Last Of Us Review – Deserving Of High Ratings Or Victim Of Mass Media Hype?
One of the most critically acclaimed console titles of our time continues to impress as it reaches impressive sales figures estimated at over 1 million in the first week. The Last of Us is the latest creation from fabled developers Naughty Dog, but is the hype a victim of a mass media frenzy or does the game truly deserve the huge scores it has been receiving? Gamers Heroes take a stab at another honest game review to find out. Although we do our very best to avoid spoilers, there are a very few minor ones below.
The Last of Us Honest Game Review
The game follows the story of main characters Joel and Ellie as they explore America on its knees. A deadly parasitic fungi has all but wiped out the population. The Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI) has the ability to infect and directly control the hosts mind, gaining the ability to alter its behavior and heighten aggression. The outbreak originally started with insects and arthropods but the species evolved to target humans. Spreading via contact with the infected or airborne smores, the parasite quickly decimated the world and gave nature the opportunity to take it back.
The premise of the story is enough to get any post-apocalyptic fan excited and with good reason. The lead characters meet a short distance into the game after a resistance group known as the Firefly’s hire Joel and his friend Tess to transport a package to scientists in a distant location. Eventually Tess breaks away from the group leaving just Joel and the 14yr old Ellie to survive in the cut-throat leftovers of what was once America. This is where the game really begins and it’s where I had one of my most touching experiences in gaming.
All too often in games younger characters are portrayed as weak, feeble and totally unable to act of their own accord. However, the character Ellie and the relationship she develops with Joel over the course of the game is nothing short of gaming brilliance. As soon as she’s introduced she starts throwing around the “Fuck’s and Shit’s” and is even called upon to kill enemies during the course of the main story. Naughty Dog managed to create a character that was both realistic and appealing. After-all, it’s the end of the world and Ellie wasn’t born until the parasite had already torn apart the population. As such she has a natural resilience to stuff that would turn pre-apocaplyse kids to jello.
Joel on the other hand plays the typical role of a withdrawn male that struggles to make any serious connection with other people due to his past experiences and obvious trust issues. Without spoiling the beginning, something terrible happens to Joel and it leaves him in a bad place. As he warms to Ellie he begins to get a new lease of life, a new hope that things can get better, and its this evolution throughout the story that makes it so addicting. Even sitting here writing this review, I take a look at the characters on the front of the game case and I feel something. I feel attached, I want to dive back in and see if there are any aspects of the story I missed. I cannot remember the last time a game had that effect on me.
Outside of the Joel and Ellie relationship the game is filled with other highly detailed characters and stories. One of the stories I’ll never forget is the journey of Isla, Kyle and a group of children. The bulk of the story involving these characters isn’t even related to the main arc. Instead their story is scattered around the game world in notes and Artifacts. You read how Isla fled out to sea during the early days of the outbreak, before returning to land. He then meets a group of people and decides to trade with them, only trusting them because they were seen with children. Isla discovers a stronghold to create a new life in and you learn how he slowly began to trust the group before inviting them to share his new home. The same story continues from the eyes of the other party and it has so much character, it could be a mini novel in itself. I won’t spoil anything but if you truly want to experience the wonder that is the story in The Last of Us, search for the collectibles.
Stepping away from the story Naughty Dog have managed to capture the essence of game development at the very core. Regular heroes would probably expect me to complain here, ranting about the lack of combat variation or thought, but for once I cannot easily point out any serious faults. It takes a typical third-person shooter approach but adding stealth options and multiple takedown methods. Whether you want to dive head first and rip your opponents apart with a range of weaponry, or get up close and personal for the stealth kill, both methods are almost always viable; giving the player complete control over how they approach each situation.
Outside of traditional shooting and stealth mechanics, we have melee combat. This is easily the most satisfying melee combat system I have ever experienced in a game that isn’t in the fighting genre. You swing your fists with the simple push of a single button but the way in which each hit connects truly makes you feel the extent of each blow. Couple that with the ability to counter enemy attacks, smash their face through the environment and take to their limbs with customized melee weapons; and you have arguably one of the greatest melee features ever seen in the genre.
The Last of Us also features a small yet vital crafting system. Scavenging for components plays a large aspect in the game and allows you to craft everything from Health Kits to enhanced melee weapons and explosives. It’s similar to Far Cry 3 in a way that it’s not very time consuming, not very in-depth but vital to your in-game efforts.
The leveling/progression system is also very basic. Scattered throughout the game world are items called Supplements. They come in many shapes and sizes but all serve the same purpose. They act as the games experience points system and allow Joel to increase his ability to listen through walls, increase his health, use additional attacks against certain types of infected and other basic improvements. I would have liked to have seen more choice but it serves its purpose without flaw.
The only area of the game that disappointed me was the multiplayer. It just felt like Call of Duty with a mix of FIFA. I didn’t dive into it too much as it’s just third-person deathmatch with added crafting mechanics and an overall faction-based progression system (hence the FIFA mention with features such as World Cup). However, having spoke to many friends that are having a lot of fun with the multiplayer, it appears to be down to personal preference over that of a good or bad design.
Whether you love or loathe multiplayer, The Last of Us is worth every single cent. A true masterpiece in story telling combines with fluid game mechanics and basic features to provide an experience every gamer should be eager to have.