Bleak, hopeless environments. Fallen governments. Viruses turning humans into raving, murderous monsters. We’ve seen this song and dance many times before. But The Last of Us has taken this overused theme and completely blown people’s minds with it. Naughty Dog’s swan song for the PS3 doesn’t do many things differently with the post-apocalypse theme, but still manages to dazzle nearly everyone who has gotten their hands on it.
In this universe there has been a virus outbreak that has brought civilization to its knees. People who are infected turn into mindless, killing machines. They turn into zombie-like creatures infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus, brutally tearing their victims them limb from limb. The unfortunate souls who are infected long enough turn into what are called “clickers”. Their heads are burst open with the fungus and cannot see. They use a clicking sound and sonar abilities to see. One hit from these guys and it is an automatic game over, which adds to the anxiousness when dealing with these enemies.
You play as Joel, a twenty year veteran to this new world. He has a heart-wrenching story which turns him into a brutal survivor. He and his partner, Tess, are smugglers. They smuggle weapons and other contraband into and out of the quarantine zones. These zones are soldiered by the new forms of government. Along with the reestablishing government are other factions. The “Fireflies” and other groups of scavengers known as the “Hunters”.
Joel and Tess are tasked with smuggling a fourteen year old girl named Ellie. She was born and has grown up in the chaos of this post-apocalyptic world. They travel across the US trying to find the Fireflies’ base of operation because they believe Ellie to have the source of the cure for the horrendous virus. They meet a number of interesting characters along the way.
The story is easily my favorite aspect of this game. The superb writing and voice acting add an element to this game that has not been matched by any other game to date. The themes of sacrifice, loyalty, hopelessness and hope blend so wonderfully in this game. You are invested in the characters after the first ten minutes of gameplay and continue to care for them throughout. I laughed and I cried numerous times during the progression of this story.
In all honesty, The Last of Us really doesn’t do many things new. It is a third-person survival horror game using stealth and over-the-shoulder shooting and melee combat. Players are hard-pressed to find sufficient ammunition and items, which adds tension on how the players take on every new threat. Players utilize a real-time crafting system to make different weapons and healing items. Weapons include handguns, shotguns, revolvers and a couple different upgradable melee weapons. There are certain areas that include workbenches for players to upgrade their weapons’ abilities.
Character development through conversations also happen in non-combat areas of the game. Whether it is Joel explaining to Ellie the way things used to be or conversations about different things found in the game like comic books. It actually is a very intricate part of the gameplay and feels natural.
Enemy AI is usually really great. The react in a life-like manner in a number of different ways. They take cover when they see Joel with a gun and try to flank him. They react during melee combat to try to dodge your attacks and even call each other for help. The biggest flaw with the combat is during stealth portions of the game. Since you are always with at least one other friendly character, stealth gets a little unrealistic. You could be hidden completely behind some cover with an enemy close by and Ellie will jump out of her cover to find a different spot without alerting the enemy even if she runs directly in front of them. This is the single biggest factor that takes you out of the realism of the game. It is my biggest complaint about the game.
The Last of Us has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. It is definitely my pick for Game of the Year and very well may be the best game of this generation. It is an amazing experience, to say the least. If you own a PS3 and you have not tried this amazing title, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Some claim it is simply worth a rent for the single player experience, but The Last of Us also flaunts one of the freshest multiplayer components. I have been absolutely obsessed with the multiplayer and cannot wait for all the multiplayer DLC to be released. Check out my previous post on The Last of Us’ multiplayer here. With the small glitches in the single player, this game has very few flaws and many more positives.