Time and again I've seen people bemoan TLoU's gunplay, saying that it's everything from average, to poor, to downright terrible, and I can't for the life of me understand these opinions. I've come to view it as nothing but revolutionary and the most significant refinement of TPS genre mechanics seen in years.
The guns feel visceral, and there's a tangible feeling of weight and impact, sure. But these are simply ancillary components of one core change that distinguishes TLoU from every other TPS on the market so far that I've played: getting shot has ramifications that extend past the point of lifebars. When Joel is hit he gets knocked out of cover, onto his ass, and control is immediately stripped out of the players' hands. He's rendered uncontrollable as he recovers which leaves him vulnerable for a short period (I've counted up to 4-5 seconds on survivor, but the length seems to vary) to be attacked again. While this may seem trivial at first and is not really a concern on easier difficulties, on the hardest it's unforgiving. As such, this seemingly small alteration fundamentally changes the way a player has to approach engagements, and this is part of why I believe people dislike it so much. Players in TLoU are no longer bullet sponges, which is why I find complaints of enemies being the same highly amusing as people don't even acknowledge the fact that they themselves are.
But I digress....
It's because of this change that the firefights now enforce a cat and mouse game, almost a lethal dance in a sense. It's now just as important to not get hit as it is to hit, and heavily punishes poor defensive play as much as it rewards a good offense. Suppression fire is now a viable tactic if executed right with capable AI, and enemies utilizing it to aid in flanking would not be possible without it. Running across an open area for new cover is now a gamble that has to be given more consideration than simply a question of "how many pills/health paks/time for health regen do I have when I get there?". The days of rushing enemies head on or across lines of fire with the only detrimental impact of being shot is the screen turning an increasingly darker shade of red until death occurs is old news. Such mechanics are superficial, antiquated, and ultimately inferior. TLoU takes the penalty for getting shot and shoves it directly INTO the game and players' hands instead of cheaply and superficially overlaying it on top of the TV screen. This is why I find it to be revolutionary. I don't know if it's the first console TPS to do this, but I've tried and can't think of another one.
I'm so impressed at what Naughty Dog has accomplished here that I find myself holding a bit of resentment towards them because I can no longer go back and play my favorite TPSes and enjoy them nearly as much as I used to when I'm now aware that one whole side of the equation is absent. Any game that attempts to capture the intensity and exhiliration of firefights needs to account for equality on both sides in terms of the consequences of not only shooting, but also of being shot, as that's precisely what defines a firefight in the first place. TLoU has exemplified this perfectly. I shouldn't be able to unload into an enemy and have him not be able to shoot back while he's being hit, but be able to myself. It's not nearly as tense nor fun.
Never have I seen the exchange of gunfire modelled so well and made so enjoyable as it is in TLoU, and I'm becoming frustrated by people not being able to see what's been done here. I see nothing but brilliance marred by a tad of poor execution. The hilarious thing is, it's not even a dedicated shooter and I find it ludicrous that Naughty Dog has evolved TPS mechanics further in one game than many other developers dedicated to the genre have failed to accomplish since its inception. I'm hoping other studios take notice on what's been done and incorporate it into future titles. I realize many would heavily disagree, but now I want the Uncharteds, I want the Max Paynes, and I want the GeoWs to take the next step towards a more engrossing and tension filled TPS experience.