The Last Of Us is a game put out by heavy weight developers Naughty Dog that are known for the Uncharted games and their snarky protagonist, Nathan Drake. The Last Of Us is set in post-apocalyptic America, 20 years after a devastating outbreak desecrates the world that humans have worked so hard for. 20 years on and life looks very different. The player takes control of rugged, manly man Joel and guides him through this world of chaos and violence with his precious cargo and side-kick, 14 year old Ellie.
Naughty Dog pull out all the stops for presentation. The graphics, for example are polished to a near sheen and at times, just don’t seem possible on the Playstation 3. Time and time again, Naughty Dog have proven that they can do what is needed to win the war on graphical beauty. As usual, the voice acting is at an A-list quality that would put a lot of big-budget titles to shame. Although the soundtrack is very quiet and doesn’t really grab your attention, it’s a fitting selection of sounds for the world that Joel and Ellie travel through. Much like Silent Hill, The Last Of Us knows when and where to use sound design to its full advantage. Serenading you with a quiet little guitar number and then pushing you into crushing silence when the moment is right. Conservative use of sound and silence are key here.
The story revolves around Joel trying to deliver Ellie to a resistance group, known as The Fireflies for unknown reasons, but for the payment of important supplies. Despite initial hesitation, Joel eventually agrees and takes on his mammoth adventure. Be sure to bring all the ammo and supplies you can find!
Gameplay revolves around quite a typical third-person style that all Naughty Dog fans should be accustomed to and involves sections of action, stealth and even scavenging. It must be said, it’s been a long time since a game has mixed these all together so well. Sometimes you’ll be exploring the safe camps, next minute you’re in the quarantine zone, keeping your head down.
In this world, Joel and Ellie will encounter the infected, bandits, the military and even other survivors just hoping to get by. Naughty Dog have done a cracking job of crafting some very crafty AI for the humans in this game… You’ll get flanked, grabbed from behind, rushed if they know you’re out of ammo and ganged up on. The AI is merciless in its hunt and attack on Joel and Ellie, so expect to die…Lots. However, you can approach combat in whichever way you see fit. You can carefully take people out without alerting the masses, or you can go in, guns and bows ablaze. Neither way feels like the right or wrong way, but sneaking is certainly easier. To aid you in sneaking and general combat, Joel also has the ability to focus his hearing so he can hear enemies, which results in him being able to see a thin outline of them through the walls, but only for a short distance.
During gameplay, you will also have to scavenge and collect supplies to make health kits, Molotov’s and so on. Be sure to savour ammo and always take your time to search for extra, as ammo is scarce. However, you can also use the supplies to upgrade your weapons and your abilities. So if you get enough vitamins you can upgrade Joel’s ability to craft items fast. You can also upgrade his hearing and get more range on it, which becomes massively useful later.
The infected are an entirely different kettle of fish. You’ll quickly get to know which ones can ruin your day and which ones just need to be bashed with a bat and kept at bay. That being said, the infected are always very dangerous and just as merciless as they rush you to tear out a piece of your neck.
It’s been awhile since a game has made me panic so much when it comes to the enemies. Everything you face in The Last Of Us feels dangerous and could eliminate you if you’re not playing in a clever manner. Everything that happens in these situations also feels very organic and well done. You can go from stealth to action and not feel as if you’ve failed and have to restart the encounter, you feel like you’re doing what you have to. In combat Ellie will provide you with ammo, spotting and occasionally throw a bottle at some poor sods mug.
Speaking of which, clever segue into talking about characters, Naughty Dog have really outdone themselves with the cast in this adventure. Every character has their own unique personality, motives and mind-set. Everything about them just feels real! It’s really hard not to gush over the characters, even the ones you’re supposed to dislike, you end up liking, just because of how well written they all are.
The stand-out diamond in this game has to be the relationship between Ellie and Joel. Despite it starting from nothing, to something that hasn’t, in my opinion, been seen since the relationship between Naked Snake and The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3. A close bond between two characters that feel so different but share a very fascinating connection. The attachment to these characters ends up feeling almost as real as the attachments you feel in real life, you spend a lot of the time just hoping and praying that everyone will make it out okay… It’s just a shame that in this world, it’s not all beautiful and simple.
The Last Of Us is the Playstation 3′s swan song, showing what the PS3 is ultimately capable of and also, what developers are capable of, if they apply themselves. Naughty Dog have broken new ground here, with what possibly be one of the best games I’ve ever played. The intensity of combat, the isolation of the apocalypse, the characters and the graphics all pitch in to create 2013′s best game.