The Last Of Us is a fantastic swan song for the PlayStation 3, a system which has become known for its exceptional exclusive titles.
Naughty Dog has proven themselves as one of the premier developers for the PlayStation 3 platform, delivering some of the most memorable and exceptional titles in its library with their action-packed Uncharted series. Their latest game does not feature a witty, carefree protagonist who spouts one liners amid a hail of gunfire and explosions. The Last Of Us is not “fun” – emotionally exhausting are the words that first come to mind. That doesn’t change the fact that this is without a doubt one of the greatest games I have ever played.
The Last Of Us is a violent game. The violence is not gratuitous; it’s masterfully executed in that it’s meant to make the player feel uncomfortable, and succeeds. Joel is not a very likable protagonist- in fact many of the actions he takes throughout the game can best be described as selfish and abhorrent. Joel is not a hero, and he feels more human because of it. This is a world in which survival is paramount – to paraphrase a conversation in the game, morality will only get you killed. You can feel the weight of the actions Joel has had to take to keep himself alive for twenty years in a post-apocalyptic world. His world-weariness is in sharp contrast with Ellie’s sense of wonder and lighthearted personality, but both characters have deeper layers to them that are revealed through subtle touches, such as reactions to the world around them or optional conversations. If you want to get the full back story on these two, it’s best to play through a second time, focusing on exploration and attempting to find all the notes and collectibles strewn throughout the game.
Hands down, The Last Of Us is easily one of the PlayStation 3’s finest exclusive titles and a definite contender for Game Of The Year. Is it better than Uncharted 2, which is often regarded as the height of PS3 gaming? It’s difficult to say, as it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges, and I deeply enjoyed both. But the 17 hours I spent playing through The Last Of Us felt like reading through a great novel – I just couldn’t put it down, despite how oppressive and bleak the world and characters’ situations were. The Last Of Us feels far more realistic than Uncharted, in that unlike Nathan Drake’s carefree mass murdering of thugs, you feel the blood on your hands for every kill Joel has to make.
Though this tale won’t put a smile on your face, it will have you thinking long after you put down the controller
I also found it interesting that despite how frightening the infected can be, human enemies present the biggest threat. Joel can often sneak past infected, but the humans will do everything in their power to seek out and kill you, just to rob you of whatever possessions and food you might have on your person. Human enemies can be heard planning strategies and will often hide for long periods of time, creating a sense of uneasiness as you attempt to find and kill them before they sneak up behind you. The infected, on the other hand, have no sense of self-preservation and will rush at you with reckless abandon as they let out a frightening shriek that will send a chill down your spine. With the exception of the Runners, if an infected gets their hands on you, it’s game over.
Unlike the extremely polished feel of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, The Last Of Us is intentionally rough around the edges. Joel is not a master marksman with weapons, and his aiming is as shaky and erratic as the infected populating this dystopian wasteland, which is frustrating yet realistic. You’re always low on ammo, and avoiding shootouts is absolutely necessary to survival. There’s plenty of moments of utter desperation in the game, where you’ll be rushed by a swarm of crazed monsters with only two bullets and a wooden plank to defend yourself with, as your heart threatens to burst out of your chest. Many times all you’ll have in your inventory is an empty glass bottle or a brick to use as a distraction. I thought that the real-time inventory management, weapon crafting and healing added to the urgency of the situations. You’ll always have to make sacrifices and tough decisions, such as using your alcohol to make a molotov cocktail or saving it for a health pack.
Over time, you can improve Joel’s accuracy, hearing range and maximum health through supplements, but the game is never easy. The stellar sound design and lifelike motion-captured animation bring a brutal reality to the proceedings. The sound of an enemy exploding from a makeshift bomb’s impact and the sight of a lifeless body collapsing after a headshot are suitably haunting. Surviving an enemy encounter in The Last Of Us always feels like a true accomplishment. Graphically, I can’t imagine a PlayStation 3 game looking any better; the subtleties in the facial animation and the beautifully rendered environments showcasing nature reclaiming destroyed cities is breathtaking.
The Last Of Us is truly a character-driven affair, given weight by superlative performances by Troy Baker’s Joel and Ashley Johnson’s Ellie. Joel is a broken man, trying to continually find reasons to live long after everything he’s known and loved is gone. Ellie was born after the pandemic, and while she’s wise to the ways of this world and hardened by it, she’s still a wide-eyed, jovial teenager. She curses more than any other character in the game, but her innocence shines through in moments where she witnesses a beautiful sunset for the first time or wildlife she’s never seen before. There’s plenty of humor thrown about as well, for example Ellie’s incredulous response when the pair come across an ice cream truck and Joel tries to explain what it was. Coming across something like a swingset, a boat or an arcade cabinet always results in an interesting conversation between the two. The player’s attachment to Ellie and the need to protect her from harm is a central component in The Last Of Us, similar to the player’s connection to Clementine in The Walking Dead.
The campaign took me a solid 17+ hours, and that was while attempting to play through as quickly as possible as my review copy was sent a bit late. I did explore the environments a little as they were so compelling, and a ton of backstory can be gleaned from journals of previous inhabitants and digging through personal belongings to find artifacts. Not to mention the fact that the environments at times are strikingly beautiful, and exploration is almost necessary to obtain the supplies and parts you’ll need to progress.
Beyond the campaign is a New Game+ mode in which your items from the previous playthrough carry over, but you can’t choose a higher difficulty than your original playthrough. If you’re attempting the Platinum trophy you’ll probably want to start on the highest setting, but it needs to be said that The Last Of Us is no cakewalk even on Normal. Also, I only obtained one trophy during my playthrough, aside from the completion trophies, and after about two hours of multiplayer I haven’t unlocked any of those, either. It’s safe to say that this is a tough game to Platinum.
Hands down, The Last Of Us is easily one of the PlayStation 3’s finest exclusive titles
Yes, The Last Of Us has multiplayer, and while it’s pretty damn fun, it’s really nothing that you haven’t played before. There’s some neat stuff like logging into your Facebook to name the members of your group after your friends, giving the multiplayer meta-game a more personal feel. Aside from that you’re simply killing the opposite team in two separate modes, while trying to complete objectives to earn food and supplies for your group. Every match of multiplayer progresses the 12 week “campaign” by a day, and sometimes random happenings like malaria outbreaks can affect your group.
But honestly, that’s all superfluous stuff. The fact is that the multiplayer gameplay is pretty fun, and I enjoyed the fact that the real-time healing and crafting is preserved there as well. I enjoyed the Survivors mode more than the more generic Supply Raid. While the multiplayer ties in neatly with the single player without feeling shoehorned in, it’s certainly not an integral part of the package. The main campaign is what makes this game truly special, but the multiplayer is competent, fun and should keep people playing a lot longer.
Naughty Dog successfully showcases how dark and terrible humanity can become when things get desperate enough, and though this tale won’t put a smile on your face, it will have you thinking long after you put down the controller. The Last Of Us is a fantastic swan song for the PlayStation 3, a system which has become known for its exceptional exclusive titles. The stellar writing, acting, visual presentation and unique gameplay all work together to create a game that will be remembered long after this generation comes to a close, and its characters and ending will spark debates for years to come. The Last Of Us is a title that every gamer should experience, as it pushes the medium to new heights and solidifies the argument that video games are an art form.