The Last Of Us Review
Cart: The Last of Us
Coin: Naughty Dog
Naughty Dog’s latest has been described as a masterpiece, a landmark in gaming and the best game of this console generation. High praise indeed, even from critics that pass around such rewards every other month to the latest blockbuster, yet the good news is that they are right, this time.
The Last of Us is a masterpiece, is a modern classic and is one of the best games of this generation, even if it is far from perfect.
A running theme on VoxelArcade recently has been a debate over the place of storytelling in games, but The Last of Us brings together the two sides of the argument perfectly, and proves that you can build a game around a compelling, worthy story with rich characters without upsetting the crucial mix of gameplay and suspension of disbelief.
The tale of the two protagonists, the gruff smuggler Joel and Ellie, the young girl he has to protect on an epic journey across a post apocalyptic America, is warm, engaging and uplifting, even if it starts off in a typical ‘post apocalyptic videogame’ style with a prologue which, while packed with emotion, has been done many times before. I really wish Naughty Dog had revealed Joel’s motivations in another way, as we are left in no doubt as to why he is the way he is by the time we catch up with him, 20 years after the event, a zombie apocalypse with mutated cordyceps fungi turning people into ravenous beasts.
Humans pose just as much a threat as the infected
A slower reveal of the character’s heart and soul would have been far better, but the game just gets stronger and stronger from there on in, and gets into its stride when the journey with Ellie begins in earnest, and soon becomes utterly enthralling in a way the BioShock Infinite only wished it could be, with the conversations between the two mixing starkly with the gruesome and savage combat to nail a real feeling of humanity that so many games fail to find.
Essentially a third person, cover based shooter with an emphasis on ammo management, item crafting and excellent, brutal close up combat that requires real decision-making and weapon selection on the fly to prevail, The Last of Us does feel like a toned down, realistic take on Uncharted. Most of the encounters can be approached in several ways, either head on, all guns blazing, using stealth to pick foes off one by one, or a mix of the two. It is also possible to sneak by many enemies altogether, or to simply dash through them, hoping for the best.
It all creates a feeling that you are always on the very edge of survival, with never enough ammo or items to feel comfortable. The fact that you have to rummage in your backpack, in real-time, to swap weapons, and manually heal just increases the tension, much like ZombiU, and the need to gather items for crafting health, weapon upgrades and shivs for dispatching certain enemies just adds to the sense of tension and harassment prevalent in the game. The fact that several regular enemies will kill you instantly if they get their hands on you adds to the constant feeling of threat. Just listen for the clicks…
You play as Joel for the majority of the game, with Ellie handled by some decent AI, although there a couple of annoyances with her, and other AI companions blocking thin corridors and doorways in certain circumstances. This particularly become an issue if you run into a thin dead-end, as they tend to jump back a couple of feet, waiting for you to push them out of the way again, when they should simply step out of the way. In a couple of situations with two AI companions, I was killed as the two of them kept crouching at the same doorway, blocking my escape.
Some parts of the world are jaw-dropping
The graphics are stunning, and are undoubtably the pinnacle of this generation, with the ruined towns and cites hauntingly beautiful and a simply stunning level of detail and expression on Joel and Ellie’s characters that makes you totally forget, for the first time, that these are polygon models, and instead look at them as living, breathing actors in a movie.
The soundtrack is extremely well done, and never gets in the way of the action, with some outstanding work by the development team. There is a multiplayer suite called Factions, with an interesting meta game running over the course of 12 weeks, with each match lasting one day of game time, and the way you end up focusing just as much on supply gathering as combat really provides an offering that doesn’t actually feel like a multiplayer section. While there are only really other reviewers on there at the moment, I still found myself dipping into the modes a lot, and Naughty Dog does deserve credit for putting real effort into providing something a little bit new.
While The Last of Us isn’t perfect, I think that actually suits the game well, as the world the game takes place in is anything but perfect, and yet is vivid and full of differing shades of light and dark, shades that you will be happy to be lost in for hours. While this game is full of monsters and terror, it is the most human game I have ever played.
Savor every moment of your first play through, don’t obsess over finding every item, but drink in this world and the people in it. Remember, you will only get to play this for the first time once, don’t mess it up.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.