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The Last of Us is the latest video game adaptation to suffer from the same problem

TechGamingThe Last of Us is the latest video game adaptation to suffer from the same problem
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last of us has been widely celebrated not only as “best video game adaptations of all time,” but also in the simplest form to jump from pixel to picture. And in many ways, HBO last of us He earned that reputation. Showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have a keen sense of what to detail, and each version exerts impressive technical control over locale and lighting to make the post-apocalyptic vision real. It is led by a strong cast pedro pascal and Bella Ramsey, giving two career-best performances that have the emotional stopping power of a sawed-off shotgun. Yet, for all the Mazin and Druckmann (and it’s a lot), it’s ironic that HBO’s talk last of us Struggle with most of the scenes were notThe story, or rather the characters, was what is most inherent in video games: gameplay.

sometimes sarcastically accused of being an “interactive movie” magic of naughty dog last of us the way it broke down the divide between cutscene and gameplay; This made the cinematic playable. This design ethos is felt throughout the game, starting with the dialogue. As Joel and Ellie traverse post-apocalyptic cities and landscapes, interactions occur systematically (with a little help from Triangle), creating inspiring illusions that are casual and real. Elsewhere, key moments of character development are regularly seen outside of cutscenes, whether it’s Ellie watching a tropical hotel photo session or Joel realizing he took care of her like a father only when you’re fighting through goons save her from the cannibals (In the show, Joel already reaches this emotional point, as evidenced when talking to Tommy in episode 6).

But in adapting his game with Mazin for HBO, Druckmann largely avoids adapting most of the “gameplay” sections. last of us, shrinking them down to slivers of screentime. I admire the drive for narrative economy, but HBO is only as good last of us Yes, it can feel like it was adapted from a YouTube compilation of the game’s incredible cutscenes, the game’s many stealthy crawls, shootouts, or what you do most: walk around. perhaps surprisingly, the Druckmann-directed Episode 2, “Infected,” The notable exception is Capturing the feel of the gameplay in a way that most episodes do not. Ellie, Joel and Tess explore an upscale BostonSharing natural, character-building dialogue as they explore, eventually hitting a series of riveting set pieces that recall the sensation of learning about these people the first time you played the game.

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Photo: Lianne Hantscher/HBO

most of last of us doesn’t quite strike that balance, and comparing the early sections of the game reveals some absences in the adaptation. In play, the prologue transitions Heartbreaking loss of Joel’s daughter Sarah in a post-apocalyptic reality where Joel’s packing heat, firing off terrifying headshots, and taking out the thugs who ripped him off; The contrast from paternal figure to casual killer is visceral and provocative. Within minutes of game time, the player experiences Joel’s fall from a loving, hardworking father to a cold-blooded killing machine. It’s not only him pulling the trigger – you are too. In HBO’s series, this segment is omitted entirely. I understood; We need Joel to meet Ellie asap. But while you, the player, are guiding Joel to make precise kill shots and navigate the map like Solid Snake, you’re learning about Joel with your hands on the controller, moving between past and present are recounting the harrowing history that led Joel to this point. Place.

hbo series mostly Avoiding it handles the bloodshed of the gameplay. it not only blunts last of us As a story about violence and where it can come from, but it also turns on Joel. His jaded slowness is rarely glimpsed, often in a more “nerfed” and more subdued form, relying on dialogue to paint a picture of the man rather than create something we can see and feel for ourselves. their dynamic shifts, avoiding key moments of Ellie and Joel’s bond and trauma shown in gameplay; Instead of a nearly game-long thaw to warm Joel’s frozen heart, Joel suddenly turns from selfish mercenary to laughingstock in episodes 2 and 3. Ellie’s poop joke in episode 4, Instead of seeing Joel repeatedly unleash carnage, enemies often fall on him and he is unable to defend himself. And crucially to where season 2 will take us, in softening Joel in spirit and action, the performers risked downplaying what legacy Joel might bequeath to Ellie.

Just like that, HBO’s last of us Highlights one of the classic problems of adapting games for film or television – game mechanics are very challenging to transform into cinema. Just look at death. Games are structurally designed to be built around endless cycles of reincarnation, living, dying and respawning over and over again at an obstacle and winning. So every time we die firing into a crowd of infected, although progress is resumed and nothing is really lost, we still feel the sting of failure and the thirst for victory. talent of last of us is that more we care about joel and ellie’s survivalThe more affecting each of our deaths is, the more that Joel or Ellie is killed is emphasized by the brutal play on screen. What’s at stake was never meant to be engineered through ABC plot beats, but rather how we experience them through gameplay loops.

I was disappointed that Druckmann and Mazin sometimes take more interest in what they’ve already added to there—new cold openings or two episodes that shift the focus, an acclaimed (“very long time,, and with a more muted reception (the DLC-inspired flashback “left behind, These episodes could both work on their own strengths, especially “Long, Long Time.”, A great piece of television. But would a few more character-building episodes have been so bad?

Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) eat strawberries at sunset in The Last of Us

Image: HBO Max

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) sitting on the carousel horse and talking to Riley (Storm Reid)

Photo: Lianne Hantscher/HBO

Joel lifts Ellie off the hospital operating table in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

Photo: Lianne Hantscher/HBO

And finally, the end. It’s one of the most famous and important games in games since 2013, bridging a gulf between the kind of games that thrive on player choice and the kind that force you into a character whose The choice may not be your own. Joel is not a moral person, and through that you are not either. in a Brechtian way, last of us Games thrive on the friction between “you” playing the character and the subjective “you” living in the character, closer to Cormac McCarthy VR than to role-playing games. And when Joel — when you — massacre a hospital of doctors and scientists to save a child who now feels like a daughter, you’re a entwined player agency in a moral knot for the video game medium. is both an innocent bystander and an accomplice.

All season long, I wondered if Mazin and Druckmann had found a silver bullet, a miracle cure for making the climax work as TV. At one point, he did. Pascal and Ramsey are sensational, and Ali Abbasi’s dexterity supports the high emotion. Particularly effective is the choice to score Joel’s rage with notes of sadness and not anger, turning a hospital attack into a montage of tragic pathos. Yet, I still felt what could have been, accumulated absences and missed opportunities to expand. last of us Only in the form of a game, rather than a beautiful story. Together season 2 confirmedan adaptation of the last of us part 2 presents an even greater challenge. as a sequel it’s thornyDemanding, and spectacular, with Druckmann and co. Further exploiting the tension between player and character, in a bid to make you do the most ugly actions of the characters you love to devastating ends. Despite these growing pains between the mediums, HBO last of us was still a great success. If they remember to adapt the gameplay and not just the plot, Season 2 and beyond could be a win.

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