The Last of Us 2

Spoilers for The Last of Us

Aside from my deep interest in movies and comics, I also complete the geek trifecta with my interest in gaming. I can’t say I’m an avid gamer at the moment since television and reading have taken up more of my free time at the moment. I have an Xbox One but currently only have Arkham Knight and Halo 5, both of which I have been addicted to at one point or another.

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Halo was my main reason for selecting an xbox 360 years ago, and then upgrading to the Xbox One. I loved the storyline and all of the science fiction elements. My attachment to Halo might also be due to the fact that it was one of the first “seventh generation (post 2005)” video games I ever played. Since getting my xbox I haven’t had the opportunity to play too many playstation exclusives, but I did come across The Last of Us while I was visiting a friend a few years ago.

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The Last of Us takes place in a world where a mutated Cordyceps fungus attacked humans, turning them into cannibalistic hosts.

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The game’s opening follows Joel as he tries to flee Austin with his brother and daughter, Sarah. Sarah is fatally shot by a soldier, before the game cuts to twenty years later.

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Most of humanity is now residing in walled quarantine zones and numerous groups of bandits reside across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Joel and his friend Tess, now work as black market smugglers. The crux of the game revolves around their assignment to transport, a young girl, Ellie, across post-apocalyptic America. Their mission is to get Ellie to the fireflies, a rebel group aiming to disband the quarantine zones. Joel and Tess later discover that Ellie is immune to the fungus and is being escorted to the fireflies so that they can try to develop a cure.

Joel and Ellie bond over the course of the story, and they eventually reach the firefly hide out. It is at this point that Marlene, leader of the fireflies, tells Joel that Ellie has to be killed in order for the cure to be developed. The virus grows all over the brain and Ellie’s brain must be examined in order to create the cure. Joel kills Marlene and the fireflies at the base before taking an unconscious Ellie back to his brother’s hideout. When Ellie awakes, he lies and tells her that the Fireflies stopped looking for a cure.

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My friend told me about the heart-breaking opening and insisted that I check the game out. After playing for an hour, I made plans to buy the game, only to be told that it was a playstation exclusive. I tried not to take it personal and caught up on the rest of the game through walkthroughs. It may seem weird to write about a game if I haven’t played through the entire thing, but I think that makes it even more important for me to write about this. As a gamer, I have never felt so attached to a story that I wasn’t playing myself.  I rarely watch walkthroughs, unless I am stuck on a certain level and am seeking help. For The Last of Us I watched the walkthroughs so I could follow the story. It was my only option, aside from purchasing a playstation. Sadly, my money needs to be saved for things like a new place and a car, so I can’t justify that decision.

One of the things that stood out most about the series was the caliber of acting, especially from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. I enjoyed Baker as the Joker in Arkham Origins and I am amazed that he, like many voice actors, can play two characters with radically different voices and personalities so well. Johnson is the heart of the story in many ways and the greatest treat of the walkthroughs was watching Ellie and Joel’s relationship develop into a true father-daughter bond.

I always hate it when people argue that voice acting isn’t real acting, and then place voice actors on the bottom of a hierarchy. Games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V are some of the best arguments for voice acting as an art form. Both games utilize motion capture, meaning that the voice actors actually perform the physical movements of their characters. This is becoming increasingly common as technology improves and it also means that the only difference between some voice actors, and “real actors” is that you don’t see the voice actors on screen.

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Ashley Johnson in a motion capture suit

All of this is to say, that I deeply enjoyed The Last of Us. Today, the announcement of The Last of Us: Part II is reverberating all over the internet. Like any good trailer, the announcement trailer doesn’t give away too much. Firstly, the graphics are amazing and leave me excited to think about how photo-realistic video games will be in another ten years. Yes, I’ll probably still be playing video games by then.

Ellie’s growth makes it clear that this sequel takes place years after the original. I couldn’t help but notice that she looks more like Tess now. The house she is sitting in is marked by a firefly logo, and we know that she wants to kill “them” all. I’ve been told that I am Canada’s Sherlock, so I believe Ellie is now determined to kill all of the fireflies. Obviously Ellie must have found out the truth about Joel’s escape from them by this point. Perhaps the new Firefly leader was able to find them and launched an attack on their home. If an attack was carried out and Ellie lost someone close to her because of it, it would explain her anger at the Fireflies. It doesn’t make as much sense for her to want to kill them all only because she found out that they originally intended to kill her. Joel doesn’t seem as fired up as she does, either because he realizes how dangerous it is or because he didn’t lose anyone else due to the fireflies. His brother, Tommy, could still be alive then. Perhaps Ellie lost someone that Joel wasn’t as close to, such as a new friend. The trailer did leave me with the feeling that Joel will die in this game. He came close last time, and his luck may run out if he accompanies Ellie on her mission.

Although I don’t have a playstation I am still excited for this game. I am somewhat wary of a sequel, since I felt like the first game ended on a perfect note. I am just hoping that the sequel lives up to the first. We have Baker and Johnson back, and the same creative team. I am sure that they don’t want to bring down the original either, since it took this long for the announcement of a sequel. I will find a way to play this one as well, and I am sure that I am not alone.

Arkham Knight

Hello everyone,

Aside from comics, tv, and movies I am also a gamer, which helps to bring more diversity to my geeky repertoire. I wouldn’t say that I spend most of my free time playing and I purposely try not to. However, I do enjoy playing a few hours a week. Some of my favourite series include Halo and the Arkham games. I completed the story mode of Halo 5 and before I delved into the online play, I decided to finally start Arkham Knight.

I played Arkham City when that first came out in 2011 and I have been hooked on the series since. Arkham Origins was somewhat forgettable but still an enjoyable game. I did also like the fact that it added online challenge modes, where you could actually compete in real-time with other players. The only online options for Arkham City allowed your score on challenges to be ranked with that of other players.

I am only about 10% of the way through the story so far, not to mention all of the riddle challenges and trophies. However, there was one aspect of the game that I love and hate at the same time. After looking up my issue online it seems like a lot of people feel the same way. Getting to drive the batmobile is a great new feature, at least in theory. It offers something new to the gameplay while also giving players access to Batman’s full arsenal. The design is amazing and while the controls take a big of getting used to, riding in the batmobile can be a great experience. The only problem is that the batmobile isn’t only a cool side feature, it is an essential part of gameplay for many levels so far. Whether it is riddler challenges or puzzles in the main story, the batmobile is crucial. At times, the action/adventure game becomes a racing game for long stretches at a time. If you don’t like racing games, that’s just too bad.

Gameplay with the batmobile can get repetitive at times since its combat offers more limited options than Batman’s. There are three main weapons/ tools and that’s about it, compared to the myriad combination of gadgets and fighting techniques that Batman offers. There are entire levels or checkpoints that involve the batmobile taking on unmanned tanks. These entire levels will be the same combo of dodging and shooting. Those who don’t like shooting games, probably won’t like these parts. Of course there is nothing wrong with the game incorporating elements from numerous genres, but it does represent a pretty fundamental shift from the previous three games, which all focused on stealth or combat modes. Those who have become accustomed to this by now could very well be thrown off completely by the change. There is one level where the batmobile has to take on tanks and a helicopter at the same time. You must then eliminated about seven hostiles while trying to dodge a barrage of missiles.

After failing for the fifth time, I looked up a walkthrough for this part online and the comments reveal the same level of frustration I had. One person even said that they returned the game since they couldn’t get past this part to enjoy the rest. Of course, I didn’t do that. I was able to beat the level after a few more tries, using some tips I found online. However, I think a big part of why people might be so frustrated or willing to quit is because of the change in playing style that they might not have anticipated. Although we might want variation in stories, certain genres of games have conventions that many people might want a game to follow. If Halo 5 introduced more puzzles, people might be thrown off by that.

I’m still enjoying the game and I look forward to playing more, but I can’t help but think the combat sequences with the batmobile will only get more repetitive as the game goes on.