Videogames have seen their fair share of memorable partnerships over the years. Cloud and Barrett, Chris and Jill, Jak & Daxter, and more recently Drake and Sully have all proved endearing duos that have become renowned for their on-screen chemistry, witty banter and teamwork. In fact, if it wasn’t for strength of character, their respective titles wouldn’t have proven nearly as compelling in the long run. After all, can you imagine playing Uncharted with Drake and Sully replaced by a pair of stoic, lifeless military grunts? It just wouldn’t be the same.
Perhaps it’s fitting then that Naughty Dog is coming under much scrutiny lately for its upcoming PlayStation 3-exclusive, The Last of Us. Like its treasure-hunting stable mate, the post-apocalyptic adventure features two distinct main characters; Joel and Ellie. And while we’ve yet to get our hands on the finished code, we’re confident that this duo will be one of gaming’s finest to date – and honestly, it’s not hard to see why.
In The Last of Us, the world has been struck by a devastating fungal-like virus, killing millions and leaving once-bustling cities in disrepair. It’s dog-eat-dog world, and the areas outside the relatively safe quarantine zones are unforgiving and deadly. However, it’s this hazardous wasteland that Ellie wishes to see for herself – and it’s up to Joel to get here there, while avoiding numerous foes (some human, others not so much) and the military, who want her back. Yes, disaster backdrops are a dime a dozen these days, but this isn’t an ordinary stab at the genre.
What makes this tale so compelling is the sheer disparity between the two main characters. Joel is the player character, a gruff, 40-something chap with a dodgy background, while Ellie is your AI partner and an innocent, if slightly precocious 14-year-old girl. Whereas the likes of Nate and Sully were old mates sharing a common interest, The Last of Us sees two characters who are worlds apart drawn inexorably together by events they cannot possibly have any influence over. The juxtaposition between the pair – Joel being an anti-hero and Ellie a simple teenager – makes for an unlikely but gripping partnership. After all, if it wasn’t for the extreme circumstances depicted in the game, they’d never be joined at the hip.
However, that’s beside the point; the two need each other, and this makes for an interesting dynamic when you apply it to gameplay. The relationship between the pair has been trumpeted by Naughty Dog for some time now, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Joel and Ellie have huge potential for growth in terms of characters. Joel is a killer in this game, brutal and efficient, but he does it because it has to be done. Ellie hasn’t been privy to the outside horrors of the world, nor has she even seen what things were like pre-apocalypse. For Joel, it isn’t difficult to imagine him becoming more human, more sympathetic to those around him; for Ellie, it’s clearly a loss of innocence, of maturity and strength.
How many games out there depict a young girl aiding a grown man in brutally dispatching another human being? We can’t wait to see how Joel and Ellie’s relationship pans out, and we’re confident it will be among the most memorable gaming partnerships to date.
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