Published on June 5th, 2013 | by Mitch Concannon1
Breathless Apocalyptic Performance |The Last Of Us Review
Summary: Changing it up and showing that they are not just able to tell a great story, Naughty Dog have built upon their successes, creating their greatest masterpiece yet.
Have you heard of The Last of Us? I’d say you have by now. It’s been a game on everybody’s radar since Naughty Dog first announced it back in 2011 with an unnoticed tease in a newspaper in one of the first levels in Uncharted 3: Drake Deception. The game has taken people by surprise. Not because of it being a survival post-apocalyptic type game, but mainly because it is something interesting and new to come out of the studio that has brought such blockbuster titles, such as Uncharted, Jak & Daxter and Crash Bandicoot. It just seems like they’re stepping out of there comfort zone, which is no harm and great to see developers showing off more skills that they have to offer. Naughty Dog has hit some home runs in its years creating Sony exclusives and The Last Of Us builds on that, and further increases my excitement for not just future projects, but the potential the studio will have with next gen hardware.
The Last Of Us follows main protagonists Joel and Ellie. Joel takes on a job which sees him being a bodyguard to Ellie and doing whatever he can to get her outside the walls of Boston and bring her further afield. Joel is a mercenary for hire and although we never see any of the jobs he has done in the past, you get the sense that he isn’t proud of what he has done. The only thing Joel mentions is that he has done what he has done to survive this long in a crazy world.
The game takes place 20 years since the outbreak of a virus known as cordyceps-type fungus, which has taken over people’s lives and made them insane, eventually turning them into zombie like creatures known as Clickers. Clickers cannot see, but use a type of sonar similar to bats. You will want to be patient around them and move ever so slowly to avoid confrontation. Runners are another mutated enemy that will eventually turn into Clickers that are easy to deal with, but if a few of them gang up on you there is very likely a chance that you won’t come out smiling.
Naughty Dog should be credited highly for what they have done with The Last Of Us. They have created a world that evokes emotion and turmoil, but never stops you from caring for Joel and Ellie’s safety and well being, and also the other characters the game introduces you are well thought out and memorable. It is an experience that you will want to return to again and again.
There are going to be many ways that you will tackle The Last Of Us which, like Uncharted, is a third person action game, but has a great depth and feel of survival. You will find yourself sneaking past areas, and then killing everyone in another so you can farm for much needed supplies, or sometimes unloading a clip in a last ditch effort to take out a wave of enemies. I found all the above to be tactical and not just put into the game for hopes that people will use them. Every encounter can be tackled a different way. You will try your best to take out everyone without using any ammo since it is scarce, but there will be times you may mess up and have to take matters into your own hands. Since The Last Of Us doesn’t punish you like in some other games that want you to be all stealthy. You feel rewarded by the fact “Ok that didn’t go as I planned, but I got through it and now I feel like a badass.”
Unlike Uncharted, the game does have a great deal of exploration to it. Not an open world game by any means, but having the choice walk into rooms that avoid your goal and finding useful items for crafting and increasing your stats feels great and just what I was looking for. There will be puzzles, and times where you won’t be able to pass an area without Ellie’s help to do so, and during those times you see a growth in character development.
The only faults I had in the game where at times Ellie would be in my way while trying to go up and melee kill an enemy. This didn’t happen too often, mainly only in tight spaces. Also, I was kinda let down a little by the fact that enemies would walk over their comrades’ bodies and didn’t evoke a reaction. The fact that my companions would take it upon themselves to run out in front of an enemy and that enemy wouldn’t even flinch, I understand that it would ruin my stealth approach if they did, but it just takes you out of the realism The Last of US gets so right throughout your experience with it.
Being a Sony exclusive, and also being the developer of one of the best looking franchises we have seen, The Last Of Us spares no expense on looking breathtakingly gorgeous. Whether it be a cutscene that never seems to need any loading time, or ingame graphics. You will be hard struck to find any part that looks horrible. The environments and the habitats that the game throws at you look stunning. The facial animations are some of the best the console has ever seen.
The expressions on characters faces will have you in awe and at times, have you tearing up. The performances the voice actors put into this game has been nothing short of outstanding. Which is no wonder, seeing as Joel is played by Troy Baker, who also played Booker DeWitt in the recent BioShock Infinite game where he did an outstanding performance.
I’m happy to report that I experienced no frame rate drop or screen tearing during my 14 hour playthrough of the game. An extra coat of polish has been put on this game and it shows in every area. Even when the next gen consoles release I’m sure people will be comparing this with some game of the next gen and finding it very difficult to tell the difference.
Without going into spoilers for the opener, The Last of Us has you covered in getting to grips on how to play it. Every time you come across something new, you will have a tutorial description or an icon button press above it to interact with. The game is well paced and gives you the right amount of time to let you come to grips with it before it throws you into the deep waters.
You will come across some notes and diary entries through your travels and I suggest reading them. Some will give you access to safe number locks and others will tell a short story of what happened to the people that had been there before you. Some of these actually will evoke an emotional reaction with you and hope that you might encounter those who had been there to see if they made it through.
There will be times where you get stuck. If you are in a mood to rush through, then I suggest you play something else. The Last Of Us is going to be something you’re going to want to dedicate an hour or so to, and not just a 15 minute burst.
As I write my review, I’m listening to the soundtrack that the Limited Edition includes on USB. Not only does it remind me of some of my favorite and intense moments during the game, it also makes me understand why I enjoy the work that Naughty Dog does. They leave nothing to chance with any aspect of their game. Everything is created fresh and nothing is copied. A lot of people will compare some aspect of The last Of Us, but the statement will be made that The Last Of Us does it all right and better than everyone else has done.
The game wants you to react, and this will be influenced by character expression and how the music gradually changes and never takes you out of the moment. I’ve played games this generation that have kept this up for sometime, but always run into roadblocks and let the reins fall. Not here, never here.
The Last Of Us multiplayer is not up as of this writing, so this review is going off the single player portion only.
A lot of games have came out in the past year that have hyped me up and have let me down. The Last Of Us got me excited from the get go, but didn’t do it by ramming gameplay trailers down my throat or showing off its CGI cutscenes. It looked interesting, the story grabbed me and the timing was right. I like games that make me feel and wonder what will happen if I don’t do this right. I know I have no control over how a scene plays out, but I felt the same depth of emotion as I did playing Heavy Rain.