The Last of Us

9.9 Overall Score

Amazing story, characters, graphics

A few graphics and AI glitches

Written by on June 26, 2013 in [, , , ]

Naughty Dog is taking their own style of interactive movie gaming they used in their Uncharted franchise to the zombie game in their latest release, The Last of Us. Developers insist this zombie infested tale focuses on “Love, Loyalty, and Sacrifice.” After playing through the single player campaign I must whole-heartedly agree. There are zombies in the game and they cause moments of sheer terror upon hearing the distinct clicking sounds they make when they are near, but humans and human relationships are truly the focus of this game.

The main campaign is a wild ride of emotions ranging from fear to humor, to anguish. All of the characters face heart-wrenching decisions in a treacherous world. The story draws you into this world ravaged by a fungal infection that has turned many humans into horribly disfigured zombies bent on destruction and disembowelment. It’s a world filled with spore-infested clouds and fungal growths. While many games settle for a palette of greys and browns to depict the gloom, this game chooses the brighter colors of greens and reds to depict infected areas. The palette brightens even further in areas where nature has, once again, reclaimed and restored the environment. This reclamation of the earth offers a bit of hope and renewal.

Into this chaotic world enters Joel. He is a smuggler who lost all he loved early after the infection. He has chosen a selfish path to survival. His is a hollow life empty of emotion. He is forced to escort a young girl to earn back some weapons that were stolen from him. He has seen all the beauty in his life die. He has also seen the extremes other humans have gone to in the name of survival.

Ellie enters as an unwanted job. She has been hidden away within a quarantine zone all of her life. The journey offers Ellie the chance to see the beauty of nature and helps to open Joel’s eyes to the good that still exists out in the world. The dialogue and voice acting of Ellie is realistic and adds depth to the story. The young girl is not just a prop in the game. Ellie and Joel are the backbone of the story and their relationship is the heart. Ellie adds a positive perspective to Joel’s jaded outlook on the world while Joel adds his strength and skills.

Ellie’s random dialogues on all things from learning how to whistle, to strange dreams, and then to comic book mantras provide fun asides in the game. I personally enjoyed her recitation of “Endure and Survive” (the mantra of one of her comic book heroes) after a particularly grand battle. Survival becomes a key theme to the game. Is “survival” merely the act of living or is it worthless without a reason to continue living? This is the question Joel must answer at the end of the day.

Here the developers have employed three main tools to help advance the plot. The first one the player will experience is switching the character you control. Throughout the game, the player slides into the skin of several characters to add focus to the plot. This control scheme is a simple yet effective tool to see the world through the eyes of different characters. The second tool is the quick time event. Some dislike this tool but the simple events offered in this game allow users to focus on what is happening at a crucial portion of the story while still feeling minimal control over the action.

The third is the cinematic sections of the game. These are very crucial portions of the plot that the developer wants the player to sit back and soak in. These well played sections move the plot along and allow a few welcome beats to relax before the next round of action. These portions of the game were often the most emotionally exhausting as the harsh realities of the new world became all too clear.

While on their journey the  player must choose whether to face the enemy using stealth, just run and gun or a blend of the two. Players can pick up bottles and bricks. Throwing these across the room will focus the enemies towards the sound and allow players to pick off the enemy using stealthy techniques from behind. Players can also crouch to sneak past enemies. And then there’s the traditional arsenal of weapons available to take the enemy on face to face. This approach is made a bit more difficult by the very limited amount of ammunition available; saving bullets when possible is crucial for success.

There are three main skills players can use to prepare themselves for the fights ahead. Crafting offers another interesting aspect of the game. Crafting using the parts collected can help shape the player’s strategy. The same parts can be used to create medicine kits to heal or Molotov cocktails to burn enemies. Other parts can be used to create nail bombs, shivs or used to upgrade a melee weapon to a one hit kill. Shivs are an extremely useful tool to pick locks, kill uber zombies known in game as “Clickers” and are handy for stealth attacks. All of the items can be crafted on the go, and the crafting menu is extremely intuitive. Weapons can also be upgraded using generic parts at one of the work tables a player finds in the world. Crafting, upgrades and other collectables encourage the player to look high and low for shinies.

The last skill that will help the player as they sit on the edge of battle is “Listening Mode.” By pressing the R2 trigger the character will pause and “listen” for sounds that will give enemies away. The result is a fade to grey where any moving character nearby is outlined. This will help the player figure out the best plan for attack.

Even though the game is amazing on so many levels it does have a few flaws. The ally AI will sometimes walk like a stumbling drunk through the zombie horde (looking at you Bill). And there were a few times when the environmental graphics disappeared. These flaws are minor though and the great aspects far outweigh them.

Multiplayer mode is definitely more than an afterthought. The two modes, Survivor and Supply Raid, use the crafting skills and limited “listening mode” found in the single player game to make the game more challenging and much more strategic than many other simple run and gun multiplayer games. Both modes are variants to Team Deathmatch but there are many new aspects to make it distinct. Neither features health regen and both maintain the world’s scarcity of ammo. Success in either mode adds survivors to your clan. The bad news is that the player must maintain that clan by maintaining their level of gameplay or members of their clan may die.

Through it all this game has managed to exceed my extremely high expectations and for that I am grateful. The graphics are gorgeous, the controls are intuitive, and the story is amazing. Thank you Naughty Dog for closing out the PlayStation 3 with a click, a pop and a bang.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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