Written by Twisted Ideas
It has been far too long since Naughty Dog has given us a game that wasn’t Uncharted. However great the Uncharted series was, it has yet to be seen if they can create magic again. The Last of Us taps into the over-saturated post apocalyptic market to tell a personal stories. In an industry where singleplayer games are becoming financially riskier to make, does The Last of Us have what it takes to endure and survive?
Twenty years ago the United States was hit by an epidemic. Mysterious spores appeared and destroyed the minds and increased aggression of the people slowly crippling civilization. Present day in Boston is one of the few government-run quarantine zones left standing. Food, water and supplies are limited and the infected and spores make it difficult for anyone leave any form of safety. Joel, a smuggler who has survived since the beginning, gets an unusual request. He has to deliver a young girl Ellie to the insurgent group the Fireflies. Ellie happens to be immune to the infection and possibly be the cure for humanity. Joel and Ellie have to travel across the United States while surviving the threats of nature, the infected and hostile hunters.
The Last of Us is a third person shooter with an emphasis on stealth. Joel and Ellie have to survive against the infected and hunters who want to take everything that you’re worth. Joel can carry an array of firearms and handheld weapons but ammunition is limited and melee weapons eventually break. Joel’s greatest weapon is his ability to focus his hearing to “see” enemies through the environment. With his Daredevil like powers you can easily plan your way through danger whether it be taking down enemies through stealth or avoiding combat altogether. You can choose to fight but it is possible to be completely over whelmed.
The Infected come in three main forms. Runners are you standard infected, aggressive and can overwhelm you physically. Clickers are blinded by the infection and use sonar from the sound that they make to hear you. They can hear you walk and walk while crouching at full speed and if they grab you it is instant death. Bloaters are infected whose infection has harden all over their body. The throw spores at you and can rip you apart if they get too close.
Power in numbers
Human enemies come armed with many of the same weapons as you. They lack the tactics are susceptible to stealth but they have the advantage in numbers. Getting through areas without being noticed by humans and the infected requires planning patience. You can never be sure when an enemy will walk right around the corner when you are in a tight spot.
You can find supplies scattered throughout your travels. You can use materials like tape and scissors to craft useful items and weapons. Spare parts can be used to upgrade your weapons. Unfortunately, Joel does not have the capabilities to craft and modify weapons to their best capabilities. You will have to find upgrade manuals and tools to gain the ability to make weapons stronger and last longer. Prescription can be found and used to improve Joel’s physical abilities. When you have found enough you can upgrade Joel’s health, his craft/healing speed, weapon sway and hearing distance. Most importantly Joel can gain the ability to defend against a clicker’s instant death bite by using a shiv at the last moment.
Artifacts can be found telling the stories of the game. You will learn about the epidemic, the lives of those lost and the people who still inhabit the world.
The Last of Us does contain a multiplayer component. You can choose between one of two factions: Hunter and Firefly. Each has their own story but they both depend on your performance in matches. You have a clan of survivors and can participate in one of the two game modes: Supply Raid (Team Deathmatch) and Survivor (Last team standing). You need supplies or else your clan will start to starve to death. The better you perform the more supplies you earn and the more survivors will join. You need to survive 12 weeks (84 matches) to complete a faction’s journey and along the way you will get missions where you have to choose multiplayer goals to get more survivors or limit casualties.
Limit your causalities actually.
In a match you have limited ammo and supplies. You have to find supply boxes to extend your resources. Your can craft all the same items and upgrade your current loadout weapons any point during a match. Hearing mode is limited and has to recharge after use. You have to execute and opponent when they are downed or else they could be revived by a teammate. The first team to lose all of their reinforcements loses.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are high quality and consistent throughout the game. Not only Joel, Ellie and the major supporting characters have a lot of detail put into them but so are the enemies. The environments are varied so no two areas look alike. The attention to detail in the ransacked homes and abandoned or overrun strongholds just adds more to the game. The violence is visceral and unlike anything I have seen. Of course it’s not over the top like (actually pretty restrained) it’s just that the violence isn’t the focus. You see what you have to see for them to survive and move on. It’s subtle but powerful at the same time.
The voice acting is strong across the board with the writing to support the talent of the voice actors. The ambient sounds are at times pleasant but forgettable but the sounds of the clickers lurking in dark rooms add to the suspense of the situations.
The Last of Us is one of the finest crafted singleplayer games I have ever played. Like Uncharted though, it doesn’t do much to innovate. Fortunately, what Naughty Dog aims for is tell a story and it works. They don’t spend much time in expedition because that can feel forced. They let the world tell them through the ruins, the bodies and the artifacts from the past. They don’t need to explain who every character you meet is; You just need to understand what their motivations. They also don’t feel the need to dwell on the climatic moments of a chapter and often times let the climax be the send off.
“Trust me, there’s never an easy way out.” -Joel
The main draw is the relationship between Joel and Ellie. Joel is a man who has faced more loss than he is willing to admit and Ellie is a young girl hoping for the day the world can return to what she imagined it was before the infection. Ellie is what sells the game. She’s a tough but does want to embrace the finer moments in life. You become strongly attached to her and whenever she is distraught you feel for her. Without her this adventure wouldn’t be worth it.
The is a game where the mechanics don’t feel like mechanics. Crafting, upgrading, stealth and shooting feel natural and it never crams it down your throat for too long. Puzzles are short and simple so you will never feel stuck or lost. There are several ways and encounter can be approached and it isn’t the typical stealth/action routes. Yes, that is how you it will inevitably end but most areas are so large you can approach it from numerous ways. There was a big deal on how the AI will behave differently whether or not you have ammo or held up at gunpoint and would play differently each time but never really paid off in a meaningful way. The AI makes it feel natural that they wander by your hiding spots which could
Multiplayer is not fun. Correction, multiplayer is not fun when your losing. It’s designed to encourage teamwork and patience but once a team gains momentum it becomes an uphill battle that I have been on the other end of too many times. A single player against a group of enemies is a losing battle. Even if you down an opponent they can be revived by the group and unless you have a bomb or Molotov then don’t expect to win that fight. Also, you have to play several matches to earn enough supplies to earn the stronger weapons which players on early weeks will not have. The design of the multiplayer requires at least decent level of performance or your clan could suffer severely. This combined with the matchmaking that consistently groups players in much later weeks together makes what could have been a fairly unique stealth/shooter multiplayer mode feel like a frustrating waste of time.
The Last of Us is something special and is what more post-apocalyptic games should aspire. The level of the writing makes you feel for the characters and the set pieces are some of the most extreme examples of non-gratuitous violence in games. Naughty Dog deserves the praise it gets because they create experiences that should blend in the ocean of generic but shines like few others. Do not let this game pass you by.