The Last Of Us. A game that has received an enormous amount of hype which lead to dozens of reviews ranking it very highly. Another game from the talented Naughty Dog, I will say it at the start of this review so it’s clear – The Last Of Us is a game that deserves to be ranked at the very highest level of videogames. It does so many things well that it’s few weaknesses or stumbles are almost insignificant against how much it does so well. It is not a perfect game and it won’t be one I constantly go back to and play so the replayability is minimal for me. But the journey or adventure that I got to play will stick with me for a very long time. Not many games of this quality get released very often.
So let us grab our guns, keep our emotions in check, and delve into a civilisation that has collapsed under the weight of the infected.
As I played on the PS3 and the game is five years old (even the remaster isn’t built from the ground up for the new system), I won’t be saying much about the graphics other than they are very beautiful for a last gen game. Alot of detail has gone into making the world portray the problems that have happened. Debris and rubbish litter so many scenes and it’s great almost seeing the moment where the world and its people stopped functioning normally. Cut scenes also play a large roll which I’ll discuss later.
The sound of the game is almost kept to a minimum which further makes the player a part of this world. Music only briefly plays a part which makes it very noticeable when you finally hear it. It fits in perfectly with the world created and enhances cutscenes for full emotional impact. I do wish there was more of as I enjoyed it but it makes sense how the developers chose to use it sparingly. Sounds effects are all done well and weapon effects are satisfying.
But the main elements of The Last Of Us is the story and the characters. This is where the game is at it’s absolute best.
One thing I will say about the story though is that it is very good but not amazing. It isn’t the best story I’ve ever seen in a game nor does it come close. It’s very solid and interesting enough as a foundation to let the characters shine. We’ve had so many great stories in games, movies and tv shows these days that it takes something really special and different to differentiate itself from the rest. If stories are going to be similar or not as complex than they must be told differently or, in the case of The Last Of Us, have such interesting characters that portray the gravity of the situation that they are in.
The characters in this game are so well written and acted so well that it’s a huge credit to Naughty Dog. Some of the greatest in any game. The relationship between the two main characters of Joel and Ellie are simply astounding. These performances are better than many movies of tv shows. How they interact with each other and the dialogue they say keeps building these characters so much that by the end of the game we know them. But just as any real person, they are much deeper than what we have seen so far. They have faults, strengths, secrets and fears. Much of which is held close to the chest without giving anything away in this brutal world.
The script is so tight and brilliantly written that it makes these characters come alive. But The Last Of Us doesn’t stop there. Even when the characters aren’t saying anything, their facial expressions and emotion in their eyes tell a story or tell the player what they are thinking. You can fill in the gaps without one word being said. That, to me, is incredible. At these moments you know what they are thinking about but not saying. Not opening up to the other character so as not to get too emotionally attached.
And that brings me to the cut scenes. These are directed so well that I could watch the whole game just consisting of these. The characters move, talk and gesture in such believable ways that it is a marvel to watch. So much care is taken and there are alot of them but never to many to become a negative. With a single player running 15-20 hours long, this game is longer than the majority of story driven single player action games these days. Just when you may have had enough action, a cut scene will play to give the player a break. And each time they are great to watch.
You can hear some of what was seen in the cut scenes start to bleed into the gameplay with the banter between the characters. The slight tension or affection is still felt. We see these characters start off as strangers, we see them go through so much together over the course of the game and when we reach the end we just want to know more. More questions are raised as to how it will development in future games.
All of the supporting characters are treated with as much care and are as fleshed out as the main characters. They each have their strengths, weaknesses and fears which makes them believable. We find out what they have been through and where they are going and, again, they portray all the emotion so well in cut scenes and their dialogue is written expertly.
You’ll meet many different supporting characters during the game and they will all come and go for different reasons. They may have their own agenda which plays out very well and all adds to the story and the atmosphere of the game. When you meet these people you feel like they have had a past before you and (some) will have a future after you. They don’t feel like they are simply there for the players benefit. Each of them also has an impact on our main characters and further develops what they think and how their bond grows. In The Last Of Us, nothing is black and white. There is alot of grey area where morals and principles aren’t so clear cut and the developers treat is all fantastically.
Just as any game, The Last Of Us does have a few small weaknesses. The enemy AI overall is good but sometimes stupid. After strangling a guard it is common for his buddy to wander right over his dead corpse like nothing is out of the ordinary. Other times I found they were erratic in their patrolling patterns like they had too much caffeine. Gunplay is good but not great and I’ve played better in other games. I struggled to get in and out of cover sometimes as the camera seemed to become confused. Nothing game breaking and all quite minor in such an otherwise strong game.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game as it is a great experience for anyone that is wanting a good length, single player, story driven action game. Naughty Dog deserve all the praise they have received for this game and I look forward to the sequel. Of course, it won’t be to everyones tastes but what it sets out to achieve it does – and then some.
I guess my thoughts about the game can be summed up quite simply like this.
I envy all those who haven’t played the game. You get to experience it for the first time.