It has been known as “powerful,” “emotional,” and “iconic.” It may be one of the well-known scenes in a complete technology of video video games, usually cited in conversations for example of how the sport it comes from is “the height of video game storytelling,” as IGN wrote back in 2013. I communicate, after all, of The Last of Us’ giraffe scene, a pivotal animal petting second that happens close to the top of Naughty Dog’s 2013 post-apocalyptic survival sport.
As former Naughty Dog stage designer Peter Field explained in a breakdown of that part of the game, the bus depot stage — and particularly the giraffe scene — assist Joel perceive what a toll the journey has taken on Ellie. The stage additionally reinforces that Ellie is set to achieve the Fireflies no matter her momentary despair. Both of those components go on to tell the spine of The Last of Us Part 2, the place the strain between these characters involves a breaking level.
The Last of Us Part 2 exhibits that AAA video games have come a lot farther than what the unique giraffe scene might present. For one factor, The Last of Us 2 is filled with “giraffe scenes” — that’s, scenes with downtime from the perpetual violence of the remainder of the sport’s world, usually used to offer tender, considerate moments for its characters. In these moments of respite, the participant character participates in a snowball combat, practices the guitar, and performs fetch with a canine. In this, The Last of Us 2 isn’t distinctive; if you happen to’ve performed Naughty Dog video games even earlier than the primary Last of Us, you’ve observed how a lot effort the studio places into discovering interactive but nonviolent methods to push the narrative ahead with out having to rely totally on lengthy, noninteractive cutscenes. Uncharted 4 had a portion the place you simply hang out in Nate’s house, and The Lost Legacy opens with an ideal market stage on this vein. The Last of Us 2 is filled with stuff like that.
There’s a selected stage in TLOU2, although, that highlights simply how far big-budget video games have come because the The Last of Us. Midway by means of the sequel, you enter a playable flashback sequence the place it’s Ellie’s birthday. Joel needs to shock her, so he drags her into the wilderness to an unknown location. Ever the jerk, Joel pushes Ellie right into a physique of water. It’s right here that we be taught that Ellie has lastly realized swim, which is an efficient factor, as a result of we’re going to need to perform a little diving to get to our vacation spot. This small element alone helps set up some intimacy, not simply between Joel and Ellie, however between the sport and the participant — Ellie has modified, and the mechanics mirror that. It’s a marked distinction from the primary sport, the place complete puzzles had been constructed round her incapability to tread water.
Eventually, Joel brings Ellie to a museum filled with dinosaur reveals, with a life-size T. rex mannequin out entrance. Cool! As you poke and prod by means of the extent, you would possibly resolve to open up Ellie’s pocket book, the place you discover hints of her life and the relationships she’s had within the time between the primary sport and the second sport. Eventually, you discover a hat. You can placed on the hat, and that’s foolish sufficient. But then you definately discover a second hat, which you’ll place atop every dinosaur. You make your manner by means of the museum, studying enjoyable information about all kinds of extinct creatures which you can costume up with the press of a button. If you need, that’s. It’s all completely optionally available.
But ornery outdated Joel kinda hates it, so after all I really feel an obligation to harass him. That’s intimacy, while you get all the way down to it: understanding somebody effectively sufficient to lovingly press their buttons. This ongoing interactivity, together with a variety of optionally available conversations you might have alongside the way in which, helps to set this stage other than the extra static giraffe scene within the first sport. But there’s extra to it than simply that. The museum itself supplies small methods so that you can work together with it, like cranking a lever to see the revolutions of the planets. Joel helpfully imparts some data to Ellie about what she’s seeing.
Near the top of the extent, Joel reveals the massive shock. There’s a small spacecraft within the museum that was as soon as used for an actual house operation. Joel asks you to undergo the shows and choose one of many helmets. There are three, every with a distinct sort of design and time interval. I opted for one of many sleeker, extra futuristic items.
Strapped up and able to go, Joel and Ellie hop into the vessel. Joel provides Ellie a cassette tape in a Walkman, which was apparently mighty exhausting to search out. He asks Ellie to shut her eyes and press play. The cassette, because it seems, incorporates the audio from an precise shuttle launch. Ellie could by no means get to transcend planet Earth, however for a short second, she will faux to depart all of it behind. The liftoff sequence jogs my memory quite a lot of that viral video the place a dad shakes his child in a laundry basket whereas she watches some footage of a curler coaster, in an effort to make her really feel like she’s really there. It’s candy.
All these small decisions alongside the way in which make an enormous distinction, as a result of the participant will get to precise themselves. The sequence is already poignant, however by permitting you to choose your helmet, in addition to which dinosaur will get to maintain the hat, the extent turns into private. By distinction, everybody skilled The Last of Us’ giraffe scene in precisely the identical manner, and whereas that was nonetheless touching, it’s flat in comparison with what The Last of Us Part 2 commonly supplies.
But it wouldn’t be a Last of Us sport with out no less than one intestine punch to bookend the expertise. To commemorate the journey, Joel provides you an area pin that you just connect to the entrance of your backpack, which is filled with different baubles. When you flash ahead to more moderen occasions, Ellie has gotten rid of most of these infantile issues on her backpack — with one necessary exception. The house pin. Through all of it, as Ellie strives to hunt revenge, and at the same time as she grapples together with her complicated emotions in regards to the man who “saved” her, she’s nonetheless carrying that pin. Damn.