Published on July 16th, 2013 | by Paul Hibbs1
The Last of Us Review
On paper The Last of Us sounds very predictable and very generic;
A post apocalyptic wasteland filled with infected enemies which has you escort an AI companion to try and save the last of mankind. It’s the same old story we have played through many times over and The Last of Us sounds more like a ‘Best Of’ album to this generation of games than a game of the year contender.
Let me start by saying no matter how many times you think you have heard this story, you have never had it told to you like this. Nothing will prepare you for the jaw dropping visuals, gut wrenching emotional set pieces and quite possibly the best story telling you have ever witnessed in a game, and all that is in the first 20 minutes!
The Last of Us starts with the single greatest opening sequence to a game I think I will ever experience and won’t be sad if I never get to again, it is that good. It really sets you up emotionally for what the game has in store later and makes you feel the pain that drives Joel and why he continues to care for Elle.
Their relationship is built upon that of loss and the need to survive and as the game progresses you will see this relationship grow and develop in ways you will have never experienced on screen before. You will feel an overwhelming wave of fear and panic when either characters life is at risk and during the games few, more lighthearted moments I guarantee you will be grinning ear to ear with a tear in your eye. The energy, care, thought and love that has been put into Joel and Elle is remarkable, the team at Naughty Dog have achieved something that most developers fail to even come close to and what they have created here is nothing short of astounding.
I find it truly remarkable is that they have created arguably the best looking game of this generation on a seven year old piece of kit. But it’s not just the visuals that make it shine its the presentation.
The position of the camera is perfect and allows for some remarkable set pieces without ever taking away control, light cuts through trees and really helps set the tone of each section of the game and of course there are the visuals.
Now a good game doesn’t always need amazing graphics but The Last of Us is made better by them. Every inch of the world has a level of detail far beyond that of any other game and becomes a character in its own right. The world is so detailed that the developers don’t need to give a back story of what happened after the outbreak, the world tells it for them and often in a way that books and movies can’t.
Nothing will prepare you for the jaw dropping visuals
Even the characters react to their surroundings in such a way that you feel the grit and weight of the world. Simple things like performing a melee kill by a wall will have you smash an enemy’s face into it, see a picture on a wall and they talk about it, walk past a fire and they will raise their arms to cover their face. Yes these are all simple things and sound obvious but they are done so well that none of them feel scripted and the game flows in such harmony that you will never loose that emersion.
This all add up to the most realistic game I have ever had the pleasure of playing. This realism had me believing every moment, every sound and every action. I can honestly say I have never known true fear and sadness in a game before playing The Last of Us.
Fear mainly comes in the form of the games two enemy types; the survivors of the outbreak, most of whom live in the worlds last few quarantine zones, some who choose or have been forced to live outside in the new world and of course the infected. All of which bring with them a fear that most games fail to achieve, both are equally as dangerous and terrifying in there own rights. However the weight of every kill is felt more and more as the game goes on, killing humans and infected feels very dark as each kill is often drawn-out and damn right brutal. You never feel “happy” about killing an enemy like you would in a Call of Duty for example. Survival is always the aim of the game and often the best course of action is to hide or better yet run.
Human enemies are like you, just trying to survive, but the new world has made them desperate, in large numbers can be terrifying and you can easily be surrounded and taken down, these guys are tough. You will need to think about every kill and take your time, if you brake your silence and get their attention it is possible to overcome them but you will literally feel like you are fighting for your life and will need to hold your nerve and use every resource at your disposal to overcome them.
Much of the same can be said for the infected but these are often found in smaller numbers, at least initially. The key here is to take your time and make as little noise as possible, drawing to many in your direction will likely result in death as you will rarely have enough ammo or equipment to fend off a hoard of running infected and remember when in doubt run.
Equipment, ammo and resources are scarce and you really have to take your time and explore if you are going to have any chance of making it through the game. Finding parts and equipment is a big part of The Last of Us but never gets old, its more about needing these things to survive than wanting to find them and the more time you take to stop and look the greater the reward. Joel can create a series of weapons using various parts found throughout the game, the genius here is most parts are used for different items for example, the parts used to make a Molotov are the same used to make health kits. You really need to think about your resources and decide which tool is best for the job at hand. A piece of tape and a pair of scissors can mean the difference between life and a Clicker ripping your face open.
As for the controls, they are nothing short of perfect, after all what else would you expect from the developers of the Uncharted series. They feel natural and never once did I have to worry about what I was pressing. Some will complain the shooting is sloppy but this in my mind suits the characters and keeps the game grounded in reality and this again adds to the idea that you are interacting with real people in a very real world.
If the game needed any more reasons for you to keep playing you have one amazing multiplayer mode waiting for you once you have recovered from the single player campaign. It takes the tone and grit of the main game and carries it though beautifully and has some really unique game modes which are a break away from the normal bro shooters that have flooded the industry. On top of that you have new game plus where you carry over your skills from your previous game as there is no way in hell you can peak Joel’s stats in one play through. If like me you love those trophies then you will have to invest a lot of time here, in my sixteen hour play through I managed to get three and two were for completing the game. I don’t see this as a major issue as the emersion I keep going on about would likely be broken with trophies popping up every few minutes, keeping trophies hard means time needs to be spent to earn them and ensures your first play through isn’t ruined and this will have you playing through again and again.
You will note I haven’t really talked about the games story in this review, that is because The Last of Us has to be experienced, no amount of words will ever do it justice and I would hate to ruin for anybody the best gaming experience of this generation. Simply put The Last of Us is incredible, it is the perfect swan song to this generation of games and will be the bench mark in which other future games are compared.
Summary: The best game currently on the PlayStation 3!