I was one of those people who tried to stay away from this game. Not in a bad way. I didn't want to look at too much of this game because I didn't want to be spoiled, so I never watched people play the demo and I stayed away from many trailers. In recent months, I've been buying games and then failing to finish, or even play them. The Last of Us was different. Once I started, I had to finish it to the end. It took me a while (but I have a job, so of course it did) but reaching the end felt like a great achievement.
So how does the game start? Well the game starts where it should: at the beginning of the pandemic. We first meet Sarah and Joel, a father and daughter who seem to have a brilliant relationship. For the first few moments, we get to see how they react to the world that is crumbling around them. Even though parts of the introduction was quite predictable, Naughty Dog managed to pack so many thrills into this one introduction that it just didn't matter how predictable it seemed. You knew things were going to happen, but at the same time you forgot about them.
*(This next paragraph contains minor spoilers for the games beginning moments)*
The game then actually takes a large jump 20 years later, which actually surprised a lot of us, because usually when apocalyptic games take a giant leap, too much has happened that the world might as well be silent. But this was actually an interesting take on an apocalyptic world. Joel now lives in a quarantine zone, where survivors earn ration cards to get food, and you require passports just to pass through gates to other areas of the zone. We're introduced to a woman named Tess, who as it so happens has found the location of Robert, a man they have been after for some time. Unfortunately, Robert has sold the guns he owed the two to one of the head-liners of the game, the Fireflies. The Fireflies will agree to hand over the weapons if Joel and Tess do something for them. You might be wondering: wait, I've been seeing this little girl in the promotions. Where is she? Well she is that "something". Joel and Tess are tasked to take the girl, Ellie, to a safer place than where she is now. It is here that the game really flourishes and the relationship between Joel and Ellie begins.
The story itself contains many wild surprises, and there are moments in the game you expect there to be a scripted moment, but there aren't. I kept forgetting this isn't Uncharted, and big explosions and giant leaps out of planes probably wouldn't be happening here. The Last of Us is completely the opposite of Uncharted. It's quieter, it's scarier, but at the same time, you have just as many thrills as any Uncharted game. It's weird, I know. The campaign is a rather good length too; it took me around 14 hours to complete, but that's because I took my time, looking for any secrets that might be hidden. It doesn't stop there though, because there is a New Game+ to be completed too.
As a character, Joel can sometimes be seen as a bit of a harsh guy, probably because he's annoyed by the very idea that he has to take this 14-year old girl across dangerous landscapes. However, there are moments you see a kinder side to him, and it's those sides that really make you feel for him. Ellie is a girl who was born 6 years after the apocalypse, so she's had to deal with such terrors since she was born, so in spirit she is a true fighter. She is scared at times, but then who isn't? There are times you really feel for her and her and Joel combined make you forget this is a game, because their relationship in the game feels so real, and it's like you're watching a movie rather than playing a game.
Now you can play the game in two ways; however, it is recommended to play it in one way rather than the other. You can always go in, guns blazing, or you can take the stealthier approach. Going in guns blazing means you'll probably use a lot of your ammo, which itself is rather scarce, and not only that but sometimes you'll encounter rooms with around 8 or 9 enemies in, which can overwhelm you pretty darn fast. The best option is to take the stealthy approach, where you sneak up behind enemies, strangling them or using shivs to stab them. Just be careful though, because you don't want other enemies to find the bodies because then they'll know something isn't right.
In the game, there are 3 types of enemies (well, 4, but you barely encounter the 4th... I think). First are the general soldiers, who search for escaped survivors, test to see if they are infected and kill those who are. Those who aren't are taken to or back to the quarantine zone. They also kill those who resist/fight back. The second are the Infected. The years haven't been kind to these poor souls. There are 4 types of infected. There's the ones who have been recently infected, and are rather slow and sometimes just stand there crying to themselves. Then there are the runners. They run at you like crazy once they spot you, so... make sure they don't. There are two others, but I won't spoil what they're like. Just remember what I said: "the years haven't been kind". Finally, as with any apocalypse, you got your hunters (or bandits), who are willing to kill anybody to get what they want. I mentioned a 4th, which was the fireflies, but you barely encounter any that you fight. I only ever remember 1 part of the game I did fight them.
To help you cross the borders of America, you'll need to have some supplies, or else you probably won't last very long. You'll have a back pack on you, which you can only enter whilst the world turns (so the game does not pause when you enter it, so if you're in a fight, you better do what you got to do fast and get out of your bag). It's in your bag where you do everything; craft items such as bombs, molotovs and shivs (a shiv is like a knife). You craft these by finding items in the environment, whether it be shrapnel, cloth, alcohol and so forth. With all this combined, you'll have a whale of a time fighting enemies. There are moments in the game when you'll be an hour in the game and you STILL haven't used any of your items... trust me. Those moments do come, and you better be prepared for them. ESPECIALLY if you play on Hard. You also have an upgrade chart. Now although there are only 7 (?) things you can upgrade, such as how much health you have, how fast you heal yourself and how far you can listen in on your enemies movements. It is a shame there are only 7, but if the game was filled with 14 or 15, it probably wouldn't have that same great feel. It's like Bioshock Infinite's clothes system. They had quite a few clothes that 90% of them seemed underpowered and rather pointless. You can only upgrade once you have found enough pills, but for some strange reason, I'd collect a whole bunch of pills (around 50?) and then I'd look in my upgrade menu and I'd only have around 20 pills... was it just me or was this a small bug?
Speaking of listening mode, this is something unique. It's a little unrealistic, but in a game, you got to have some sort of feature that'll help you progress. Although I've not played the hardest difficulty, I wonder if "listening mode" is turned off, because then the game WOULD be hard. Anyway, listening mode allows you to listen to your enemies when they either talk or walk around the environment. If they are standing still or making no noise, you'll have a hard time locating them. This is a great feature, and I actually ended up using listening mode a lot because it's a tactic that really helps plan who you go after first.
What's a survival game without weapons, and I think there are around 10 ranged weapons. You've got your pistols, and shotguns, but you've also got a bow which I ended up using quite a bit, because for some strange reason it seemed like a more powerful weapon than a gun... why? In the real world, a gun would do more damage... right? There were times I'd be able to kill an infected with one arrow and an infected with 4 pistol shots. The one thing that also didn't add up was how on earth Joel is even able to carry all the weapons he carries. He can carry all these weapons on his back, in his bag and not once do you see the sense of him slowing down from the weight. I know it's just a video game, but this isn't Fallout. I thought this game was trying to get a sense of realism. To help make weapons powerful, you can also upgrade them using parts which you find in the game. Upgrades include increasing the range, damage radius on certain weapons and even how much ammo is in the clip. You can't upgrade at any time though; only when you find upgrade tables, which you'll probably find once every couple of hours. I like this idea, because it doesn't give too much freedom to the player like so many games seem to do.
As I mentioned before, silence is the true sound of the game. There are times in the game where no music is playing at all, and that's a great thing because then you really get a sense of the atmosphere. Any music that does seem to play tends to be during fighting scenes or moments when you might have been seen. The music that plays during cut scenes has that sort of "Texas" style to it, and considering Joel was born and raised in Texas, it's really fitting. Sometimes the music can feel rather strange rather than sound it. It has to be experienced to understand, but overall sound in the game is a strong factor.
The game isn't without it's small kinks however. First, the ending, whilst I shall not spoil it, actually felt a little underwhelming. Whilst it no doubt opens up to a sequel, I was expecting something more. But maybe Naughty Dog expected us to expect something more, so they didn't give us that.
There are also times enemies will bug out. They'll start running around on the spot or will just crouch behind something and just stay there... a little realism breaking if you ask me. There were also times myself and Ellie would be hiding behind something, and even though I couldn't be seen, Ellie could and yet enemies still didn't react to her. She only moves just when the enemy gets in range of her. What would have been great is if I could have told Ellie where I wanted her to hide, or maybe tell her who to throw things like bottles and bricks at as a distraction. Also, hunger could have been something Naughty Dog could have looked into. I know you find food that replenishes your health, but there are times when you'll find plenty of food in the game, and then minutes later the characters are hungry and out of food... uh... what? And finally, what about Ellie's health, never mind mine? What if she get's hurt? Can't I heal her like I heal myself? Also, what's up with these long loading times when I start the campaign? They also seem to occur in the multiplayer too...
Finally, moving onto the multiplayer, I was never one of those people who enjoyed Uncharted's multiplayer, probably because it was like most first person multiplayers except in third person and without all the gimmicks. The Last of Us is different. Most multiplayers have you going into environments guns blazing, but here, it feels like the campaign and you have to be cautious. Now there's one giant downside to the multiplayer: there are only 2 modes.
The multiplayer is called "Factions". When you first start it, you have to choose which side you want to fight for: the Fireflies or the Hunters. When you choose, you have that faction up until a certain point. As you progress through the modes, you will pick up survivors (and if you connect to Facebook, the survivors are your Facebook friends). Each match you play counts as a day, and every 7 matches means 1 week has passed. You gain levels by surviving a week, which is a welcome change to the regular level system. I'm not 100% sure myself if you lose your level when your group dies, but I'll find that out one day. Although gaining a level doesn't really do anything, finding rations does. The more rations you earn in a match, the more chance you have to find more survivors. As you find rations, you also unlock new features such as more images for your emblem, more clothes to customize your character, other weapons and more. There's a challenge too... if you don't find enough rations in a match, then some of your survivors may go hungry and become sick, and then ultimately may die. So far, I'm 3 weeks in and I've had a lucky streak. But how long will it last for me?
Moving onto the two modes, the first of the two is "Supply Raid". Each team only has 20 total lives, and when someone dies, the counter drops. The team who loses all their lives or has the least lives when the timer runs out wins. A fun mode, but not the most addicting of the two.
"Survivors" is the most addicting mode, and I just can't get enough of it. Each team of 4 has to go into a map and eliminate the opposite team. Each person has 1 life only in a round, so you really do have to be cautious on your surroundings.
As you kill an enemy, they drop rations, which will count towards the rations you've earned. The points you also earn throughout the game too also gets converted into rations at the end of the match, so if you only have, for example, 22 out of the 33 rations you need for your survivors, there's that slight chance the points you've earned will just get you there.
Listen mode is also available in the game, but you can only use it for a few seconds at a time, which is actually quite fair because if we had an unlimited use to it, then yes, everybody would come out guns blazing. When you start a match, the first thing you should always do is find a supply box. That way you can find resources to create your bombs, health packs, molotovs and so forth. These tend to be your best weapons for hiding enemies. As you also progress through the multiplayer, you can also obtain a mission that you have to accomplish in a certain amount of days, or else an event will happen to your survivors, such as hunters will come and ambush them all.
I said before that it's disappointing the Multiplayer has 2 modes. What would have been great would be a mode where the Fireflies and Hunters fight for territories, like a "capture the base" only more challenging. Why is a mode like this not in the game? Also, I encountered a hiccup where I was doing so well in the multiplayer and then I disconnected from the host, and then half of my survivors went hungry and sick... that was a little unfair for something that wasn't my fault. Naughty Dog should have at least made it so I could restart the day. If I quit, fair enough punish my group, but when it's not, why still punish me?
The Last of Us is a must play game for Playstation 3 owners. Whilst it doesn't have the explosions and the close shaves Uncharted has, that's OK because The Last of Us tries to be unique. The thing is with this game, the game feels real. Things don't always go according to plan in the game, and that's what I love because whenever someone wants something in a movie or a game, they get it right away. Conversations feel fluent, and I love that. I'd of been disappointed if it was just Uncharted but in an apocalypse. I look forward to seeing what Naughty Dog does with this franchise.