The Last of Us, for you who might have lived in a cave for the past month, is the latest game from, what I consider the best studio in the world, Naughty Dog. Just hearing the name Naughty Dog, speaks about the quality of the game. Their history is full of success, Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Dexter Trilogy, Uncharted Trilogy, every game a masterpiece, but The Last of Us maybe even beyond that. Know that this review is spoiler free so read it without fear!
In the past we have seen third person survival horror action-adventure games, but nothing like The Last of Us. This game is not just another generic zombie brainless shooting game, where you have a ton of ammo and you don't care about story or characters or anything. The Last of Us is an experience that will make you care about everyone and will make you cry in less than thirty minutes, believe me for that. Set in post-apocalyptic United States on the year 2033, after the short introduction, you start playing as Joel and are tasked with escorting a little girl named Ellie across the country to a friendly resistance group called the Fireflies. The world has gone to hell! More than 60% of the world population has died or has turned into "zombies" by the Cordyceps fungus. A deadly parasitic fungus that grows inside a human head, eats it from inside out and explodes out creating a creepy disfigured zombie or clicker.
The other part of the population, the survivors continue their lifes on makeshift camps or towns or quarantine zones, making the most of everyday, scavenging for food, ammo and supplies. Under heavy martial law, the military keeps everything under control and everyone at bay. And the best and well, scary thing is that you can see all of this during the first hour. The brutality of the military, the brutality and harshness of the survivors or scavengers yes, the world has gone to hell. And to balance things out, there are the Fireflies, the resistance group that fights the military for the freedom of the people, what's left of it.
20 years have passed since the outbreak and now Joel is a changed man. He has been earning his living as a smuggler, smuggling weapons, caches, people etc in and out the quarantine zones. Now his "way of living" is being threatened by a local gangster, so he and Tess, his love interest I presumed at first, hunt down this gangster to take back what is theirs. After finding him and before killing him they learn that he traded their stash of weapons with the Fireflies. After that they meet the leader of the Fireflies and then something (that I won't spoil) happens and Joel is tasked with escorting this little girl named Ellie, to a Fireflies camp in order to get his weapons back.
Here is where the game truly starts and picks up to reach heights never seen before in a video game. Ellie is not your regular 14 year old teenager. The world has changed her, what happened to her changed her, made her stronger, more determined, angry but we can see that she still has her innocence, she to explore the world, the experience new things, she wants to live. And now we have two "camps", one being Joel, a ruthless survivor who has lived in both worlds, have seen his loving ones pass away and has done things he is not proud for and in the other hand Ellie, this innocent girl who has only seen this disfigured world which has changed her, but she still craves to see the beautiful things that are left to see.
And to see how their relationship grow during the game is done and a masterful way. Naughty Dog is a master of story telling, but this time they have outdone themselves. Their relationship grows and you can clearly see it during cutscenes and also over the small conversations they have during gameplay. It is simply amazing. You will care about Joel, you will care about Ellie, hell, you will care about everyone in this game you interact with. I can't remember playing a game with such a deep character development. The only thing that comes into my mind that had the same effect is the movie The Road which has a very similar story to The Last of Us. It tells the story of a man and his young son struggle to survive after an unspecified cataclysm has apparently killed most plant and animal life. See the resemblance? Play the game and go and watch the movie, both are fantastic!
So the story of The Last of Us is a masterpiece, but what about gameplay? Well, the gameplay, for my opinion, is a masterpiece too. It involves gun fighting, melee combat, and a cover system with no preset cover locations, only crouching near objects and navigating normally, but this isn't like Uncharted. During their journey, Joel and Ellie, will encounter many types of zombies, but they will also encounter other Survivors—humans that are not infected, but are hostile towards them, it's The Law of the Jungle, every man for himself/survival of the fittest. You only have a couple of weapons with a couple of bullets, maybe a lead pipe or a 2 by 4, a shiv or knife and that's it. Every shot counts, every supply counts and you have to think wisely the strategy before every encounter be that with infected or other survivors cause it may be the end of you.
When you think survival horror, the first games that may come to your mind might be Resident Evil or Silent Hill and you are totally right. The Last of Us is not like them, meaning that the scares you will get, will not come from something jumping out of a closet or behind a window or something like that, no, the scare will come from the tension the game create. The game is tense as f*ck! Joel is not a super human and two or three bullets will kill him, add that your ammo is super limited and your aiming is not so spot on and if on top of all that you add a beautifully/perfectly crafted A.I, you get one of the most tensest game ever made. Most of the times, you will see the enemies, see their positions, weapons if the are other survivors and if you don't you will understand something big is coming up from all of the supplies and ammo you will find stashed somewhere.
As the game progresses, Joel will get new weapons like a shotgun, bow, hunting rifle, flamethrower etc. to use during the encounters which by the way become harder and harder as the game progresses. Joel is a survivor and he is proficient with the weapons, but you can still upgrade him and the weapons themselves to make them better. So there's this cool RPG side where as you find scattered in the environment pills or parts, you can upgrade Joel example making his aim steadier or raise his health or you can upgrade his "Listen Mode". Triggering this ability you will see Joel hunker down and you will see the enemies even they are behind walls. Or you can upgrade the weapons on benches which can be found in the environments, so for example you can upgrade the ammo capacity, clip capacity, lower recoil etc. But again these pill and parts are limited and by the end of the game, you will not be this super Joel who can tank every bullet and fire a million bullets. No you will still feel under powered making the game more tense. Crafting plays a big role too. Scattered in the environments there are supplies like scissors, alcohol, rags, bindings, blades etc. But again these are very limited and what might seem like a good choice now, might come to bite you in the ass later.
The gunplay and melee combat is super satisfying. The bullet have the perfect weight and see the impact they have when they hit the enemy. The melee combat is fantastic too, bashing an enemy with a lead pipe or choking one can't get any real than this. It's a tough world and it requires you to be tough in order to survive even if that means doing something you don't want to do. Just looking at Joel face while choking someone and the struggle of the enemy to free himself even when there's no chance of that happening...you don't feel like playing a game, you feel like a part of that "real" world...it's amazing.
So there you are, behind cover, you have only 6 bullets on your revolver and 2 on your pistol, you have a 2 by 4 and enough supplies to craft either one molotov or a med-kit and in "Listen Mode" you see 5 human enemies, two with pistols, one with a shotgun and two of them with melee weapons. What will you do?
The choice is yours but remember that the A.I here is not stupid, they will duck behind cover, will throw molotovs at you, will try to flank or will run towards you gun blazing...yep tense as f*ck! The encounters with the infected are as tense as with the survivors and maybe even a little more. There are three types of infected in the game, the first one are the runners, your typical zombie who can see and hear you and will charge towards you not in a straight line and beat the hell out of you. The second type are the clickers, disfigured humans where the fungus has exploded out of their head making them blind, but giving them a super hearing and super strength. If one of them hears you, it will charge towards you and if you are quick enough he will instantly murder you.
And the third type is the bloater, a big bulky infected that will sometimes charge at you and if he grabs you game over or will shoot spore bombs that will drain your health very quickly. You are just a human, not some super dude who can tank a sh*t ton of bullets and punch the hell out of its enemies ( yes Drake I am looking at you) and this makes The Last of Us one of the best games I have ever played. We have not experienced (yet) a zombie outbreak and I think that this games gives us a clear view of what it might be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world, where it's survival of the fittest.
Escort, I hate that word in gaming. Escort missions are some of the worst in games and I don't understand why the devs keep putting them into their games. Yes The Last of Us is a big escort mission, but here, as in Bioshock Infinite, our companion is not someone who get herself killed over and over and you have to protect her no matter what, Ellie as Elizabeth can take care of herself and most of the time she will help in combat. Her A.I is one of the best I have ever seen in a video game. She reacts to everything, she ducks under cover, will throw supplies towards you, flank and shank an enemy or will throw a brick just to get their attention while you run and mash their head with a lead pipe. Later she will get a pistol and will be very helpful on the "battlefield". Yep, she is amazing!
So the singleplayer is fantastic, but what about the multiplayer? Most games have multiplayer tacked on just to increase their lasting appeal and most of the times, this is a total failure. The Last of Us multiplayer, on the other hand, is one of the best online experiences I have had, like ever. What you liked over singleplayer is fully transferred on the multiplayer. It is called Factions and in the beginning you choose your side, Hunters or Firefly. In Factions, players lead a clan of survivors through 12 weeks. Each match played counts as one day, and gives the players opportunities to gather supplies to fuel the clan's growth and progress. At the start of every game, you will be told the target amount of supplies needed to keep the clan healthy. Any extra supplies over the amount needed will be used to entice more survivors to join your clan.
There are only two modes, Survivor and Supply Raid. In Survivor, each player has one life per round without any respawns. The first team to win 4 rounds or have the most wins after 7 rounds wins the match. In Supply Raid, each team starts out with 20 respawns, and the goal of the match is to eliminate the opposing. Red loot boxes are scattered throughout the map, usually out in the open and dangerous to approach without teammates. However, they contain materials needed to craft items. Health kits are also scattered throughout the map. Teamwork is essential on both modes; being a lone wolf is not recommended. "Listen Mode" is available here too and is a big help, but for balance purpose it's limited and it works great. You can die very easily as you can also kill very easily. All of the strategies you learned from the singleplayer will help you a lot in Factions, but remember one thing, you are not fighting A.I anymore, you are fighting real humans and things will get, again, tense as f*ck. This is what keeps me going back to playing Factions, everytime is different and everytime is fresh. Also an advice, link your Facebook profile to the game, as the integration is fantastic and sometimes hilarious. During matchmaking you will see things like *your brother's name* is cooking a rat or *your crush name* is learning to shoot or *someone you hate name* died of malaria or something like that. A very neat feature I liked very much.
Presentation is just phenomenal. The game is the best looking game on PS3 and maybe everywhere! That's a fact. What beautiful environments, lifelike character models and animations etc. the guys at Naughty Dog created using only a small number of RAM is outstanding and I can't even imagine what they will create using 10 times more power on the PS4. Yes, Greatness Awaits! The next generation is already here. The environments looks absolutely stunning, with a quality never seen before. The nature has taken over. Grass is everywhere, trees have grown inside buildings, on highways, rooftops etc. While playing and traversing through this beautiful destroyed world, I got a feeling I was scrolling on the /r/abandonedporn category on imgur. The character models look amazing and their animations are pitch perfect. I mean how can someone with a backpack look that good while running? The performance of Troy Baker as Joel and that of Ashley Johnson as Ellie, mocap and voice acting is fantastic. They make the perfect combination and the result in game is phenomenal. All of the mocap and VO are fantastic. The music made by Gustavo Santaolalla is one of the best OST a game has ever had. It adds another level of, I don't know, emotions that will make you cry.
Bottom Line: This is the game of this generation. A true masterpiece that everyone and I mean everyone should experience. PS3 users if you haven't got it already, shame on you, go out now and buy it. Xbox fanboys, shut up with all of the hate, find 300$, I don't care how, just find them and go to the near store, buy a PS3 with the game and enjoy the phenomenal ride! I think we might have to change our rating scale from a 1-10/10 to 1 - The Last of Us!
The Last of Us was reviewed on the PS3 using a promo copy provided by Sony. The Last of Us is now available exclusively for the PS3.