Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed by Darryl Linington
To be honest, I was not entirely convinced that Naughty Dog’s vision of a pandemic-ridden United States was one I would enjoy; however, after spending 18 hours in it I absolutely fell in love with it. You see, The Last of Us is not about an elite superhuman, neither is it about an overly muscled military veteran… it is about two characters trying to survive in a world that is violent, unpredictable and tragic.
The Last of Us follows Joel, a survivor with a violent and tragic past. Joel takes on various jobs in order to survive in a world where society has collapsed and members of the human race are either turned into “The Infected”, or are violently trying to survive in a world that has partially given up on itself. Amongst the odd jobs, Joel finds himself being hired to smuggle a 14 year-old, Ellie, out of an unjust military quarantine zone; however, what starts as a simple job soon turns into a vicious journey that will not only test their strengths and weaknesses, but also their will to survive against all odds.
Joel’s character is one that we can all somehow relate to – he has a past that not only defines who he is, but also tends to haunt him. On many occasions Joel seems heartless, vicious and willing to do anything to survive; however, once the campaign branches out, you tend to notice his humanity coming through in the way that he interacts with those around him.
For the first few hours, before meeting Ellie, you are accompanied by Tess. Tess is Joel’s partner and is a street smart and confident strategist and negotiator. While Tess is just as ruthless as Joel, she tends to only break down her emotional wall when they are alone together. While various things happen between Joel and Tess, throughout the first few hours, they still manage to reinforce their emotional bond, which goes beyond friendship.
While Joel and Tess play massive roles within The Last of Us, it is Ellie that truly steals the show. Ellie understands the world she lives in, which allows her character to be so strong. Ellie is vibrant, inquisitive and cocky and as much of a survivor as Joel and Tess. What makes Ellie so unique is the fact that she was born into the tragic world depicted within The Last of Us, and therefore has little knowledge of the world prior to the fungal pandemic that destroyed the human race. Joel and Ellie grow closer and closer the longer they are together, kind of like a father daughter connection; however, Joel always holds back due to his tragic past.
When it comes to storyline, Naughty Dog has done an amazing job with The Last of Us. Each and every character is well scripted as well as relatable on many levels. While Joel may hold the lead role, Ellie truly steals the show with her strong character and will to not only defend herself in the most extreme circumstances, but also be a cocky teenager to those who underestimate her on a mature level. Truthfully, Naughty Dog and the voice cast of The Last of Us need to be applauded for such a perfect performance.
Stepping away from the storyline, The Last of Us features an amazing on the fly crafting system, which not only helps Joel craft vicious melee weapons, but also allows him to craft health kits and other weapons whilst travelling, or during combat situations. Additionally, Joel can use various firearms which will allow for quick disposal of enemies. Combat is fluent, fast-paced and unforgiving within this title. While you will not only go up against various infected enemies, you will also go up against human enemies as well. While the infected tend to be slightly predictable, human enemies tend to be more strategic.
Speaking of infected enemies, I would like to say that the “Clicker” was by far the cause of most of my deaths throughout the main campaign. Clickers are blind; however, they have a highly tuned sense of hearing, which means that if you move too quickly they immediately head to your location and, well, suck the life out you. What makes them so difficult to kill is the fact that you need an upgraded Shiv in order to challenge them when grabbed, which you will only be able to craft much later in the game. So, just as a little tip: Move quietly around Clickers and be sure to look out for any items you can distract them with.
Apart from my essay on Clickers (I hate them so much), The Last of Us features a great variety of enemies that will truly test a player’s will to survive. There are times where you will think you can relax; however, just around the next corner there are six infected just dying to take a bite out of you. This makes The Last of Us exciting, tense and a pleasure to experience.
Graphically, The Last of Us is a stunning title that really pushes the PlayStation 3 to its limits. I believe that Naughty Dog has taken a lot of time, and put in a lot of effort, to create great looking characters as well as a world that is beautiful, yet heart-breaking at the same time. While travelling through overgrown lush forests, fields and metropolises alike, Joel and Ellie will have deep, yet comical, conversations; it is during these times that you should take in the world around you as it is truly stunning.
Even during stealth combat The Last of Us exceeds all expectations graphically. I was truly amazed at how, once Joel applies a choke hold, the enemy starts to throw its arms around and clutch at Joel’s face in order to try free itself. It is moments like this that truly make the Last of Us visually memorable. Granted, some of the kills Joel performs can be visually disturbing; however, a game like this would not suit any lesser means of graphic violence – the world around Joel and Ellie is a violent one and to censor it would have not done this game any justice at all.
Apart from an amazing storyline, as well as brilliant gameplay, the voice cast of The Last of Us has done an amazing job voicing each and every character, and should be applauded for their perfect performance. Furthermore, Gustavo Santaolalla’ musical score for the game is vibrant, energetic as well as emotional and breathtaking at the same time, which results in The Last of Us being an outright masterpiece.
While The Last of Us features an amazing campaign, it also comes packed with a rich multiplayer mode called Factions. Factions allows the player to pick one of two sides, Hunters or Fireflies. Each player then starts with a small clan, which they need to keep alive and grow. There are two modes in which you can accomplish the growth and survival of your Clan. In Supply Raid, you’ll have to scavenge the area and keep your team alive. Your team has a pool of twenty reinforcements. Once the reinforcements have been exhausted, the match will go into sudden death. In Survivors, you’re going to have to be extremely observant. There are no respawns so once you are dead you can only respawn the next round. It’s a best of seven rounds in which the first team to win four rounds wins the match.
Overall, the gameplay is highly tactical and features the same crafting system found in the single player campaign. Teamwork is essential as fallen teammates can crawl to their allies and be revived, so players who stick together will overcome those who don’t. Melee combat is brutal as you have the choice of performing an execution move on opponents. While I can only describe the multiplayer with text, it is best to experience it for yourself as it is truly an exciting and unique experience.
Over the past few years there have been many games that have graced consoles across the globe. While some of these games are out right disasters, others are beautiful gems that glisten amongst the darkness. The Last of Us is neither a disaster nor a gem; however, it is a masterpiece that not only portrays its setting and world so well, but captivates the player with a magnificent story that will be remembered for years to come.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3.