It seemed like an eternity waiting for Naughty Dog's next big hit. The hype was high, and anything short of amazing might have been very disappointing. The result? Just a bit beyond amazing, just as Naughty Dog has accustomed us to expect from their games. From storytelling to gameplay, from graphics to sound, these talented developers have done it once more, they've delivered another fine gaming spectacle.
The Last Of Us may be similar in setting to certain other TV shows or games that deal with post-apocalyptic survival, but it stands as a new jewel as far as storytelling goes. Right from the beginning, when the parasitic fungal outbreak occurs, you will experience the game's dark nature, the loss of loved ones, and the last bit of hope left for mankind. Joel is a brutal character, a man that has been strengthened but both numbed by the events that have unfolded in his life since it all started. Meanwhile, Ellie is an outspoken teenager, wild, friendly, a rebel of sorts, who easily makes a connection with Joel. A type of ..Father-Daughter relationship builds throughout the game, but very, very slowly. It isn't until much later in the game that you will see Joel open up to Ellie, and this really makes a beautiful contrast between the man that Joel is at the beginning, and the man he is at the end. At first, his concern is to take Ellie to the Fireflies(militia group looking for a cure) as asked by their leader, Marlene. Joel is reluctant to do this, but Tess, a long-time "partner" of his, seems able to convince and urge him to carry out the mission. For Joel, his purpose is soon completely flipped, and the focus becomes his relationship with Ellie, and her safety. Throughout the game you will learn to care for these characters, and Naughty Dog does a fine job of making it all unpredictable, leaving you really unsure of what happens up until the end.
The Last Of Us has a powerful storyline, but it wouldn't be complete without the horrifying infected. Well, they aren't exactly horrifying, but they are certainly a little more unique from what we've seen. Your main concern in the game will be the Clickers, a specific type of infected that use echolocation to find you. Then there are Bloaters, who have a much thicker fungus layer and will require you to be well equipped with molotovs, bombs, or you'll have to run a bit, considering they also spit some type of fungi/spore bomb at you. Other than those two, there are your Runners and Stalkers, which can also serve to be quite troublesome under certain circumstances. The Stalkers will try to ambush you if they can, instead of mindlessly running towards you from the start. Because the enemies are so difficult and even smarter than the average, you'll have to stealth your way through some portion of the game. In every difficulty except survivor, you can just hold down R2 to listen to your enemies' movement, which will reveal their positions only if they are close enough. Relying too much on this feature will eventually backfire, since sometimes enemies will be unseen because they are crouching or maybe changed positions. There is a bit of a problem with the AI obviously seeing your teammate (Ellie, Tess, or others) and not reacting. At one time, I actually found Ellie running towards me along with a hunter. This issue breaks some of the suspense or thrill of the stealth in this game. Despite this, it really doesn't happen as much as I expected, and usually I found Ellie staying pretty close to Joel or behind in a safer place for cover. Ellie will also sometimes tell you where the enemies are if she sees them, which highlights them on your screen, and she'll even throw a brick or bottle at an enemy to stun them. Basically, AI in this game is smart, they just all have something against Joel for some reason.
In addition, patience reigns supreme here, you'll have to craft weapons and med kits, and most of the time choose between the two. Looking for supplies and tools would be wise since you don't want to find yourself with only a brick to defend yourself from about five armed hunters. Using weapons in this game is extremely accurate and fun, leading to some realistic and challenging firefights. Not to mention, if you happen to run out of ammo, the enemies you are facing will come out of cover and hunt you down. The Last of Us will force you to be accurate with your shooting, and be mindful of how much ammo you have. This adds a lot to gameplay that is already accurate and thrilling. Taking cover, shooting, throwing objects, climbing, it all works almost perfectly, and it's something that makes Naughty Dog's games so great. Your last resort of course is melee combat, which is simple yet satisfying.
When it comes to graphics, The Last of Us is quite impressive. The towns and cities you come across are drenched in that post-apocalyptic tone, with abandoned vehicles and trash everywhere, destroyed and flooded buildings, it's a depressing setting. The water effects are simply beautiful, especially when you run into a forest after being in a destroyed city or town for so long. The only issue is that there is some low quality textures here and there, and it would be nice for the environment to be more destructible. However, these are minor things, in the end the graphics are appropriate by Naughty Dog's standards. The visuals do a great job of presenting such a hopeless setting, but the sound in this game is simply the perfect complement. The music will set moods of suspense and worry, and you will hear movement from your enemies, whether it's door's closing or opening abruptly or a few stalkers sprinting from the corner of your eye. Furthermore, voice acting is perfect, so you can catch more of each character's personality pretty well.
For a game with such an excellent campaign, the expectation was an equally fun experience with the online multiplayer. This isn't exactly the case, but writing off this game's multiplayer completely would be a mistake, unless you hate stealth, and love your Call Of Duty and Battlefield. If you aren't use to this type of gameplay online, it will be a punishing uphill journey. You will pick between being a hunter or a Firefly, and you will basically lead a "clan" that you must take through weeks of survival. Basically, every match you'll pick up parts which will be converted to meds, which will increase your amount of survivors. More survivors means new unlocked weapons and customization options. Every element of the singeplayer is here, which includes listen mode and crafting on the go. It's a very slow paced style of gameplay, but still fun even as uncommon as it is. Unfortunately, there's really no clan support, there aren't enough stats, there isn't enough customization as far as characters go, and worst of all, not enough game modes. There's only two game modes, Supply Raid and Survivors, which are both basically team deathmatch with Survivors having no respawn. There's also challenges you must complete, like getting a certain amount of downs or executions, to boost the amount of new members or to save perhaps 50% of your clan...These challenges must be completed in 3 days (matches), which leads to frustrating situations for those who lose connection to their match and lose a day to complete their challenge. There's a lot to be improved for multiplayer, but it is a nice change from the fast paced online shooters out there, as it asks the player to be strategic without ruining the fun.
The Last Of Us is one of those entertainment journeys that once the credits hit you think to yourself "wait, that's it!?". This isn't because you are disappointed by the ending, instead, you are just left wanting more. Joel and Ellie are greatly constructed characters just like their relationship is. Gameplay would be perfect if it weren't for some AI issues, and the graphics and sound are just stunning. Naughty Dog have delivered an unforgettable game, one that no PS3 gamer should miss.