I own and played approximately 4-5 hours of The Last of Us on PS3, but for various reasons including technical, general lack of interest in playing a game like this at the time, and other perhaps unfair judgements that I had unconsciously made - I didn't complete it.
But after nearly a year of looking up at the ever-growing mountain of praise this game received, and the announcement of the PS4 remaster - I decided I needed to complete this game.
The Last of Us: Remastered
Video games usually aren't written well. The story and characters are typically just scaffolding for the broader purpose of the game (which is the gameplay). Video games don't need to tell good stories and because of that, they often don't. Some games focus on their narrative at the expense of gameplay, being little more than an interactive novel. Which is fine, I think the medium should be used for more than just what would traditionally be called a 'game'.
Rarely do we see a game that strikes a good balance between the two. But I think The Last of Us is one of them, I think TLOU is one of the best examples of being what a game should be, what a well told story should be and most importantly, of finding a way to make them both relevant to each other.
There are common game design elements that can break immersion of the story or the world you're playing in and unfortunately The Last Of Us doesn't escape this. These are very real issues in the quest for 'immersion' but given the overall quality of the work done in The Last of Us, when you run into these immersion breaking scenarios, I think most reasonable people see it as an unfortunate but necessary exception in order to ensure gameplay isn't frustrating.
Once we get past this point, TLOU begins to set itself apart from the vast majority of video games, and I came out of the game having completed it feeling appreciative of the game designers, the writers, level designers, directors, programmers, the artists and everyone else involved in making the game. Both the story and gameplay could live independently of each other, but they're enhanced tenfold because they don't.
The Last of Us is challenging, exciting and compelling to play. It treats its story, the characters and the world it is set in with all the respect it deserves, it never forces it, it never becomes a gimmick to drive you along. It progresses naturally and is tremendously satisfying because of it.
People scoff at the idea of something with a fail-state, a game, being able to tell a good story and perhaps a game like this could never reach beyond that of a well-regarded film, but I do get excited when we see evidence of good story-tellers in the games industry, because it's exciting to think that they may help find another way to help take this medium, maybe not a game, but the medium of which video games belong to (interactive.. something-or-others) to the heights of any story-telling medium.
But to speak to the type of game The Last of Us is. There is satisfaction in feeling like the story you're told in cutscenes or idle dialogue is representative and in-tune with the mechanics you're using to progress through the game, in the combat, in the survival, the details of the world you're left to explore. It, for me, heightens the investment you have as a player in the narrative.
Naughty Dog's innovation isn't in a mechanic, in graphics, performance, control, anything that specific which can be pointed to and described as "This was a point of progression for video games" - I think it is the cohesive package that The Last of Us became.