The Last Of Us is a game that I haven't actually played yet due to not having a PS3/PS4, however I have seen various playthroughs and just watching the story unfold completely captivated me. I felt like I wasn't watching a regular game play, I was watching genuine storytelling with fleshed out complicated characters who you grow to care about. Since then, I started watching the behind the scenes, interviews and reading reviews on the game and seeing the different reactions to scenes, and overall have just fallen in love with everything about this entire story. This isn't your normal kind of video game, it's quite a cinematic experience in its own right.
I think what attracts me most to this game is the presence of perspective, making you question the morality of situations characters are going through and the decisions they make. The study of the human condition, what people are willing to do in order to survive, is made clear in this world. It's something you don't see often in video games. There is a great conversation between Joel and Henry about why Henry left them when shit was about to go down, and had the roles been reversed would Joel had done the same. The answer? Probably not. Even we see the perspective of other characters too, like those who are hunting Joel and Ellie are doing so in revenge because they killed some of their men from their group, labeling them the enemy for taking out one of their own. Even Marlene and the Fireflies who are just trying to do what they think is right. In this game, everyone is flawed and damaged in some way or another. It makes you think, it makes you really question what would you do if you were placed in a similar situation.
Which is why the ending, IMO, is absolutely phenomenal because it elicited such an emotional response which has sparked much discussion and debate on what Joel did and questioning whether it was right or wrong, and what's fascinating is seeing the differing opinions people have because of it.
[As for my thoughts on the matter...](For my thoughts on the matter, both Joel and Marlene took away Ellie's choice; they both were thinking of their own objectives and agendas without really taking into account what Ellie would have wanted, which I'm positive that she would have wanted to sacrifice herself for the greater cause of saving humanity. It's evident from the way she talks to Joel in the end. She even states, "I'm still waiting my turn." I truly believe that Ellie, because she has witnessed not just her best friend's death but other deaths around her, that with her being immune that she wants to do some good in helping others. If Marlene had allowed her to be conscious before being prepped for surgery I'm pretty sure she would have told Joel her final decision. But since none of that happened, she has to live with the knowledge that Joel took that decision away from her and also lied about what he did to Marlene and the Fireflies.
And as for Joel, his actions were purely selfish. It's understandable given the narrative of the story and the emotional journey both he and Ellie have been together throughout the entire game. Joel couldn't save his daughter, and he wasn't going to make that same mistake twice. Also, given the fact that he lied to Ellie about what happened also indicates that he knows what he did was wrong, that he did take away that choice. He knew that Ellie would be angry at him for it. But again, his emotions were driving those decisions, consequences afterwards be damned. He got personally and emotionally attached to Ellie, and he would rather her to be alive and hate him than be dead.
Also, Ellie totally knew. The way she was talking with him in the end was her subtle way of confronting him, giving him a window to tell the truth. When he didn't, you can see that disappointed in her eyes. It's heartbreaking and when the credits roll it leaves you pondering about the decisions these characters made, and what will come of Joel and Ellie's relationship.
On an additional note, I don't see Joel as a bad guy as some interpretations have. Yes, he killed Marlene and most of the Fireflies in cold-blood, but that is his character. He's always been this way ever since the beginning when we see him and Tess tracking down Robert, and we're alluded to him having done some pretty horrible and fucked up shit in order to survive for the last twenty years. This isn't any different for what happens throughout the entirety of the game when Joel is killing people left and right to get to their destination. Once again, it all comes down to perspective. In the end what changed wasn't what he did, but rather his purpose and motivation. He says in the end that he "struggled a long time with surviving", and it's the truth. Joel lost all meaning once his daughter died, and was only operating on survival mode and being shut down as a coping mechanism. Now with his personal attachment to Ellie he has something to protect again, even if it's still through questionable means.
I just...have a lot of feelings about Joel and Ellie. That ending was so beautifully tragic, it fucked me up in the best possible way.)
Everything about The Last Of Us is like a mash-up between The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica; it has elements of character relationships, of showing the best and worst qualities of humanity, the morality of situations and asks the tough questions, and most of all it gets you, the viewer/player to become emotionally invested with these characters and what they're going through. Aside from the amazing storytelling and world-building, not to mention the beautiful music score, much of the praise goes to Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker who provided not just the voices for Joel and Ellie but also did the motion captions for their characters as well. They have natural chemistry which made Joel and Ellie's relationship realistic and believable, and by themselves were incredibly fleshed out, well-rounded individuals in their own right. Just, everyone involved in making this game deserves all the recognition. They created something beautiful and all the praise it's been getting is incredibly well deserved.
I know that there's plans on making a movie of The Last Of Us, which I'm not gonna lie when I first heard about it I was slightly apprehensive considering the game itself is already a cinematic masterpiece as it is. Although Neil Druckmann, the co-creator of the game, is writing the screenplay and has promised the film will remain faithful to the game and story. Never mind that introducing other people to appreciate this story through another medium may just as well work. And hey, speaking as someone who loves the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider movies knowing that they don't follow the games at all, who am I to judge?
While it will be weird not having Ashley or Troy playing these characters in the theatrical version, since they really did bring these characters to life, I do have my own fancasts on who should play certain characters, but that may have to wait until a separate post.
In short, no matter whether you're a gamer or someone looking for a good emotional story to get invested in, The Last Of Us is one game that I highly recommend checking out. You can watch various playthroughs online, including the entirety of the game or just the cutscenes.
There is another recently released game out there that has captured my attention as well, Life Is Strange. I've already watched a playthrough of it and it's one that I really want to play myself because the story has already captivated me and gotten me intrigued. It's an episodic story-based game, and only episode one has been released (episode two will be coming out by the end of this month). And similar to The Last Of Us, where the creators fought to have Ellie be featured on the front cover, these creators fought for the main protagonist to be a girl. I highly approve.