Review by bskiffington
"Endure and Survive"
The Last of Us is a remarkable creation on so many levels from Naughty Dog, the studio that brought you classics such as Uncharted, Jak and Daxter, and Crash Bandicoot. On the outside, it looks like an average every day survival horror game but instead strives to be something much more and delivers on those aspirations. The Last of Us blends survival horror with action, stealth and an incredibly well written story that creates the full package. You won't find a better game on any system or platform out there if you look at it objectively, although opinions may differ.
What The Last of Us does so well is make you actually care about your characters. There are times where you will legitimately forget that you are playing a video game. In the end, you care about what happens to Joel and Ellie and you're left wanting more and more of their adventures and their lives in this twisted world. The fact that they've managed to create a leading duo that feels so alive, so real, helps connect you emotionally to the game from the very beginning as it continues to tug on your heart strings throughout the length of the journey. The game isn't overly long but is definitely above average in length for similar games. It should take you roughly 10-15 hours on your first playthrough, maybe more if you strive to collect all of the hidden objects such as the FIrefly Pendants and the Artifacts.
The Last of Us follows Joel, a hardened man who has honed his survival skills over the past twenty years after losing his daughter, and Ellie, a fourteen year old girl who has been forced to live in the same world that has been ravaged by disease and murder. Together, they set out on a trek across sections of the United States that have been destroyed over the years. You see, a virus known as the cordyceps had begun infecting people twenty years ago. By the time we take control of Joel in his present time, the world has been left in ruins as the infected continue to grow in numbers and the remaining humans seem to lose all of their morals. You can argue that the main enemy in this game isn't the infected but actually the people who have become murderers and killers to survive.
This incredibly well-written epic backs up it's emotional story with solid gameplay mechanics as well. You can approach every situation in multiple different ways, adding a nice variety to how you wish to deal with situations. You can stealth your way around enemy-filled rooms and take them out in the shadows or from behind cover, or even bypass them altogether. You can use bricks and bottles to cause distractions, allowing you to slip behind enemy lines. You can also go in, guns blazing and use your weapons and melee skills to best your opponents, but supplies are limited so you'll definitely need to weigh the situation a couple of times first.
At the heart of the game is the crafting system. As you adventure and explore you will find several objects such as blades and binding tape which can be combined in different ways to create unique items that can be used to help your survive, ranging from health kits to explosive smoke and nail bombs, and even fiery molotov cocktails. You can also upgrade Joel's weapons using parts that you find and also other attributes such as crafting time and maximum health using pills/supplements. New Game Plus allows you to carry these upgrades over and continue to build them throughout additional playthroughs of the game.
The Last of Us also features online multiplayer to go along with it's story-driven, cinematic style campaign. Online you can work together with friends or randoms to play in two different modes. One mode is a classic team-deathmatch style affair and the other is a match similar to Search and Destroy from Call of Duty. You only have one life per round and once you die you do not respawn until the round has been finished. Online is surprisingly fun and like in the story mode you can upgrade weapons and craft items to use in battle as well, making every match different.
Naughty Dog's efforts in creating a visual striking, thought provoking and just all around fun video game paid off in spades. The Last of Us is a cinematic experience that can be shared by non-gamers as well as the hardcore gamers. The way that the characters move and speak are so real that you often forget that you're playing a video game at all. The game does a wonderful job making you become attached and worried for your main characters as they travel through this barren landscape and it subtly brings up ideas of morals and the degradation of society through the situations that Joel and Ellie find themselves in. My only complaint with this game is that it had to end.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/28/13
Game Release: The Last of Us (US, 06/14/13)
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