Review by Menji

"Does fighting for survival bring out your best or worst?"

The instant comparison to the Uncharted series should be a natural response during initial gameplay. The Last of Us uses a similar art style and all actions are performed in the third person. Thankfully, Naughty Dog makes a good effort to separate the two series swiftly, opting for a survival horror type approach: quick turns, slow movement, limited ammo and instant deaths. The game opens by showcasing the amazing visuals and storytelling it has planned. I got a Heavy Rain vibe. The player controls a young girl as she awakes because of an ominous ring coming from the telephone. The man on the other end is looking for her dad and hangs up when she does not know where he is either. Once the player walks outside of the room the eeriness of the situation continues. The girl calls around for her father but no one answers her call. Take a minute to interact with the surroundings as the environment begs to be explored. Eventually the player will make their way downstairs and the father and soon to be star of the game bursts onto the scene and tells his daughter they have to go now. Get ready for an intense escape and the beginnings of The Last of Us!

The actual game takes place twenty years later in a world where martial law has been declared. An infection has spread to the world where an estimated 60% of the world has either died or been infected. The military has revealed little information about the outbreak and has quarantined areas of major cities while having bombed most of the world to slow the outbreak. People are stuck living off rations and obeying curfews. A group known as the Fireflies opposes the military and wishes to return the country to the way it used to be. In fact, one of their leaders seeks out Joel to smuggle something out of the city – a girl.

Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to stems from how different TLoU plays compared to every other game this generation. Yes, the game might have checkpoints every other minute but ignoring obvious entries like Demon/Dark Souls there aren't too many other games as challenging as TLoU. Unlike Uncharted the game aims for a realistic approach. You will die fast and often. NaughtyDog severely limits your ammo as you spend the game scavenging for bullets and materials. Many infected creatures can kill you in one bite and you need to plan out your strategy before proceeding through an area.

My biggest complaint about the Uncharted Series is the enemy's durability. Their ability to dodge and eat bullets dampened the fun of the game and made it hard to suspend disbelief even when so many unbelievable events were transpiring. TLoU isn't quite on the same level but it still has you scratching your head. Enemies can take headshots when wearing helmets; they might stumble when you shoot their leg but will recover shortly and run around fine again. The worst offense of the game occurs whenever hunters or infected persons seemingly arrive out of nowhere in some poor device to progress the story. I understand that going sessions on end with no encounters would be too boring for the average gamer. I just wish NaughtyDog would spend a little more time on the reasoning behind it. An example could be getting spotted by an enemy and proceeding to spend the next twenty minutes being followed by a large group that seems to know exactly the areas you will be heading toward. On the flipside, groups of infected are hidden in some implausible locations. Groups will also swarm on you in areas for almost no reason at all. I know I may be grasping at strings here but I usually get picky on these things in any type of zombie game/movie.

Enough of the minor things that bugged me about the game, TLoU has some superb qualities. The story had me pulling for the characters despite some questionable acts – something only Dexter and Breaking Bad have made me do. The visuals sit at the top of the pedestal and are arguably the best of the generation. The crafting gameplay brings a fresh element to the table and will have you scouring the environment to produce weapons and objects to help you along the way. The environment surprised me as to how open it portrayed the game. There was only ever one path to take but you come to clearings where the whole street or field opens for exploration.

I was shocked at how mature and violent this game played. From a company that created the heart-warming Uncharted series the sudden jump to this dark gritty take on human morality took a toll on me. There were quite a few moments where I thought to myself, “Why exactly am I rooting for this guy?” I may be a bit desensitized but this still had my jaw dropping.

TLoU combines elements of an interactive movie and co-op gameplay. While that game does not allow two players to play simultaneously, the AI helps you out along the way controlling Ellie and numerous other friends. They are not totally useless either! Ellie can throw bricks to stun and will toss you supplies if she finds anything. If you played Bioshock Infinite you will remember Elizabeth doing the same. However, the help doesn't come as abrasively and implausibly often as it does in Bioshock Infinite. There could definitely be some improvements and some polishing. Only Joel's movements and actions trigger an enemy reaction. If you successfully move into cover just as an enemy passes you won't be seen – neither will Ellie who comes running across as well to take cover. Despite the fact that the enemy would have easily spotted her. Infected persons also have some weird spotting processes. If you position yourself between an infected and another AI there could be a good chance the infected will skip the AI and run after you. Again, some minor things I noticed one too many times that could have improved the experience.

The Uncharted series has one of the greatest multiplayer experiences. TLoU has a decent one and considerably smaller options than Uncharted: deathmatch and elimination. They give different names to make it fit the theme but nothing beyond the basics. Players are given a choice to be the hunters or Fireflies. The choice does not matter too much but once you make it you are stuck for some time. The goal of multiplayer is to make it to Week 12 and keep your clan intact. Every match you play counts as one day and will total 84 matches unless your clan dies before then. Your performance in a match depends on the supplies you gather which can be acquired from many sources: kills, marks, revives, gathering supplies and others. These can be used to purchase in-game weapons and armor from the store and will transfer back to your clan at the end of the match. Depending on the amount you needed your clan can grow or people may become sick and die. Every week there will be a new event with something to gain or risk. Once the gain or risk has been announced, you select a mission to obtain or prevent the things at stake. You are given three matches to complete your mission and depending on what tier level you completed the better or worse the outcome will be. I really like the setup for leveling up as the number by each player will be the number of weeks they have completed and the penalty for leaving a match causes hunger and sickness to spread in your clan. This measure helps prevent people from quitting if they are doing poorly. While the two options are limiting, they should offer enough enjoyment for some time.

The Last of Us will be a contender for Game of the Year and rightfully so – I would choose it at this point in time. I felt it took a little to get going but the last of half of the game got my adrenaline going and had me pondering a few moral dilemmas. There are some gameplay problems as I mentioned and a slew of minor glitches unique to every player but you definitely have to play it.

Verdict – 8.5

+ Story, gameplay, characters and visuals
- Unpolished, long load times, and implausible situations.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/24/13

Game Release: The Last of Us (US, 06/14/13)

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