Naughty Dog has proven to us once again that they are a top-notch developer that is capable of bringing us some of the best titles this generation has seen. The Sony owned company has proven time and time again that the gameplay experience can be beyond excellent, stemming from the success we saw with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
The Last of Us is a gift to the world of gaming, providing a third-person action survival game that follows the tale of Joel and Ellie, two survivors that have to work together as a team to survive the desolate land that has been ravaged by an infection, where humans turn on humans and hope for survival is grim.
The game kicks off in 2013 where the world is as it is today – normal. As the night progresses the protagonist, Joel, finds himself pushed to the limits of survival and the gritty story kicks in.
To avoid spoilers, we fast-forward several years to see Joel working with a woman named Tess, where they have become smugglers to ship legal and illegal products across the habitable zones. As the events unfolded over the prior 20-year span the government has taken over and martial law is in full effect. Curfew is enacted, and failure to comply is punishable by death. The limits of this are pushed by an extremist group known as the Fireflies, dedicated to rebelling against the government.
The story progresses with Joel and his partner Tess as they chase down an arms dealer that stole a product they were smuggling, which initiates a confrontation with the Fireflies. As the small band attempt to survive they have to face off against not just the military, but also the infected humans which are split into 5 stages:
Stage 1: Runners, the newly infected with bad eyesight and mostly human appearance.
Stage 2: Stalkers, transition stage between Runner and Clicker.
Stage 3: Clickers, the blind stage which use bat-like vision through clicking sounds.
Stage 4: Bloaters, which are large infected individuals who are challenging to kill.
Stage 5: Spore Cadaver, a Clicker or Bloater who is aware that death is near so it finds a safe space to crawl into and become part of the environment which releases infectious spores.
In the Last of Us the player takes control of Joel in third-person which combines action, survival and horror elements while the A.I. takes over control of Ellie. You’ll face a mixture of gunplay, melee combat and a cover system that guides you through a linear style of play with some exploratory flexibility.
The A.I. system developed by Naughty Dog provides what is called “balance of power,” which allows enemies to react more realistically than before, such as natural responses to infected enemies which they respond to with more aggressive actions. “Dynamic stealth” on the other hand provides players the opportunity proceed through the game without traditional restrictions on stealth or gun-blazing combat.
A crafting system has also been integrated into the game where supplies are rare, but raw materials can be found and mashed together to create useful items such as molotov cocktails or health packs.
In addition to this there is a choice system, and while the outcome of the game is not affected by the decisions you make the morality of those decisions weigh heavily on the player making the choice. For example, if you come across a dying soldier who has been bitten by an infected he requests a mercy kill, and the decision is yours whether or not you grant that wish.
It would be an understatement to say that Last of Us looks good, or even great. The art style is dynamic and gorgeous and is a contender for one of the best looking games we have seen in years. The detail leaves the player breathless, and the love put into these details are immediately noticeable, whether its a flag blowing int he wind or the movement and sway of a character walking past you.
On top of the visuals, the audio is put into the spotlight with voice acting from Troy Baker (Batman: Arkham City, Final Fantasy XIII, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) who captures the essence of the character. The only way this is topped is through the voice acting of Ashley Johnson (Teen Titans, Ben 10 and Recess) that brings the power and emotion to Ellie to bring to life this vulnerable, tough girl grasping to survive. The voice acting is so engaging that you’ll fall in love with the characters, as I did with TellTale’s the Walking Dead.
Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) captures the essence of horror and emotion in this desolate land by implementing ambient sounds, such as small clicks from distant clickers, water dripping down walls, and the rustling of trees making the entire experience immersive.
Naughty Dog has always cared about their product, whether its the PlayStation days of Crash Bandicoot, or Jak and Daxter, then Uncharted. The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s farewell to the PlayStation 3 and we could not have asked for a more powerful, emotional, graphically enticing experience. Game’s rarely deserve a perfect score, but The Last of Us nailed every aspect of the game.
Stay low, stay quiet, and most of all stay focused.