The Last of Us Review

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog

Platform(s): PlayStation 3

Release Date: June 14

Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Survival Horror

The PlayStation 3's swan song is here. There is an incredible amount to take in from The Last of Us, its quite overwhelming even. Naughty Dog has brought together a story and its characters inspired by many pieces of film and literature, most notably Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and portrayed an adventure where two people are surrounded by the recurring theme of survival. The breathtaking imagery of buildings and infrastructure taken over by the natural foliage are just simple aspects of a world bent on pure survival. We see that this is a world capable of pushing us to our limits both physically and mentally by certain scenes and acts depicting desperation, denial, and horrific justification. Writer Neil Druckmann's previous game with Naughty Dog was co-writing Game of the Year winner Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and although these games are drastically different in tone some elements from Uncharted 2's script are very present here. In short, The Last of Us is arguably the PlayStation 3's best exclusive to date.

Players are cast in the role of Joel, a battle-hardened survivor two decades removed from the initial outbreak and collapse of humanity as we know it. He takes odd jobs wherever he can in order to acquire food and clothing among other resources. He ultimately does what is necessary to survive, which usually means killing those who gets in his way of surviving. The game takes place in the year 2033 (not to be confused with Metro) and players can find themselves rooting for Joel early on considering what happens to him during the outbreak. It truly is amazing just how evolved Joel becomes while the rest of society collapses over that 20 year period of time. This doesn't take from the fact that Joel is cold and ruthless only to compensate for those surrounding him that are possibly even worse than he is. There is no gray area and that is what makes The Last of Us such a dark experience.

Joel is soon left with no choice and has to escort the young Ellie, a 14-year old girl with no knowledge of the world we know today. They trek across the country and defend themselves from the creatures infected from the cordyceps fungi as well as human enemies, including bandits and cannibals, seeking to kill on sight. Ashley Johnson's performance and portrayal of Ellie steals the show in The Last of Us. Her facial expressions and subtle ambient dialogue with Joel really gives the player added amounts of backstory never gained otherwise in a 2-3 hour feature film. They share small talk about the world Joel once knew and Ellie's peaking curiosity can really pull on the heartstrings at more times than I'd like to admit. It is impossible not to become attached to this character. You must bring Ellie across the country to the "friendly" faction of resistance members known as the Fireflies. Ellie is the key to a breakthrough and Joel reluctantly agrees to the major undertaking. As the narrative progresses, Joel & Ellie garner a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship.

The gameplay really comes into play now. Each environment is teeming with supplies and upgrades needed to hold your own in a world that'll kill you without hesitation. Shivs, health kits, explosives, and molotovs are just a few of the crafting options at your disposal. Along side that you also have the option to upgrade your health, various melee weapons,  and crafting speed among many others.  The environments also hold details of those who weren't willing to go on in this world after the outbreak. Notes, recorders, and letters that you find of survivors who met their untimely demise make your experience all the more personal. The ultimate decision of stealth or direct attack is crucial. You must be confident in your choosing or your resources will quickly deplete and eventually result in sudden death. This game can take you up to nearly 20 hours depending on the amount of exploration you do. The Last of Us' narrative is the main attraction, but it's also a game that certainly demands your curiosity as well. If you wish to fully upgrade everything in your arsenal, we are given the greatest gift of them all: a New Game+ mode.

The Last of Us packs a rewarding multiplayer mode as well. This is no rehash of Uncharted's multiplayer component. The multiplayer feature is called Factions. You start out by choosing one of the two factions, Hunters or Raiders for a 12 week period. The two modes to play are Supply Raid & Survivors. Both are pretty standard in their approach. Survivors pits eight players against each other in a four on four setup where death is permanent. Supply Raid is different in that your team's objective is dwindling down the opposing team's overall life count. Although only two multiplayer modes are available (for now), Naughty Dog takes into account what makes survival so relevant in multiplayer and pushes it to its limit rather than force haphazard modes that have nothing to do with the experience of survival. However, the multiplayer doesn't offer nearly as much as the single-player does and the amount of people on the servers are scarce to say the least. You'll not be missing out on much should you decide to skip the Factions mode altogether but it is still well thought out and a nice break from the campaign.

The Pros:

  • Incredible story
  • Immersive environments full of secrets
  • Exceptional voice work and motion capture
  • Beautiful graphics
  • Solid multiplayer
  • New Game+ mode 

 

For years, Sony has been well known for the raw talent that their first party developers bring to the table on their consoles and Naughty Dog is most certainly at the top of the list now, if not before. There aren't any major complexities to The Last of Us' narrative and yet it impresses on almost every level imaginable. This is a true feat in storytelling and as we close out this generation and look to a new, The Last of Us will not be forgotten by gamers of all kinds.