The Last of Us has been one of this year’s most highly anticipated games, literally millions of gamers have been waiting patiently and impatiently for what has been tipped to be one of this generations greatest digital experiences, no small amount of hype surrounded it and that often spells impending disaster for any title as living up to the hype can usually be an impossible feat in itself.
The Last of Us comes from the legendary development team at Naughty Dog who have crafted some of the greatest gaming experiences not only on this generation but on multiple PlayStation consoles. Crash Bandicoot on the PS1 was all their work, Jak on the PS2 was all their work and Uncharted on the PS3 was all their work, all in all an impressive career. Yet the one that really stands out is of course Uncharted, since people were drooling for more Nolan North led Tomb Raider style adventures, but instead we got The Last of Us, question is, can it be better than the Uncharted series?
The biggest and most important factor of this game is its story, it’s what it is all about. While yes, the game does have weapons, adventuring, exploring, some light puzzles too, it’s really about the people within the game and their survival. So with that, if I were to utter certain things about “what” it is that happens in the game, you’re going to kill me because this game could be spoilt with relative ease, so forgive me if I try not to.
The game takes place in a pretty ruined America, infection has taken over and wiped out vast amounts of the population, if you were not killed in the carnage that ensued, be that by a scared and panicking civilian, or a gun crazy soldier trying to keep the peace and/or contain the virus, then there was a real chance you would get infected, turn into a monster and start running around biting people, thus infecting them. In short, everything has gone to hell.
The game sees you take control of Joel, a single father of one, looking after his daughter and generally living a relatively happy life all things considered. Then infection breaks out and before long you find yourself on the run, literally trying to do nothing more than survive for the next twenty years, by any means necessary. Now I don’t want to lead you into a false direction as this is for the most part just the introduction to the game, you play a few parts but it’s mostly just a warm up. The real gameplay starts in the “20 years later” section as you go about your day in one of the military controlled blocks, walled off from the infection ravaged lands beyond.
Gameplay is super tight, there is a razor like focus on what needs to be done, but how you complete the tasks laid out is completely up to you. The game mixes stealth elements with gun play quite well, just don’t expect to be taking down enemies like your Nathan Drake any time soon. It doesn’t take long to realise that your fragile, you need to heal, you need to conserve ammo, and you need to run away. Many other games you think “Ah, a room full of enemies, easy!” but not here, this game is more like “oh c**p there are three of them and I only have two bullets”. The end result is you’re going to get your face bitten off and you will die, a lot.
Yet this comes with a stark contrast, where games like Resident Evil will throw enemies at you every five bloody seconds, there really aren’t that many at the best of times here. It’s more about the feel and the intensity of each encounter and for every monster that crosses your path, you’ll also find just as many unfriendly humans, albeit most of them liars, scavengers, murderers and cannibals looking for a couple of lost people to torture.
The game blends all this with a simple to use, but highly effective crafting system. This allows you to create healing bandages, petrol bombs, shivs and more, all vital to your survival and a stark reminder of just how much duct tape and pairs of scissors you can find lying around. Crafting is essential and it comes complimented by a gun upgrade system, as well as some perks that see you able to improve your health, reloads speeds, ammo clip size and more at the few work benches you find scattered around the game world.
The absolute 100% best feature of this game is one that they don’t advertise, it’s not even something that is in the game, more something that isn’t. There are no waypoints, no “go this way” arrows, no “hey, maybe if I do that thing, I can do that thing” dialogues and there is no radar or map for enemies, doors, hidden items, nothing. This is awesome because when you have a large, multi-path section of the game world, enemies trying to find you, limited supplies and you start running, that sense of “OMG I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I’M GOING” feels real, Joel doesn’t know where he is, so why the heck should you!? This makes many moments of the game feel full of fear and suspense, brilliant. The game makes you want to explore, then makes you think about the risk of doing so, is it worth wasting your last few bullets to try to find the health you need, or should you try to sneak past?
Of course, you are not alone on your adventures and you’ll find a small selection of people take your side throughout the story, some more than others, and while your counterpart is not only going to help you by calling out enemies, throwing you items and generally watching your back, they will also entertain you with story based, contextual conversation, or just mumble and sing to themselves, either way it’s clear than Naughty Dog have created a well-balanced AI that doesn’t get under your feet and that actually makes working together a most enjoyable experience. Not to mention the 2nd person is often the biggest focus of the game’s story.
The Last of Us will see you traveling across multiple American states and cities and while many of the environments are overgrown buildings and streets, they are a joy to explore and a visual treat for the eyes, it’s like no one told Naughty Dog that the PlayStation 3 has limitations as with all the Uncharted games, The Last of Us is by far their best looking game to date. Voice acting and animation is also, without a doubt, best in class and Naughty Dog has a high reputation to uphold on that front, they don’t disappoint.
The game is well crafted, the story is simply mind-blowing and it’s got a musical score and direction on par with a blockbuster movie. While some games fail to strike the balance of story and gameplay, The Last of Us delivers on both in one of the best executed gaming experiences I’ve had in years. I managed to get through the game in 20 hours on hard mode on my first play through, something that was no easy task, especially on the last section. You can go for a play through+ mode afterwards and progress your weapons further, but the impact of the story is lessened greatly the second time around, fortunately the thrilling gameplay loses nothing of its charm.
This is a must have game in your collection and when you’re done with the story there is a highly entertaining multiplayer that offers up many of the modern classic game types for you to tear around with your friends. One thing is for certain, the game hasn’t been out a month and I already want more of The Last of Us.
- Gripping story
- Edgy and exciting combat
- No way point markers or hand holding tutorials
- Genuinely engrossing characters
- Enjoyable multiplayer
- 16 hours isn’t short, but your still going to be wanting more
- Last section is a bit over the top hard
eTeknix says: “This is one of the defining moments for PlayStation 3 and one of the best stories I’ve played through in a game of this type. It’s great to see that the current generation of games consoles haven’t run out of ideas yet and that there is more to the console gaming scene than endless stereotypical shooters like Call of Duty.”