Last of Us is an action adventure 3rd person shooter by the makers of the Uncharted series and Jak and Daxter series, Naughty Dog. This should be the last Naughty Dog game for the PS3 as they should have started development on a newer series for the PS4. Though Last of Us is a zombie survival type of game in a lot of instances you want to avoid combat as much as possible as one of the key features of this game is trying to find bullets and supplies for crafting. The crafting system is a simple one but has several items the player can craft including medkits, grenades and even shivs however you can only hold on to 3 of each item making it difficult to fully supply yourself. This is one thing that Naughty Dog did right as all throughout the game I had to make the difficult decision of whether to just sneak around the enemies, kill a few of them as quietly as I could or just fight all out. Some of my decisions didn’t work and I would say this is the first game that I’ve died a whole lot since I played Super Meat Boy. It absolutely has its challenges and that makes the survival element feel a whole lot more real to the player.
The controls are fairly straight forward; circle to crouch, triangle to grab items or enemies, square to melee or react to a quick time event when an enemy grabs you and X is for the climbing and moving around part of the game. If your character is in a crouch position they will actually get behind cover automatically but it doesn’t feel like they press themselves up against the cover. It feels very natural and you can move around easily as well. In order to fire your weapon if you want you must first aim with L1 bumper and then you can fire with the R1 bumper. There are a few different enemies but one of the special ones are called the clickers who are blind but have very very good hearing so in order to sneak up on them the player must slowly push forward on the analog stick as to not make too much noise. The other zombies are the runners and the bloaters. The runners are your atypical zombie that can see and hear and they are the most common, but they are weak. The rarest enemy in the game is the bloaters which are large slow zombies that can throw spore bombs at the player and can kill you in one hit if they get close just like the clickers.
Another great feature of this game is the on the fly crafting system. As you can see in the screenshot above, the player must get in a safe area, pull out their backpack and craft what they want. There is no pause to look at upgrades, crafting or notes; everything is in real time and really adds a nice element to the game. Just like the Uncharted series, Last of Us has jumping puzzles and climbing parts to it but not in so much frequency as Uncharted. There is one thing about this game that did bug me all game. The zombies/enemies never noticed the AI companions. The player would be sneaking around, trying to hide from whatever and then suddenly you would see the AI run across the room or say something. It kind of took away from the atmosphere and the tenseness of trying to survive but it is a very minor flaw.
The story centers around the character Joel and Ellie, who are on a trip to get Ellie, a girl that is very special, to the firefly’s hospital eventually in Salt Lake City. However one of the strongest moments of the game happens 20 years earlier which ends up being the opening scene to the game where Joel is with his daughter and the outbreak happens during the night. While they are trying to escape something happens to Sarah (his daughter) and even though I barely knew the character I felt emotionally tied to this scene. She had all of maybe 10 minutes of character development but the way Naughty Dog have you play as Sarah made me feel more for her than I have for most characters in any game I’ve played (even Aerith). Joel ends up emotionally detached from everything after that and that plays a large role in his character development all throughout the game as he slowly starts to care for Ellie more than what his job is to take her to that hospital. Ellie’s character is that of a young naïve 14 year old that keeps seeing everyone she cares about die while she keeps on living and it eats at her. She is very vulgar but it brings a little bit of life and a sense of humor to an already very serious and tense game.
All throughout the game they are walking through abandoned forests and buildings without a soul or zombie in site and it adds a great amount of atmosphere to the game. When you do run into an enemy, whether it be zombie or human, you feel like you must get out of there as much as possible to get back to the serene quietness that you were once in. These zombies are a little different from your virus/return from the dead zombies. Instead of a virus that infects the humans there is a special fungus that grows on the brain and turns the humans into mindless rage induced animals that want to eat and kill anything they see. These fungal infections can either be spread by being bit by those that are infected or by breathing in the spores that are in the air near dead zombies. Some zombies have been infected longer than others and that is what produces the clickers and the bloaters that I described before. An example of a clicker is in the screenshot below.
Now the graphics of this game are pretty impressive seeing how this is a game for a 7 year old machine but I can’t help but feel some of the lower texture items in the world and the lack of any anti-aliasing that makes most of the edges feel very jagged. It is quite amazing what the developers are able to do with such old machines and makes you wonder what is to come with the new PS4/Xbox One. What really shined to me was the audio in this game. There is no music during much of the game and I feel like if they had added any during parts of the game it would have made the atmosphere much worse. Walking through an abandoned building or city and you can only hear the birds or the wind or even your character walking and talking. It was so beautifully done in that when there actually was music it was all that much more powerful. The voice acting is also top notch as it seems like the voice actors could actually relate to the characters and it made them all that more believable.
Overall this is one of the best games I’ve played in recent years and is up there with Bioshock Infinite for GOTY for me so far this year. The atmosphere is actually one of the best things about this game and the way the characters are portrayed is amazing as well. With the exception to the graphics being a little dated and the enemies not noticing your AI companion this is an excellent game.