In the Quick Look for The Last of Us, @patrickklepek recommended not playing the game in huge chunks because it's so emotionally draining. That's nice and all, but I live with three girls who love to talk over movies and games, and I was not about to deal with that with The Last of Us, so the minute I knew none of them would be home, I did exactly that.
I burned through the whole game in one 14-hour sitting. I do not recommend it.
By the end, yeah, I was pretty drained. The surprising thing is that it had nothing to do with how dark the tone was. It was because the combat got tiring.
There is way, way too much combat in this game.
Just like Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog still hasn't learned that it's not enough to just call out the fact that you're killing an insane amount of dudes in a game; you have to actually do something about it. This game would've been way better if they'd kept the number of combat sequences in check because there's a lot of unnecessary fights that are literally just there because you haven't killed anybody in 15 minutes so here's 50 dudes to murder (the best example is the power plant).
So instead of making you fight hordes of dudes like literally every other third-person shooter on the market, they should've tried to limit it so that even three or four enemies feels really dangerous. Sure enough, in the early parts of the game, three or four enemies is really dangerous, but that's because you only had like, a revolver with three bullets, a 9mm with five bullets, one medkit, and a brick. The problem is that then they too easily give in to the temptation of giving you more, more, more in terms of weapons and supplies. Like, a flamethrower? Seriously? Come on. It would've been way cooler if you only had like three or four kind of crappy guns to choose from throughout the whole game, or even if they had the same number of guns as they do currently but you can't fit them all in your backpack. Seriously, is Joel like Merlin or something?
And don't get me started on all the one-hit kill enemies or the maddening inconsistency of how sensitive enemies are to noise.
So for me, it wasn't really the aspect that it was a very bleak game that made my one-sitting playthrough so draining; it's that Naughty Dog is king at designing combat that's always so close to being perfect but still have no clue what "less is more" really means.
That said, I actually really loved the bleak, no compromise nature of the story. The ending is really polarizing and I fall squarely on the "I didn't like it" side of things, but pretty much everything leading up to that is incredible from a story standpoint. That intro? Oh my god. That intro. Not since Up has a prologue been that affecting. Excellent characterization, genuinely great writing, fantastic atmosphere. Such an awesome game. I'd love to see a PS4-enhanced Game of the Year port or something.
But yeah. Play it in chunks. My second playthrough is definitely going to be in shorter chunks.