The Final of Us Half I might not be meaningfully completely different from the unique recreation or its 2014 remaster, however the context across the franchise has notably modified. That’s due to The Final of Us Half II, a sequel that’s spurred as a lot important reward because it has heated debate. The 2020 launch constructed on the primary recreation’s sturdy basis by delivering a extra advanced story that additional muddied the “good guys vs. dangerous guys” trope we see in a lot media. It’s a narrative about cyclical violence the place Joel’s actions on the finish of the primary recreation instantly impression Ellie on her personal misguided thirst for blood.
It’s a daring recreation, one which’s considerably longer and bigger to slot in all of its concepts. I revered Naughty Canine’s ambition after I performed the sequel two years in the past, however walked away feeling prefer it was as swollen as one of many collection’ Bloaters. After revisiting each The Final of Us and its wonderful Left Behind DLC within the new PS5 remake, I really feel extra positive of my authentic critique. The Final of Us works as a result of it’s a lean and targeted recreation. Half II, alternatively, makes it clear that extra is Naughty Canine’s Achilles’ heel.
What I instantly seen in my replay of The Final of Us is that there’s barely a wasted second. From its tense opening sequence to its gripping remaining hour, most scenes play a vital function within the story. As an illustration, the winter-set chapter the place Ellie takes cost serves as an necessary option to present how Joel’s ruthlessness has begun to contaminate her. My thoughts wandered a couple of times throughout my 12-hour playthrough.
That’s even more true of Left Behind, a decent DLC that tells considered one of Naughty Canine’s most succinct tales in two hours. Each single second is memorable, because it naturally develops the connection between Ellie and Riley with every scene. I walked away from my replay questioning if it’s the only finest pound-for-pound recreation the studio has made to this point.
I don’t fairly really feel the identical method about Half II. Clocking in at round 24 hours, the sequel is twice so long as its predecessor. A part of that could be a necessity, because it’s telling the story of two completely different characters whose journeys run parallel to 1 one other. Nonetheless, I don’t all the time get the sense that each scene is indispensable as Naughty Canine tends to repeat itself far more. A number of beats in Abbey’s story are inclined to retread already established concepts in regards to the ethical grey zones of violent battle. We frequently see “dangerous guys” reframed as “good guys,” one thing that’s already successfully established by the two-protagonist construction of the sport.
That repetition is extra noticeable within the precise recreation design. Naughty Canine tends to reuse the identical tropes and scene setups to create synthetic battle. A number of moments of the sport contain a personality strolling towards a location, solely to have the bottom collapse below them and ship them on some roundabout shortcut right into a fight zone. There are much less crutches like that in Half I, as problems aren’t as mechanically induced. That may make the sport really feel much less like a high-stakes Hollywood blockbuster, however that’s finally to its profit.
This commentary isn’t solely unique to The Final of Us collection. You may see the identical dynamic in Naughty Canine’s Uncharted franchise through the years too. The developer is at its finest the much less it’s targeted on escalating drama. Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves is a decent motion recreation that easily ups the ante with every scene, whereas Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a hodgepodge of disconnected set-pieces that solely appear to exist to create the phantasm that Nathan Drake’s journey is extra thrilling than the final. I seen an analogous thread in January after I performed by Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves’ Assortment and located that Uncharted: The Misplaced Legacy held up higher than the superb, however typically meandering Uncharted 4: A Thief’s Finish.
I’ve the very same feeling strolling out of The Final of Us Half I, even when Half II is technically a extra spectacular spectacle. Whereas I may nitpick in regards to the former’s now dated stage design, I discovered that it doesn’t depart as a lot room for useless air. With much less time spent on the lookout for “one other method round,” the main focus is extra squarely on constructing Joel and Ellie’s distorted relationship one scene at a time. That permits the sport to naturally construct to a violent crescendo, whereas Half II hits lengthy stretches the place it feels just like the band is tuning up between actions.
I hope that The Final of Us Half I was as a lot of a self-reflective studying course of for Naughty Canine because it was for me. I’d like to see the developer cut back its loftier Hollywood ambitions to create one thing as lean as The Final of Us (I nonetheless want Half II’s remaining California-set chapter had been reserved for a separate Left Behind-sized DLC). Save a few of these extra scenes for a director’s reduce down the road — lord is aware of the studio wants higher excuses to rerelease its video games in any case.
The Final of Us Half I is offered now on PS5.