says:

    Amusingly, to me at least, the idea of punching zombies came up in a webcomic I read and the character who punched a zombie not only ended up infected, but he was infected because a zombie’s loose tooth snapped off and became wedged in his knuckles. Also, the tossed bottle reminds me of a webcomic called Goblins where one of the goblins who are the protagonists tries to fool a guard by hurling a rock past them, the guard turns to his friend, points to where the goblin was hiding and cried, “Hey! Someone’s over there throwing rocks!”

  22. Majromax says:

    Audio note: There’s a mains hum (60hz tone, from crosstalk between AC power and the recording equipment) audible in Chris’s commentary track. It’s not overpowering, but it is noticeable.

    The “command center” article noted that Josh used Audacity for the commentary balancing. If the mains hum isn’t trivially fixable, it can be removed in Audacity via a notch filter centered at 60Hz.

  23. Talby says:

    In Metal Gear Solid 4, there actually is an item you can find that cures your back pain if you walk around crouched and hunched over too long. Snake will even stop sometimes to rub his back from the pain.

  24. SlothfulCobra says:

    You may not be swimming in bullets, but beating people to death is hard, messy, and disgusting. Stop complaining that there aren’t enough gory executions, Rutskarn.

    • guy says:

      But why did she double-tap him? One headshot is plenty.

      • Isy says:

        In a zombie apocalypse? You always double-tap.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Heh,I wonder how much influence zombieland has had on the last of us.I mean double tap,texas as a name.What else are they using?Cardio?Twinkies?Bill Murray?

          And were these things intentional homage,or just a coincidence?

          • Using “Texas” as a name isn’t uncommon, and it’s been around for decades. Off the top of my head, the Stephen King novel, “The Stand” had Stu Redmond being referred to as “Texas,” since that’s where he was from.

            I lived in Texas and some people there would often refer to others by nicknames alluding to where they were from (so long as it wasn’t Texas).

    • IFS says:

      I think he’s just continuing his joke from earlier about how there is a type of player who would stomp a man to death as a “mercy-killing” rather than waste a bullet.

  25. Interestingly enough, this sort of killing-people thing was done well in a game that’s more than a decade old: Gothic. See, *people* in that game weren’t just casual kills–you could beat someone up until their health bar hit zero and they’d just fall to the ground unconscious. You could then relieve them of their belongings, including weapons. Then, after a while, they’d get up, but they’d be SCARED of you and NOT WANT TO FIGHT ANY MORE. They would actually LEAVE YOU ALONE after you kicked their asses. Fighting people was no big deal–if they had friends nearby (and this was an actual THING, not just a ‘anyone nearby counts as a friend’), those friends would join in the fight against you. If not, people would just watch (or even cheer you on) while you pounded on each other. See, the entire game takes place in a PRISON COLONY that’s been taken over by the inmates. So casual fighting is pretty common behavior. It was REALLY well done, the entire mechanic completely geared toward “prison colony society”. You could even LOSE fights and THEY wouldn’t kill YOU, they’d just take some of your stuff, call you a few disparaging names, and leave.

    If you WANTED to *kill* someone, you had to deliberately execute a death move while they were down. Doing this in a populated area would piss EVERYONE off–beating people up and robbing them was de rigeur. Killing them was frowned upon (who wants to get killed by some psycho?).

    Sounds pretty neat, huh? But it gets even BETTER. About halfway through the game, the leader of one of the factions of people you could be dealing with (and even serving as a lieutenant) goes NUTS and turns on you, and you wind up fighting all of his dudes. But they’re not random mooks, they’re ACTUAL PEOPLE–guards you’ve interacted with, possibly punched up, learned from, maybe even done quests for. One of them even *comes to warn you* that his boss has gone nuts and called for your execution. Eventually you have to go kill their boss and you can wind up fighting (and being forced to kill) a bunch of dudes that *you know*.

    It’s amazing storytelling, and it’s done so simply just by having good mechanics that fit perfectly with the setting and story. The actual *writing* is hilariously bad, but the implementation is AMAZING.

    • It’s so weird that Gothic is, literally, the best game I have ever played when it comes to character interaction. The *writing* was just barely competent to get the most basic of information across, but the people felt *real*. The number of things they would react to and the *ways* they would react were just *staggering*. None of this lame “go get me X item, here’s a map marker”. No, you could actually ask people to *lead* you places. And none of that lame escort quest nonsense where they walk super-slow, they would RUN. If they got ahead of you, they’d stop and wait for you, then start running again when you caught up. If you got attacked (common), they’d help you fight (although usually it was more a case of YOU helping THEM fight). If you whacked them by accident, they’d yell at you. If you did it again, they’d beat you up and take your stuff–unless you beat THEM up. If you beat them up but didn’t kill them, they’d go back to town, and they’d be surly toward you forever after.

      And it’s an OLD game! Why doesn’t anybody do this stuff any more?! Imagine how deep Skyrim would have felt with people like that!

      • Gothic is on Good Old Games, maybe you guys can try it out on Spoiler Warning sometime. It’d actually be a good choice–and you’d get to see what I’m talking about.

        Plus the interface on that sucker is the worst action game interface ever conceived by man, so you’d get to torment the hell out of Josh.

  26. evileeyore says:

    “So we can either have a game with little shooting (Walking Dead) cartoony graphics (not gonna happen in the gritty AAA game space) or we end up playing a casual mass-murderer. I suppose you can also set the game in a world with lots of foes that can be killed guilt-free (aliens and Nazis) but that does tyend to narrow your options with regards to what kinds of stories you can tell.”

    Frankly Shamus I’m surprised you didn’t go for the best answer: Make a game that deals with these issues realistically.

    Kill a bunch of guards? Later find out there is an investigation into their deaths. Come across a family devastated by the loss of a loved one, who worked as a Guard. Etc.

    I know we recently had a game that did this (sort of), but having more wouldn’t be terrible.

  27. Every time I see a zombie get punched, I remember my ex who almost lost his hand due to punching someone in the face (punche bit his knuckle, infection in the joint capsule, two surgeries, a ridiculous amount of antibiotics, and he can’t really use the first two fingers on that hand anymore) and that was with medical attention (not prompt because he is an idiot, but within 48 hours) and a punche with decent dental hygiene.
    I shudder to think what kind of microbes are growing in zombie mouths, but punching them without hand protection is just asking for death by gangrene or something.

  28. BruceR says:

    DAVE Ryder was Space Mutiny. Flynn Rider was Tangled.

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