The Last of Us was one of the main reasons I bought a PlayStation (alongside Spider-Man, obviously). For years, people had raved at me about how good it was and how it was a shame that, as an XBox player, I would never get the chance to try it. Well, times have changed, and I’ve finally played and completed The Last of Us. Does it reach the high expectations set by my friends and gamers around the world?
RELEASED: June 14th 2013
DEVELOPED BY: Naughty Dog
PUBLISHED BY: Sony Computer Entertainment
Yes. Yes it does.
Hopefully you clicked the ‘read more’ tag there because I was obviously kidding. I have more to say about The Last Of Us.
When I started this game, I was skeptical. It was fun, sure, but the controls felt like they were a less dynamic version of the two Uncharted games that I’d played. It was slower, more tedious, and while the first scene is obviously a great set up, after you jump twenty years ahead, I was wondering how things would all fit together.
But when Ellie (the little girl from the cover) gets into the game, which fortunately isn’t too far in, things really start to pick up.
From there, the story follows Joel (the player) as he is tasked with escorting Ellie across America to meet up with the band of renegades called the Fireflys, who believe they can use Ellie – who is immune to the zombie outbreak that has crippled society – to create a vaccination and end the apocalypse. Along the way, Ellie and Joel are plagued by the Infected and survivors alike, as they struggle to find hope in an endless sea of chaos.
I’m not generally all that big on zombies or zombie films. There are exceptions, of course, like the classic Dawn of the Dead, but otherwise it’s not a genre I’m all that fussed about. So it was surprising that I really got into the zombie stuff here. The reason I think ties in to the games mechanics. As I said previously, the controls start of akin to a rather watered down version of Uncharted, but as they progress they get infused with some more Tomb Raider-esque gameplay. And once that happens, so too do the zombies get more interesting. Of course, you’ve got your standard runner zombies, but in The Last of Us‘ story, that’s just the first stage of infection. As time passes, the infected begin to loose their sight as the fungus that has infected them takes over the face and brain. It’s at this point that you’re faced with zombies that are blind, but hypersensitive to sound, forcing you to rely less on mind-numbing zombie-gunning (although there is some of that, but spread out enough that it retains a sense of fun) and more on being smart with your tools, luring them, trapping them, understanding their weaknesses and exploiting them. In short, being a hunter, but moreso a survivor. And that’s where the game had me hooked.
Some of my favourite games are things like Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3, primarily because they involve their protagonist getting dumped in the wilderness and being faced with not only aggressive mercenaries, but also the wilderness itself. I find games like that fascinating. Anything where you’re given a bow and arrow and forced to go hunting at some point and you’ve got me sold. So I was overjoyed when it was the theme of survival, not just zombies that permeated the story of The Last of Us. And I guess you could argue that all zombie stories are about survival, which is partly true, but I’ve yet to see one that so thoroughly examines a world in which the characters must survive in all its facets*. How do the zombies work? What happened to the government? Is a cure on the cards? What are the rules outside the quarrantine zones? The Last of Us answers all of these questions and more.
And of course in this beautifully realised world of horrors, there are the characters, all of whom are likeable in some way – whether that be as hero and a villain that you love to hate – this game really thrives off of the character work and the writing. Over the course of an in-game year, you’re immersed in the lives and Joel and Ellie, and see them grow and transform as people. It’s like watching a well constructed TV show, where you know that you’re loving it so much that you both anticipate and fear the finale, as you know it means the end has come.
And while Ellie’s A.I. at times (and the A.I.’s of other characters who tag along with you) could be a bit useless, scrambling around frantically when you’re trying to be stealthy, or alerting all the zombies by knocking something over (what game doesn’t need a bit of fine-tuning here or there?), overall this is a extremely well made game with stunning imagery, beautiful music and characters who I can’t wait to see more of.
So yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I gave this game:
* I understand that a lot of what I said there is probably covered in The Walking Dead, but I’ve never watched that show.