Games. Culture.

Why The Last of Us Excites Me For PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

The tense spirit of The Last of Us' gameplay is alive and well in PUBG.

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I stood before a graveyard of cars when I heard them. By this point in the game, Joel and I had stopped being separate entities. Almost immediately after, Joel acknowledged the same thing I had: There were hunters on the other side of this bus. I immediately slowed to a crawl, hunched myself over and instinctually positioned myself by Ellie. In case anyone tried something funny, I had to be ready to shut it down. I held down the listen button and triangulated their locations relative to us.

“There’s enough cover but I’ll lose a fight.”

I looked around for any sign of what I should do. To one of my sides, there was a path, narrow and undefined, but a path nonetheless. If I took it and remained unspotted, maybe I could get around and strangle the life out of them one by one. Ellie could stay safe, I could conserve ammunition and avoid having to use a health kit. With the pros heavily outweighing any cons, I pushed through the new path. I vaulted cars, crept between them, stood still so as to not alert anyone probing a bit too close, but always remained ready to bash a skull in if I had to. Before I knew it, I had ended up where my foes emerged from and they where I did.

Now I was the hunter.

With their backs to me, I examined their positions, thought of the best way to approach them and properly equipped myself to dispose of them. Then I looked at the checkpoint behind me. “Am I free to go?” The answer was yes. Before I knew it, my hunters had strayed too far. Out of sight, out of mind. Joel let loose a line that suggested the encounter was over. A mountain slid off my own back and I loosened up. “I made it and I didn’t even have to kill anyone.”

Given all the recent talk surrounding The Last of Us Part II, I thought I’d go back and see what was really my reason for loving that game. Turns out there’s a whole lot, but more than anything superfluous, what kept me playing was the constant dread followed by every movement or decision made. This tension, the ability for a role reversal to happen at any point in time, this dread that any move could be my last, is what propels The Last of Us to the top of my list. When I found this exact feeling in it’s multiplayer component, I was shocked and relieved. I knew it would be a game I could love till the end of my days.

People come to The Last of Us to at the very least get a good story but also to feel. Feel sadness as Joel’s daughter wilts away in his arms. Feel joy when Joel tells Ellie he’ll teach her to play guitar or even let out laughter as Ellie suddenly whips out her pun book and just lets you have it. But strip away those elements of the game: the dialogue, the characters, the story and what’s left bring you back to it? A game about survival, not in it’s story but key to meeting the win condition that will get you through every encounter and ultimately carry you through to the end credits.

Now stay with me for a second. Actually strip away most of that and what you’re left with is a more plodding, smaller scale version of Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds a.k.a PUBG. I don’t think I’m too off base here and to be fair, this idea was planted in my head quite some time ago by the founder of this site. It wasn’t till I watched this stream a few days ago though that it actually began resonating with me though. It can be easy to think that PUBG is just madness what with the 100 people galavanting about the island murdering each other, but when you actually watch, people play stealthily. Others go guns blazing. Some people just don’t kill and hide out. There’s versatility there and stripped of any narrative traps, it’s exactly what I loved about The Last of Us.

Now it’s not a 1:1 sort of deal. PUBG is drastically faster, even at it’s slowest and there’s less of an emphasis on crafting and more on salvaging, which is inherent in both but scaled differently. Regardless, there’s always the tension. With at least 99 other players on the loose, the tension is always on you to make the right move. At least in most of the game modes in The Last of Us, there was the safety net of a set amount of lives allotted per team. So when I say strip it down, I mean all the way to it’s bare minimum: players, weapons, one life, go. What you have now is the fuel to spark tense, smart gameplay, a staple of PvP I’ve missed the further I’ve strayed from the likes of The Last of Us. Though with an Xbox One release date on the horizon, I imagine it won’t be long before I’m back in the thick of it.

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