We are getting close to the end of the Playstation 3’s life span now with the next generation Playstation 4 heading to shelves by the end of the year, and this is the time where most companies will have abandoned the PS3. Though one company has helped end the PS3’s lifespan with a bang… and that company is Naughty Dog.
I’ve always been a massive fan of Naughty Dog, which for those of you who don’t know made the original Crash Bandicoot games, Jak and Daxter and the Uncharted series. With the announcement of The Last of Us I was sad yet excited; sad because Nathan Drake’s tale seemed to have ended, but excited because I knew that whatever Naughty Dog decided to do would be superb.
After the delay in May the game has finally hit shelves today (June 14th 2013), and boy are you in for one hell of a game.
So due to The Last of Us being heavily story based I will not delve into the story too deeply, though I will briefly explain it. The story of The Last of Us follows Ellie and Joel’s journey across the country as Joel has to transport Ellie to the fireflies. Throughout the story players will come across human enemies which are trying to fight for survival themselves, and also ‘The Infected’ which are humans infected by the fungal infection.
The story lasted around 12 and a half hours on normal mode; though this is entirely up to how many collectibles you collect and how you decide to kill enemies, with stealth or brutal combat. This was a superb feature of The Last of Us as you were able to decide how you would take out enemies, giving the player more freedom.
Sadly I cannot explain the story to you… firstly because I truly don’t want to ruin an excellent story for you, and secondly because you need to truly experience this game for the story to have an impact on you. The story is brilliantly written and doesn’t follow your typical zombie storyline. At times I thought to myself “the ending will be predictable” but believe me Naughty Dog did well and didn’t make the storyline predictable. As the game progresses you will see Ellie and Joel’s relationship grow from not wanting to be together to becoming close friends who truly care for each other. This change of relationship was excellent to watch and made you feel closer to the characters as you played. Another brilliant touch by Naughty Dog was the fact that Ellie and Joel both lived in different times. Ellie has only known this apocalyptic/infected world whereas Joel has known the ‘old’ world where everyone lived their normal day-to-day lives. As you journey through the game Ellie will note how things must have been different “back in those days” and it was a brilliant touch to see Ellie’s reaction to how things used to be compared to now.
Fans of the Uncharted series may remember our beloved Nathan Drake (I mean who could forget him?) and how that in every situation he had that ability to overcome every situation. He wasn’t your typical day-to-day person. When I heard of The Last of Us I instantly assumed that Joel would be the next Nathan Drake, though I was happy that this was not in-fact the case. Joel is your average guy who has been thrown into this situation just as every other character you see in the game has. The fact that he has to overcome potential problems is part of daily life and you see how Joel gets around these issues as he endures to survive.
The Last of Us varies between Adventuring/Puzzling to Combat. Combat can be split into different variations though; Combat (Stealth) and Combat (Action). I’ll talk about each part of the gameplay separately to fully explain them.
Adventuring/Puzzle solving is the first part we’ll talk about. Throughout the game you will be tasked with solving puzzles such as how to get Ellie from one side to the other or how to climb up to certain ledges which cannot be reached. These usually can be solved pretty simply and didn’t involve much effort or cause too much difficulty to complete. As the game progressed I’ll admit some of the puzzles did get slightly harder, but they were still fairly easy in general to complete.
Combat is a big part of The Last of Us as you fight to survive against humans and the infected. Players will be able to choose if they want to dive into a fight or sneak through groups of enemies to avoid them. Stealth combat is efficient and done well with players having to use shadows and their environment to keep themselves out of sight. This was brilliantly done though I noticed at times the AI were either very good at hearing or very hard of hearing. Sometimes you will kill an enemy in hearing range of others and he will scream as you kill him… though enemies do not react. At other times you can kill an enemy with no others in site and somehow all the others will appear within seconds. Though the beauty is when the stealth mechanism plays off perfectly and you can sneak past full groups of enemies to avoid wasting resources.
The other combat mode is the more action packed route of diving in and killing enemies. Using your weapons takes up a lot of resources (due to ammo being very hard to come across in the apocalyptic country) therefore you are generally advised towards stealth kills. Though hand to hand combat is an available option, you are likely to lose much more health and you are also open to gunfire.
As mentioned combat depends on resources. If you are low the stealth route is your friend, though if you are up for some gun fights and you have the resources you can happily shoot your enemies down. Being able to move from stealth to action (and back) was an excellent move by Naughty Dog.
Graphics/Feel of the Game
The Last of Us looks visually brilliant. If you haven’t seen any footage so far (make sure you’re watching it in 1080p) you may not know what to expect, but this game takes Uncharted’s graphics that bit further. Cutscenes flawlessly continue from gameplay to make it feel as if the whole game is one long experience, never taking you out of the action. One big thing I noticed is after you load the story mode (after a fairly long loading menu to get there) the game doesn’t have any obvious load screens, with all loading assumingly taking place as the cut scenes are playing. This helps to keep the players involved without taking them out of the action.
Music is a key part of The Last of Us as it adds to the atmosphere and the emotion of the characters, and it is no surprise that this game has such a stunning soundtrack. The Last of Us soundtrack was written by Gustavo Santaolalla and features great use of guitar throughout the soundtrack. As I played the game the soundtrack truly added further emotion to scenes and pulled my heart-strings several times (several times more than I am proud to admit, got to seem like a man still). This is one game which you will have to make sure you purchase the soundtrack for, because it is beautifully written.
The Positives and Negatives
+ Brilliantly written characters and plot which will engage the players from start to finish
+ Beautiful soundtrack which really does tug on those heart-strings
+ Variation between stealth to action combat is done in efficiently and works well
– AI seems to not always respond as you would expect, though most of the time they will act as supposed to
– Occasionally game assets would disappear and reappear; whilst minimal it was annoying and took you out of the story slightly
It is rare when a game has been so brilliantly made that I will call it my new favourite game. Still to date my favourite game is a split between The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and believe me that haven’t changed since I played them back in the day. Though as of today that has changed, Naughty Dog has finally made my favourite game and that game is The Last of Us.
The PS3 has had a brilliant ride along the way and it is great that The Last of Us ended the PS3 with a bang. The Last of Us has excellent character development, a great story and a good mix of gameplay to keep players hooked and entertained throughout the whole experience. Whilst The Last of Us isn’t perfect, it is definitely an excellent game that you need in your collection.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.