Developer: Naughty Dog (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)
Release Date: 14 June
From the creators of Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter and Uncharted comes The Last of Us, an action-horror game set in a post apocalyptic United States. That may seem like a pretty generic set-up, but The Last of Us is anything but. It’s an absolute marvel on every level, and a must play for anyone who owns a PlayStation 3.
Naughty Dog has always had a penchant for telling familiar but well-crafted stories, and this is no exception. The tale of The Last of Us takes elements from many wasteland stories such as Children of Men, 28 Days Later and The Road. The story is bleak as you’d expect, but the humour the developers are known for is present though in a much more muted way. Protagonists Joel and Ellie are very much archetypes, but ones you spend so much time with and develop so much over the course of their journey that you can’t help but care. By the end of the story, you’ll for Ellie’s life just as much as Joel does, even when forced into morally questionable situations. Whilst the story is very linear with no choice in what way the story goes, the situations you must face and the choices the characters are forced to make puts you right into the experience. A particularly memorable sequence in a burning restaurant truly encapsulates the raw and terrifying nature of the game on both a story and gameplay level. What The Last of Us’s story lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with strong writing and excellent atmosphere. It’s not just “good for a video game”; it’s excellent on any level of the storytelling medium.
Survival horror games are a rare breed these days, at least in the classic sense. Most games that bare that name are really just shooters with jump scares. And though The Last of Us isn’t a pure horror game, it brings back the element that feels lacking from most games in its genre these days: desperation. Ammo and supplies aren’t handed out freely; you must scavenge them and use them sparingly, otherwise you’re going to end up dead. That combined with the fact Joel can only take so many hits encourages a much more patient play method, utilising stealth whenever necessary and meticulously planning the way forward. This really puts you into the mindset of a survivor and makes the confrontations with both the infected and the hunters that much more desperate. This is further amplified by the game’s decision to not pause during any action. Need to craft a Molotov or apply bandages? You’d better make sure the coast is clear or you will die. Continuing off the camaraderie aspect of the story, puzzle sequences frequently break up the action and force Joel and Ellie to work together; they are simple but bring some quiet relief from the threats of the world as well as emphasising the relationship between our protagonists. The game is very replayable and you most likely won’t unlock everything in your first playthrough, making the option of New Game Plus a very welcome feature. I’ve yet to play through the game yet, but I’m sure I will in the near future and probably several times after that. And yes, I did encounter the occasional glitch, but none of it is game breaking and I’m sure they’ll be ironed out with future patches.
The game’s singleplayer, which took me about eleven hours to finish on normal difficulty, is worth the price alone but Naughty Dog has increased the content value by adding multiplayer. In accordance with the nature of the main game, this isn’t simple deathmatch. Ammo and resources are again scarce, so a much slower and careful playstyle is required in order to survive, evocative of the multiplayer found in the Assassin’s Creed games. The expected perk and upgrade options are here, but the addition of metagame where you must collect enough supplies to keep your own camp of survivors fed adds some originality It’s addictive but punishing, constantly crushing you down but always making you want to come back for more.
Naughty Dog’s work on the Uncharted series has produced some of the best graphics in console history, and whilst the technology doesn’t seem to have progressed hugely since Nathan Drake’s last outing, the game is still a technical marvel. The design of the world, particularly the fungal freaks you must gun down on your adventure and the varied vistas you visit, are all executed flawlessly. Expertly handled voice acting and motion capture further adds to the story, and the soundtrack is simple but oh so perfect.
The Last of Us is honestly one of the best games I’ve played in a long, long time. Naughty Dog has by no means revolutionised the gaming landscape, but they have made a game that does so many things and does them at a level some game creators can only dream of. It perfectly melds together the story and gameplay to create an experience that truly draws you into the story and makes you never want to let go of the controller. It uses the mechanics of action and horror games in a way that appeals to fans of both genres and is just plain gorgeous to look at. Don’t delay. Pick up this game at your earliest convenience and just play it for yourself. It is an experience that you won’t forget.
FINAL VERDICT: 10/10!