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The Last of Us
The Last of Us

PlayStation 3
Genre: Action
Developer: Naughty Dog Official Site: http://www.naughtydog.com/ga...
Publisher: Sony
Release Date:
17th May 2013
The Last of Us

Genre: Action
Developer: Naughty Dog
Official Site: http://www.naughtydog...
Publisher: Sony
Release Date:
17th May 2013
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The Last of Us Review
Review By @ 03:23pm 10/06/13
PS3
It feels truly bizarre to say, in the dying months of this console generation, we’ve received some of the best of what this generation has to offer in terms of storytelling. Not so long ago, our esteemed editor Stephen Farrelly was singing the praises of BioShock Infinite—a game that merged narrative and gameplay mechanics in a haunting way—and now it’s my turn to talk about how The Last of Us, like Infinite before it, has the potential to stay with you long after the credits have rolled; albeit, in a universe that feels worlds apart from the latest BioShock game, and yet intrinsically linked in terms of the narrative impact.

Naughty Dog is, of course, no stranger to developing games with strong characters, compelling plots and addictive gameplay mechanics all thrown together in a blender for Uncharted results. But as deserving as the Uncharted series is of praise—particularly in terms of cinematic gameplay—it feels like training wheels in comparison to the narrative and characterisation achievements of The Last of Us. If you’re a sucker for engaging characters and engrossing storylines, The Last of Us boasts one of the best experiences to date. But it’s also so much more than that.



The Last of Us is a third-person game that follows the post-apocalyptic plight of Joel and the precious cargo he needs to protect, Ellie. Joel has to escort Ellie across an American landscape that’s overrun with nature, ruthless humans and zombie-like infected people that are hungry for flesh. If you imagine The Road in game form, you’re on the right path. Naughty Dog has claimed that it is seeking to create a new sub-genre in this title—survival-action—and it doesn’t take too long to see the influences of survival-horror and third-person action titles, all the while still managing to play like it’s not a spin-off from the similarly viewed Uncharted series.

The survival aspects are there in terms of an emphasis on scavenging to find various items around the game world that can be used to make a handful of offensive and defensive weapons. Cleverly, there’s a crossover of ingredients, meaning that if you, say, want to build a Molotov cocktail, you’re doing so at the expense of building a life-saving medkit, and vice versa. The action component comes into it, though, when approaching features such as the torch that never runs out of batteries (even if you do have to occasionally shake your controller to fix a wonky beam). There are, also, parts scattered around the world that can be found to upgrade your backpack and weapons at workbenches, along with various forms of medical supplies to permanently affect things such as health, weapon sway and crafting duration.

This latter point is an interesting consideration given the reality that all crafting, healing and switching weapon slots is done in real time. What this does is add a satisfying tactical layer to any encounter, given that careful planning can quickly go out the window if you’re spotted by an enemy, or switching from stealthy to aggressive weapons on the fly. There are no hard-fail situations in The Last of Us, though, meaning Naughty Dog is actively encouraging you to experiment with stealth and aggression, along with the fertile grey area in between the two poles. Ammunition can be scarce, and fully armed foes refuse to drop usable ammo a lot of the time, but this isn’t quite I Am Alive in terms of scarcity of munitions.



But even the aforementioned careful planning is a necessary tactic for any encounter, particularly if you’re hoping to not alert enemies to your presence. Human (“hunters”, as they’re known) are a deadly threat because they work in groups and carry weapons, often flanking and calling out orders and warnings to each other as they hunt you down. Better still, their leaders are so much more than cardboard baddies, and prove to be fully fleshed-out characters that are more human than moustache-twirling evil archetypes.

As challenging as these human encounters can become, particularly for aggressive play styles, they pale in comparison to the often-horrifying moments of encountering infected foes. In a unique spin on the zombie zeitgeist, infected foes have a nasty fungal infection which, the longer they have been infected, results in different classes of enemy. At their most basic form, the infected are called Runners and, as the name suggests, sprint at you in a 28 Days Later-type fashion that makes fast aiming difficult—particularly in earlier sections of the game with basic weapons—and really adds to the tension of these encounters. Considering you have to aim before shooting—no Gears of War blind-firing here—this makes for edge-of-your-seat action. They’ll quite often bash into you and throw your aim, or grapple with you which can quickly leave you surrounded.

You can bolt from these encounters in the hopes of breaking line of sight, which will let you attempt to stalk your foes again, but this tactic is best used against human foes and isn’t as effective against sprinting infected. Clickers are by far the most terrifying addition, whose ominous namesake clicking sounds are used in a sonar fashion to detect your movement and also flag a challenging encounter before you even see them.

This is where Joel’s listening ability is most effective: a gameplay mechanic that lets you pull the right trigger to have a visualisation of what Joel can hear, even through walls. This mechanic can be upgraded, but can also be deceptive against human foes who quite often lay in wait and, thus, don’t show up in the visual depiction of enemies in the area who are making sound.



There are a couple of other enemy types that you encounter but, suffice it to say, in the latter levels of the game, it’s the areas that combine all infected types that are really challenging if you attempt a stealthy incursion. It’s not all about combat, though, as there’s a healthy dose of (minimally) challenging problem solving and very light platforming. These quieter moments are fantastic excuses for exploring this rich world, discovering what few supplies remain in the world that haven’t been picked up by other survivors and even chatting with Ellie and the other companions you sporadically meet in the course of your journey. Considering the boosts to Naughty Dog’s graphics engine, the facial animation adds a whole new level of believability, too, particularly during cinematics.

Naughty Dog also does a stellar job of ensuring that The Last of Us doesn’t feel like an elongated escort mission, and Ellie is far from your average damsel in distress. Despite her youth, her competency in dangerous situations is second only to her penchant for dropping f-bombs in such a way that you quickly fall in love with her character. In combat, she even collects loose bottles or bricks to throw at foes that often get too close for comfort, buying precious seconds to scamper away or land a deadly one-hit takedown with a viciously modified baseball bat. She even calls out enemy positions: specifically, enemies who may have gotten the drop on you and aren’t currently on your screen. This saved my life on more than one occasion.

Joel, on the other hand, should be a harder character to like given he is the poster boy for ultimate anti-hero, but you really feel for his plight in ways that would spoil things to explore further. The ending of the game is so pitch perfect yet so defiant of narrative norms that it will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

With so much that Naughty Dog gets right, it’s hard not to feel a strong level of knee-jerk negativity to the sporadic appearance of problems, but mainly because they break the intense levels of immersion that persist throughout the campaign. The most notable detractor is the long loading times when you start up the game and first load a mission. These all but fade into the background once you’re up and going, much like the occasional noticeable appearance of graphics rendering, but it does suck when you just want to get back to that beautiful immersive experience.



While odd clipping problems and particular invisible walls are forgivable, the various AI fails are harder to excuse. Enemies seemingly treat your companions as ghosts, not seeing them in sneaking situations, which means that you’re not screaming at friendly AI for giving away your position, but it does make their presence feel hollow in these instances. There were even moments when I was directly in front of an enemy and remained unseen, or had a torch on nearby human foes who were still oblivious to my presence. When the enemy AI is in full swing, though, they truly are a force to be reckoned with, which is why these disappointments ring louder than they should.

All of these detractors pale in comparison to the overall achievement that is The Last of Us and, specifically, the wholly immersive narrative experience that’s dripping with atmosphere and character connectivity from the get-go. Unfortunately, multiplayer was unavailable at the time of review to test out, but even it looks like it will expand on the addictive core gameplay mechanics of the campaign.

When all is said and done, my 14 hours with The Last of Us (a relatively long experience for an action title), left me utterly satisfied with how the game played out. As the credits rolled, I found myself missing my time with Joel and Ellie, yet completely comfortable with the thought that Naughty Dog has forged a new IP where there doesn’t need to be The Last of Us 2. If there was, though, it would still be an exciting prospect, and it’s not often that you get to want more of an IP all the while being wholly satisfied if there’s never another game in the series.
What we liked
  • Naughty Dog’s best narrative yet
  • Believable characters
  • Honed gameplay
  • Immersive sound
  • Engaging world
  • Often stunning visuals
What we didn't like
  • Long loading times
  • Sporadic physics fails
  • Invisible walls
  • Oblivious AI stuff-ups
More
We gave it:
9.5
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Viper119
Posted 01:47am 11/6/13
I'm a bit gutted this is PS3-only, would of liked to play it.

Also, I have this completely confused with I Am Alive, anyone else notice that?
Zapo
Posted 07:00am 11/6/13
Really looking forward to this, it's one of the last games I'm keen on from this generation. Looks fantastic.
Rhys84au
Posted 07:27pm 14/6/13
Been playing all arvo, consider me very very impressed... possibly one of the best if not the best ps3 title i have played to date.
Whoop
Posted 08:03pm 14/6/13
^^ what?

I would have played it had it been on PC, not buying a console just for one game.
Zapo
Posted 09:56pm 14/6/13
I've played a few hours of it tonight and I'm really enjoying it so far. Pacing is really good, gameplay is varied, but f*** do I suck at shooting in console games!
eski
Posted 10:05am 16/6/13
I didnt follow this very closely over development, and I was hoping the apple had fallen further from the Uncharted tree. Once I got over my expectations it got pretty fun, but the gameplay is very rinse and repeat. Stellar production values though.
groganus
Posted 02:16pm 16/6/13
Finished, what a great game, i can see why it got 10's all over the place.
Linker
Posted 06:19pm 16/6/13
Why does the review have load times in the negative column? I've played through 50% of the SP and there are absolutely NO load times after the initial load, which is awesome! The loading is all hidden in the cut scenes and streamed really well. Maybe clarify if it's the multiplayer where you're seeing the load times? (I haven't tried MP yet)
groganus
Posted 07:05am 17/6/13
^this,

I've made a habbit of not quitting out a ps3 game once i start playing it cause load times in general are always terrible on a ps3.
ravn0s
Posted 06:38pm 02/7/13
well, i just finished the game and it was a god damn masterpiece. it's definitely the game to beat this year.
glynd
Posted 06:52pm 02/7/13
hands down one of the best games I've played this gen. I didn't notice the loading cause i did it in 2-3 sittings haha. Outside the initial load, didn't notice it at all. Well transitioned. I bought a PS3 for this and even if I didn't buy another PS3 game, I'd still say it's my moneys worth.
ctd
Posted 07:59pm 02/7/13
Damnit. I had to sell my PS3 before moving back from London. Never play the piece of s*** and now this comes out.

Looking for a cheap PS3 on gumtree... mofos on that site be smoking crack with the overpriced second hand ps3's.

EBGames pre-owned machines are cheaper than gumtree. Would cost like $200 including game... probably still too much.
Taipan
Posted 09:11pm 02/7/13
Jesus nice to see so many positive responses, its almost unheard of these days to get a string of people give such glowing reports of a game.
Dazhel
Posted 09:28pm 02/7/13
I don't have a PS3 and TLoU incredibly unlikely to come out on PC, so this is the first game I'm considering just watching a Let's Play youtube series from start to finish because everyone's raving about the story and by reports it's only around 9-10 hours long.

From what I can gather this series is one where the dude isn't completely obnoxious and tries not to talk over stuff all the time.
Zapo
Posted 09:35pm 02/7/13
There's enough decent PS3 only titles out there other than The Last of Us....borrow a PS3 from a mate or something.

I've never watched one of the walk through video things for the various games, but I just get the feeling like you'll be missing out on sooo much I don't know if it would be enjoyable. Exploring the world, doing things at your own pace in your own way, I don't know how good the story would be if you didn't go through it yourself.
Vash
Posted 09:56pm 02/7/13
It's been a long time since i couldnt put a game down. This was the game that did it.
I finished it 3 days after it came out. I had a few days off as a coincidence. Just amazing.
ravn0s
Posted 10:28pm 02/7/13
I don't have a PS3 and TLoU incredibly unlikely to come out on PC, so this is the first game I'm considering just watching a Let's Play youtube series from start to finish because everyone's raving about the story and by reports it's only around 9-10 hours long.


i don't think it will have the same impact by just watching it, but go for it if you're never going to buy/borrow a ps3. also it took me almost 17hrs to complete the game.
Taipan
Posted 11:02pm 02/7/13
lol just heard on the radio here that sony is going to have to patch the game because there are some signs or some s*** for pest control companies as part of the environment with 1800 numbers. Well it turns out the 1800 numbers are real and are phone sex lines.

apparently the story is on Kotaku
Dazhel
Posted 11:44pm 02/7/13
Yeah I'm conflicted, I'd never buy one but I could possibly borrow a PS3 to play it.
ravn0s
Posted 08:29am 03/7/13
it's already been patched
Wrecktim
Posted 02:31am 04/7/13
sweet game. been playing it all night.
Ivonin
Posted 12:48pm 04/7/13
Bought a PS3 just to play this, not disappointed in the slightest.
Chang
Posted 07:08pm 05/7/13
20 hours and 5 minutes from start to finish. In a word: amazing.

In a few words: One of the best character building narratives I have ever experienced, regardless of media platform (movie, book, game). Doesn't really touch on the wider picture (where the infection came from, etc) but that is really just a plot device and irrelevant next to the emotions and conflict between Joel and Ellie while they travel through post-apocalyptic America.

Borrowed a PS3 to play this, now I'm lending it to the friend who gave me the console. Considering going and buying a PS3 just for this game, I'm thinking a second hand one.

A gaming masterpiece.
Tollaz0r!
Posted 07:29pm 05/7/13
link
Ha
Posted 10:59pm 05/7/13
One of the best character building narratives I have ever experienced,


jesus christ dude read a book.

also, a ctrlaltdelete comic was unironically posted.
Vash
Posted 01:05am 06/7/13
Books are boring though. Thats why we play video games.
Ha
Posted 09:05am 06/7/13
that singing birthday card had the best sound i've ever experienced, regardless of media platform
Monkeez
Posted 10:39am 06/7/13
Nah I agree that games are getting better at telling stories than other mediums, I think you build a stronger connection with these characters because you also play as them and help them through their challenges.
eski
Posted 10:32am 06/7/13
jesus christ dude read a book.
Ha
Posted 11:02am 06/7/13
I think you build a stronger connection with these characters because you also play as them and help them through their challenges.


jesus christ dude read a book.
Monkeez
Posted 04:04pm 06/7/13
Firstly, yes I do read books and agree they are awesome. Secondly, you cannot control the characters in books which is what I was getting at.
Dazhel
Posted 04:12pm 06/7/13
Ahh I caved and started watching the play through on youtube, no regrets at all.
Ha
Posted 05:11pm 06/7/13
Secondly, you cannot control the characters in books which is what I was getting at.


f*** you james joyce
Monkeez
Posted 05:52pm 06/7/13
Yep, hate that guy.
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