Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS3 Exclusive
Release Date: June 13h, 2013
ESRB: M for Mature
I completed the game in eleven and half hours and earned 2 trophies.
There is a multiplayer component, however I did not spend any time with it as of this review.
Naughty Dog has spent much of this past generation shaping Uncharted into one of the biggest franchises of the generation, yet it's latest foray, the post-apocalyptic survival adventure, The Last of Us, attempts to discard the lighthearted bravado in favour of darker territories. Prepare to step foot into a United States that has been completely devastated by a widespread fungal infection (read; zombies) that has decimated much of the human population. The game follows the journey of two unlikeliest of comrades; Joel, a weathered relic of the old world and Ellie, a 14 year old girl with a whole lotta spunk.
While the game never actually drops the "z" word, you are instantly aware of what you are up against the first time you come across an infected enemy. However it is equally apparent that this isn't just "another zombie game". The category in which Naughty Dog excels is story-telling and conveying the depth of its characters. Joel and Ellie are constantly evolving and developing as you continue to progress through the game. From witty banter to their dark pasts, you continue to learn about these characters, eventually becoming attached to their unique and poignant personalities. The varied cast of side characters you meet along the way are no different, each lovingly crafted to perfection.
The gameplay however is largely dependent of your patience with being stealthy. For someone like myself, a huge fan of series such as Metal Gear Solid and Thief, the stealth gameplay was immensely enjoyable. For those less-than-discreet gamers out there, it's very possible to enjoy the game, albeit on a lower difficulty. The higher the difficulty is raised, the more stealth becomes necessary to survival rather than an option. The mechanics aren't anything we haven't seen before but Naughty Dog nails it perfectly. Enemies patrol areas of the level in predetermined patterns allowing for Joel to use his heightened sense of hearing to pinpoint their locations so as to avoid them should he choose to do so. You can sneak up behind enemies and choke them out, or toss a brick and distract them allowing you to pass by unmolested. You are however, also provided with a veritable armory of weapons ranging from your usual assortment of pistols, shotguns and rifles to a bow, which allows for silent takedowns from afar.
While the combat can feel similar to Uncharted at times, the similarities stop there. Joel is in great shape for a man pushing 50, but he's no Nathan Drake. You won't see Joel swinging from pillars or climbing up any surface with the faintest suggestion of handholds, but rather rely on find alternate means of climbing up things. This unfortunately makes up the majority of the puzzle solving element in the game, I know I would have liked to have seen more complex puzzles in favour of some of the numerous enemy filled locales.
Naughty Dog has continued to push the PS3 to it's geographical limits, and once again they've exceeded all expectations. The game is one of the most visually stunning games of this generation, despite it running on 7 year old hardware. The amount of detail put into every area you enter is instantly noticeable, and very impressive. The game puts you in several set piece worthy locales, each more stunning that the last, whether it be a serene pine forest, a snowy village or a dank sewer. The Last of Us is one of the few games that offers 7.1 surround sound which is, to put it lightly, absolutely incredible. If the graphical fidelity didn't already leave you impressed, the immersion the comes from the audio will.
The Last of Us is far from perfect, losing a lot of what made it enjoyable towards the end, ultimately ending with a conclusion that left me scratching my head. I can't help but wish that they had included more exploration and puzzles sections rather than simply sneaking past enemies time and time again. That being said, I did enjoy every minute of the eleven and a half hours it took to beat the game, and will definitely be diving back in for a second helping with new game plus. While the level of stealth gameplay may not be everyone's cup of tea, I think that anyone who owns a Playstation 3 owes it to themselves to experience it's swansong for it's story and characters. Joel and Ellie are two characters you won't soon be forgetting.
+ Some of the best characters ever to grace a video game
+ Beautiful visual, varied level design
+ Generous with the weapons it gives you
+ Excellent stealth gameplay
+ Emphasis on survival well done
- Occasionally glitchy
- Lack of interesting puzzle mechanics
- Ending left a bad taste
Overall Score: 9.0 (out of 10)
The Last of Us is and will undoubtedly continue to be hailed as the PS3's swansong, a title it definitely deserves.
I've also summarized my (spoiler filled) thoughts on the ending of the game in this post, for those who have finished the game, I'd like to hear your opinions.