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The Last of Us: What to expect from the HBO series adaptation of the acclaimed video games

The most anticipated video game adaptation has finally revealed its first teaser trailer, and it has certainly added more fuel to the hype

The Last of Us: What to expect from the HBO series adaptation of the acclaimed video games
  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 05.28 AM, Sep 29, 2022

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When Crash Bandicoot debuted on the PlayStation 1, or simply the PlayStation as it was called back in 1996, no one could have fathomed that its developers, Naughty Dog, would one day create two of the biggest franchises in PlayStation’s history — Uncharted and The Last of Us. Uncharted was undoubtedly inspired by Tomb Raider released in 1996, but as Uncharted became a global phenomenon with subsequent releases, the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider took inspiration from the Uncharted franchise. In fact, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, released in 2016 for the PlayStation 4 is widely regarded as one of the greatest video games ever created. Its swashbuckling and charismatic treasure-hunting protagonist Nathan Drake, voiced by the brilliant Nolan North, was the epitome of a single-player video game hero. Despite its relatively dark storylines, the game embraced the silliness of video games and embodied the very essence of entertainment — excellent gameplay, endearing characters, spectacular world-building, and an engrossing story. But in the midst of the Uncharted fanfare, which spanned for nearly two decades, Naughty Dog released another single-player linear story-driven game in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 which revolutionised video games forever — The Last of Us. The game's popularity rose to dizzying heights that it was remastered for the PlayStation 4 with updated graphics in 2014, and was remade from the ground up in 2022 in a new game engine for the PlayStation 5 and an updated title, The Last of Us: Part I.

The Last of Us, was a far cry from the relatively ‘fun adventure’ aesthetic of Uncharted. It featured a grounded, brutal, and emotionally charged story that pushed the limits of the PlayStation 3, which was at the end of its cycle of the console generation. The game essentially bridged the gap between a traditional single-player third-person shooter and a cinematic storytelling experience. While it does sound like a novel idea, it need not always reap rewards. The Xbox-exclusive Quantum Break took this a step further by adding cutscenes with live-action footage with popular actors. Unfortunately, the game severely underperformed, and it became symbolic of Microsoft’s failed business model for the Xbox One, despite the console being one of the best ever created at the time. However, The Last of Us did not fall into the same bracket, because the effort put into the story and the gameplay was evident. Voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson deliver stunning performances that will completely immerse one into the world of The Last of Us. The prologue to the story involves a scene that is performed to perfection that will pull the heartstrings of even the most stoic individuals.

The basic structure of the plot is not too dissimilar to The Walking Dead, but the lore of The Last of Us is carefully built, with attention to detail focused on every inch of the world created by Naughty Dog. So it should come as no surprise that Neil Druckmann, the man who helmed the games, will share the responsibilities as showrunner with Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin for HBO’s upcoming TV series. Druckmann is well aware that anything short of a few Emmys for the TV show will have the fandom up in arms. For the 2020 video game The Last of Us Part II, early leaks regarding the game’s story caused a significant backlash. There were homophobic comments hurled at the game and anti-semitic abuse aimed at Druckmann. But when the game did come out, it ended up breaking records for the most ‘Game of the Year’ awards. Despite the social media narrative that these awards were a form of ‘tokenism’, the record-breaking sales suggested otherwise. And if one were to indulge themselves by spending 30-40 hours completing the game, they would walk away having experienced one of the most thought-provoking and compelling stories ever created for any medium. It will make one introspect their convictions and morality. The game forces the players to put themselves in the shoes of the perceived antagonist to gain a vastly different perspective on the story. It is certainly a step up from Uncharted in terms of storytelling and the mesmerising music and soundtracks featured in The Last of Us hit just the right notes.

It is unlikely that the harrowing tale of the second game will appear in the first season of The Last of Us TV show. The series will likely explore how the Cordyceps fungus wiped out a vast majority of the human population and left those infected in a zombie-like state. It is frightening to imagine that the Cordyceps fungus is a real-world parasite that affects ants. But it is also unlikely that it will affect humans or if it will cause the level of devastation to human civilisation as it did in the world of The Last of Us. However, the story is grounded in realism and the lore is carefully constructed to make it feel real. The finer details created for the story as to how those infected can evolve over time with very specific characteristics are extraordinary. The infected in The Last of Us are categorised as runners, stalkers, clickers, bloaters, shamblers, and rat kings — each at a particular stage of the infection and each deadlier than the other. But the story ultimately concludes that there is nothing more dangerous in the world than man.

Pedro Pascal, who has become one of the biggest stars on television, after essaying memorable performances in Narcos, Game of Thrones, and The Mandalorian, will essay the role of Joel Miller. His Game of Thrones co-star Bella Ramsey, who played the fan-favourite Lyanna Mormont, will play the role of the 14-year-old Ellie Williams. Joel is a survivor of the original outbreak who has endured unimaginable tragedy in his life, whereas Ellie was born in the dystopian wasteland of a militarised America. Joel, who has become a smuggler over the decades since the outbreak, is tasked with transporting Ellie across America to an outpost controlled by the rebel militia group called the Fireflies. The duo must travel across treacherous terrains rife with the infected and other militia groups who wouldn’t hesitate to kill them without a second thought.

The first season will focus on ‘day zero’ of the outbreak and the story will likely skip a few decades into the future after the world has turned into the Devil’s own playground. Joel and Ellie’s journey across the continent will be the central focus of the story. Gabriel Luna will essay the role of Joel’s brother Tommy, while some of the other popular characters such as Bill and Tess will be played by Nick Offerman and Anna Torv, respectively. The only actor to reprise their role from the games is Merle Dandridge who will return to play the leader of the Fireflies, Marlene. It is worth mentioning that Jeffery Pierce who voiced Tommy in the games will play the role of an original character in the series, and there is speculation that Ashley Johnson, who voiced Ellie, will also appear in some capacity for the series.

If the TV series can replicate the scope and execution of the games on some level, it could end up being one of the most compelling shows in history.

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