Review by hyperknees91
"A nice experiment that could use some tinkering."
So here we have it, the long awaited last of us. Actually I wasn't waiting on it and I just kind of picked it up just cause. But I might as well give a run down. Technically the game is labeled as a third-person adventure/action/survival horror game. So already it's being rather ambitious if you can't tell. In reality it's more like an action game with some mild adventuring and horror elements. So yeah don't go into this expecting Amnesia or Resident Evil because that's not really what the game is going to provide. What will it provide? Not a lot, but there are some redeeming qualities.
The heart of the game in general. If there's one reason you're playing the last of us, it's for the story and characters. Now this is a zombie apocalypse setting, but it's not really what the story is about. Primarily the story is about the bond of two characters (Joel and Ellie). Sure there is a goal and there are messages and themes along the way, but the primary purpose of the game is to strengthen this bond. This part of the game is handled quite well and while some might complain it's slow paced, it's so you can get a good feel for the characters and world they live in. Overall it's rather simple and there's a lot of good stuff about it. It's well directed, well acted, thought provoking in parts and really lets you see the low part of humanity. However there are a few sections that are silly. The game provides a fairly overly serious tone for the most part, and seems to want to be as believable and real as it can be. However at times the characters are forced into rather extravagant circumstances that are a bit hard to believe at times. A number of times I just couldn't help but roll my eyes with how dramatic the game was trying to be. Sure it might be entertaining, but it intrudes on the atmosphere and believability of the characters that the game is trying to convey.
The other problem is main characters themselves. They simply feel too competent for the story to really be that believable. Joel is pretty much a toned down batman, with how much trouble he gets into and how he's able to deal with situations (being able to take out tons of armed men and zombies all by himself my foot). Which for a survival horror, is not the kind of character you really want to have. Though to be fair, at least Joel is rather interesting and undergoes a lot of development throughout the game so it's not all bad. However Ellie is too much. She is the very epitome of ideal in this game, if there's one character you would want to be and would root for, it would be Ellie. Despite being 14, she's still able to perform almost as well as Joel late game and it's quite a bizarre sight. She does have her negative traits, but they are overshadowed by the number of positive traits she has. So yes we have two comic book characters in a game that's trying to be a little realistic (imagine batman and robin), it doesn't really blend well as you might imagine. The whole winter chapter threw suspension of disbelief out the window, and really made me question what the writers were even trying to do at times. The side characters were mostly handled well, despite having little screen time. Always bringing a message or something new to the setting and generally are pretty believable (except for David once again winter chapter sillyness). Overall despite it being a conflicted story with an identity crisis, it's still a mostly satisfying story. Though you're enjoyment will hinge solely on how much you like the two main characters, so I hope they work for you. If you like story driven games you should come out mostly satisfied.
Unfortunately the end of the game is a little lacking if you ask me. The game seemingly is trying to bring moral dilemma to the player at the end, but fails at this entirely. Considering the answer that our main character comes up with is a no brainer for both him and the audience, it's not really as conflicting as it thinks it's trying to be. Actually moral dilemma never really shows up that much in the game, which kind of takes away from the believability of a survival setting. I guess you could say the game was playing it too safe to not detract from a large audience.
A satisfying treat all around. The voice acting is great as said before and the sound effects are well done. The quiet music also never intrudes on any scene or tries to make things overly dramatic. It's really just incredibly well done all around. There might not be any memorable tracks but it works well for what it's going for.
The least of my concerns, but I'll give it credit. It looks nice and the pre-rendered cutscenes have some great facial animations. It's not up to par with current PC games due to the dated graphical limitations of the PS3 but it gets the job done. I'm a bigger fan of games with creative art direction rather than trying to be realistic personally but I can't complain.
Surprisingly not the core of the game. There are basically two things to do in this game. Go exploring through houses and other locations looking for supplies and fighting off enemies. You generally want to explore to get supplies and what not so you can craft better materials to make combat easier as well as replenish supplies (as well as finding other extraneous goodies like notes). You can also power up your character with passive traits, making the game have a few rpg elements (though they are kept simple so it's not a huge focus). So in general this game does a good job in providing an incentive to explore which is nice. Warning though, this game is completely linear. There's really not much branching off the main path, nor are there optional quests. So don't go into it expecting that. Combat is fairly clunky as you might expect to try and paint the realism (Joel won't have perfect aim at all times) but it has a few nice qualities to it. One is that you can go about the situations in multiple ways (using different strategies and what not). This makes each encounter almost like a puzzle with more than one solution. Though in general you're going to want to sneak up and strangle enemies when you can without being noticed. This way you can preserve ammo and other supplies. There are some rather cheap tactics you can exploit at times but nothing too game-breaking as you can imagine.
However there is a problem and it's the problem I mentioned earlier with the story. The characters quite simply feel too competent. So the amount of tension that the combat should provide is held back because quite honestly, the enemies just don't feel threatening enough. Think about it, if you put Batman in a survival horror situation, would you feel threatened? Batman's not even invincible and the answer is still no. So why they chose to go about it this way I have no clue. Even the fatal frame chicks didn't feel this competent, and they had a magic camera to play around with. This is why games like Silent Hill 2 and Amnesia work. Because you feel pretty powerless and alone in those games, so the tension is through the roof. However here it just feels like an action game with how strong your characters are. Not only that but it feels like a clunky one too, so it's not even that fun. Generally clunky mechanics are given to a game to increase the tension, but here they just become an annoyance. Not only that, but the gameplay becomes quite tedious near end game. There's simply too much action and too many gun fights, and the gameplay never evolves that much making it become rather boring after awhile. The strong point of the game is on the exploration, not the combat, so I don't know why they tried to drill so much of it in the game. The other problem is it's not that scary or creepy even if your characters weren't overpowered. True horror lets you use your imagination to create it, this game shoves monsters and screaming enemies in your face all the time. Rather than being scary and intimidating like they should be, they just become routine only after a short amount of game time. The frequent and forgiving check points don't aid things much either. So even if you were to play on the hardest difficulty, it wouldn't make things any better if death is only treated as a minor set back. Death should have meaning, you should have incentive to want to avoid it. But once again treating the game like an action game ruins any sense of that happening. It's kind of sad when I can say I felt more tension while playing dark souls than this game, and that game wasn't even a survival horror game. So in the end, it doesn't capture the immersion of a true survival horror, nor does it have the fun gameplay of a true action game. In the end it's not bad, but it's rather shallow.
The last of us is a nice experiment, but never really reaches true greatness in my eyes. Though if you're a fan of story driven games like Bioshock infinite, then give it a whirl.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 06/19/13, Updated 06/28/13
Game Release: The Last of Us (US, 06/14/13)
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