Review by Galactus21

"A masterful and suspenseful adventure from start to finish"

In modern society if we stripped away the things we considered essential to our daily lives, the question posed would be how society would function. If one's very survival and livelihood were called into question, will we begin walking that morally grey line? What happens when the law that was enacted to protect us is no longer adequate in protecting entire nation states? Disappearance of infrastructure that was made available to us our entire lives are gone. How would we cope? Naughty Dog's new survival, post-apocalyptic game The Last of Us brings some of these questions and dilemma to the forefront, forging a magnificent survival adventure of suspense, storytelling, and character involvement.

In the very onset of the game, The Last of Us quickly introduces players to the premise of the game's fictitious world. In the middle of the night, explosions and sirens fill the air. Chaos quickly ensues, as rabid individuals start swarming the city. In the ensuing panic, the city becomes quarantined. The opening introduction provides a glimpse to the Last of Us' frantic and chaotic world, where survival is key. After the introduction, the game will fast forward 20 years in the future, where millions are infected and zombified. The game's main protagonist Joel is set out to deliver Ellie to a group of individuals. What appears to be a simple escort turns into something else, unraveling and delivering an excellent narrative from start to finish, where Joel and Ellie quickly become amazing, loveable, and sympathetic characters.

At its core, The Last of Us is about survival. Players can choose to take enemies head on, but given the survival nature of the game, ammo and weapons will quickly diminish. As a result, stealth and ammo conservation becomes an integral part about surviving. Naughty Dog does an excellent job at this, as limiting ammo and supply makes sense in a post-apocalyptic world. Not to mention, it reinforces the notion of surviving in harsh reality. Those expecting big time fire fights shouldn't be wary, as the stealth mechanics and suspense of taking down an infected more than make up for it. While the game doesn't throw wave after wave of enemies at you, the gun play is still fairly strong.

Over the course of the fifteen hour adventure, navigating through infected areas were the highlight of the game. Stealthy situations, where one wrong move led to infected and clickers quickly honing in on your position, became suspenseful and thrilling moments. To aid in your sneaky ways, bottles and bricks can be used to stun enemies quickly or as a mechanism to lure enemies to certain positions. This allows players to somewhat strategize a course of action to dispose of enemies while conserving ammo. During stealth attacks, Joel can either silently choke individuals out, use a shiv, or hold them as shields, which led to satisfying finishes.

While stealth plays a large part in the game, shooting mechanics are also quite solid. Players can get close to cover points and take cover, while picking off enemies. The aiming and shooting also felt solid. Moreover, even when engaging enemies in a fire fights, the environments usually allow players to move around and start performing stealth attacks. The ability to blend between the two made it all the more fun. In addition, players can also engage in melee combat. Throughout the game, melee weapons can be used. However, the integrity of the weapon usually breaks down and becomes unusable after numerous strikes. Hand to hand combat, while fairly simplistic, adds to overall breadth and fun of the game.

One particular aspect that I liked was the utilization of weapons and items. For instance, to switch between weapons that are outside of those that are immediately available, Joel needs to take out his backpack and switch. Using medical supplies also took time. Joel also has the ability to craft weapons together, such as creating shivs and medical supplies. I thought this reinforced the core tenet of surviving in The Last of Us. As players advanced throughout the adventure, they will have opportunities to collect items that allow them to upgrade weapons or improve certain abilities such as using healing supplies quicker.

At times, the controls do feel a bit off. Most of this was during the early onset of the game, as I was trying to get used to the controls, but there were still a few instances where it felt off. Partner AI in The Last of Us would also sometimes get in the way, when I'm trying to quickly get out of cover. While understandable that Naughty Dog didn't want your partner to hinder your ability to move around stealthily , I found it weird when partners would whisper or walk in front of enemies without alerting them.

While game play was certainly fun in The Last of Us, the powerful narrative and relatable characters push the game over the top. The Last of Us is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I have experienced in a game. Character development was strong, as you can see the bond between Joel and Ellie grow. In game chats during the adventure also help reinforce this notion. Story telling was also enhanced by notes found throughout the game. From the setting, environment, characters, and story of dire survival, a beautifully crafted fictitious world is presented that engages you from start to finish. The ability to blend strong game play, with excellent narrative and characters brings about a complete package in a video game experience.

From a presentation standpoint, The Last of Us excels on multiple facets. The storytelling was enhanced through gorgeous animation and cinematic scenes. Characters look fantastic and life like. The animation of the action and physics felt solid as well. One thing that particularly stands out are some of the death scenes when an infected finishes you off. Equally impressive are the in game engine, where throwing brick at a soldier knocks him back in a life like motion. To top it off, the game's various chapters present different shades of color that brought to life the game's environments. From dark and shadowy tunnels, snow filled areas, and green forests, the game's graphics showed an impressive pallet of colors. The voice acting was also fantastic for the majority of the game, especially from Ellie and Joel. The voice actors were able to get you more involved in the characters' plight and situation. The musical soundtrack was also quite good. The game's overall presentation and atmosphere were fantastic throughout.

The Last of Us isn't without flaws. Sometimes the controls can feel a bit off. Enemy types were limited. Partner AI also wasn't the greatest. But in the end, the marvelous and thrilling moments throughout the fifteen hour adventure, coupled with characters and story for the ages, The Last of Us delivers an experience that only few games can rival this generation. With this generation dwindling down, The Last of Us is not only a showcase of what this gen was capable of, but a capstone to another fantastic cycle in the video game industry. From start to finish, I was engaged in a way that I rarely felt this generation. I wholeheartedly recommend this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/01/13

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

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