When 'Uncharted 2: Among Thieves' shipped, Naughty Dog split the company into two teams. While Amy Hennig and Richard Lemarchand would head up the team that would make 'Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception', Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann would head up the second team, assigned to do something the company hadn't done before: Make another IP in the same console generation. With an interesting viral ad campaign to keep us intrigued, Naughty Dog successfully kept quiet about the whole endeavor until the big reveal at the Spike VGA's in 2011.
'The Last of Us's unveil surprised everyone...
This game may on the offset confuse casuals at first glance as being another 'Uncharted', but this game is actually a whole new animal. It mixes limited action gunplay and melee brawling with a huge heaping helping of survival horror, making a new genre the company would like to call 'Survival Action'.
This is the story of two survivors, Joel and Ellie. Joel is a smuggler who works closely with his boss, Tess, while Ellie is just a regular kid, sheltered from the outside world, because it's not all civilized anymore. In the year, 2034, the world as we know it is obliterated by the effects of an infection breakout of a mysterious form of cordyceps fungus that's actually affecting humans in a horrific manner: Turning them into monsters, unable to control their own bodies as the fungus take over. While doing a specific payback mission on a now-ex-client, Joel and Tess are implored to smuggle Ellie across the U.S. at the request of Marlene, leader of the fireflies, one of two groups fighting against the militarized government that now abuse their countymen more than help them.
Since this is mostly a survival horror in general aspects, let me start by saying this: BEST. TANK. CONTROLS. EVER!!! The fluidity in the controls are silky smooth when it comes to traversal, it makes me giddy when I'm moving. The environments are so huge at times that you are encouraged to explore so much when looking for items. Of course you have to pull your gun out in order to fire, and you can't shoot from the hip, but you're not a professional, you're just a ruthless survivor. You start out with difficulty and realism when holding a weapon, but you have the option to improve on that gradually as the game goes on. The melee is brutal, whether with bare fists or close-range weapons. The location based actions cause punch lasers to keep the action fresh when up close. Stealth is also essential because items and ammo are SCARCE in this world, so CONSERVE WHAT YOU CAN!!! In order to help survive long enough, a real time inventory and crafting system come into play, allowing you to customize what items and weapons you have on you or even mixing items together to make more helpful stuff. Beware, the game doesn't pause while doing this, so find a place to hide during a battle in order to do this alive. There's also occasional tool tables you'll come across upon from time to time so that you can upgrade your available weapons if you want. If you're having a hard time detecting enemy presence, you can go into listen mode to have a sonar like visual on your baddies (that is, if you don't have a suround sound setup to help you detect enemies already).
The visuals are something else to behold, this game stresses out the PS3 to its limits and accomplishes the best graphics the system has to offer. It's not just the beautiful greenery that accompanies the outside world, or the detailed chaos in the ruins of what used to be our modern civilization, or even the the different variety in looks for people and your own characters, and even effects like blood staying around, but the intricate details demonstrating Naughty Dog's technological wizardry. You can see animating clouds when you're outdoors, or wonderful raindrops hitting windows, dust particles shown against light sources with SO MANY different types of lens flare effects, AND, for the first time ever, TRUE direction-base ambient occludent shadow effects, detached from the object--and NOT forming a slapped-sticker-based aura around it--as it should be in games.
While 'Uncharted' captured that adventure feel, courtesy of Greg Edmonson, the TLoU team turned to academy award winner, Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel), for a more aural and atmospheric tone to fit 'The Last of Us', and it fits like a glove. The music is absolutely epiphonizing and perfectly helps to wrack you in this beautiful wasteland. The sound effects are amazing too, from sudden yells to loud weapons to crashing objects, this game will scare the heck out of you.
I've cried before at video games for lots of reasons, but never before did I cry because I contemplated the realities of the world I live in. 'The Last of Us' did that to me TWICE, and one of those time was in the intro. This game's story was SO impactful to me, that it became relateable. It took me back to a lot of dark places because of how I used to live. Naughty Dog took a lot of risks with this story and it payed off in spades. It's extraordinary . The A.I. for enemies is fantastic, and partner A.I. is surprisingly just as good in most areas. The interaction between Joel and Ellie are some of THEE great gaming moments of the 7th Gen. and hammers the story home.
Factions is the serious online mode made to fit in with the rest of the game. It's basically deathmatch with the extra incentive to keep playing caused by keeping your clanspeople alive and populating by doing extra missions in addition. There are no extra features to the online really, so that's disappointing.
Extras are interesting, unlockables include galleries and skins and even render modes, but no extra weapons. New game plus is now the only way to keep items around when playing again, and each new game plus switches items around to keep things interesting.
I have beaten this game THREE TIMES NOW, and I keep discovering new things each time. This is one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had growing up as a gamer. This was made for guys like I, who wanted a sophisticatedly mature experience on the PS3, but never got that genuine satisfaction from other games in the field until now. If you are of legal age, then you must try 'The Last of Us' at least once in your life, it gives the industry a chance to mature as well.