Joel (voiced by Troy Baker; perhaps his best performance yet), a hardened survivor, and a 14-year old potty-mouthed girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson), search for the elusive Firefly militia group through the states ruled by martial law, cannibalistic hunters, and human beings infected with a fungus known as Cordyceps. Simply put, the world’s gone to hell, and the apocalypse is long over. Sounds simple enough? It’s a basic zombie story, with many of the tropes associated with those works. Where The Last of Us sets itself apart, however, is its fresh new spin on the genre, with excellently scripted adult storytelling, and a powerful execution to boot, much in the same vein as last year’s “The Walking Dead”.
The Last of Us accommodates whatever playstyle you prefer, and will adapt to it rightfully so, with a high level of polish, though it almost always rewards stealth over gunplay. In fact, if you’re good, there’s maybe a handful of sections where stealth is disallowed, so you can play through most the entire game subtly. You can find unique weapons throughout the game, though (as far as I know), you only have one chance to pick up certain weapons, one of which can only be found if you go out of your way to explore the area it’s located. You can level up these weapons using workbenches, which cost various amounts of upgrade pieces, while certain upgrades will require you to find wrenches, and go up in level.
Besides weapon modifications, you can also craft an assortment of useful items, with supplies found throughout. These include such necessities as health packs (no regenerating health), shivs (the only way to stealth kill a Clicker), projectile weapons, and modifications to your melee weapon. These supplies quite literally litter the gamespace, and are the most bountiful collectibles available, next to bottles and bricks (projectiles which aid you in stealth, and melee). You have little chance of surviving without utilizing these items, which means it’s very important that you try and search every inch of the map, and always have a full shiv handy, for opening locked doors, full of supplies and ammo.
Supplements act as a variation on experience points, which can be used to level up abilities of Joel’s, such as being able to hear farther (and through walls), and being able to use a shiv to ward off a Clicker grab, who would otherwise kill you instantly. These supplements, like everything else, can be found. Almost nothing in this game is handed to you, meaning you would be wise to heed my earlier advice.
Whether it be human or one of 4 types of infected, every faction of enemy is powered with unique, realistic AI, that should never be underestimated. Same goes for your AI partner, Ellie. She isn’t simply a useless damsel in distress, but rather as much of a murderous bad-ass as Joel himself. She will flush out, hold up, and even help kill enemies. Naughty Dog has always been the leader in realistic AI, but they have truly outdone themselves this time, delivering humanly-flawed AI, instead of always-the-wiser bullet sponges. These enemies will hunt in packs, and will make mistakes like a human would, such as overlooking an element that they aren’t looking for or aware of. Sometimes, however, the AI will break immersion in a way that’s common courtesy than any kind of flaw. The enemies have been designed to not respond to your AI partner, unless you’ve already been caught. Example would be when your partner calls out to you, or half of her body is sticking out of cover, it won’t register with an enemy. Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a bad thing. The game would be absolute hell if your partner could give you away; damn near impossible. I’ll gladly give up that bit of immersion at the cost of sanity.
Naughty Dog, as always, holds the monopoly in the best console graphics of all-time, and they have managed to do something which I long thought was impossible: they out-did Uncharted 3′s quality of graphics. The Last of Us is supremely gorgeous, and incredibly, almost otherworldly detailed. Unlike most post-apocalyptic games, brown is merely a side-note to the abundance of green and white, which really benefits the uniqueness of the whole affair. Apparently, it’s too good. This game is literally maxing out the PS3 in a way that we had once thought Uncharted 3 was. The consequences of that is that the occasional graphical glitch will show up, usually more entertaining than anything, though it’s still somewhat disappointing, considering the flawlessness of Uncharted 2, though the quality of this game far out-classes every one of Naughty Dog’s past affairs.
The expertise and execution in the writing and directing, and powerful adult storytelling is unbelievable, considering that these same guys once made Crash Bandicoot. Like all of us who grew up with Playstation, so did Naughty Dog, almost as if they were developing their games for each stage of maturity for us; the little tykes that once had good ol’ fun with Crash and Jak.
This game just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the chemistry between the two leads, Ellie and Joel, and the relationship they develop throughout. They make this game, much in the same as Lee and Clementine from The Walking Dead, though in a slightly different way. The surprisingly down-to-Earth writing makes Joel and Ellie’s plight hit home pretty hard, and puts much depth in even the most minor of characters you meet along the way, and helps you to infer why? Why any character does anything, and why they must. Nothing is ever contrived, and everything is for a reason. That’s a fact of life; there is no true good or bad, no morality when the world goes to hell; only surviving, and protecting the ones you love, no matter what.
The multiplayer is a decent time-waster, though nothing special. Basically, you’re on one of two teams (Fireflies or hunters), and you go head to head in one of two modes, killing enemies, and earning supplies to feed your clan, which consists of Facebook friends (even the ones that don’t own a PS3, or play video games at all, for that matter). So much wasted potential can be inferred here, such as the lack of a co-op campaign, a horde mode, or any other kind of game mode that could have lent some kind of lasting appeal. Instead, unless you’re the most hardcore of multiplayers, you may just try this once or twice, or play it whenever you might be bored, or don’t have access to better multiplayers. It’s not completely horrible, like Tomb Raider’s, but it’s not all that great; it’s middling from Naughty Dog. It’s also cursed with lag, like all of Naughty Dog’s online multiplayers before. I can count about almost twenty times where I would be completely frozen due to lag, right as I’m about to get some kills in. Everyone else is free to pick my ass off as this is happening.
Simply put, you aren’t, or should not be, buying this game for the multiplayer, but rather the superb, near-flawless single-player campaign. Even though you don’t need the online pass to play this middling mediocrity, you should still buy this game new, simply because Naughty Dog has earned it. They’ve earned every bit of money they make for this game, which is hopefully a large sum amount.
Naughty Dog has, once again, created an unforgettable masterpiece, with every bit of gameplay and narrative expertly directed to the point of perfection, and it would be remiss of me to mark this game down for flaws that only come from it being developed on aging hardware. It has earned its perfect score.