Naughty Dog, the Sony-exclusive development house behind the Uncharted, Crash Bandicoot, and Jax and Daxter series, has created what many have hailed as “the last great PlayStation 3 game.” Considering The Last of Us’s exquisite gameplay and narrative design, and the fact that the PlayStation 4 is on-deck for a November 15th, 2013 release, that sentiment may very well be true.
The Last of Us combines action and survival gameplay to tell a character-driven tale about a world destroyed by the Cordyceps fungus, a growth that transforms humanity into zombie-like monsters (the fungus, in fact, is one that appears in the real world and has unsual effects on its hosts). The zombie-like creatures roam the land, while survivors battle the creatures, and one another, to stay alive.
The story focues on Joel (voiced by Troy Baker), a hardened survivor, and Ellie (voiced by Growing Pains‘ Ashley Johnson), an optimistic teenage girl who work together to trek across the wastleands that are the remains of the United States. The A.I.-controlled Ellie assists the player-controlled Joel by, for example, shouting out the direction from which enemies approach or by helping Joel break free from an infected human’s grasp. She’s far more useful than BioShock Infinite’s A.I.-controlled Elizabeth.
Joel and Ellie’s relationship is what gives The Last of Us its heart. The excellent script sees the two very different people affect one another in surprisingly subtle ways. I grew to care about the characters, which is a rare occurrence.
Unlike many of the other big franchises in the survival-horror genre (Dead Space, Resident Evil), The Last of Us isn’t just about headshots and re-ups. Supplies are scarce, so stealth is just as important as the ranged and melee combat. There’s a crafting system, too; you can, for example, combine a rag and alcohol into a Molotov cocktail.
The Last of Us also features Naughty Dog’s “Balance of Power” adaptive artificial intelligence system. It lets enemies react realistically to situations by attacking when you’re low on ammo, or calling for help when you’re overpowering them. As a result, you must mind your surroundings.
The Last of Us, unfortunately, falls into the same action-adventure puzzle-solving trap as many other games of its ilk. These moments causes the game to lose its way a bit, and takes away the brutal, hard-hitting combat. The Last of Us can sometimes telegraph enemy encounters; when you walk into an area where there are conveniently placed items that can serve as cover, you know that it’s time to break out the weaponry. It breaks the element of surprise to some degree.
Still, The Last of Us is an excellent, must-play title for survival horror fans. In fact, the script is so good, I’d recommend The Last of Us to gamers who aren’t fans of the genre. The PlayStation 3 will soon begin to fade into the background, but The Last of Us will be remembered as one of the best games that the video game medium has ever produced.
|ESRB Rating||M for Mature|
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