Full disclosure, I LOVE Naughty Dog. I LOVE the Uncharted games. So it was no surprise to anyone that I had greatly anticipated the release of The Last Of Us. It takes a special game to cause me to actually pay full price for it. I made sure to pick up The Last Of Us the day it came out. All I have to say is, the bar has been raised.
The story of The Last Of Us follows Joel and Ellie as they traverse the wastelands of America. You find out early in the game that there was some sort of fungal outbreak that turns humans into fast zombies. People can turn either by inhaling spores, which are emitted from the bodies of the long infected, or by bites. You are introduced to Joel during the first days of the outbreak. This background info gives you all you need to know about him as a character and where he is coming from. It is these early days of the outbreak that basically made him who he is in the game. The rest of the game takes place 20 years later. You and a partner are given the job of transporting Ellie to a group known as the fireflies, but at first you have no idea why.
This kind of story may seem as cliche and rehashed as can be. It did have me worried at first, but truth be told, a story doesn’t necessarily have to be original so much as it needs to be done well. The people at Naught Dog are truly masters of story telling. The story and character development in The Last of Us is probably the best in video games up until this point. This game makes the melodramatic FF franchise look like high schooler written garbage. Never have I seen in games a more realistic portrayal of humanity. Hell, I rarely see this kind of story telling in movies nowadays. Characters in this game are far from static. They grow and mature over the year that the story takes place. Never once, did I feel like the characters ever delineated away from what you would expect them to do at that particular point in the story. You become totally invested in their journey. So much so, that I ended up playing the game through again straight after I beat it.
The ending of The Last Of Us, is by far one of the BEST endings ever. I was totally blindsided by the ending. I couldn’t help but think about the ending throughout the week afterwards. And it isn’t just the dialogue, but the cinematography (yes cinematography). When you see the reactions of the people in the cut scenes, the little nuances of a smirk or a held gaze, are just perfect and brilliant. The last line of the game is only a couple of words long, but in those words and in that expression on the persons face, there is so much said. That is what blew me away. This game ends with a heavy period. Where you have giant grandiose ballroom scenes or huge epic battles at the end of Final Fantasy games, The Last Of Us leaves you with a couple of words and an expression that say more than all of the Final Fantasy endings combined. The age of j-drama being the leader in story telling is no more.
Really this game comes as close to perfection as any game can. For those of you douches that didn’t like the Uncharted form of gameplay, I really suggest you try The Last Of Us. Sure it has some of its video game cliches. You nearly always know when a shootout is going to happen for instance, just by the sudden appearance of cover and hiding spots. They also use a very similar aiming style as the Uncharted games as well. I assure you, the similarities to Uncharted stop there. First of all, if you plan on playing this game, guns blazing, you are going to have a hell of a time. There are long swaths of time where I might only have had 4 or 5 bullets in each gun. Each shot has to count (although I missed a lot). Another excellent thing about the game is that you can’t favor one gun throughout the entirety of the game. You know how in Dead Space you just use the plasma cutter the whole time? Yea, can’t do that in this game. Each weapon has a specific use and is best used when the opportunity arises for it. I really have never had this happen to me in a game before. Sure, there are plenty of games where say, using a sniper rifle at a certain point might be a better idea than using a shotgun, but in The Last Of Us, the scenarios you are put in reward you way more to chose wisely. It isn’t always the same fight either. One playthrough I might have used a rifle at one point, where on the second playthrough I may have used something else.
I also feel that The Last Of Us, has made me want to use stealth more than any other game prior. The zombies in this game don’t really die very easily from gunshots. You are way better off either avoiding them or stealth killing them. This really raises the tension in the game and also mixes up the gameplay. ALSO THERE IS GAME+ MODE THANK YOU.
The gameplay, although next to perfect for its genre, is really the only place I can nitpick this game. For instance, you are constantly looking for resources to build supplies. One of these resources are scissor parts. How is it that you never come across full scissors? I only found parts of scissors throughout the entire two playthroughs. This drove me nuts. It makes no sense. Are people just taking half of the scissors they find? Why would people just salvage half a pair of scissors? They could have at least mixed it up a little. Also, you can use bottles and bricks as a distraction by throwing them in a corner and making noise. ONLY bottles and bricks. Really? You are in a damn wasteland, full of debris, and you can only pick up bricks and bottles? There are rocks everywhere! The same goes for what you can use as melee weapons. You are basically only going to come across sticks, pipes, bats, and an occasional machete. Why can’t I pick up a chair and bash someone with that?
Another slight beef I had with this game is that the AI could sometimes be really stupid. Sometimes they couldn’t hear the loudest noises, other times they could hear everything. One annoying thing that I encountered often was if I tried to stealth attack someone and they saw me, even if they didn’t have time to actually react to me, somehow the whole area would be alerted that I was there. That could be really annoying since sometimes you’ll spend a lot of time crawling around only to be found out after it all.
It was these small details that were kind of annoying, but for all those little details that bugged me, there were tons of other details that they added that made the game great. For instance, the way Joel’s breathing changes when enemies are near. Or the little banter that happens between Joel and Ellie when they come across certain things. Little stuff like that is peppered throughout the game.
Games like The Last Of Us is why I still play games to this day. It is really no wonder that this caliber of game is coming out now. Our generation grew up with great games, and hardware that could produce something much more immersive that two paddles hitting a ball. This game is art and should be respected as such. They could easily spend time in film classes discussing the characters in this game. As much as I loved this game though, I really hope they don’t make a sequel to it. The ending was just so perfect. Some things should just be left to the imagination. If you are at all a gamer, you need to buy this game. This game basically locks PS3 in as the better of this generation of systems. Really, none of XBOX360’s games come even close to touching this. Probably because xbox360 is meant for beer drinking bros that don’t have any taste.
EDIT: Ok, to be fair there was one other thing that I remembered that really annoyed me about this game. When you stealth kill someone, and they have a gun, they won’t necessarily drop ammo. That is so lame. I know they are trying to make ammo scarce but come on. If the guy has a gun and hasn’t shot it, why doesn’t he drop any ammo? SO ANNOYING.