Review by thehappiestEMO
"Is this Naughty Dog's new "baby girl?""
Naughty Dog has developed some of my favorite games. In 1996 I found myself drawn to the vivid colors and wonderful worlds I was presented with in the classic Crash Bandicoot, falling right in with the well designed levels and delightful characters. Then the early 2000's ushered in the era of the PS2 and I again found myself enjoying a Naughty Dog game in the form of the acclaimed Jak and Daxter series. As much as I enjoyed those titles as well, it stands as a testament to ND's growth that I was even more engrossed by the Uncharted series when it released on the PS3 in 2007, with Uncharted 2 & 3 being games I still play now.
Enter The Last Of Us, one of the most hyped games I've seen on the PS3, as well as the question of if it lives up to the hype or is just over-advertised like other AAA titles recently. I hope to humbly submit my opinion as another voice in the discussion. So let's get right on to it, shall we?
Story - 9/10
This is where I found the meat of The Last of Us to be. It's not quite as broad as I might have expected, as it was labelled a action survival horror, but I found it to be quite satisfying. The beginning grabbed me right away with an endearing scene between a father and his daughter, to move on to much darker tones of morality, such as what we will do to survive and whether or not that changes our nature as that line sinks lower and lower. I found that the main drive behind the story for me was more about the interaction between the characters and less about the end goal.
Some of the exchanges between Joel and Ellie are remarkably endearing, others are less so. As befits a survival environment there are some terse moments, as well as some moments where you become truly worried that (as the player) you won't be able to protect this young girl the way she deserves. From the very beginning it is clear that ND has handled the script with the utmost love and devotion, picking all the right moments to have the characters flesh themselves out with dialogue, or sometimes even just body language. It's a testament to the care they took that sometimes the NPC's in this game say as much silent as they do speaking. From they desperate way Bill runs to the quiet grace Tess exhibits on multiple occasions, it's delightful to behold.
Graphics - 9/10
I've heard other people complain the graphics, but honestly, as a console gamer exclusively, I cannot think of a game I have played that looked better to me. Everything in this game is depicted with a sense of abandoned beauty and desperation that I find quite incredible, especially given that it is running on a console that is 7 years old. I can forgive any screen tearing and aliasing issues given the quality of everything else; though make no mistake the issues are present. There is one particularly awesome scene early on wherein you see a fallen skyscraper that has hit another and is now slanting diagonally, jutting and stabbing into the sky in a gruesome display of military power mis-used.
Gameplay - 6/10
This is where The Last of us starts to fall in on itself, unfortunately. It was touted as the go-to action-adventure / survival horror game, and doesn't really deliver on this as hyped.
It ends up being a stealth wash and repeat experience wherein you encounter a group of "zombies," dispatch them, explore/scrounge, find some human military targets to fight, kill them, explore/scrounge, find some more zombies... Of course, this is very widely broad-stroking it, as there are some quiet moments, and interactions with other NPC's, but this is still a depressingly accurate breakdown.
The gunplay is clunky. There's no two ways about it. It would have been clunky on the PS2. It's the weakest feature of the gameplay, in my opinion. Especially since the multiplayer is almost entirely based on shooting, and the singleplayer has several points where it feels you are at a severe disadvantage without engaging your targets at range. I know there are upgrades to improve this aspect in the SP, but even fully upgraded it feels... thick. Like you're trying to aim and shoot through jell-o. The MP shooting feels terrible to me. However this is a personal opinion, and I can't speak to more than how I feel about it.
Also, I feel the MP is sorely lacking in any real sense of growth, which I find damages it's appeal to me in the long term. Especially since the shooting is so muddy.
Replayability - 3/10
In my opinion, while this game is excellent the first time through, it'll be a little while before I have the desire to replay the campaign.
It's just... while the encounters are not as linear as they could be, the overall game flow is completely linear. You don't make any choices. The only draw to play through again in my mind is to find the artifacts and hear any conversations you may have missed.
I found this game extraordinarioy compelling while I was playing through, and my SP playthrough lasted me 21 hours on hard.
However, I am still not convinced that given the issues with the clunky gameplay, the terrible shooting mechanics, and the lackluster MP that I will truly get my $60 worth.
It's worth a shot, but for those who aren't totally into everything they have seen and heard about The Last Of Us I recommend a rent/borrow before you buy, or waiting for a lowered price. Barring all that, explore everything and squeeze everything you can out of the campaign your first time through. It may be awhile before you partake again.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/13
Game Release: The Last of Us (US, 06/14/13)
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