For most gamers old enough to remember the late 90’s, Goldenye 64 is rooted firmly in the Pantheon of First-person Shooters (see also: Offline Multiplayer) But it’s because of this revered reputation that we rarely mention what would be a fatal flaw today: the painfully cumbersome escort mission with Severnaya computer programmer/obtuse AI companion Natalya Simonova. Recreated with hilarious authenticity in a YouTube parody earlier this year, this banal branch of Goldeneye’s “Facility” level was a testament to the immersion-breaking, pace-killing power of what frequently comes across as a broken babysitting simulation.
Even though later eras would see escort missions improve – their piece de resistance was arguably 2001’s Ico, eponymously named after its protagonist who guides a twisted Queen’s daughter, Yorda, through a breathtaking ancient-castle escape – the term is such taboo today that developers still tread carefully around the association.
Theoretically, The Last of Us is an escort-mission game. But assuming all goes well when it releases next year, most writers will never call it that unless first pointing to its distinguishing features: Joel and Ellie’s charismatic bonding, gameplay that calls for meticulous measuring of combat and navigational choices and, from all appearances, an AI companion in Ellie who behaves with an extraordinary lifelike realism.
That hasn’t kept Naughty Dog from dissuading the phrase, though. Connotation trumps categorical for anything no one wants to be a part of.