The Last of Us Review (PS3)

 

The Last of Us cover
 

Few games in this generation can evoke the range of emotions that The Last of Us does and provide such an engaging experience that’ll keep you coming back. From heart wrenching moments, to frantic encounters, you’ll find yourself lost in the world developer Naughty Dog has dropped you into, struggling to survive. The Last of Us not only proves itself in its realistic gameplay, but together with its powerful storytelling, paints a larger picture that only the strongest survive in this world.

 

dynamic duo

 

Story

The main story has a general focus on the relationship and journey endured between our two main protagonists, Joel and Ellie. Within minutes of the game’s opening, you’ll find yourself feeling a bit more invested with the characters than you may have been with any other game. I have never broke into tears in any game before, but with The Last Of Us I found myself getting misty-eyed at least three separate times. What makes these characters special is more than just their past, but the growth and emotions that come with their character progression. Joel is a man torn by his past, broken by the tolls taken for survival; while Ellie is a vocal, mysterious teenager hiding more than just her emotions. Although verging towards a classic story cliche, Joel is tasked with helping Ellie cross the country while the world has been destroyed due to the spread of an infection. As I said before, it’s not the task at hand that is at the core of this story, rather it’s the hardships Joel and Ellie bear on the road to their destination. Not once through my play-through did I ever feel torn out of the immersion I was sucked into from the start. Every single moment felt as realistic as it could be in a world torn apart by the basic instincts of mankind. From the struggles faced encountering other survivors, to dangerous measures taken to escape the grasp of an infected individual, The Last of Us did a fantastic job of keeping the world grounded.

 

Moving along, you’ll come across many different key characters, all of which deliver outstanding performances. It’s expected to see this from Joel and Ellie and their interactions with each other, but The Last of Us really seems to deliver some of the best moments with the interactions from characters like Tess and Sam. At some point these performances were so powerful that I had to put down my controller and really think about what had just happened. Yeah, it was that good. Although we’re never really given much detail in the history of these characters, you’ll quickly find yourself absorbed into their fiction and what they’re fighting for. However, some of my favorite story elements implemented are the use of ambient narrative. What I mean by this is the use of letters, voice recorders, and other collectibles to paint a picture of what happened during the days the infection spread. The use of ambient narrative helps burrow you into the fiction and helps you grasp a better sense of the kind of struggles people other than Joel and Ellie have endured. You’ll feel sad, angry, or even chuckle a little when coming across these pieces of interest. These range from stories of families torn apart, diaries, logs, or even a chart categorizing the stages of infection. These subtle cues make The Last of Us stand out even more so than other games out there today.

 

clicker

 

This isn’t your basic adventure tale, however. You’ll be faced with some tough decisions and some of the most intense moments that’ll really make you question you’re judgment at times. This is a story of survival, and at the end of the day, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that it’s either you, or them. This tone is circled around many times over with Joel and Ellie. Whether it be Joel giving little hints at his past about what he had to do to keep on living, or the desperate actions Ellie takes to keep on moving forward to their goal, it might not sit well why you kill fellow survivors, but it’s made clear that you must do what is necessary to survive.

Gameplay

shotgun ellie anticipationStory aside, this is a game at its core, and it is successful at conveying the struggles of surviving through its gameplay. Like mentioned before, you’ll never really feel like there’s a reason to be broken out of the submersion The Last of Us plunges you into, and it’s prevalent through your play-through in many more ways than your basic run and gun adventure. The Last of Us combines systems that are common in a lot of different games these days as it attempts to capture the dangers of the world. You’ll find yourself trying to go through levels as stealthily and quietly as possible trying to avoid infected, actually portraying survival horror better than most other survival horror games these days. Other times, you’ll feel as if you have no other choice but to run though guns blazing, becoming the predator other survivors need to fear if they attempt to steal from you. Breaking down the game, however, you will have to play this game smartly, keeping in mind that you won’t always have the ammo or supplies necessary to progress through each level as a force to be reckoned with. The Last of Us breaks away from standard game logic, bringing the realism even further when it comes to finding supplies in believable locations. I constantly found myself searching through houses, opening every drawer and cupboard expecting to find something only to be left disappointed. Ammo and supplies are not a commodity, be forewarned. The most unrealistic part of survival is the amount of broken scissors I kept finding (Honestly, why are there so many broken scissors?).

molotov ready

Supplies play an integral part of the crafting system The Last of Us implements. Crafting gives you the choice of creating stronger weapons, molotov cocktails, smoke bombs, nail bombs, shivs, or even first aid kits. What really makes this system feel balanced is the fact that a lot of these supplies actually supplement each other. For instance, the items needed for a molotov cocktail also are the same supplies for a first aid kit. This system makes you think about what is needed for each situation you encounter.

 

Overall, the combat is more involved and streamlined than I ever imagined. Shooting works just as well as you might expect, with little indicators flashing on the reticle telling you just what kind of hit you landed. Melee combat is by far the best representation of fight for survival. Players have the chance to grab enemies when they’re down or unsuspecting to use them as a shield or just take them out. Weapons like 2x4s and pipes tend to be a bit more brutal than any other weapon you may come across. Zooming in on your joel_plankfight with the enemy showcases barbarous executions. You’ll even find the option to improve Joel’s skills to craft or apply medicine faster among other skill-sets. Lastly, you have the stealth aspect of the game which, more often than not, is a better idea than one might think. Ironically, this is the only part of the game that took me out of the experience, but it wasn’t enough to break the game in any way. Sneaking and seeking cover is essential, especially around infected, and it further pushes you to find bottles and bricks which can be thrown to steer your enemies away. Even the listening mode, which quiets down everything in the room and allows Joel to detect where enemies may be, is integral to the entire stealth ambiance. However, you may find your AI counterparts running louder than necessary, or even running into enemies. It doesn’t affect your status with enemies overall, but it does tear away from the realism from time to time. That being said, Naughty Dog did a fantastic job of making such a strong control system that you’ll never really find yourself fumbling over menus to break away from your experience.

 

stages-of-infection

 

Presentation

After previous games like Uncharted 2 or 3, Naughty Dog provides, yet again, a gorgeous, engaging world that is easily brushed off through the vast majority of the campaign. The environments are easy to pass up, but the time taken to explore these landscapes is not time wasted. Naughty Dog has put a lot of detail into the game that unfortunately is often overlooked in the heat of the moment, moving from shelter to shelter. From the abandoned and overgrown streets of Pittsburgh, to the flooded and murky sewers, The Last of Us impressed in atmosphere. But how this atmosphere reacts to characters is what makes it special. The way cover and vantage is cleverly hidden as a broken down car, fallen roof, or boarded up window makes the experience more engaging. As mentioned, the voice acting is top-notch only adding to the cinematic experience.

 

Joel_bridge

 

Multiplayer

Like most games of this generation, The Last of Us features a multiplayer aspect, called “Factions”, that translates the core elements of the main game into a 4 on 4 skirmish. Although there are only two online modes, there is an interesting back story that comes along. You play as the leader of a clan of Fireflies or Hunters, which are out there fighting each day to bring some food to your group. With each match comes more survivors that need food, and a need to make sure your clan survives for 12 weeks. The multiplyer as a whole turned out to be much more enjoyable than I had expected. The gameplay worked a lot like the single player experience already had in terms of combat, crafting, and stealth, but also offers some great balances to the fight. In each battle, you have a loadout with one or two weapons, and a set of skills of your choosing (up to 4) that all have to fill the requirements set by the loadout point limit. For instance, you have 10 loadout points: a gun takes 2; two more skills take 2 each; two more skills take 1; and another weapon takes 2. Moving into game modes, you have 2 to choose from: Survivors and Supply Raid. Of the two, I found Survivors to be much more of a true experience to the tone of the game. There are multiple rounds where each person has one life per round. The first team to win 4 rounds is the overall winner. What makes this special is the feeling that you have to play it calmly, stealthily, and precise. Supply Raid is the second of the two modes, which is your basic team deathmatch mode. Each team has a pool of 20 spawns and as the match progresses, the first team out of spawns loses. Factions is a great addition to an already amazing single player experience that is well treated and very fitting.

Final Word and Score

The Last of Us is a game that can arguably be considered one of the better games of this generation, but also has its shortcomings. The friendly AI brings about most of the issues I  experienced through the game. As a total package, Naughty Dog has outdone itself again with an emotionally capturing narrative as well as a grasping tension contained within a world of struggle and dismay. Although it may not be for everyone, my play-through with the game was one that was highly enjoyable and one that spoke to me on a level I’ve never experienced in any other game.

 

Story

10

Gameplay

10

Presentation

10

Lasting Appeal

9.8

Overall

10

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