“Outskirts” is the first level where The Last of Us takes off the training wheels and let’s you loose. Not that the first two levels were childish or anything (I mean the prologue was about a child) but they were introductions. “Hometown” was a great and gut-wrenching introduction to the story and “Quarantine Zone” was a mediocre introduction to the general gameplay loop. But “Outskirts” is where the main story begins to form and the gameplay really improves.
- I love that they revealed right away that Ellie was bitten. When she stabs the FEDRA goons right before they can finish their scan of her, I was worried that Naughty Dog was going to try to hide this reveal till later so I’m glad Joel and Tess were smarter than traditional characters in pop-culture. I can’t remember if I felt like this sort of reveal about Ellie was predictable the first time I played it (five years ago) but it really makes you wonder what is different about her that she hasn’t turned.
- I love how they weave some hints in that Tess is infected. We see it with her wanting to finish things and being short with Joel and her attitude seems more desperate in the contextual dialogue.
- Man Naughty Dog….they dominate these emotional sequences. We already had a gut-punch in the prologue that was pure raw emotion. The sequence where Tess asks Joel to finish this for them was much more subtle and underplayed. We get an idea that Joel and Tess’s relationship was not a typical romantic relationship (we never even learn if it was romantic or not) but that it was deep enough that Joel is both devastated and willing to follow through on her dying wish even if its the last thing he wants to do. Great character moment (and that look on Tess’s face as she turns to face her death is amazing).
- It may not have been as heart-breaking as Sarah’s death but man hearing Tess’s final stand and then seeing her body still packs a punch.
- I do think the story could have shown the consequences of the cordyceps infection a bit more to really make the search for a cure carry more weight. Yeah we know the world has gone to crap and that Ellie should be infected but I don’t think the game actually completely nailed how big of a deal this should be to everyone that Ellie may be the savior.
- Joel wanting to keep Ellie emotionally distant is extremely effective. Yeah, its predictable…I mean I think anyone can see the general outline of the father-daughter evolution that is going to take place between the two characters. But it still makes so much sense for the characters.
- Man I’m going to miss Tess. Such a great character….
This game is determined to make me cry every hour or so.
- The atmosphere is a big step up from the “Quarantine Zone”. That felt a little bit less stellar than what I know Naughty Dog is capable of. Not bad, just not that creative. This level is great though. We have the trek through the rain and sewers right after getting outside of the wall which really makes things feel claustrophobic.
- Once the first encounter with the FEDRA ends and you are basically in the downtown area, you really get a sense of how crappy things have gotten. You got a sense of it in the prior level but here, seeing the collapsed buildings and the museum and offices flooded with rubble and debris really helps hit home how desperate humanity must have gotten to bomb the hell out of a city.
- I love the move to have the bombed/collapsed buildings act as sort of a landmark. You first spot them in the prior level and it always makes a world feel more realized when you get to explore something you first saw way off in the distance. Very Dark Soulsy.
What are the chances that their path would take them DIRECTLY to those buildings?
- The sound design and atmosphere, particularly in the collapsed office building is fantastic. Love how the water pools in the corners of the room and you really feel like everything is going to collapse.
- The subway station below the office building and the museum sections are less effective. They are still good atmospherically, but its a bit more generic than the office building or the chase through the sewers (or the upcoming sections).
- The capital building sequence is great though. The contrast from the bombed out husk of a city compared to the beautiful, algae filled, flooded streets near the capital building is great.
- The subway section has a good feel to it, what with it being basically infested with the cordyceps fungus everywhere. However, it doesn’t really go anywhere with that. You fight two humans and no Infected….and that’s it so it was kind of a let-down ending to an otherwise well designed level.
- I laugh every time an encounter ends. This game could probably squeeze out more tension if each encounter wasn’t so separate from the next. You almost always know when you are out of danger because Joel no longer can sense any Infected and Ellie/Tess says something along the lines of “whew that was close!” I always wish one of them would say something prematurely only for Joel to be horribly murdered.
Joel: Goddammit Ellie, you said that was all of them!
- Good gameplay change at beginning of the level compared to the previous level. Here the main objective is to basically escape unseen. Yeah you can fight all those FEDRA agents but its tough…better to evade them.
- This is the first real level where you combat the infected and its generally effective and tense. The cat and mouse aspect of causing distractions and trying to get behind them is effective.
- With that said, by the time you are in the museum, these battles are already getting a tad bit repetitive…
- I hated on the human combat in the last level, complaining that those sequences are weak. Yeahhhh….I was wrong. The chase sequences at both the beginning through the canals/sewers and the end in the capital building are fantastic. Especially that capital building sequence. There is this awesome feeling of having the FEDRA breathing down your neck, all while you are trying to get one last glimpse at Tess (sniff). And then to cap off that sequence, you have to steadily move forward into a throng of FEDRA agents to actually escape the building. Exquisite tension.