Here is an opening for you. If you have looked at images, video or presentations of The Last of Us and are still interested, just go buy it. I have a lot more words to say about the game, and there is plenty to say about it, but realistically this is going to be in the running for game of the year for sure. That is unless somebody knocks it out of the running and good luck to those that try. This is what happens when you have one of the biggest and most respected developers in the industry branch out and try to create something fresh.
You get The Last of Us.
The Last of Us is a survivor horror action game mash up set in a post apocalyptic future where infected humans have become the dominant species on Earth. You can tell by the title, that this isn’t going to be one of those silly b-grade zombie spook games. This is an emotional road trip through a post apocalyptic hell. It is a survivors tale.
Naughty Dog is more known for their high action and not their emotional drama, yet they set forth to really tug on the heart strings here. It may be because I am an emotionless bastard, but it just didn’t start hitting their mark until roughly the half way point. This is mostly because they built the game up around leveling mechanics, but the game doesn’t really come in to its own until then. That being said, they certainly tried and the story they presented surely entertained and wow, is that ending something to talk about.
The audio in this game is phenomenal and this is actually extremely important. There isn’t a lot of music used in this game (at least not in the traditional sense). Everything is focused on audio cues and tells. Gameplay is focused around a Daredevil-esque sonar move that helps focus stealth similar to Batman’s Detective Mode in the Arkham games. Aside from just that, from the voice acting to the rustle of the grass, the studio really put forth the effort to bring the player into working alongside the audio of the game. Rarely do I play through large sections with no music and feel this immersed.
That’s what Naughty Dog has shown that they do best. They aim for what would be the equivalent of a summer blockbuster. It is what Nathan Drake did so well in Uncharted and it is what we see happen in The Last of Us. Sure, it is more dramatic, but the setups haven’t changed; only the tone has.
The Last of Us is like a modified version of Uncharted. Picking up items and stealth are prioritized since this is a tale of survivors, but the idea and control feel much the same. What Naughty Dog decided to focus on though was the set pieces you interact with. They went above and beyond to make these environments something special and you will find the most amazing detail even if you are simply wandering off the beaten path. That honestly is what Naughty Dog does best. Their game mechanics are solid, but certainly not the best in their genre. Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid do stealth so much better while Fallout or even Bioshock does scavenging in a more interesting way. That is not whats important though.
These mechanics are a means to tie the story together and Naughty Dog expertly combined the story in with the gameplay. It is, for fear of spoiling, one of the deepest road trip stories I’ve ever come across. It has twists (some very obvious and others not at all), while still building upon a very simple but effective inventory crafting and search section. It works so well because every push forward, whether it is in battle or just exploration, is another moment with your partner. I don’t know if the newest trend in gaming is going to be interesting AI companions, but my word how wonderful it is to have Ellie interacting with the world around you.
You legitimately want to protect this girl and Naughty Dog went out of their way to ensure she is a loveable little scamp. There are hours of gameplay built upon crafting a relationship with your sidekick. It really is as if Naughty Dog is trying to show off. Their areas are highly detailed so they focused on scavenging mechanics. Their world is littered with infected, so they focus on stealth and limiting your inventory.
The Last of Us is simply a well crafted game with a fascinating story. I’d love to go in to how they work the story more, but anything new you learn about this game before you play it is an absolute disservice to yourself. If you want a fabulous single player experience that explores the drama of two unlikely people surviving the apocalypse, The Last of Us is a simple choice. You could pass this up for any number of titles, but I’d recommend you didn’t. Games like this are what keep this industry legitimately exciting and while this The Last of Us isn’t without some flaws, they are so insignificant in the face of what they achieved.
Now, that was a review of the single player portion of The Last of Us. For some reason Naughty Dog just wasn’t satisfied with presenting a single player experience. They decided to toss in some multiplayer just for the fun of it. What we see with this is a sprinkle of nuts on top of the delicious sundae.
Multiplayer works off of many the exact same elements as the in game system, only it has been balanced out to work a 4v4 style battle system that pits two factions upon each other. You still have that radar system from the main game, but they have nerfed it so you can only use it in quick bursts before it must be recharged. This changes the dynamic completely as you try to figure out what option you can use best to take down enemies as there are tell tale signals to tip the enemy team off.
The multiplayer here is solid. It has all your basic must haves systems like upgrades (both in battle and outside battle) and goals to achieve. In a bit of a twist, you are playing for the health of your personal survivor group. That means you’ll have little goals that you are trying to achieve that are assigned to you at different dates. It is a surprisingly good multiplayer experience tacked on to a game most of you aren’t going to be buying for its online.
[+Interesting Story] [+Detailed Environments] [+Well Behaved AI] [+Solid Multiplayer] [+Wonderful Characters] [-Online Pass]