The Last of Us Review: 9.7
It was June 5th, 2013 and the embargo was finally up for media outlets to start releasing their reviews for The Last of Us. This was nine days ahead of its June 14th consumer release date. Everything seemed to be coming together quite nicely for Naughty Dog with their newest title. Popular outlets such as IGN, Giant Bomb and Joystiq were already giving the game perfect scores and GameTrailers.com had given the game its highest review score of the year with a 9.8. Here at the GamerBrew offices we were not sure what to think of this. Like some people out there, we were not in alignment with the review scores of Bioshock Infinite earlier this year. Though we enjoyed the latest Bioshock, it failed to live up to the out of this world expectation that was heaped upon it. When the review scores began to come out for The Last of Us we couldn’t help but feel déjà vu. With people exclaiming “Game of the Generation!” and “Best PS3 Exclusive!” how could the game possibly live up to the even higher than Bioshock praise it was receiving. Finally on Friday June 14th, we received our copy of the game. I sat down immediately and dove right in. The first thing you will notice is that Naughty Dog is not here to waste our time. They immediately throw you into this emotional journey without warning. Without giving anything away I will just say that the game starts out very strong and my skepticism vanished immediately.
From the get go you will be slapped right in the face with beautiful visuals and outstanding atmosphere. Coming from a Video Game Design background, I can tell you right now Naughty Dog has some of the best artist in the industry. From the original concept art to the characters and environmental models, to the textures that make up the world; it is going to be hard for any current generation video game to top The Last of Us with its presentation. Not only are the worlds authentic and extremely dense, they are believable and fun to explore. From previews, you would have only expected just a few different environments but the game provides plenty of variety with its locations.
Naughty Dog is one of the best when it comes to their in engine cut scenes and they do not disappoint here. At times I found myself wondering if I was actually playing a PS4 game. This is possibly the strongest part of the game. With Naughty Dog being the creators of the Uncharted series, this comes as no surprise.
Gameplay in The Last of Us revolves primarily around stealth and how you proceed into every situation. Depending whether you are about to encounter human enemies or sound detecting clickers; patience is the key for your survival. You are rewarded when you play smart and map out your plan of attack. Not only are there choices in how you approach each encounter, there are choices in what you proceed with. The crafting system in the game allows depth for almost all play styles. Naughty Dog has cleverly designed each location with multiple avenues for approaching your opponents as well. You can go gun ho with Molotov cocktails or take out your enemies silently with crafted shivs. You can craft whatever you want, but remember, once you have used your items they are gone forever. Choose wisely because there is no looking back. Further, how you choose to take on each situation will have huge implications on your next encounter. Deciding to start a gun fight one moment will leave you with no ammo for the next one. This promotes the exploration in the game that is essential for players that are playing on harder difficulties. Unlike most action games, The Last of Us creates a sense of desperation and need to explore for items.
As an avid third person shooter fan I would say the gunplay in the game is a cross between the Uncharted series and Gears of War. Uncharted has always felt a little more loose and flexible with its controls but lacked the precision of Gears of Wars with its aiming. The Last of Us falls directly in the middle of these two top notch shooters and after an hour or two it felt just right.
The one flaw of the gameplay in The Last of Us was the AI’s lack of awareness when it came to your AI buddy Ellie. At some points in the game Ellie would expose herself in front of the enemy but it was as if she was invisible to them. This seemed to be the lesser of two evils though. If she was detected every time she was exposed it would become extremely frustrating, so I cannot fault them too much for this.
The Last of Us is well paced and shines with its character development. Before you even pop in the game, Joel and Ellie are complete strangers but before everything is said and done, their relationship blossoms into something that a lot of us would envy in our own lives. At points in the gameplay, Ellie will take cover with Joel and you can feel her connection and reliance on Joel.
The Last of Us will never hold your hand and tell you where to go and this is how it should be. Ellie will give you the occasional hint with some dialogue but you will not be getting a direction arrow pointing you towards your objective here. With no mini maps or HUDS to be found, navigating the world is up to you.
The only fault that I found throughout the story was the lack of awareness that your companions had for your presence when speaking to you. At certain points I would be searching through a couple rooms on the other side of the building and then to walk back and catch the back-end of a comment that Ellie is making towards me. The reason it frustrates me is because Joel and Ellie’s relationship really grows more during the gameplay then it does within the cut scenes. The writing is well done so at points I found myself skipping exploration just to avoid missing the bantering between the two.
Final Toast – 9.7
With a substantial campaign lasting around 16 or 17 hours, The Last of Us not only will tug at your heartstrings it will visually stun you at the same time. Similar to titles such as Final Fantasy VII, Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid; The Last of Us is a game that we will be talking about well into the next generation and beyond.
Author: Ben Link (@Ben_Link)