"The Last of Us is truly the next step toward what the future of gaming looks like. I feel as though this peek into the future is Naughty Dog's magnum opus."
I have to say that 2013 has already been one hell of year to be a gamer. If Watch Dogs and the new consoles are going to be the cherry on the top of our Awesome Year Sundae, The Last of Us is all of the dankest of toppings. At its core, this game focuses primarily on the relationship between a 50-year-old, world-wary man named Joel and the 14-year-old Ellie. Joel is tasked with delivering Ellie to an extremist group of zombie-apocalypse survivors known as the Fireflies. By the game's end, you will be convinced that the two are truly willing to do anything for each other and it's this dynamic that makes the game's stakes that much higher. The game never feels like an escort mission because you are invested in the dialogue and interactions between both characters.
"All of this item-crafting happens in real time, adding an extra layer of urgency as you’re rummaging your back pack in an area filled with the infected."
This isn't a normal father-daughter dynamic, even though the two aren't even related. This is a world torn asunder by an airborne outbreak of Cordyceps, a fungus that takes over the brain of its host. As a result, the infected humans are still alive, but are unable to control their actions. Read: Zombies. Somehow, Naughty Dog did it. A flooded genre that has been dead (ha!) for a while has been resurrected by focusing on how destitute humanity has become. In fact, other people are just as dangerous as the infected in The Last of Us.
Joel is a badass. After surviving twenty years post-outbreak, he knows what he needs to do to survive and, by proxy, so will you. You'll need to gather supplies like blades, binding, and alcohol in order to craft med kits, shivs, different grenades, and even upgrade your melee weapons, like pieces of plywood, metal pipes, or baseball bats. All of this item-crafting happens in real time, adding an extra layer of urgency as you’re rummaging your back pack in an area filled with the infected.
The three different types of zombies in The Last of Us each require different strategies in order to take them down. Runners are sensitive to light, are fairly easy to take down, and run directly at you. Stalkers are the same, but will actually hide and strafe from gunfire.
Clickers are terrifying. They are blinded by the fungus that has enveloped their entire head, meaning they won't react to your flashlight…but if they attack you, whether from the front, back, or side, it's game over. Restart from your last checkpoint. Easily the most terrifyingly, relentless zombies I have ever encountered in a video game. Most of the time, it's worth your while to just sneak past them.
"Like Bioshock Infinite earlier this year, The Last of Us isn't afraid to touch on uncomfortable subjects gaming has steered away from over the years. After the finale, the only thing you will want to do is talk about it."
Bloaters are essentially Boomers from Left 4 Dead. Instead of vomiting on you though, they will throw spore grenades from the distance and if you get too close, they will literally rip your face apart. Stage 4 Infected do not mess around. Neither do the human enemies. Moments of The Last of Us make you question, "Would I do the same thing if I were in that scenario?" Everyone in this world is competing for resources, food, and weapons. Their behavior reflects as such and leads to some intense moments in both its gameplay and story.
Like Bioshock Infinite earlier this year, The Last of Us isn't afraid to touch on uncomfortable subjects gaming has steered away from over the years. After the finale, the only thing you will want to do is talk about it. It’s a game that offers you choices when it comes to skirmishes, keeping the gameplay fresh and consistently entertaining. These intense sequences are sandwiched between seemingly mundane, "walking through the world" parts, that are cleverly used as opportunities to showcase the Joel-Ellie relationship, which is necessary after the game's more high-risk environments.
"This game is a journey…one that you will want to experience again and again."
You can approach this game in one of two ways. You can play it like Metal Gear Solid and sneak around to dispatch your enemies stealthily or you can go in guns blazing, ready to kick ass and take names. If you die approaching the skirmish one way, you can always play it the other way next time. Discovering which style of play is more effective in certain scenarios is part of what sets The Last of Us apart from other similar titles.
After such intensity, the game will force you to walk through demolished cities and haunting wooded areas. It's in these environments that you candidly get to see how Ellie responds to a world that she has barely even been exposed to. Surviving is all Ellie has ever known. Joel remembers how the world used to be pre-outbreak. These jarring perspectives and moral outlooks on the world naturally cause conflict, both internally and externally for these characters.
This game is a journey…one that you will want to experience again and again. You can do so with the games’ New Game + mode. The Last of Us also features a tacked on multiplayer mode called Factions, that offers two different modes. Supply Raid is a straight-up, timed team deathmatch, whereas Survivors is a more Counter Strike-esque multiplayer mode. If you die, you won't re-spawn. It's just the caramel swizzle on top of an already delicious mound of gaming deliciousness.
Review by: Michael Engle | Reviewed on: Playstation 3