There are a great deal of games, movies, comics and novels set within the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world, but what does The Last Of Us offer that not only sets it apart, but makes it completely unlike anything before it? Is it the rich narrative, the emotionally driven soundtrack or the edge-of-your-seat gameplay that occurs within?
The Last Of Us is very vague when it starts. You play as Joel, a hard working everyman who knows a world before the apocalypse. Hardened by post-pandemic society he’s taken to being a black-market runner. This new world of 2033 is one world where the military have quarantine zones across America, seemingly at each and every major city. Joel’s ‘career’ of stealing, bartering and getting by however he can to gather weapons, ration cards or even supplies sees him cross paths with Ellie as they journey out to meet the Fireflies.
Soon after their pairing, things snowball into an unrelenting bullet train of emotions as the two take on groups of scavengers, militia, and of course the infected. Their journey sees them learn from one another and slowly form an unbreakable bond that carries itself throughout their cross-country trek.
As you progresses through each of the seasons the game takes place over, each area has a set amount of enemies, be it humans or otherwise. These situations are always tipped in their favour, not yours. You’ll have to use your brain to tackle these situations with as little fuss as possible as you’ll rarely have enough ammo to take them all down. In fact, any ammo you do have you’ll want to conserve to get some beautiful headshots in.
My first playthrough was an utter disaster, I died. I died enough times that if the Cordyceps infection didn’t require a host to be alive to take over their body, I could have had my own Joel army. That being said, brute force is definitely not how you take on any situation presented to you. Scavenging drawers, shelves, and cabinets for supplies; learning how to make shivs, molotovs, smoke grenades, medical kits and more are all essential to surviving in this gritty nature-ridden world.
You can also upgrade your weapons through metal scraps at workbenches scattered few and far between. You can also improve other aspects of Joel, such as aiming and effectiveness of medical kits, through popping pills that you’ll find on your travels. In fact, there are so many things to collect you’ll always been looking out to find something on a surface in the dark. Luckily these aren’t just throwaway trinkets, they delve deeper into the world of The Last of Us, painting the struggle families went through in this new world.
This works well because instead of being the third-person shooter many may have expected, it’s a far more frantic story-driven escapade that prides itself on quality gameplay and ‘holy s**t’ moments. A slow pace is the way to go as making noise will usually get you spotted and swarmed by Rushers and Clickers or riddled with bullets in seconds. It’s actually quite easy to do this too as there’s no ‘cover mechanic’ as such, instead Joel and Ellie slide behind an object or up against a wall as you approach it. You won’t be snapping between waist-high cover, after all Joel isn’t a military-trained hero, he’s just a man. Joel does have one trick up his sleeve, that is unless you’re playing on Survivor difficulty, his keen sense of hearing allows. This essentially allows him to ‘see’ through walls by hearing the footsteps, groans or shuffling of enemies.
Overall, the AI does feel somewhat unbalanced. Sneaking and being quiet may well keep you out of the way, but when you get things wrong the enemy is only alerted by you. If Ellie runs out and starts flagging them down like air traffic control, nothing happens. Yet, if you breathe wrong infront of the blind Clicker you’re toast as they’ll kill you in one incredibly gory bite. You can counter this with a sneaky stealth kill or warding them off with any melee weapon, but you’re always better off avoiding them entirely. Still, doesn’t make sense that in a room full of Clickers that Joel & Ellie can have a conversation while sneaking around, but that’s something we’ll just have to ignore.
Human enemies require a different approach, although remaining quiet is still rather important. Once they’re aware of your location they’ll begin to flank your position and do their best to take you down. It’s here you’ll need to work your way behind them, throw off their attention with a good distraction, and then sneak up and take them out one by one. It’s always best to take out everybody you come across in a silent way, but once the bullets start flying – and it seems enemies always have bullets – it’s best to grab a hostage and make your escape or deal with them from a distance. The moment they realise you’ve got some form of weapon they’ll react differently to you, trundling around with a block of wood is thoroughly less intimidating than a hand cannon.
The multiplayer, which is aptly named Factions, takes a lot of cues from the single-player and puts a twist on it all. You begin your journey by choosing whether to be a hunter or a Firefly. You then have 12 weeks to survive until a shipment of arms comes through enemy territory. Here, each match payed acts as a day and every in-game week you’ll pick a mission to fulfil – which is usually a set amount of kills with a specific weapon. The more kills you make, the more survivors are saved, but you’ll also certainly not be able to save all of them. Each match begins to become a struggle as difficulty increases as your survivors struggle through each day. It’s a strange feeling for a multiplayer component, but it really just sucks you right in.
The Last Of Us is a great journey, one unlike any other game. The story builds and you can’t help but feel for all those you cross paths with. Graphically the game is a glorious achievement for Naughty Dog and video games as a whole. Environments come alive and cutscenes glimmer with cinematic flair. If you allow yourself to be taken to the world that Naughty Dog has created, you’ll be in for one heart pounding journey. Despite some AI issues, you’ll grow to love Joel and care for Ellie.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: One of the most, if not the most beautiful game this generation. Music is superbly fitting.
Gameplay – 5/5: Unmatched combat fluidity and a sense of danger with every confrontation.
Innovation - 5/5: Edge of your seat survival throughout the game will give you goosebumps.
Value – 5/5: Lengthy adventure that is longer than the average and the multiplayer is truly unique.
-Anthony D. Reviewed The Last Of Us On Playstation 3-