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*MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE LAST OF US AHEAD*

During the hospital scene at the end of the game, Joel has to go through countless Fireflies in order to finally reach Ellie, who’s prepping to go under the knife. He’s come this far, killed countless of people for her and he still may be seconds too late. He feels nothing for anyone but Ellie, and has no remorse for the things he’s done to protect her. As he opens the door, the doctor lunges at him and is stabbed in the throat by Joel.

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Then you have the option of releasing Ellie right away, or killing the two nurses beforehand. These are two characters that are unharmed and scared. I walked up to them and shot both in the head without even thinking about it. The thing about it is, that I didn’t think that they would somehow be armed or charge at me with a scalpel. I didn’t feel endangered or threatened, and yet I still brutally killed them both. If I’m not mistaken, this is the one and only time you have the choice on whether to kill someone unarmed and I didn’t hesitate. As you can see from the screen at the bottom, it’s entirely possible to leave them alive and walk out with Ellie yet I chose not to do so.

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Now this is most likely me just making more of a deal out of a nothing “choice” in the game, and it won’t affect your ending one way or another, but it’s weird — and a little scary — to me that I didn’t see anything wrong with it. Granted, I’ve mowed down countless bystanders in Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and Infamous, but this felt entirely different. This wasn’t for humorous purposes or because people were in the street while I was driving, it was because these people were about to kill someone I cared about and — unarmed or not — I was angry. If the option of killing an “innocent” came up earlier in the game, I know I wouldn’t have done it, or at least I’d think it through, but after everything that happened that has lead to this point and the intense bond I felt with Ellie, I didn’t even need to think about it. This wasn’t about survival — this was an act of murder.

So when all is said and done, I know I would’ve done the exact same thing Joel does at the end. I would’ve killed Marlene and I would’ve lied to Ellie about it if the game gave me the options. As she became the most important thing to Joel, she also became the most important thing to me, the player. I didn’t care to cure and help the rest of the world. I just wanted her to be safe. Now I’m not saying that if you chose not to kill them then you probably wouldn’t have killed Marlene — I don’t know what you would do, that’s between you and your god. I just know what I would’ve done without thinking of any video game consequences — like if it would affect the ending or not — and if what happened with the nurses is any indication, I would have felt justified by my end choice. But lucky for us, it’s not a decision we have to make.

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There’s a scene during winter in which Joel tortures and kills two people in order to find out where Ellie is. He gets the info he needs and yet he still kills both men. It’s obvious that this isn’t the same man that sat on the couch with his daughter Sarah. In fact, it’s not even the same man that brought Ellie to see his brother Tommy and at the same time I didn’t feel like the same player that started on the couch with Joel and Sarah — and that’s the beauty of The Last of Us.

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