Ever watched one of those movies where everything seems to be going really well for the hero but you just know that round the corner a whole world of hurt is awaiting them? Well, that’s pretty much how the story starts out for our ruggedly handsome character Joel in Naughty Dog’s latest adventure The Last Of Us.
It’s just a horrible nightmare right? right??
In a neat twist, you don’t actually start out as Joel. Instead, you see the events unfold through the eyes of his 12 year old daughter Sarah who awakens to find her father missing, strange stories in the newspaper and terrifying images on the TV.
The initial few minutes of the game are great. It really sets the tone and top marks to the voice actress as you can really hear the panic rising in Sarah’s voice as she sleepily stumbles through the house while things start to go off.
By about 10 mins into the opening sequence, you’re gripped and really want things to work out for our dynamic duo (which, they don’t) and when the sequence ends and the opening titles begin, you’re one hundred percent behind Joel to start whipping butts, chewing gum and taking names.
And if you look to your left, you can see the soldiers lining up more infected..
The level of detail in The Last of Us is incredible. As you play through, the daily lives of the survivors unfold and part of the charm of this game is just to simply take a step back, look around you and take in what is going on.
If you can resist attacking them, some of the enemies also stand around chatting. After listening to a few of these before I went running in brick in hand, I was impressed just how human they came across and in another time and situation, Joel might be just as likely drinking beers with these guys rather than launching them face first into a wall.
How about we just put these weapons down and talk it through like men..
Speaking of combat, when I was first given The Last of Us to review (by our lovely friends in GAME High Wycombe), it came with the recommendation of picking the Hard difficulty setting for a greater challenge. So on this suggestion, I jumped into the deep-end to see just how tough this game could be. The answer? Oh boy it gets hard, so be prepared to see yourself get shot, beaten up, stabbed and eaten many times before the end.
Normally when faced with such games, I tend to wimp out and shuffle slowly through on easy mode, hiding in the shadows and hoping that all the scary things will go away and leave me alone. With this in mind, as I began to start wandering through the apocalyptic streets with some mysterious lass called Tess on the way to meet the equally mysterious Robert, I was wary of the soldiers standing around and was half expecting someone (or something) to jump out at me.
That feeling got worse when I aquired your first weapon and when you come across spores for the first time, you just know a fight is coming (by the way, the tutorial on how to fire your weapon has to be one of the most harrowing gaming experiences I’ve come across).
The Last of Us blends stealth and all-out gung-ho action nicely and you really feel a sense of achievement in from either silently taking out your victims or just wading in all guns blazing. I highly recommend the first approach as the latter usually ends up with you dead (unless you have serious firepower, ammo and health).
Stealthing around is helped by using a rather neat mechanic of focussing your listening and while there are plenty of bricks, bottles and bits of wood lying about, you can also collect parts to upgrade your guns and melee weapons which will certainly help with the fighting.
Combat as a whole is smooth, easy to get into and handled well with the controller. Your companions are usually a help rather than a hindrance (especially with my woeful combat skills) and while there are a few set pieces, they will usually work alongside you on their own merit to help take out the bad guys. There are times though that they’ll go and do something very silly or just get under your feet but thankfully that doesn’t happen very often.
The difficulty curve of The Last Of Us is pretty good. It starts you out with a few simple fights to get the hang of things but pretty soon you’re hiding in a corner on low health, flinging bottles like a mad man and hoping to get out of this mess alive.
Hello, my name is Ellie
Without spoiling the game too much, you will eventually run into the young lass that adorns the cover of the title who goes by the name of Ellie. She’s a wise cracking, no-nonsense kinda girl and unlike the female companions of previous games (I’m looking at you Ico), this one doesn’t just drop down in a corner crying when things get rough.
The AI for Ellie (as with the other companions) is done incredibly well and I’ve been mightily impressed when a health pack has come winging my way when I’m low on health or a well placed shot has taken down an assailant just before they’ve hit me.
As I mentioned previously, there are times though when they get a case of the fuzzies and don’t do exactly what you want them to do. On the whole though, they behave well and AI issues have been few and far between or haven’t been so noticable to cause any major difficulties.
The sights and sounds of a post-apocolyptic world
The graphics and environments in this game are fantastic. Creepy dilapidated buildings, oppressive cities, untamed wilds, boxes, ladders this game has it all. While you can play the game of “didn’t we already go through this area before?” quite easily, it still looks very pretty so the copy/paste layouts can be forgiven.
The sound in The Last of Us has certainly been put to good use. The initial menu music is a relaxing guitar melody just right to put you in a contemplative mood before dropping you into a survival nightmare. While the in-game music is sparse, it tends to drop in during the more tense moments or when you’re in combat to help give it a more frantic edge.
What really sets up the atmosphere though are the sound effects. From thunder omniously rumbling in the distance to hearing strange noises while creeping through buildings, it really helps keep you in the game. So if you’re keen on playing games with the lights down low and the sound up high, then be prepared for a few scares!
The Last of Us – The Verdict
The first few sections of The Last of Us does a great job of easing you into the game with subtle tutorial hints for those new to the title and more in-depth instructions for players who need a little further guidance.
Controlling the various characters throughout the game is also very simple and the controls are very quick to pick up. Even when there is a lot happening on-screen, you rarely get dis-orientated or during intense fight sequences, you feel that you died because you made a mistake, rather than the game letting you down.
The story ticks along at a great pace and while you don’t get much of a backstory at the start, the overall story doesn’t feel too disjointed or makes you feel that you’re missing something. I personally like the touch where the game gently nudges you to zoom in on key areas to make sure you don’t miss all the action.
As you travel through the game, enemies become more varied (and more scary), environments become more hazardous and must be traversed safely, simple puzzles need to be solved (usally armed with a trusty ladder) and of course collectables need to be hunted down and obtained.
As a nice touch for replayability value, once you’ve completed the game, you get the chance to carry your previously obtained items over into a new game plus which can really help get through some of the earlier trickier sections.
There is a Multiplayer section, but as I did not have an online pass, I was not able to check it out for review. Essentially though you play as one of two factions and must gather supplies, craft items and kill the opposing faction in order to help your fellow teammates survive.
Overall the game feels very polished and with plenty to keep you on your toes, it certainly doesn’t get boring or too repetative. Definitely one for those long summer evenings.
GEEK RATING: 8/10
+ Great Story
+ Easy to pick up controls
+ Very atmospheric
+ Plenty of replayability
- Little too linear and suffers slightly from copy/paste locations
- AI can get underfoot at times which can mess up stealth attacks
- Puzzles can get a little repetative
- One-shot Shivs can end up becoming more frustrating than tactical at points
Title – The Last of Us
Platform – PS3
Genre – Survival Horror, Action Adventure
Developer – Naughty Dog
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date – June 14 2013
DLC – £15.99 Season Pass (Reduced cost towards unreleased DLC packs, Increased Crafting Speed, 9mm Reload Speed Upgrade, Increased Healing Speed, Rifle Clip Capacity Upgrade, 90 min making of movie “Grounded”)
Images – Google Images
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