Well, where to start with this one. Having recently picked myself up a Playstation 3, Sony’s last generation home console, I set about on a valiant quest to experience as many of the system’s sizeable library of exclusive titles as I could.
A long period of research and consulting with fellow gamers culminated in a refined list of ten must-plays, and at their head stood The Last of Us.
My expectations were high to say the least. At this point (writing in December 2015) the hype surrounding this venerated title is very well established, and coming from veteran game developer Naughty Dog, well expected. So is this legacy deserved, or merely a product of a dogged and cult-like fanbase?
Visually The Last of Us is absolutely stunning, particularly in the more open green areas that punctuate the dark, dank spore-filled segments. I was reminded very much of Valve’s Half Life 2 throughout the adventure, albeit with more polish and finesse in execution. Textures were nice and vibrant without popping, and most surfaces were treated with a kind of dullness and lack of reflectivity that marked the the setting of a ruined society. That’s not to say there were no issues however, I experienced some noticeable framerate tanking during intense action scenes along with microstuttering, and in some of the very dark sections, things occasionally got rather blurry.
I think purely to eliminate these problems I’d recommend anyone with a Playstation 4 to pick up the Remastered edition, which has far fewer reports of such niggles.
But of course with this one the draw is the unbelievable story. And what a story it is. From the first instance, The Last of Us will tug at your heartstrings, and then proceed to rip them from your chest in a beautifully visceral attack on your fragile emotions. And that’s just the first twenty minutes.
Fervent discussions with my peers resulted in the common view that The Last of Us could very easily stand alone as a narrative piece, regardless of art form, be it a novel, feature film or even indeed a videogame. The story follows Joel, a gruff but caring construction worker scarred by the loss of his daughter, and Ellie, a headstrong teenager who is seemingly immune to the dangerous fungal spores that have spread across the landscape transforming people into mindless zombie-types. Most of the story is told through dialogue between characters in incredibly well produced cutscenes, but crucially notes left behind in the world reveal the plights of people we never got to meet and often met very violent or unfortunate ends. It’s an incredibly satisfying story that will constantly keep you guessing, and I very much look forward to playing the two additional supplements released as DLC.
Gameplay is extremely tight, an easy comparison being a more well-tuned take on Resident Evil 4’s controls, a nicely intuitive third person shooter essentially. There are other ways to get around than shooting though, such as sneaking up and strangling someone, or simply beating them to death with your fists or a melee weapon if you can find one. Fear not, there is a fantastic ranged arsenal available to you throughout the game, but ammo is not incredibly common so sometimes just mowing down your foes might not be the best option. Improvised items such as shivs, explosives and health kits can be generated through the crafting system, but again supplies are few and far between, so you’ll have to spend your resources wisely.
I must also commend the voice performances of Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson in the aforementioned lead roles and indeed most everyone featured in the game, I remarked several times in my playthrough on how convincing they were, and it’s so so important in a plot-driven character-centric product like this to not break immersion through sub-par voicing. The soundtrack is also excellent, highlighting the contrast between peaceful and action-dense scenes extremely well, although I did notice an absence of music in some areas where I would have liked it, with the game instead providing lone sound effects like footsteps or character grunts. That said, the use and quality of raw effects is excellent, such as the shattering of a thrown glass bottle or the dull thunk of an axe as it collides with the neck of an assailant. Lovely stuff.
Ultimately, I have no hesitation in recommending The Last of Us to any PS3/4 owner whatsoever. Even if you loathe zombies and/or shooters, I’d still force it upon you, as is my duty. It’s a marvellously cinematic experience that, like a competent lover, will leave you sated but ready to play again. Yes, you read that correctly. Buy it.