The Last of Us

Obviously, the game that everyone has been talking about these last couple of weeks is ‘The Last of Us’, the latest offering from the developer Naughty Dog, well known for providing us with the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted.  Even though people were saying it would take about 15 hours to finish, I was determined to finish the game as soon as possible.  I did just that about five days after the fact… so, does it live up to the hype?

I think there’s a vibe out there that makes it sound like the second coming, and what can I say?  It is and it isn’t.  That’s not to say it isn’t the best game of this generation, because I very well may have to agree that it is.  However, the gameplay itself isn’t anything groundbreaking… it just takes things to a new level that immerses you in its world that much more.

The gameplay mechanic feels like the lovechild of Splinter Cell and Uncharted, with a splash of ‘detective mode’ from the Batman Arkham series.  Essentially, the game is going to punish you for rushing into any situation without a second thought.  It’s essential to take cover if you want to take your enemies head-on, but it’s almost always wiser to worm around by using stealth – Stay out of sight, sneak up behind your targets and take them down quietly, that sort of thing.  You can choose to tackle any given area any way you want, however… just know that this is a very unforgiving game, and expelling your ammo faster than you can say ‘leave mah Ellie alone!’ is a bad idea.  Supplies are very scarce, meaning you’re forced to scrounge every square inch of the game to find a survivable amount of ammunition, not to mention your supplies.

Supplies is really where the gameplay mechanic feels fresh.  Scattered throughout the world are bottles of alcohol, rags, scissors, melee type weapons, tape, etc.  When you have supplies on hand, you have some significant choices to make – Do I want to use these supplies to make a health kit, or should I instead make a Molotov cocktail from them instead?  Should I make a shiv, or perhaps improve the end of my melee weapon?  You have to be very considerate of the area you’re in as well as the inventory that’s in Joel’s backpack at all times for this reason, because again, the wrong choice could make an upcoming area far more difficult than it needs to be.  This… is awesome.  I love that this game forced me to explore every nook and cranny, and did so without making it feel like a monotonous chore.  No, I was constantly on the edge, actually feeling like I was surviving.  I really can’t say that about any other game, except for perhaps the first Dead Space, a game which also had pretty scarce supplies (especially for beginners who weren’t a good shot).  This connected me with the main character more than anyone in the history of gaming, because although the game is very linear, I felt as if I had to make my own choices regarding pretty much everything.

The best part about this game is how the story is presented, though.  Wisely, Naughty Dog imposes a long initial load time each time you turn on the game, but after that, you’re free to play without any load-time.  Naughty Dog is known for flawlessly weaving gameplay and cinematic cut-scenes with surgical precision, and ‘The Last of Us’ is no different in this respect… in fact, they’ve done a better job here than ever.  It seems that the next area you’ll play will load during the cut-scenes, making this game a completely seamless experience.  Outside of that, this post-apocalyptic world – which depicts humanity as being crippled by an aggressive fungal virus that turns people into zombies, more or less – is fully realized, and that further helps to keep you immersed in the narrative.  The voice acting is superb, and the writing is gutsy.  It’s evident from the opening sequence that The Last of Us is going to be a heavy, and thoroughly depressing experience… sort of like watching a nail-biting season of The Walking Dead.  Except, because you feel like you’ve become the character, and actually develop a real bond with the little girl you’re supposed to protect, the experience this game provides is better than watching any of television’s best drama.  Blasphemy, you say?  Just shaddap and play the game, and you’ll agree.  Naughty Dog do not adhere to stupid genre clichés, and will surprise you with how dark the story can turn more often than not.  After all was said and done… I was very conflicted by the game’s controversial ending, and I’m glad that the dev didn’t take the easy way out, and actually wanted us to feel just as conflicted as the main characters.

That’s probably another thing that elevates this game – Character development, as hinted above, is superb.  Although you ‘become’ Joel and do whatever necessary to survive, it becomes pretty clear that he’s not the greatest guy in the world, nor is he the worst.  He’s merely doing whatever he feels he needs to based on any given situation, and based on previous experiences from his life that have scarred him emotionally for the rest of life.

Everything else you want to know about the game I guess you have already read about, but this is my take.  The Last of Us is probably the last ‘amazing’ game to appear on the PS3… and I’m really surprised that Sony didn’t push to have this be a PS4 launch title or something.  THIS is how you end a generation before moving on to the next.  The Last of Us is the most convincing case that story driven gaming is where it’s at… The Last of Us very well might be the most talked about game in gaming history for some time to come.  Do I smell an eventual film?  It has to come at some point… it just has to.

By the way… wouldn’t it be hilarious if Ellen Page was pegged to play the girl?  Haha.

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