The Last of Us. Such a phenomenal game and one that has countless publications in love with it. Racking up quite a nice list of awards in the process on top of commercial success (TLoU has sold 3.7 million units in it's first three weeks). A brand new ip, that's also a console exclusive, in addition to releasing in the summer doldrums...and the week of E3. Yeah, I say there has been a volcanic explosion of hype surrounding this title.
Now an issue I've had with writing this review (aside from making time to actually write...) dwelt directly with how I wanted to present this game. Do I lead in with a build up of the title? Should I discuss the balls of Sony/Naughty Dog to put Uncharted on the back burner and focus on this brand new ip? What should I do? My conclusion? Just talk about the game.
Diving into the post-pandemic world of Joel, a man that loses everything in the first 30 minutes of the game as you move passed the title screen. The world falls to hell and it falls fast. One of my major complaints against all things post-apocalyptic is, HOW IN THE FUCKING CHRIST'S MANGER DID THE WORLD COLLAPSE SO FAST?! Zombies! They're everywhere. Why? How? My only thought on the subject is, the writers want conflict. It drives the plot of the story, but instead of flushing out how everything goes to shit, the screen fades black and "sometime further down the road...it's now Tuesday 3498" appears on screen. Then the viewer or gamer sees..."yep, the world went to hell" NOW SURVIVE!
The Last of Us starts out like every other piece of apocalyptic story does. Nice house, raising a family, drawing an emotional connection early on, some explosions, gun shots, sirens, chase scene, people die, "20 years later". Ta da! Naughty Dog does a great job within the first 30 minutes of setting everything up, but that's the gist.
Now you're partners with Tess, a fiery smuggler who went out on her own for a delivery, gets roughed up and the game begins. Joel and Tess track down a guy by the name of Robert. He is apparently one of their suppliers or possibly a connection point to a gang whenever they need to make runs somewhere. He isn't someone to be trusted...who would have thought though. Which shouldn't surprise or shock anyone. The world as we knew it is gone. Survival is the name of the game these days. Oh! An underlying fact about the characters though...phenomenal performances from everyone! Even the one off characters are very well done. This shouldn't be much of a surprise either though, ND has helped pioneer cinematic story telling and character development in the games industry. And it's on full display in The Last of Us. Some questions were brought up in regards to how the gameplay would hold up next to the graphical and story presentation. I'm happy to clarify that as the player, you have free reign over how you want to approach any situation as it gets presented in front of you. Sneaking around the decaying landscape to avoid the infected, setting up traps to lure enemies to their deaths, aggressively taking everything that moves down or a combination of these happens to be the gameplay itself.
Seriously, the game supports your play style. Bringing with it a great feeling when you set up a shrapnel bomb, it explodes, drawing the attention of other enemies to the spot of the blast, throwing a concussion grenade and then running over to melee kill 5 or more enemies while they don't know what the fuck is going on.
And saving crucial bullets as well.
Early on I found it was easy to dispense of resources (ammo, health packs, shivs, etc) which leaves you in a world of intense suspense when all you have left is to sneak passed clickers who are alerted with the slightest of sounds. With no way to defend yourself if they spot you. So the gist of my story...DON'T FREAK OUT AND WASTE EVERYTHING ON 1 OR 2 CLICKERS!
As time went on, I felt like I was becoming Joel. A hardened, roughneck survivor with a huge chip on his shoulder. Going from said, wasting of resources, to a melee, ass kicking, always stocked up on everything, survivor man beast. In the final stages of the game I spent everything I had as I took out anyone in my path. Kinda like a scene out of an Expendables movie. However it wasn't due to the game presenting an even more difficult scenario, I just felt Joel's emotion and wanted to stop at nothing to make the world know who they pissed off.
Naughty Dog has made their case time and time again that they are one of the premiere developers in our industry. And with them now moving full force into PS4 development...only God knows what magic they can muster up. Whether they are working on Uncharted 4, The Last of Us or JAK 4(!) I will be watching ever so closely on their future projects.
As for this review i truly struggled with the balance between talking about certain things and leaving things secret. Honestly it added so much to the experience when I heard my friends took a completely different approach than I did. So trying to talk about The Last of Us and not give anything away is nearly impossible. Every aspect that gets mentioned could lessen someone elses experience, because it's all about that surprise or realization of "holy shit, I can do that?"
Team Ice (the new studio within Naughty Dog) did not disappoint in their debut and I give "The Last of Us"...
SCORE: 10 out of 10