The Last of Us Review

It’s Naughty Dog’s new PS3 exclusive, a game we’ve all been dying to get our hands on. No more slobbering on yourself, losing precious sleep or beating Uncharted five times. The Last of Us is here. Does it deliver?

The Last of Us was released June 14, 2013. It’s a brand new game from Naughty Dog, the creators of the acclaimed Uncharted series. The story follows characters Joel and Ellie in the setting of a post-apocalyptic United States. Joel is a typical American man’s man who at one point, had a family of his own and a daughter he loved more than anything else. Ellie is only 14, so the post-apocalyptic world is all she knows. You are thrust into this ruined and crumbled America 20 years after a fungal outbreak occurred, eliminating a majority of the population. In this new atmosphere, it’s everyone for themselves and you’ll soon find out that you can’t trust anyone. It’s a very dark world, particularly emotionally. You’re fighting for your life around every corner, attempting to hold onto whatever hope is left in the traumatized and hopeless land. Joel is hard-nosed, bitter, relentless and sometimes downright viscous. After the story gets going and you and Ellie are united, the two form a special bond that helps them stay alive. In this journey across a dangerous and unforgivable America, Joel and Ellie are in search of a group called the fireflies, rebels who are fighting against officials and police. Militant forces have closed off many areas of each city you explore, known as quarantine zones. You’ll encounter many unique characters throughout the journey and explore beautiful, well-realized areas based on their real life counterparts. It’s quite an experience, so let’s get into it.

The writing in The Last of Us is some of the best in gaming, ever. Dialogue is surprisingly human and . Little things such as when Ellie is aggravated at Joel or vice-versa, they mumble things under their breath or show sarcasm. You’ll run into and meet several different characters who all have their own personality traits, skills and ways of doing things. No one person feels the same throughout this game. The voice acting is worth an honorable mention. It’s done extremely well and it only adds to each character, not only Joel and Ellie, but other supporting cast members such as Tommy, Bill and Marlene. It’s a sight to behold, the relationship between Joel and Ellie. It’s arguably the most impressive duo in all of gaming, as far as emotional depth and teamwork. It’s simply awe-inspiring to tread through this well-told story, watching these two characters bond and sometimes tear each other apart. It’s a love/hate kind of dynamic because it’s darn difficult to trust or coexist with another person with the state of decay the world is in. Somehow the two’s strengths make up for each other’s faults. The teamwork displayed is something familiar in gaming but it’s fresh as well because of the relationship Joel and Ellie share. It’s all very human and effective. The emphasis put on storytelling and the script really makes the game special. It has a very movie-like feel, as it boasts an abundance of cut-scenes and big moments. The story, overall is an incredible achievement and in my opinion, revolutionizes video game storytelling. Mark my words, many games in the future, particularly single-player campaign-oriented ones, will try to mimic the creativity The Last of Us so elegantly delivers. The writing, directing, narrative, storytelling and characters drives The Last of Us and puts it comfortably above most other games today.

This game is beautiful. It’s about on the same level as Uncharted 3, but it’s more impressive because the environments are larger and on a grander scale. Despite being a “dark” game, it packs a colorful punch. Trees and grass are a lush summer green. Water is a crystal clear blue. The snow in the winter portion of the game is white as…well, you know, snow. Environments are packed to the brim with colors your mind probably can’t even imagine. It’s a similar art style to the Uncharted series. The game is separated into different sections, such as Summer, Spring, Winter and Fall. Each season is unique and fresh, whether it’s color changes, art direction, the clothes each character wears or how they react to weather conditions. Personally, I never wanted Winter to be over, it was such a cool part of the game because there are mountains , streams, lakes and dams. It was easily the most environmentally diverse. It was also the first part of the game where you could ride horses in the fictional Wyoming. That’s just awesome. It’s pretty amazing to me how much emphasis Naughty Dog  put on attention to detail. Things such as old magazines and comic books, medicine bottles, drink/food items, crumbling stairs, crippled buildings, wounds or scars on characters, destroyed vehicles and unlivable houses. I have never , I repeat, never seen such a brilliant display of art direction in a game like this before. The world is shockingly realistic, as if you’re really there, fighting for your life in a fallen world. Whether it’s a disintegrating hospital or a barren lake, it’s a beautiful, albeit woeful sight.

Gameplay in The Last of Us is wonderful overall, but it’s the one area I have complaints in. As for the good things, you have rock solid controls. Aiming and shooting are sometimes difficult, but very rewarding. At first, it’s fairly hard because your guns are bare bones. As the game progresses, you get to upgrade them to reload faster and have better firepower. You’ll also continually discover new guns such as the bow and arrow and AK-47. Taking out your enemies is big fun. You can use stealth with the bow or sniper rifle or go balls to the wall with a machine gun or shotgun. Each has its pros and cons of course, but any way you choose is entertaining and satisfying. Don’t worry, because you’ll find yourself doing a little bit of everything. Walking is self-explanatory. As for running, you’ll get tired after only a few seconds and it can become a hairy situation if you find yourself being chased by clickers or other enemies. Throughout the game you must exercise patience, because often times simply running and gunning will get you killed. These enemies are no joke. If a clicker catches you, it’s over. Expect to die several times, no matter what method you choose. It’s better to be patient anyways because if you aren’t, you’ll miss out on all of the subtle things The Last of Us has to offer. Joel and Ellie can’t really jump either, but it makes no difference because the game is pretty clear on where you are supposed to go. One of my complaints is that the game can be linear quite often. It’s always easy to guess what you’re supposed to do next. Swimming is here, but it’s not very fun. Swimming has never been fun for me in games though. I hated it in the old SNES Mario titles, didn’t you? Thankfully, it’s only there in necessity, such as to fetch an item or grab a raft. A.I. in video games is something developers have always struggled to get right. Many games do a decent job, but few do a great job. In The Last of Us, your enemies are pretty intelligent, but sometimes, they can be dumber than a blonde who collects boxes of rocks as a hobby. Clickers only go by what they hear, so if you’re moving too fast, they will run towards you and usually kill you in one bite. You must be sneaky and silent. Runners are similar but they can see as well as hear. There are also human enemies such as militant members, who are tough in their own right, being the most aware. With each enemy, the same flaw exists. It’s that whenever you’re in stealth mode, sneaking around, Ellie will just stay out in the open while an enemy walks by without a flinch or realization. It’s dumb on Ellie’s part as well obviously. This takes away from the realism, but overall it doesn’t damage the end product, at least not for me. It’s still a slight annoyance though. Similarly , when you throw a brick or bottle to distract a foe, some will stand by staring at the thrown item while others will ignore it and come to where you are causing you to restart the last section. I must give credit to the enemies AI in the respect of skills and accuracy. The human enemies are very accurate so you’ll need cover rather often. Back to the complaints we go. I thought scrounging for scraps, nut and bolts, alcohol and other items was annoying. Yes, they are necessary for upgrading and crafting but I found it a tad frustrating having to tap the triangle button around every corner. Other flaws in the game are just as minor as this so when it all comes down to it, The Last of Us is very close to being flawless. It’s linearity is something that irks me, but with the story progression and pacing, it’s something Naughty Dog did, most likely consciously. They thought it was the best way to go. Yes, there are a few downfalls in the game play, but the bottom line is that it’s mostly excellent.

I have spent some time with the multiplayer but cannot accurately evaluate it as a whole. However, I’ll say that the time I had was very entertaining and fun. There’s a lot of customization and social integration. There’s no lack of available sessions or players, that’s for sure. Everyone and their brother are playing The Last of Us multiplayer. It’s very engaging and the teamwork aspect of it is simply exciting. You’ll encounter players that are superior to you, as always, so frustrating moments will arise, but that’s just a part of the multiplayer dynamic. You can play each session as different styles, such as stealth or assault, each coming with a different selection of weapons. There’s much fun to be had with The Last of Us’ multiplayer.

There you have it ladies and gents. The Last of Us is one of those games that breaks new ground in gaming, such as titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GTA IV, or even Naughty Dog’s own, Uncharted 2. I don’t like spending $60.00 on games in today’s sagging economy, but I feel like I got a steal with this one and that my friends is rare. It’s a good 15 hours in length and offers one of the most riveting stories in gaming. The emotional depth is staggering. The gameplay offers tons of fun. The visuals are breathtaking. The characters are interesting and relatable. The voice acting is fantastic. If you haven’t played this game then you must either be living under a rock or you simply read Gamespot’s review and no one else’s. The Last of Us is a groundbreaking, incredible and wildly ambitious game that rivals some of the greatest of all time.

5 out of 5

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