The Last of Us EP21: Escape From Pittsburgh

By Shamus
on Nov 14, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Once again the game demonstrates how bad it is at setting up fights with humans. What’s the deal with this moron sniper? Does he really sit in that sniper nest 24/7, just waiting to shoot random families as they attempt to pass through?

Hey idiot, how about you put up a sign to warn people away BEFORE they drop down off that wall? How about you just POINT your guns at people and TELL THEM to leave, rather than expending precious bullets on a risky firefight? And while we’re at it, what’s the point in telling people to go back the way they came when you KNOW it’s physically impossible to do so? Even if you’re so amoral that you’re willing to gun down travelers who don’t mean you any harm, and so stupid you can’t see the value in trade and news, this is still a completely bone-headed approach to security. You are deliberately putting people in a position where they will have no choice but to shoot back.

But of course the only reason this guy acts this way is because he’s a videogame monster. And I could swallow the idea that one lunatic would just snipe people for giggles, but this is yet another village of bloodthirsty buttheads who only exist because videogame.

The only thing less plausible than these raiders is the idea that we could possibly prevail against them. Even allowing for their complete lack of strategy, the idea that two men and two children could charge head-first into this fortified sniper nest is ridiculous.

And speaking of strategy, how stupid are these guys? Let’s see…

  1. Why are you shouting at your targets while sniping at them, which makes it easy for them to find you?
  2. Why did you leave all this handy cover all over the street?
  3. Why are you sending guys with MELEE WEAPONS to attack the people you’re trying to snipe?
  4. Why are you shooting at them anyway, despite the risk of friendly fire?
  5. Why is everyone pouring out into the street instead of making the visitors assault your entrenched position?
  6. Why are you missing all the time like a complete loser?
  7. Why did your second-wave reserves wait so long to join the fight?
  8. Once the intruder took the sniper nest, why did you assault it anyway? There was nothing in the house worth having! (Aside from the sniper rifle with infinite ammo, although since Joel doesn’t take it I guess this counts as a fault for both sides.) What are you spending your lives for?
  9. Why did you STEP OUT INTO THE OPEN to murder a child?
  10. Why are you taking cover on the wrong side of objects?
  11. How did you manage to build barricades that will keep intruders (and I assume yourselves) trapped in your sniper alley, but don’t keep out zombies? (Or were the zombies hiding in that house and nobody noticed them? Doesn’t matter. It’s nonsense either way.)

So they may be pure chaotic evil, but they make up for it by being chaotic stupid. Um… yay?

BUT!

Okay, credit where it’s due: The scene with Sam falls right into a bunch of obvious zombie tropes, but they make it work anyway. This is a powerful moment. The contrast between the incompetence of the manshoots and the mastery of the storytelling is really stark.

Dear Naughty Dog: This is specifically why we tell zombie stories in the first place, so we can have never-ending waves of dangerous stuff to kill without needing to explain their motivations and behavior. You made a zombie game where we spend most of our non-cutscene time shooting non-zombies that make no sense and poke holes in both the worldbuilding and the tone. You make me sad.

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From the Archives:

  1. Imperial Psycho says:

    I remember Chris saying the post-falling off the lift zombie fights were the worst part of the game. I’d disagree. THIS is the worst part of the game, in my view. When you have to leave cover, whether or not that sniper rips 3/4 of your health bar away is pretty much a crapshoot.

    It’s basically a normal fight with human enemies (which are generally less interesting to fight than zombies anyway) except there is this guy who will pop you for crazy damage who you can’t kill.

    I had a fair bit of trouble with this part of them, to be fair.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I remember Chris saying the post-falling off the lift zombie fights were the worst part of the game.”

      Ok,can we agree that everything that isnt dialogue is the worst part of the game?

      • Thomas says:

        But it’s really really fun and in the bigger picture the combat assists the game to create a feeling that a film could never recreate?

        It’s easy enough to look at it and say ‘this doesn’t make sense’ but it does put you in Joel’s shoes in a manner unique to videogames. You get a feel of the messy brutal day today, that may not objectively make sense but does give you feels for his situation

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          You can be in joels shoes without the fighting.Heck,those snippets where you walk around and check the house,scavange for stuff,and then talk to ellie about what you find are sometimes even better than the cutscenes.

          Granted,my comment wasnt 100% serious,because a few of the fights were nice.Too bad that after them came 10 more that ruined the moment.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            Holy crap, the Gone Home sections of the game are better than the manshoot sections.

          • Thomas says:

            You can’t be in _Joel’s_ shoes without the manfighting (and fighting zombies is suuuper boring, easily the least fun parts of the game).

            That’s probably my big worry about The Last of Us. The story works with the game because it’s Joel and Joel isn’t a nice person. Does that mean that you couldn’t tell a different kind of story with this kind of game?

            • Thomas says:

              To be clear, I don’t think The Last of Us got it’s combat pacing and levels right. I just don’t think it’s so much ‘all of this sucks’ or even ‘all the bits that don’t make sense suck’. Gamers have a natural suspension of disbelief that allows us to enjoy a story and game in cohesion even when they rationally conflict and there’s nothing wrong with that.

              For me it’s just all about when the push it into combat fatigue territory. This section here is nicely placed after a long section without much combat and no humans, and it leads into another long story section. So it feels fun. In Pittsburg it stopped feeling fun maybe 2/3rds of the way through (and the tank section was never fun)

            • syal says:

              It means you can’t tell a different kind of story and still have Joel as the protagonist.

              Imagine replacing Joel with someone who’s first action in every town he visits is to gather people together, train the locals how to fight as a team and knit them into a community. It could be just as brutal (maybe even more so, if he fails at the unity bit and the community massacres itself), but it would be more uplifting, because the protagonist wouldn’t be pushing the “every man for himself because only thugs form groups” angle.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “(and fighting zombies is suuuper boring, easily the least fun parts of the game)”

              The solution to that should be make the zombies more fun to fight,not add in plethora of humans.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Why are you missing all the time like a complete loser?”

    Actually he isnt,he is the most precise sniper Ive seen a game in a while.Which is actually really annoying.I mean Josh expended 3 health kits on this guy,and he isnt even on the highest difficulty.This is a really stupid and tedious way to make your sniper enemy.Especially when you follow it with such a stupid sniper turret section.And that guy with the boomerang molotov was just ridiculous.

    “Shit!Oh that was intense!”

    No developers,it was not.It was annoying.

    And worst of all:This scene was entirely pointless.If you skip it,and just go from looking into the houses to that dinner scene,you dont lose a thing.In fact,you gain a thing.Dumb,dumb,dumb,dumb.Seriously,video game developers,stop shoving fighting inside of everything.It is not needed.Let your narrative team construct the narrative and use just that.Dont pump your enemy number to 11.You are ruining it.

    • ET says:

      Yeah, that whole sniper situation was a mess. If they needed to have something like that in the game, it could have been done much better.

      Off the top of my head: start with them looking for loot in houses and buildings. They find a cool sniper rifle in the bell tower of a church, and are starting to pack it up, when…somebody knocks a heavy object over, which was connected to the bell’s pull-chain, ringing the giant church bell. Loud noise summons zombies.

      Now, instead of the NPCs trying to make it to the player’s position, you now have to defend them while they shut a big gate, trying to keep out the zombies. Once the gate is closed, resume the game with the same “we should probably abandon this place” situation, that the game currently has.

      Less stupid, no humans who act like monsters, no makes-no-sense armored jeep. :)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        There,great fix.

        I think ultimately the problem is in that the level designers do their job without consulting the story people and the two probably work at completely different times,which ends up having them try to fit two incompatible things with each other with liberal use of the hatchet to the more easily modifiable one(the narrative).

        • Abnaxis says:

          I think the real problem, is that there is no “fix.” There are only varying degrees of breaking the system.

          This gameplay section serves a purpose: to break up zombie-shooting after zombie-shooting (no matter how fun it is, it can get old) and to provide a less-difficult sniper section (there are others later IIRC, but that mostly comes from hearsay because I don’t own PS3/4) so later sniper sections are less of a difficulty-spike.

          I don’t think this section comes as a result of ineptitude, I think it’s a result of a team of designers who knew their decision would make the story nonsensical, but ultimately hoped it would make the gameplay experience more enjoyable. From a design standpoint, these things conflict with one another and the designers have to choose what they think is important.

          As much the story jumps the shark here, I don’t think the designers necessarily chose wrong. If you want to make a game, the experience needs to sit at a high priority, even if it hurts the narrative,

  3. Tizzy says:

    Well of course Joel is not taking the sniper rifle! That’d be ridiculous: how many guns can one man carry?

  4. Tizzy says:

    “Wow, I’m not feeling like makng jokes at this game’s expense right now.”

    Fortunately, it didn’t last long…

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    – How come youre never scared?
    – Well,you see,Im immune to the t virus.Plus,I had military training that has turned me into a child sized terminator.And Im a nerd teen not interfering with my escort quest,so the audience is bound to fall in love with me.I have literally nothing to be scared of.I mean,except for that dream I have about someone cutting me open to see how I tick,but thats just a dream and will never happen in actuality.

  6. Isaac says:

    1. Why are you shouting at your targets while sniping at them, which makes it easy for them to find you?

    Isn’t obvious where the guy is in the first place? Muzzle flash, the report of the rifle, and the best vantage point overlooking the street (e.g. the house right in front of them) makes it immediately obvious where the sniper is. Taunting is just him being a dick.

    2. Why did you leave all this handy cover all over the street? Videogames.

    3. Why are you sending guys with MELEE WEAPONS to attack the people you’re trying to snipe?

    To flush you out. They have the numbers so why not run some interference?

    4. Why are you shooting at them anyway, despite the risk of friendly fire?

    There is a risk for friendly fire in any scenario involving multiple people using guns. Unfortunately, for post-apocalypse raiders that risk is moot.

    5. Why is everyone pouring out into the street instead of making the visitors assault your entrenched position?

    Again, you have the numbers along with advantage of having your targets pinned down. You also three ways to attack them that involve two flanks.

    6. Why are you missing all the time like a complete loser? Josh.

    7. Why did your second-wave reserves wait so long to join the fight? Videogames.

    8. Once the intruder took the sniper nest, why did you assault it anyway? There was nothing in the house worth having! (Aside from the sniper rifle with infinite ammo, although since Joel doesn’t take it I guess this counts as a fault for both sides.) What are you spending your lives for?

    Considering your numbers advantage why not take back such a great position? That nest overlooks an entire street after all.

    9. Why did you STEP OUT INTO THE OPEN to murder a child? Dumb raiders.

    10. Why are you taking cover on the wrong side of objects? Dumb A.I.

    11. How did you manage to build barricades that will keep intruders (and I assume yourselves) trapped in your sniper alley, but don’t keep out zombies? (Or were the zombies hiding in that house and nobody noticed them? Doesn’t matter. It’s nonsense either way.)

    Zombies have super strength in this game because that is what fungal infestations do apparently.

    • Ivan says:

      I feel like you’re looking at this like this is a battle, like between armies. If that were the case then a few losses here and there would be not only expected, but “acceptable”. I mean, if that were the case then ending the fight quickly and decisively and holding tactical locations would be beneficial to your allies later. But Joel isn’t leading an army and really isn’t a threat, or wouldn’t have been had he been left alone.

      Presumably these are real people who’s only real motivation is survival and almost every decision they make is contrary to that idea. So yeah, it’s kinda damaging to the immersion.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well the way the game presents it,it is.Its a battle between the one man army of Joel and the army of implausible raiders.

      • Isaac says:

        But in the game there are like 15 or more raiders (who murder ppl for their clothes) with an armoured humvee with a machine gun against 4 people.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Even if this was the battle it was fought in a VERRY stupid manner. You don’t charge through your own killing field once the enemy has your strongpoint. You come from the other side, and you have to have the other side through which you can withdraw.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      1,2 That is only valid explanation in game because we are tlaking about idiot raiders. IRL sniper rifles don’t use tracer ammunition so there is no guntrail. You don’t put the sniper in the obvious position. Some fire in his general direction would have killed him easily once his nest is identified since those boards don’t have Death Star shields IRL. A sniper will only take shots if he is confident of hitting the target, and he is unlikely to be new or bat at it considering the amount of manpower these guys have. Also if you want to set up a killing field you don’t leave object that can be used as cover in it because that defeats the purpose of a sniper nest.

      3. IF you want them flushed out you don’t announce your sniper position by taunting them like an ass. Also hammering and hollering at Joel would have done more good to get out, rather than charging in one by one.

      4. Risk is MUCH MUCH greater when we are talking about a close combat scuffle. Not to mention the main danger of bad IFF, and shooting your own allies because you can not see well into the house.

      5. If they weren’t idiots those aditional guys would have been stationed in the houses ABOVE the killing ground so they could show up and present a much greater threat while a sniper takes them out while not revealing his position.
      But this way, I wonder what was their objective. Scare them away? Than just remain in positon. Kill them? Since the element of surprise has been wasted allready a smart raider would likely disengage once they realise they are not scared and set up an ambush further down the road, while not screaming like an idiot.

      7. It’s like this is the first time something like this has happened and not like they have been doing this for the last 10 years.

      8. Once the enemy has taken your excellent position you do not assault it through it’s killing ground. You go around and hit them from the back. Which they should have done. Or simply sat that HUMMV at the intersection and surpressed the sniper with 50cal fire. But no they threw, what like 40-50 guys straight into the strongest part of the defences.

      11. I guess they (zombies and radiers) all came from the same place? Since we didn’t meet them on the way.

      • Isaac says:

        1 & 2) Some fire in his general direction would’ve killed him easily? He has a bead on you with a scoped rifle and you’re gonna pop up and try to shoot him? With what? Your sniper rifle? Good luck with that. Besides, the sniper doesn’t actually exist in this game. He has no model. Also, why are we assuming he’s trained? And the reason there’s still cover strewn about is because videogames.

        3. Again, taunting is just him being a dick and has no bearing on whether or not he can flush them out. They already no where he is the moment he fires at them. As for flushing them out with several groups of melee guys instead of just one at a time, I agree but Shamus was talking about the melee guys attacking in the first place.

        4. These are post apocalyptic raiders who kill other people for their meager supplies and are willing to kill children. What makes you think that they’re this aware of proper gun safety?

        5. But you have a clear numbers advantage along with a sniper that’s pinned them down. Why even wait in ambush if you can just go up the flanks (that even have houses for cover!) and finish them?

        8. Its 3 people on the ground with one dude with a sniper rifle. They have the humvee along with larger numbers. If they weren’t dumb they’d do exactly what you suggested. Shamus was against the idea of taking the house back in the first place not just how they went about it.

        11. Videogames

        • Lawn_Mowed says:

          1 and 2) Joel has a weapon that could accurately hit the sniper. Pistols can easily travel a block and still have a decent amount of velocity behind the bullet, though it wouldn’t be accurate. And if you’re setting up a firing position, clear lines of sight and lack of cover would be the first things you should establish. And I don’t assume he’s trained, but he’s probably a better than average shooter to be holding the sniper rifle in the first place. The raiders seem to have some level of organization to them so it would make sense they would give the better shooters the better guns.

          3) That I don’t know. He could just enjoy taunting people he kills. It would make more sense to wait for the melee guys to force Joel to leave cover then shoot. Maybe he’s boosting his KDR.

          4) The raiders probably know about gun safety, they probably don’t care.

          5) The ideal ambush would shoot one with the sniper, then charge with the melee guys from adjacent houses while the shock and natural response of “take cover” is kicking in. Failing that, flanking while the sniper pins them or simply wait for reinforcements would be smart. Again, depends on what they were doing there in the first place.

          7) Perhaps the way to the suburbs is simply a long road? Never visited Pittsburgh so I can’t say that with confidence.

          8) Again, flanking with suppression is the smart option. Though why they just didn’t shoot through the walls and cars with the 50. cal is beyond me. It would be trivial. The penetration and velocity behind the bullet would have, literally, torn them apart. Also, they could have just left and let the raiders deal with the zombies.

          11) Well clearly zombies can’t hear well so it takes a certain volume of gunfire to attract them.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Huh,I guess I was wrong about clicker kids.They are just used in a better way than clicker adults.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I wonder how many people didnt listen to the podcast and are confused about Galaxy Gun.

  9. Tizzy says:

    It would have been easy to justify the zombies, too. Just have them come from the sewers, accidentally freed by the actions of your pursuers maybe.

    Or, tou know, just leave them out altogether. As in: this has gone on long enough.

    • Thomas says:

      Yes, but fighting zombies in this game is 10x less fun. The zombies don’t flank you, you can’t flank them, because they straight up charge all the tactics become “shoot straight ahead of you”. You can’t go back into stealth when fighting zombies, and you can’t choose different ranges to fight at.

  10. Greg says:

    Wow. You guys weren’t kidding about how stupid that section was.

    It really is jarring going from “bullet tank!” to “apocalypse shooting gallery” to actually rather poignant and wrenching drama. It really drives home Chris’s point in his Errant Signal video; the gameplay seems to try as hard as it can to drag the story down into mediocrity.

    I think I might go look for the cutscenes-only video Shamus mentioned.

  11. tmtvl says:

    It’d be interesting to see a video game based on the Winter War, where you are the Russians fighting Simo Häyhä.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Um,why not be Simo Häyhä?He practically is a video game protagonist with just how many he killed.Heck,I think youd need to tone it down even just in order to not make it seem to ridiculous.

      • Ofermod says:

        It was what, 500 something in about 100 days? And then 200 or so more with a semi-auto?

        • Disc says:

          The amount of confirmed kills is around 200. He might have killed more but the somewhat popular claim of over 500 kills seems a little sketchy. It’s still a pretty radical amount nevertheless.

          I don’t know the story about a semi-auto or where it would come from, but as far as official sources go, he only ever used an M/28 rifle with ironsights.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mosin_Nagant_M28.jpg

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Wikipedia sources the daily telegraph on the 505 confirmed sniper kills.I didnt dig deeper than that though.

            The 200 with a submachine gun thing can be found here and on the top X badasses lists.As to the credibility of that,I have no clue.

            • Disc says:

              It’s a bit odd how the Finnish version of the same page cites 200 and 542 from completely different sources. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Him scoring SMG kills could have some merit, but 200 sounds a bit ludicrous. He had trained with the Suomi-KP and was reportedly an excellent shot with it.

      • Ivan says:

        Idk, it could be a really cool squad based horror game. You go in thinking it will be easy and then you start dropping like flies. Then you have to try to escape while being hunted and make decisions like sending one man on a suicide mission to distract him while the rest leg it. Or just make the rest of your squad be your “extra lives” the sniper only targets you and when you die you take over one of your squad mates.

        But yeah either one would work, I seem to remember Simo being “blown up” at one point except he survived and was out killing more dudes a few months later.

  12. Ithilanor says:

    @Henry’s age in the discussion ~13:50 – if I remember a snippet from last episode, I think Henry mentioned he was five when everything went to hell. I like Henry’s existence as a character of that age; it creates an interesting and different dynamic with Joel and Ellie. It also highlights how old Joel is, which is always good; it’s the main way he differs from Generic White Male Protagonist #164, even if it’s a slight difference.

    @the sniper section: Certainly a lot to dislike about it, so I won’t harp on it after Shamus’s criticism. It seems like they were trying to go with a sequence where you can help Ellie, Henry, and Sam, but aren’t fully in control, being stuck behind the sniper rifle…they just didn’t execute it well.

    @the scene with Ellie and Sam: Very well acted, though Sam in particular seems like he’s written and acted as being a good deal older than he actually is. To me, he came across like an older teenager, but looks like he’s 10-12 or so.

    @the transition into fall: That was another really abrupt transition. Felt like the game could have spent a few more moments, had Joel mutter something about how they’ve got to move on, then cut.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I think Henry mentioned he was five when everything went to hell.”

      Correct.

      Gawd,like pay attention to the game you are commenting guys,like seriously.Cha!

  13. SpiritBearr says:

    This episode is sorely lacking any Galaxy Gun or Rutskarn. Even if GG guess the ending this scene was still a twist that would be nice to have the reaction of someone who hadn’t already seen it.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Rhianna Pratchett talked about this with TotalBiscuit and I wonder when will the developers get the hint and cut the combat down by a lot and just let the narrative carry the game.I mean,we saw how well it can be with humorous games like portal and stanley parable,so why not with a dramatic game?

    • Isaac says:

      I don’t think combat can objectively hamper a game’s narrative (e.g. Max Payne).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        True,but not all stories need to be about fighting hordes of dudes.Tom braider didnt need it,and neither does this game.Not in these quantities that is.

        • Isaac says:

          I don’t think enjoying the narrative and the tons of combat have to be separate things. This guy loves them both: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMEn6ipxxYCUc42t3d2JoIg

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Of course not.But only when the two fit well and dont contradict each other.For example,going against a bunch of clickers in this game is not jarring*,because zombie apocalypse.Killing tons of dudes in max payne 1 and 2 is not jarring,because of the pulpy tone.But if you mix the wrong elements,well you get Chrisocatchprasy dissonance.It ends up being as jarring as cramming a joke about a catchprase into a semi-serious discussion.

            *Ok,a few things are,when you give them some thought,like the incredibly stupid 20 years incubation period.Seriously?Ugh.

            • Isaac says:

              Killing tons of dudes in Max Payne is definitely jarring. One minute Max is monologuing about his dead family and how miserable life is and the next he’s bouncing off walls with Uzis akimbo turning bad guys into swiss cheese.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                First,he isnt monologuing how life sucks,but how empty and disconnected the event made him.Second,the tone of his monologuing is straight out of a pulp novel and goes hand in hand with all the shooting.And thirdly,the humor and self awareness of the entire game lift both onto the next level.

      • I’d say it most definitely can. GTA IV springs to mind. The narrative is that Niko is tired of killing, and he reluctantly dispatches death even to those who apparently deserve it.

        The gameplay part then arms you to the teeth and makes mass murder (along with other morally questionable deeds) as casual as changing your socks. Saints Row, at least, makes the violence cartoony, but GTA IV’s story is VERY serious and at odds with most of the rest of the game.

        Mechanically, it has another contradiction: If you’re on a mission (the narrative bit), you can shoot open the lock on an apartment door, break down said door, and unload countless rounds into the people behind it. Once the narrative bit is over, if you (like I did, having just started playing this franchise) decide to try and shoot out the lock on another apartment door, that single shot earns you 3 stars and every cop in the world surrounding the building.

        Not to mention the door was basically a wall decal and didn’t open.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Funny thing,but gta4 is the opposite problem.Earlier installments of the game were just silly fun and mayhem with stories that werent deep on character trauma and such.So you should not try to force such a heavy narrative onto a game like that.You can mature the game into such a story,yes,but youd have to start by changing the gameplay to fit that progression.

    • Phantos says:

      I think the real culprit is the crafting and rpg mechanics. I guess devs are afraid that if the player hasn’t upgraded all of their weapons AND gotten at least 100 mooks to try them out on, they’ll…

      …riot? Form a prog-rock band?

      So they throw in too many waves of mooks and make the game too long just to give more time to craft.

      It’s like, they could just include a New Game + feature, so that the game doesn’t have to pull a Bioshock and just keep going after the story is done, but all of the stuff you’ve accumulated carries over. Instead, it feels like games are elongated just so there’s more chances to upgrade the shotgun or whatever.

      I have no idea. Game developers today are a part of a circus of failure I can’t even begin to comprehend.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yeah,just going with the crowd and cramming in all the things everyone else has whether it fits or not is a big problem in games,and not just of today.I mean multiplayer in spec ops?Come on,just because its a military shooter(in genre at least)doesnt mean it has to have multiplayer.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        Yeah, if this game was an hour or two shorter, wouldn’t it have been better? Did they really have to give you an assault rifle at the end, and similarly-equipped hordes of dudes to use it on?

        • SyrusRayne says:

          I agree that the game was a bit too long in that regard, but I’ve never quite understood why people have such a problem with the ending level. Maybe they patched out the shitty level before I ended up playing the game?

          I didn’t find it particularly difficult, or gruelling, or even much of a slog, but I was playing with a semi-stealth, guerrilla-tactics mindset. In my mind if I walked into a fair fight I’d already failed.

          The game certainly didn’t need the level though.

    • ehlijen says:

      I disagree. If too much combat gets in the way of the story, sure, one should make way.

      But at the end of the day games are just as justified if they’re about fun mechanics that the player gets to enjoy lot’s of than they if are interactive stories.

      Tie Fighter had a great story, but sometimes I just boot it up to play the Tie Defender first training mission (endless dogfight), because all I want is plenty of wing-shoots.

      So I don’t think there is a hint to get that somehow man shoot galleries are bad in general. They may not always be suitable, and a hint to be gotten is definitely to make a game cohesive in tone, but I would rather not see manshoots be sacrificed on the altar of story for good.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Oh Im definitely not for completely removing fun gameplay.Heck I enjoy asscreed games precisely because of the fun gameplay,even though the narrative of it is idiotic.

        What Im saying is that some games need waaaay less combat(and other stuff)crammed into them just because “everyone else is doing it”.Construct the gameplay and narrative in the way that they complement each other.Heck,even these parts that I think are tedious would feel better if every 9 raiders were replaced with zombies.

    • Tizzy says:

      Not just narrative. You need quiet moments, explorations. Puzzles can be OK, too. That will make the combat have even more impact. It has nothing to do with disliking the combat, either: almost every single game that I’ve loved and that had combat in it has given me combat fatigue at some point. Sometimes to the point of resorting to cheat codes, not because the game was hard, but because it was too damn boring.

      Actually, I can’t even think of any exception off the top of my head.

      Also: thanks for the link, Daemian. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  15. Ofermod says:

    I think the scene with Sam and Henry would have resonated a bit more if I’d thought there was the slightest chance they were going to survive. Really, from the minute they joined, it was just kind of waiting for it to happen.

    • Tizzy says:

      Can you imagine how stunned players would have been if they’d just woken up all ok the following morning, and then shaken hands and parted amicably. “Hey, we finally made it out of that place, good luck on your travels.”

      Or a different tragic end could have been to have them part their ways, and *then* have one turn zombie and kill the other, offscreen. And then you get to come across the result later.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Um,didnt we depart with bill with no problems?That was nice.

        • Tizzy says:

          Point taken. And appreciated, too.

          But you could argue that it was a sad parting: we just messed up his town, he’s found the corpse of the man he thought had deserted him…

          Also: The obvious parallel: a grown man and a kid was more of a set up for tragic payoff than Bill ever was.

      • Draca says:

        Another interesting idea might have been Sam would not have behaved like an asshole-infected-zombie-apocalypse-side-character (“if I don’t tell anyone, maybe I will survive the disease turning everyone for longer than I have been alive”). Picture the same plot up to the superb scene with Ellie only with one of these 2 outcomes:

        1. Ellie gets there something very wrong with him, but hesitates for some time to tell the adults, knowing Joel would kill Sam. Strong character moment for Ellie, showing conflict between emotion and survival, and contrasting her immunity with Sam’s tragic and very sad death (No zombie action required).

        2. Sam realizes he is a thread to all of them and tries everything to get rid of the infection. Maybe he dies trying to go Surgeon Simulator on his leg, maybe he commits suicide. Ellie finds him the next morning waking him, sadness is had all around, the story can calmly move on from Henry, leaving him on an ambiguous note.

  16. Phantos says:

    Just once I’d like to see a zombie apocalypse story where something GOOD happens to at least two or three people. I get that stories like this try to up the stakes by driving home the whole hopelessness angle or whatever, but it just gets boring and predictable.

    Which means I stop caring about the characters, which means when things do eventually turn “tragic”, I don’t care. This is pretty much what killed season 2 of The Walking Dead for me. I want to care, but games like this don’t let me because they think that’s “dramatic”.

    Yeah, it’s sad when a real person I know and love dies. And it makes sense to want to emulate that in a dark story. But if I know a writer is just going to do the whole scorched-earth thing with their cast, then there’s no tension, and there’s no reason to be invested.

  17. PossiblyInsane says:

    Ah, zombie infections. The only sort that defy all established laws of pathogenics and proper medical treatment. The thing that most strains my credulity is that they haven’t come up with a way of countering this type of Corticeps in 20 years. Chitinase to selectively dismantle the cell walls? Inducing a fever/sauna to cook the fungus out? Actual medical treatment and sterilization of the bite zone? Saying fuck it, fill the bite victim’s veins with bleach, and see whether the fungus or the victim dies first? Giving them other bloodborne parasites and let them duke it out amongst themselves? Admittedly those last two are terrible ideas, but almost certain death is slightly better than certain death.

    I suppose what I really want is a game that pits your medical knowledge against the zombie plague, using actual science. You could be the antagonist of Plague Inc!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well in real life treating a fungal infection is a process that can take up weeks or even months,and isnt always successful.And those are stuff that dont completely scramble your brain in just a day.

      • PossiblyInsane says:

        This is true. But treatment possibilities exist and follow reasonable medical and biological laws. Also, stuff that scrambles up your body in such a short time frame tend to be easier to shake off if you can get them treated, just because they haven’t had time to spread throughout your entire body. Malaria takes 7-30 days to incubate, but can stick with you for life. Cholera, on the other hand, can kill you in a matter of hours, but can be cured in a matter of days to a few weeks, and can be fairly effectively treated by just giving the patient lots of cholera-free fluid. These are a protist parasite and a bacterium respectively, but still.

        The zombie fungus, however, seems to infect people magically. I suppose my real problem with it is that a good explanation for it’s low incubation time, high infectivity rate, and high lethality rate all in one species is never given. If such a species is biologically possible, then it is highly unlikely all of those characteristics could evolve at once, as super species tend to eat themselves into oblivion if they become too effective. So, basically the only way this could arise is if someone deliberately set about making it.

        None of these issues are ever addressed, and so I is sad.

        • Josh says:

          And you’ve not even mentioned the whole “hosts surviving for 20+ years without decaying/simply being entirely consumed by the fungus, and taking in no substantial new energy in all that time, thereby spitting in the face of entropy and all the laws of physics and nature” problem.

          Unless the human digestive system has somehow remained intact the whole time and feeds the remaining human organs as well as the fungus. In which case, of course, why haven’t all the zombies starved to death by now?

          Or the fungus is somehow photosynthetic. I’m not sure which alternative is worse.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yes,that bothers me the most.I dont mind that this thing is so infectious,fast and lethal.I mean the real zombie fungus is almost exactly that,so its not that big of a stretch to think of one being able to bypass our medicine quickly in order to decimate the race.But 20 years of life?Id buy that it consumed the host making them hollow,but even then that would take months at most(and would make the zombies more squishy,not giving them super strength),but decades?Nope.

          • Is it ever established what the clickers do after they bite and kill a victim? Do they eat them, or is spreading the disease via biting their only apparent goal?

          • Corsair says:

            It never ceases to amuse me how people will try to do some rational scientific explanation of some mythic creature – zombies being by far the most common, but you see it occasionally with Vampires – but then just use them as normally. We wouldn’t have any objection to this if the Zombies were just straight up animated corpses, but because they tried to explain it scientifically it’s jarring and distracting when they don’t have an explanation.

  18. McNutcase says:

    What’s bugging me is that there’s a massive timeskip, but purely coincidentally, you have the exact same shiv state and a melee weapon that’s exactly as worn as the one you had leaving Pittsburgh. Somehow you’ve also managed to manage your ammunition usage so as to have exactly as much ammunition, too. I know, videogame, but it seems mean of them to not reset melee weapon wear, and maybe give you d6-1 extra rounds of ammo so it feels like time has passed and things have happened. As it is, the timeskip loses impact because there is no mechanical change in your situation; there’s no difference between opening a door and spending three months getting from Pennsylvania to Wyoming.

  19. Thanatos Crows says:

    What bothers me about the scene with Sam is that Ellie, to me, seemed like straight out of the old Thunder Birds puppet show with her jerky movements and facial expressions. This is the first time I’ve gotten pulled off the scene by the game, so it feels weird.

  20. Re: Counties with similarly named cities (county seats) within.

    It’s not all that uncommon. In California, for example, there’s Colusa in Colusa County, Fresno in Fresno County, Los Angeles in Los Angeles county, Madera in Madera County, and so on for 13 more.

    If you want to check other states, just click on any of the states in this list and scroll down the list of counties and county seats.

    And it’s not as if it’s not similar to a lot of other county-like setups in other countries. I’m not sure why it seems so weird to some.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Here in Britland, counties are often called (big city)shire, like Hertford is a biggish city in Hertfordshire. Though that may be an artifact of the reorganising they did in the seventies or whenever it was, it’d make sense for America to port that system over.

    • krellen says:

      Here in New Mexico, the town of Bernalillo is in Sandoval County, while the major city of Albuquerque makes up almost the entirety of neighbouring Bernalillo County.

    • ? says:

      I think this is quite natural actually. I guess in America administrative boundaries could have been drawn before settlers came in, but in Europe modern administrative regions were created when towns and cities already existed for generations, so why not name them after that? I only encountered a case of “County A administration is in town B, not in town A” when both towns have grown into each other and town B had better location for office space, and it all amounts to trivia because you wouldn’t be able to tell where one town starts and other ends.

  21. Brad says:

    This scene, and the lengthily Pittsburgh section, really do demonstrate where video games struggle to find a good balance between gameplay and story. We need to have some “shooty” segments otherwise we’re essentially playing an interactive movie, but I wish game developers would at least attempt to justify it better. Naughty Dog oddly seems to fluctuate between some great environmental scenes (the lived in sewer) and raider town.

    Frankly, I think they could have made this part work if it was a normal community that was attacked by zombies and Joel and friends are caught in the crossfire. You still get your shooty bits, but also avoid the endless drove of raiders.

  22. Ivan says:

    Are you kidding me? The APC shows up at the end of the shootout!? I mean hey, the second I saw that thing I thought to myself that it was so contrived and stupid that they had better let you kill it, but I forgot about it the second we jumped off the bridge.

    Speaking of which… We jumped off a bridge! How the hell did it track us? How did they even know we were alive? The current was strong and we could have easily drowned, that is if we didn’t land on something. How did they recognize us when they rolled in? At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if raiders from Pittsburgh were to follow us for the rest of the game. It would make about as much sense as everything else the raiders did.

    At least it finally ran outa bullets… I mean I assume that’s why the dude was throwing molitoves instead.

    • Lawn_Mowed says:

      I’d like to add to this by asking, why the hell did the raiders follow you? Joel and company just fought their way through Pittsburgh, killing dozens of men, then jumping into a river. And the raiders decided to follow them with another dozen or so guys and their HMMV? For what purpose?

      It’s like they have some alpha male pride that doesn’t allow anyone that slights them to escape or they think that four people (two of which are kids) is a good trade for all their loses in manpower and resources. And if it’s the latter, then how did they ever manage to overthrow the military?

  23. syal says:

    If we’re still talking about which characters look like which actors, I’ll throw out that Joel reminds me of Gerard Butler, and Tess looked like Carrie-Anne Moss.

  24. Patrick the Heginbothonian says:

    It never ceases to amaze me, never, how talented people can be and yet so completely inept at the same time. How can you be so talented and intelligent to create such a detailed, colorful and visually appealing video game and yet so tone deaf on what to do with it?

    Like being a world famous chef creating exquisite cuisine served in a dirty bucket with a spork.

    Stevie Ray Vaughn making a living writing airline commercial jingles.

    I’ve never seen another industry fail this consistently with the execution of their product. I didn’t even play this game and this type of half-assery plagues the industry. It’s like every has caught the same disease afflicting George Lucas.

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