The Last Of Us is a brand new game from the creators of the Uncharted Series, Naughty Dog. The Last Of Us is a new survival adventure game where the player follows the lives of two survivor’s, Joel and Ellie who live in a post apocalyptic Zombie infected world.
With the type of premise being mentioned one could imagine that the story of the game is going to be just another bland, zombie shooter/horror game with standard survival weapons and game mechanics and cliché survival story structure. I will say that The Last Of Us is not your typical Zombie narrative and particularly not one you would expect from a game. The game details a very interwoven story with character development on levels unseen in many movies or TV shows and an emotionally driven adventure rarely seen in the video game genre. The Last Of Us is the type of game I think everyone should play at least once and a game done so well I can barely find flaws in its design.
The game sets itself up in the first 15 minutes as being one heavily based around emotional impact on the viewer. The player is shown Joel’s life just before the Zombie virus occurred by playing as his daughter Sarah voiced by Hannah Hayes. While I won’t spoil the opening 15 minutes of this game I would say that it has an emotional level much higher than what most games would have in their entire length. You basically witness what the world once was and are immediately contrasted to what the games world has become.
After this the player is shifted 20 years into the future where humanity is barely surviving against the outbreak and has splintered off into a whole variety of dangerous groups including hunters, the government/military and the fireflies. This is where the second main character Ellie, voiced by Ashley Johnson is introduced. It seems Joel now devoid of hope and only focused on surviving must escort Ellie to the firefly organisation as part of a trade deal. It’s on the way to this organisation that these two characters really grow and develop together. Joel voiced by Troy Baker is at first reluctant due to the difficulty of the idea while Ellie is excited as young person to explore the world she has never been able to see. But the world is full of dangers, not only are the infected found without, but what is left of humanity poses possibly an even larger threat to our two characters survival.
I won’t go any more into the story of this game due to not wanting to spoil anything but I will say from beginning to end each character is so well written and the narrative is of such high quality that it is the type of thing that rarely comes along. While there are many games released each year there are few I believe that match in terms of dramatic impact, character development and story detail. Gamer’s who want a story driven game that will suit their need for a strong narrative should definitely pick up The Last Of Us.
Moving onto the voice acting/acting in this game it too is done so well that characters move and look real. Each voice actor seems to be perfectly cast for their roles and fit their characters perfectly. From Joel’s (Troy Baker) rough survivor tone to Ellie’s interactions with the player and her very real and well portrayed character acting by Ashley Johnson. Other characters to that are met throughout the game such as Sarah (Hanah Hayes), Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce), Tess (Annie Wersching), Bill (W. Earl Brown) and Henry (Brandon Scott) all seemed the perfect fit. I never really felt anyone was out of place or was miscast. I would say I was very impressed by the Tess character from Annie Wersching for her part in the game who seemed like a female character barely shown or represented in video games. Tess certainly left an impact not only on the character Joel and Ellie but also most likely the players throughout her story.
In terms of the gameplay in The Last Of Us I thought that it matched particularly well to what the theme of the game was trying to be. The game is based heavily around survival against either the infected or the humans. Each of the levels is broken down into areas you need to get past to progress to the next area. The player in every situation has a choice to either play stealth or to just go in and attack. What I found is that while in some areas it worked well to choose one or the other, most of the time it needed a combination of the two.
Joel and Ellie as a team (sometimes joined by characters they meet) are also underpowered throughout the entire game. While The Last Of Us does have a levelling up system for faster health regeneration or increased sound/hearing range you never really get to a point that you can just smash down any enemies. I like this particular game mechanic. Every enemy whether it be a clicker, a human or any type of infected is dangerous in their own way. All of them can hurt you and all of them are trying to survive, just as you, the player are trying to survive.
Weapons also match this theme, the melee weapons are particularly realistic. Sometimes you might hit an enemy and a part of your weapon will get stuck in the enemies head while your weapon breaks. Guns are loud and sound incredibly realistic in amongst all the silence the game has. Enemies are always alert and danger is always present. Levels require some degree of thinking to get through and as a survival game this is very welcome.
I also like that you can’t just simply find your way through the levels like in Uncharted, sometimes the way through isn’t clear. Sometimes you have to look around quite a lot to find your way and when you’ve stealth past a whole range of enemies and you can’t find where to go you may have to try get past them again to try another route placing you (Joel) and Ellie in further danger.
The weapon crafting system is great as well but slightly similar to the way weapons are crafted in the recent Tomb Raider game also from this year. But in The Last Of Us you do feel as if you are constantly gathering tools needed to craft your weapons, but I did think the range of the choices available was small and didn’t have much additions later in the game. The number of weapons available to craft was enough though and having to constantly craft weapons to survive was a great idea. Instead of picking up Molotov cocktails and having them in your inventory you pick up the parts, you can’t always make one. You have to decided between trading off weapons to, you might have enough to make a melee weapon or a shiv, but not both. The player must think which will be better to use and this is a good thing. To many games make things way to easy for the player. The gameplay in The Last Of Us is a perfect mix of choice and power for the player matching perfectly to the theme of the game.
The level design and attention to detail is something as well that The Last Of does perfectly. As you travel through the world you can constantly find notes, diary entries or last thoughts of the people that used to live in the houses or areas you are travelling through. While this might not seem like much some of the entries add to the emotional realism the game is going for, I felt that it made the game world feel so much more alive than what it would have been without them. The rooms and interiors in the game have quite a lot of detail contained throughout, with blood stains and trails all over, remnants of a child’s room, shops left abandoned; such as a toy store once filled with happiness now presented in ruin and emptiness.
The sound and music design was also perfectly executed to match the quiet moments, the action moments, the combat moments, the emotional moments. The main theme of The last of Us is memorable and unique and strongly resonates throughout the game.
Additionally there is also a multiplayer component to The Last Of Us, this is actually very well done. It relies heavily on the survival component and places the player in a team of 4-5 where you fight to the death against another team. It has things like last man standing when there is only one player left. I also like the spectating mode that it has so you can watch your last team mate try to survive. It has some basic levelling up you see in most multiplayer games and is quite an addictive part of The Last Of Us. But I wouldn’t say its the best part of the game as the single player experience is and should be the main reason for buying The Last Of US.
Overall The Last Of Us is a game that truly stands out this year in terms of its design, its narrative and realism contained inside the experience. Naughty Dog may have made one of the masterpieces of this generation with The Last Of Us and as a game exclusive for the PS3 it is a strong reason to go out and get one if you don’t have one as of yet. For those that do The Last Of Us is a game I would recommend to anyone looking for a great story and great gameplay experience that is not only well made and of top quality, one I think that should be played and experienced by all.