The Last of Us PS3 Review
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Action, Adventure Players: 1-8 Age Rating: 18+
Other console/handheld formats: N/A
The Last of Us features zombies, though it’s more reminiscent of The Walking Dead than it is Resident Evil. The story merely uses the outbreak as a backdrop and instead focuses on the more interesting things, the effect that it has had on humanity for example, the extreme lengths that they have to go to survive, and highlighting both the good and evil of human nature after such a disaster.
It’s a far bleaker affair than your typical Naughty Dog game. The protagonist of the game is Joel, a world weary middle aged man, who was born prior to the outbreak. Often accompanying him is Ellie, a teenage girl, who as a contrast was born after all the chaos, leaving her curious of what the world was like previously. The two characters are some of the best that the medium has to offer and the evolution of their relationship is interesting and engaging throughout.
This is helped greatly by cut scenes that were crafted with the same performance capture method that is used in the Uncharted series, with convincing performances by Troy Baker as Joel and Ashley Johnson as Ellie, which helps immensely in breathing life into the characters. Further spirit is instilled not only into the characters but the world as well, with some lavish visuals effectively telling the stories of a broken world, whilst Gustavo Santaolla has offered up a sparse but hugely effective and emotive score.
The infected are humans, meanwhile, who have been taken over by a parasitic virus, which has not only caused their heads to grow freaky fungus but has also transformed them into flesh eating monsters at the same time. As much of a threat are the survivors of the pandemic, with bandits taking advantage of the situation by hunting down others and stealing their possessions for instance.
The game often offers you plenty of options of how you go about playing it, allowing you to sneak past enemies or engage them directly; though in good old survival horror like fashion ammo can be somewhat of a precious commodity, so you’ll have to make every shot count whenever you’re using firearms, so it’s not always the best option to go in all guns blazing.
Enemies also require different tactics. Runners for instance will dash towards you and will attract the attention of other infected within the vicinity, so thus are often best dealt with quietly. Clickers on the other hand are blind but have a keen sense of hearing and can instantly kill, you so there’s plenty of tension whenever these are wandering around.
Firefights with human enemies meanwhile require you to make use of a rudimentary, but smooth cover system, and the lack of any sort of blindfire option makes the game feel suitably realer than Nathan Drake’s action hero like moves. Aiming is a bit shaky, which makes shots harder to line up, but adds tension. Guns meanwhile are satisfyingly loud and scoring a hit with them is a combination of satisfaction and wince worthy brutality. Melee combat is also an option, allowing you to bash skulls in with pipes, axes and such, which is just as lovely as it sounds.
There’s a listening mode option to aid the stealth aspect of the game. This is meant to signify Joel’s keen sense of hearing but allows you to see through walls, which jars somewhat with the gritty feel pervading throughout the rest of the game, though for more of a challenge you’re able to turn it off altogether.
Unlike The Uncharted series, which rarely gives you pause for breath, The Last of Us has frequent breaks from its action. There are some environmental based puzzles included, but they’re too rudimentary and lacking in variation to ever truly satisfy. There’s also an abundance of moments that you’re just wandering through the world and on a gameplay level you might be doing very little, but the world is well constructed and the characters interesting enough to carry such moments.
Areas in The Last of Us are also ripe for exploration: draws and cupboards can be opened to seek out supplies. This also ties in nicely with a crafting and upgrade system that allows you to assemble and enhance weapons by using many of your found items. Much choice isn’t really on offer, but the mechanic nevertheless is a perfect fit for the ruined world.
Away from the weighty 15 to 20 hour primary game, online multiplayer is an option and this doesn’t feel as tacked on as you might think. Two team based modes are on offer. Supply Raid sees two teams of four sharing 20 lives, with the objective being for you to attempt to wipe out the opposing team by depleting all their lives. Survivors on the other hand gives each player just one life to work with, which results in some tense encounters.
In an interesting twist, the multiplayer sees you picking a clan to join and attempting to survive for twelve weeks. Each match you play counts as a day and in an interesting twist rather than a conventional level, you’ll recruit survivors instead and will have to keep collecting supplies for them to survive. As the virtual days advance, various events will happen and you’ll be asked to choose an objective. Successful completion of the chosen objective within a certain time frame means that once the event occurs your survivors will be better prepared to deal with it and as a result you’ll lose less of your survivors.
The Last of Us features characters that are worth caring about, inhabiting a beautifully realized post apocalyptic world, and mechanically everything largely works smoothly, all of which make it a great Naughty Dog send-off for the PS3, and an incredibly promising start to what could easily turn out to be another fantastic series from a developer that has a near spotless record.