The Last of Us
Iâ€™m a huge admirer of Naughty Dog, the famed development team behind Crash Bandicoot and more recently the Uncharted series. Theyâ€™re a developer that just seems to know how to do everything. One second theyâ€™re creating a punishing platformer and the next theyâ€™re creating some of the best adventure games out there. Now they have […]
Iâ€™m a huge admirer of Naughty Dog, the famed development team behind Crash Bandicoot and more recently the Uncharted series. Theyâ€™re a developer that just seems to know how to do everything. One second theyâ€™re creating a punishing platformer and the next theyâ€™re creating some of the best adventure games out there. Now they have decided to take an even more unexpected turn and try to emulate that success with a different genre altogether, that being survival horror. Of course Iâ€™m talking about hugely anticipated title The Last of Us, a Sony exclusive title that is set in post-apocalyptic America. I guess the question is, can Naughty Dog prove once more that they are one of the best developers out there? Or is this a new low? Letâ€™s find out!
The Last of Us takes place in post-apocalyptic America, 20 years after a ferocious fungus known as Cordyceps infected mankind and turned most of the living into deformed, depraved drones. You are set in the boots of Joel a survivor from before the outbreak that is tasked with escorting a young girl born in a quarantine zone after the outbreak named Ellie across the United States in the hopes of finding the Fireflies, a rebel group that offer a hope for survival in a hopeless world.
The storyline in The Last of Us may sound simple but in actual fact itâ€™s far from it. Never before has a game grabbed a hold of me completely from the start and held me all the way to the end. Itâ€™s a testament to Neil Druckmannâ€™s excellent writing and the power of the human emotion. Emotion is what powers every single action on screen and thanks to the excellent characters and the subtlety in the way they are written, half the time you wonâ€™t even know that you are connecting to them. The Last of Us has hands down the most dark, cold and saddening opening to a videogame I have ever seen. Never has a videogame completely attached me to its characters so quickly and the best part is that it stays like that till the credits. Honestly its that good.
The characters of Joel and Ellie are so different and contrasting it becomes a marvel just to watch them interact with each other. Joel is a character that remembers and laments the time before the outbreak and is trying his best to survive the harsh world whereas Ellie has only known the world around her. She has never known anything different. Itâ€™s astonishing to see how they differ in opinions and react to the individual survivors they meet on their journey. One of the coolest things however is watching how Ellie reacts to relics of the past such as her first sighting of an Ice cream truck. Itâ€™s utterly charming and provides a fresh and new perspective on the world we live in today. In some ways it even a light social commentary on the foundations that we build our own lives upon and what we value to be valuable.Â The Last of Us is refreshing as its rare to see this much work go into character development and the most impressive part is the way it just so easily all gels together without problems or forsaking the story in order to get it right. The Last of Us is first hand proof that Oscar calibre writing can be created for a video game. The fact that The Last of Us is a 12 â€“ 17 hour game further exclaims how outrageously perfect the narrative is in building characters and making sure that you are along for every second of the ride. Lets just put it this way, if The Last of Us was a movie it would win best picture quite easily.
In short The Last of Us is the best looking game on the PlayStation 3. The overgrown and forgotten landscape of the desolate post-apocalyptic United States is a bleak sight that is offset by colourful and vibrant colours. Never has a game so dark and gloomy been so pretty. Every single area and environment in The Last of Us has something to behold whether that be the sight of a city in the distance or a flooded 5-star hotel. Every single aspect of the visual aesthetic is clean and polished to the point of perfection. I never once entered a level in The Last of Us where I felt that the talented team over at Naughty Dog could have done better. The lighting is the best I have ever seen in a videogame bar none and the character models are so realistic looking that you may even begin to believe theyâ€™re real. Face-captured animations and all animations for that matter are superb and every single action a character makes looks fluid and close to the actual thing.Â I mean you just canâ€™t fault the game in the graphics department. Every single aspect is brilliant from top to bottom. The stand out for me though was the designs of the various infected you will meet through the game, from the newly bitten or the terrifying drones known as the Clickers every single one looks terrifying and moves in an unpredictable, horrific way. Kudos to the team at Naughty Dog, you have made the best looking game this generation.
The sound design in The Last of Us is next to none. The voice acting here is unbelievable. Voice actor extraordinaire Troy Baker assumes the role of Joel with ease and instinct creating a character that is unprecedently conflicted while also at the same time finding the drive to whatâ€™s right. Everything about the deep, dreary voice that Troy puts on for Joel is encapsulating and for a while youâ€™ll forget that Joel is fictional because his portrayal is that real. The voice actress newcomer named Ashley Johnson takes the role of the young 14-year-old Ellie and she completely nails the role straight out of the gate. The amount of emotion and naivetÃ©s she brings to the character really cement Ellie as one of gamingâ€™s finest achievements, pure and kind hearted to the core, Ellie is a character that you will not soon forget about.
The soundtrack in The Last of Us is phenomenal too. The composerâ€™s mixture of slow pinging guitar strings and fast hyped up tempos really gives The Last of Us a strong feeling of melancholy and age while also allowing it to ramp up when the action begins to start. Itâ€™s a soundtrack really plays off the fact that everything we know and love has now aged and become insignificant to us and the amount of loneliness that comes with living a life in post pandemic America. The sound effects are spectacular too with every single hit you make in the game, whether that be a pipe wrench or your bare fists feeling realistic and brutal. Every single weapon you use has a loud thump to it that makes you feel that you are handling something seriously dangerous. Every single aspect to the sound effect design adds to the survival aesthetic, as everything sounds real and believable. Overall the sound design in The Last of Us is some of the best I have ever seen.
The Last of Us has a number of gameplay aspects including melee combat; shooter gameplay, stealth mechanics, crafting and even some light puzzle elements. First of all lets cover the melee combat and shooting mechanics.
To engage in melee combat in The Last of Us all you have to do is continuously press the square button and youâ€™ll eventually destroy your opponent whether that be infected or human. Now you may think to yourself that the melee combat sounds way too easy and simple to be any fun and it must get boring pretty quicklyâ€¦ well its actually quite the contrary. You see the brutality of every single hit you make mixed with the sound effects and the reaction of your attacks on the enemyâ€™s faces and bodies make the combat feel like a scramble for life every single time. The crack of a fist into an enemies face has never felt so good and a pipe to the head has never felt so visceral. The melee combat here is so simple yet so effective and I canâ€™t help but love every single fight I get into.
The shooter mechanics in The Last of Us are great too but not because the mechanics themselves are innovative because they are far from it. The main reason why the shooting in The Last of Us is so great is because the cause and effect that goes hand in hand in firing a weapon is so disgusting, bloody and realistic that every single shot fired looks like it was extremely painful. Iâ€™m not going to lie, the first time I shot an enemy at point blank range with a shotgun and saw his limbs fly off in grotesque fashion I actually felt kind of disgusted. Its so unbelievably convincing and cruel looking that the violence of it all can be hard to watch but like any other violent videogame you get used to it pretty quickly and forget about the horrendous nature of it all.
The Last of Us heavily involves stealth mechanics into its gameplay style but the beauty of the stealth here is that every situation feels organic rather than scripted. Usually in videogames you get sections that are primarily stealth and others that are primarily action but in The Last of Us these sections merge so instantaneously that every single thing that happens is a story of your own. The stealth itself works as normal as any other videogame, you can sneak around and take people out either silently or with a shiv and you can use bottles or bricks to lure your enemies to the dark for a takedown. Hell Joel even has a listening ability that allows him to hear enemies through walls! Itâ€™s a great system that works well but the true power of the stealth in The Last of Us is mainly shown in the sections that are filled with the infected. You see the different stages of infected have different types of awareness. The most terrifying of which are the Clickers as they are hugely erratic and can kill you in a single bite. The Clickers cannot see but have a heightened sense of hearing, which means that you have to be extremely sneaky and silent to get to them to take them out or to get past them completely. The stealth works really well here because itâ€™s beneficial to your survival and every single encounter with the infected is edge of you seat stuff that is unparalleled in any other videogame.
The crafting system in The Last of Us is a crafting system simplified to its lowest form as you can create anything without a problem by just having the right materials. But thatâ€™s okay as it makes things a lot quicker and simpler for the player as the player should be worrying about the serious matters and frightening gameplay at hand and not mixing the right materials together. The Last of Us also employs some puzzle sections that involve either moving planks, moving ladders, moving dumpsters and sometimes even moving Ellie. Let there be said that there is a LOT of moving things in this game and it can get repetitive and boring at points but thankfully the story makes sure that you keep going and move past these sections in speedy fashion as not for them to drag on. Overall the singleplayer gameplay in The Last of Us is unquestionably addictive and a lot of fun. It rare that you see this many mechanics come together to form such a cohesive and fun gameplay experience.
Last of all The Last of Us has a multiplayer mode. When I first heard there was going to be a multiplayer mode for this title I wasnâ€™t truly looking forward to it as I just couldnâ€™t see how it would work. Thankfully though it works, it really works, so much so that I think itâ€™s better than most multiplayer experiences out there. When you first start off you are asked to pick a faction out of either the Hunters (a group of survivalists that only believe in the survival of the fittest) and the Fireflies (a rebel group trying there best to save the world). After I chose the Hunters you then get told that you have to try and keep your clan of survivors to last for 12 weeks in total. Each game takes a day off your 12-week tally and after each game your clan will grow in survivors. If you lose all your survivors you will be forced to pick another side.
There is two game modes to The Last of Usâ€™s multiplayer all of which feature 4v4. You have the â€˜Supply raidâ€™ mode that tasks you with killing the other teams 20 survivors before they do it to you first and you have the â€˜Survivorsâ€™ mode where you must eliminate the other team without any respawns. Whatâ€™s brilliant about The Last of Usâ€™s multiplayer is the fact that almost everything that youâ€™ve learnt from the singleplayer game can be carried over into multiplayer and will benefit you greatly. You can craft in real time, heal yourself, loot and even use your listen ability to hear the enemies coming. I found myself having fun in every single match, picking other players off and executing them one by one. Thereâ€™s something about The Last of Usâ€™s multiplayer that gives you a sense of Camaraderie like no other before it. If you loved the singleplayer campaign in the Last of Us then you will find the same adoration for the multiplayer.
The Last of Us if my favourite game from Naughty Dog and is without a doubt the PlayStation 3â€™s best exclusive. They have really knocked it out of the park with this title. The excellently written and emotional storyline, the best graphics on the PS3 and the brutal and tense gameplay all make The Last of Us one of this generationâ€™s best games and for that I am going to give The Last of Us a 9.7 out of 10. The reason why I havenâ€™t given it a 10 is because I found that some parts of the singleplayer experience felt really repetitive and sometimes boring (i.e. the moving of various planks and ladders) and the fact that the game only has 2 multiplayer modes can bump down the replay value just a tad. But even with those two problems the Last of Us is still a game of the year contender and is definitely worth your time and purchase if you own a PS3.
The Last of Us was provided to me by Sony Computer Entertainment and is only available on the PlayStation 3. I would like to thank them for sending me this title for review.