The hype machine was turning for almost three years and what usually happens when the hype machine turns? You get disappointed. Back at the end of 2011 Naughty Dog released the gem that was the third Uncharted game and announced at that year’s VGAs that they would be doing a new IP, that IP was called the Last of Us. It looked dreamy at first and each piece of info we got was dreamy and charming and it made you yearn for the game so badly. A 2012 window was the date but it never came. Vapor ware some shouted but after being delayed roughly three times The Last of Us hit store shelves last month. Rave reviews littered it’s internet presence and the lofty title of Game of the Year was thrown around citing it as a two game race with BioShock Infinite being the other title. But the ultimate question here is how does the hype handle the game? Does The Last of Us live up to all the hype it got over the two plus years of it’s public development? Or does the zombie craze sort of kill the entire game?
To say that The Last of Us is anything but a masterpiece would be selling the entire game short. What the Last of Us is, is an interactive journey into an apocalypse that gazes into the souls of the very people that would be involved. What Naughty Dog does here is they distance themselves from the colorful and semi cartoonish worlds they create such as Jak and Daxter or Crash Bandicoot and go for a real dark and gritty world. I thoroughly enjoyed very last second of the Last of Us from the opening to the closing credits. It was one of the most flawless pieces of video gaming I have ever touched but let’s stop giving it it’s glorious praise and actually elaborate shall we?
Borrowing a synopsis from Wikipedia feels like the best way to both save time and my sanity seeing as that I have spread the duration of the game over almost three weeks of my life seeing as the girlfriend can’t handle the intentness that was the Last of Us.
“The game begins by introducing Joel, a single father living in Texas with his daughter Sarah. On the night of his birthday, a sudden outbreak of a mutant cordyceps infection ravages the United States, which changes its human hosts into rabid, monstrous killers. As Joel, his brother Tommy, and Sarah flee the initial chaos, Sarah is shot by a soldier and dies in Joel’s arms. In the twenty years that follow, much of civilization is destroyed by the infection, with pockets of survivors living in either heavily-policed quarantine zones, independent settlements, or nomadic groups.
Joel now lives in a quarantine zone in Boston, working as a smuggler alongside his friend Tess. Joel and Tess hunt down Robert, a local gangster, to recover a cache of weapons stolen from them. Before they kill him, Robert reveals that he traded the goods to the Fireflies, a rebel group fighting against the authorities governing the quarantine zones. Joel and Tess encounter the Fireflies’ leader, Marlene, who promises them double their stolen cache in return for smuggling a teenage girl, Ellie, to Fireflies hiding outside quarantine. Joel, Tess, and Ellie sneak out in the night, but after an encounter with a patrol Ellie is revealed to be infected. Ellie states that her infection is three weeks old (when a full infection takes less than two days). The trio fight their way out of the quarantine zone to the drop-off point, but find that the Fireflies there have been killed. Tess reveals she was bitten during an encounter with the infected, and chooses to sacrifice herself against approaching military soldiers to give the pair a chance to escape, believing in Ellie’s importance as a cure.
Joel and Ellie trek westwards across the country, meeting temporary allies along the way as they struggle through abandoned cities and towns teeming with infected and violent bandits. In the fall, the two finally find Tommy (a former Fireflies member) in Wyoming, where he has assembled a fortified settlement near a hydroelectric dam. Joel contemplates leaving Ellie with Tommy, but after repelling bandits and being confronted by Ellie about Sarah, he ultimately decides to stay with her. Tommy directs them to a Fireflies enclave at the University of Eastern Colorado. The two find the place abandoned, but learn that the Fireflies had moved to a hospital in Salt Lake City. They are attacked by bandits as they leave, who wound Joel severely during the escape.
In the winter, Ellie and Joel take shelter in the mountains. Joel is on the brink of death and relies on Ellie to care for him. After killing a large stag while hunting, Ellie encounters David and James, a pair of scavengers willing to trade medicine in exchange for the meat. While James goes to recover the medicine, Ellie and David are attacked by a horde of Infected, but manage to fend them off. Afterwards, David reveals that the bandits Ellie and Joel killed at the university were part of his group; he allows Ellie to leave with the medicine. David sends a posse to track Ellie the following morning, forcing her to lead them away from Joel and be captured. Ellie learns that David and his men are cannibals and escapes after refusing to join them, but David eventually corners her in a burning restaurant. Meanwhile, Joel recovers from his fever and sets out to find Ellie, fighting through David’s gang to the restaurant. He reaches Ellie as she violently kills David in self-defense; Joel consoles her before they flee together.
In the spring, Joel and Ellie arrive in Salt Lake City. They make their way through the flooded highway tunnels but are caught in the rapids, with Joel barely rescuing Ellie from drowning. A patrol of Fireflies capture them. Joel awakens in the hospital and is greeted by Marlene. She informs him that Ellie is being prepped for surgery: to produce a vaccine for the infection, the Fireflies have to remove and examine Ellie’s infected brain, killing her in the process. Joel escapes and battles his way to the surgery room, from where he carries an unconscious Ellie to the basement parking garage. There he confronts and kills Marlene to prevent the Fireflies from pursuing them. On the drive out of the city, Ellie finally awakens, and Joel lies to her about the events, telling her that the Fireflies had tried and failed to produce a cure with other immune candidates and had given up trying. The pair arrive on the outskirts of Tommy’s settlement. Ellie expresses her survivor’s guilt and asks Joel to swear that his story about the Fireflies is true; he does.”
So as you can see the game doesn’t function on an intense plot but on the character development throughout. This is where the character writing comes in. Joel is bitter and just wants to survive and get his job done so he can go on. But do you blame him? He’s just a regular everyday man thrown into an even more insane situation. His feelings towards Ellie are that of hate and disdain but as we reach further in we see him eventually look to her as a daughter, as we arrive at the very end. Ellie grows as well. She acts like the young kid she is, she’s only 14 at the start of the game. Her language shows her youth, the fucks that she says when Joel does anything at all. There were several intense scenes that displayed. The writing is near flawless even with their foul language it is almost all very well timed and placed in every way. Every event was perfectly placed, including the part where David assaults and appears to prepare to rape Ellie, but Joel runs in and saves it. It’s these moments that create the emotional bond between the two.
One thing that the Last of Us does that Naughty Dog hasn’t really done is create a far more gritty environment and it shows. The textures are gorgeous except for a few hiccups here and there, but on the plus side almost everything is amazing. For a title near the end of a console life The Last of Us shows the sexy features the PS3 is capable of. From the intense details on Joel’s wrinkled face to the freckles on Ellie everything shows the insane amount of care that was placed in the game. The locations are amazing too. A lot of games focus on one or the other but Naughty Dog focuses on both, as usual and hits a home run.
Enemies, while redundant from several different sprites still look neat. Clickers have the creepy vibe to them while bloaters all look the same and are in stay away mode with them. The abandoned cars don’t vary too much and the fact that you don’t get to wander around 100% in the abandoned cities of Pittsburgh and Boston sort of add hindrances to an almost amazing looking game.
The voice acting was just as good as the visuals. Factor in solid voice acting from unknown voice actors and they display their emotions rather well. Even if Ellie sounds and even looks like a young Ellen Page it’s quite impressive when you think that these people aren’t as good as real actors. But it is through these people that we get to know the characters and even fall in love with them, and their performances were quite compelling to me at least.
The soundtrack also added that sense of urgency as did all the sound effects which left me walking rather carefully through the maps in a very terrified manner. This was a quite wonderful experience even if it did give me nightmares at night that ended up causing me to lose lots of sleep and almost shit bricks into the bed.
The way you play the Last of Us is how most survival games should work. The problems with the most recent iterations of Resident Evil present you with too much ammunition and weapons scattered throughout. In the Last of Us it’s more about scavenging to survive and avoiding confrontation. Sure there is plenty of ammo and supplies to get you through the game if you mix your play style from stealth and occasional gun fights like I did or you could try to go guns a blazing. That’s the genius here, you have choices but it weighs upon you cause of the lack of supplies.
As for the actual game play the controls are tight. All the buttons respond relatively well. The awkward moments are when the usual button mapping isn’t the same as most games in the genre, for instance to reload you have to tap R1 while not aiming and you reload and when you go to run sometimes you don’t run you jog but then at other moments you are blazing through hordes of zombies. These minor details once again don’t detract from the game, it’s just minor things that maybe as a gamer we don’t really think about at all.
I enjoyed the crafting portion of the game, you craft your own health kits and shivs as well as bombs. This works from my point of view at least cause there were so many supplies. I rarely ran out of the tools to make shivs or health kits but maybe that was the point. On top of that you also get tool kits to upgrade your weapons and to fully upgrade all of them you would need to do new game plus maybe one or two times but it’s worth it seeing as the journey is fun and exciting. Also encouraging you to play again is the upgrades to Joel via the pill system. You collect pills to get upgrades for Joel like health and what not, but there isn’t a large amount of them so you can’t level everything up so multiple playthroughs are required for completists nonetheless. I would like to add about the trophies that you only unlock 2 if you play the game on normal the first time so once more to get more trophies you have to actually do multiple playthroughs, once again encouraging them.
The Last of Us does more than just live up to the hype that it created through the two year wait. It is one of the better games that I have ever had to play jumping through the roof and climbing up there with the greats from Nintendo and Sony. The gorgeous graphics coupled with incredible sound and character development make the Last of Us a must have for all owners of Sony’s third generation of consoles. I highly doubt any game will legit give Naughty Dog a run for Game of the Year at this point. The Last of Us is the game of this console generation and possibly one of the best of all time, 100 out of 100 or 10/10 or A+++