Last night, I finished it, and all I have to say is "Holy . . . f*cking . . . shit."
This game was intense. Playing this game was like watching Requiem for a Dream for the first time or Django Unchained. Just one continuous slog through the worst that humanity has to offer. This game's awesomeness essentially comes together threefold: The Plot, the Gameplay, and the Acting.
I'll start with the Gameplay. Most video games, or perhaps most shooters, have a tendency to empower the player. You are often an unstoppable juggernaut of destruction, slaughtering hordes of lesser mortals who dare stand in your way while occasionally slugging it out in a couple boss battles where you finally encounter a slight challenge for once in your life. You laugh at the countless peons, stamp mercilessly upon the weak and downtrodden, and rain down bullets and powers from on-high like the god among men you are.
Meanwhile in The Last of Us, you enter a room and see two enemies and go, "Damn it! How the hell am I going to kill them both?"
I mean it full well that each and every fight in The Last of Us was a struggle. This gameplay was brutal, your character sneaky but weak, easily spotted and killed if you ever dared tried to fight fair. Every fight required dirty tactics, tricks, and ruthless execution of well thought-out plans. If you didn't be prepared for the fight of your life because those NPC's ain't never heard of no Conservation Of Ninjutsu trope. They all charge in, and they'll beat the ever loving life out of you with no remorse.
I'd like to say that as my character got more tools, weapons, and power, the fights got easier, but that's not true. The fights just got harder just as quickly. But hey, if you've been following me for any length time, you know that all of this is actually a good thing. I crave this kind of difficulty, and The Last of Us brought it on THICK!
The Plot & Acting: These two really go hand in hand, so I'll address them together. This movie played out like a film worthy of academy awards, with twists and turns that left you reeling, characters that were so deep and real that I struggle to recall any actor that could match the care that was given to this game. These characters' facial expressions, sighs, twitches, and voice acting brought the story to life as if I were watching a live-action movie. And that writing! That ENDING! By Athena what an ENDING! I will spoil nothing for you, though, but suffice to say it left me stunned.
This is yet another game that has raised the bar for me. My hat's off to you, Naughty Dog. Well done.