In some ways, The Last of Us is exactly like every other zombie-themed game you’ve ever played. In many more ways however, this is unlike any experience I’ve been privileged with before. I will cover all the basic points of the game you need to decide if TLoU is worth fresh retail price or if you’ll wait for the price drop. Our Author, Mike will be going deeper into the tone and character development later this week, with Mark’s review of the multiplayer feature following immediately after this.
As always, this review will be as short as possible and will only contain minor spoilers, with some tips afterwards. Now a short overview for the gamer on the go!
- Ellie steals the scene every time, becoming more endearing with each conversation. Also, she kicks ass.
- Smart and accurate enemy AI levels the playing field, forcing you to survive based on strategy and some luck.
- Crafting abilities makes thorough exploration rewarding, ensuring you’re always busy.
- Amazing dialogue, music, and atmosphere keeps you coming back every time.
- Erratic ally movement can make it difficult to get the best cover on occasion.
- Ally and enemy AI interaction can be inconsistent, blowing your cover.
- Joel’s “hearing mode” can feel out of place, yanking you from the scene and may take a few hours to get used to.
Right away, The Last of Us sets the tone. There’s no opening logos screaming company names. You load the game, and darkness ensues for a minute and you’re at the Start Screen, involving only tattered wallpaper and a dilapidated window partially open, overgrown vines creeping in as wind slowly pushes back stained curtains. And if that isn’t enough to let you know what you’re in for, Joel’s back story introduction demonstrates what you’re about to stomach.
You play as Joel, a man who has spent the last twenty years watching his country and reality go to hell. Set in a now-unrecognizable America, he is cajoled into smuggling a young girl out of the city and into Infected territory with the hope that if she meets with a group named the Fireflies, she just might be able to save the human race.
Infected are “turned” with something similar to real-life Cordecyps Fungus, and this one has evolved to taking human hosts. Attaching to the brain and spreading from there, humans mutate into five classes of Infected with telltale traits. Humans are infected by either inhaling the spores of the fungus from decaying infected bodies (obviously the final stage) or from fluid exchange (i.e., “Bitten”).
- Runners are terrifying if you don’t see them coming. The wild screaming and flailing can leave you button-mashing the first few times, making your best option simply bashing them to death.
- Clickers use echolocation because the spores have pushed through their face and neck, rendering human senses useless. While Clickers can be excruciatingly maneuvered around or easily tricked by throwing objects, it’s instant death if they hone in on you.
- Stalkers are a hybrid of the previous two classes, making them nearly impossible to get around and not to shoot.
- Bloaters are the big daddies of the Infected. Because they’ve been around since the beginning they’re the hardest to kill and may mercy find you if you don’t have enough room to run.
- Picture what happened to this real-life spider happening to your face. That’s a Clicker.
And while The Last of Us may have a lot of the same traits as a zombie thriller, the Infected are only the catalyst to the real horror of this game: humans.
The violence in this story is shocking, gripping, and more importantly, vital to the realism Naughty Dog has brought to this grisly stage. While other survival or horror or action games bank on the violence to keep you entertained, Joel and Ellie’s journey through this game is almost anything but “fun”. In fact, it can be absolutely grueling at times. I will warn you now, the amount of realistic atrocities the humans inflict on others in this game can even take veteran gamers by surprise.
Ellie is a young woman, never lacking in spirit or courage. However she has never been exposed to the violence that Joel has. Joel slams his heel through skulls, bashes people’s faces against anything solid, and viciously stabs with handcrafted shivs. And this game won’t even allow you to choke someone peacefully. They grab at the back of your head and face as they go down, feet shuddering as you take the life from them.
That’s not to say that Ellie sits on the sidelines or is an anchor around your neck though. While Joel doesn’t trust her with a gun for most of the game, she wields a switchblade like you’ve never seen. I was taken by surprise and knocked onto my back (health bar flashing red) and watched as a hunter raised his pistol. Ellie came screaming from her cover, jumping out of the doorway and onto the man’s back stabbing him repeatedly in the face and neck while she rode him down to the ground. It was not a cut scene, it happened in-game and I watched, shocked with mouth agape.
Again, this is not graphic murder (just) for the sake of entertainment, Joel and Ellie are in a hard world. A world where humans have had twenty years to take advantage of the weak-willed. Needless to say, there aren’t many happy or “soft” humans left.
- If Joel doesn’t have a steel pipe he’s crafted scissors to the top of, the boot will do just fine!
This game may have similar controls as Naughty Dog’s previous Uncharted series, but do not expect witty one-liners and laughter during the mayhem. These two are in it for their lives. They are alone and not even allies or friends can be trusted. The enemies in this game shoot very accurately, making it an easy choice for me to choose to play this as a stealth game (which is my favorite method anyway).
The graphics are completely stunning and downplayed all at the same time. The shear amount of detail is staggering, straight down to street signs and scuffed sidewalk curbs. The designers at Naughty Dog must have burned candles into the wee hours of the night for TLoU because after spending a long time fascinated by the depth of detail, I slipped into flinching at shadows and straining into the darkness because it was very easy to forget you were looking at rendering pixels.
With only minor loading times between areas or scenes, the flow of story and action is rarely hampered. The game switches between up-close skull-smashing and distant weapons fire with fast-paced ease. I only experienced one real glitch. Unfortunately, it was right after I slammed someone throat-first onto a shard of glass which left me screaming at the TV for three seconds while the system caught up.
Between alerting enemies from far away because I bumped into a floor sign and the creepy cubicles and homes filled with children’s drawings and corpses, the world of The Last of Us is amazing. The only thing involving graphics that made me pause and think, “That doesn’t look right” was the Uncharted-esque yellow paint or tape on certain climbing areas. Otherwise this world was open for my random exploration.
While Troy Baker (Booker from BioShock Infinite, Joker from Arkham Origins, Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid V, Deslin from inFamous: Second Son) commands a powerful presence as Joel throughout the game, it’s definitely Ellie that steals all the scenes. Ashley Johnson (perhaps most easily recognized from What Women Want) has made Ellie’s character flawless and endearing. Nolan North’s voice even makes a twisted and evil appearance (bet you can’t guess the character without searching for it!). I am very hard-pressed to remember even a single bad voice-acting performance, and that’s saying a lot.
I realize some people will stay away from the game because of the rave reviews and insanely high scores…but it honestly is just that good. It’s one of those games I’m upset about being a PlayStation exclusive because it is such an amazing 14 (or so) hours. The harder the difficulty the more creative you have to be with your supplies and the more selective you have to be about breaking stealth. And while I can’t call this a survival game (the system saves about every two minutes) it is not just a horror or shooter either.
If you don’t have a PS3 then you better go buy one, and if you can’t do that, find a friend who has one! You will not be disappointed during the journey and you will definitely need more than one trip through the story to get everything out of it. I hope this helped you if you were on the fence and remember that tips are below!
–If you’re a fan of the Uncharted series then I suggest you start this game on Hard Mode.
–Shivs are your best friend. Don’t waste them, and always keep one on-hand in case you need to break open the door to a cache.
— Once you get a weapon, that’s it for the game! No switching out types, so customize it carefully based on your style of gameplay.
–Workbenches are few and far between, so make sure you think carefully about waiting until the next one to upgrade that weapon!
–The optional conversations really bring the best and worst out of this game, don’t shirk the chance to listen in on others’ interactions.
–Search those bathrooms and trash piles! You’ll usually get some cloth strips and alcohol there.
–Save the ammo for the humans and Clickers. It’s more fun to bash Runners into cars and sinks anyway!
–Keep that TV volume up if you don’t want to constantly check the area using Joel’s hearing, even the Runners mumble quietly.
–Now go have fun!