Review by igor140
Not the best game you'll ever play, but quite possibly the best PS3 interactive movie you'll ever watch.
Brief intro here, I read NOTHING about this game before buying it. I only saw the numeric reviews on a variety of gaming sites, and decided to jump for it. In fact I STILL haven't read very much at all about it; everything here is my own thoughts. When I finally beat the game a little while ago, my first thought was "This should never have been a video game. This would have made a better six part television mini-series".
Soo... yeah. The intarwebz are abuzz with praise for this game, giving it ratings of 9s and 10s and claiming it's the best game ever created. This happens every few years: the gaming sites run off with some new game claiming it's God's gift to this generation of games... and it falls short. Within a few years (if not months) the hype blows over and the game is all but forgotten. Other notable entries into this club include Halo, Mass Effect 3, and Heavy Rain (and I'm sure you can think of others). Each of these games has it's own kind of charm and appeal. Halo was the only Xbox exclusive FPS at the time (despite being thoroughly mediocre); Mass Effect 3 was the finale to a great series of games (even though it seriously dropped the ball); and Heavy Rain was new, innovative, and extremely engaging (until the end). Even so, none of these games really lived up to their hype (anyone attempting to defend Halo should note that it's PC sales were laughable; it was ONLY ever championed by Xboxers), and all soon found themselves in the bargain bin at local game stores.
And I expect Last Of Us to follow suit. It reminds of me a cross between Uncharted and Heavy Rain. If you've never played these games, you should. It also features combat very similar to Uncharted. The pacing, interface, and sequencing feels a bit more like Heavy Rain. For those not familiar with these games, Last Of Us is made by Naughty Dog (the same people who make Uncharted, btw), which means you can expect a long, intricate, and prosaic storyline. And like Heavy Rain, the pacing and sequencing of Last Of Us give it a very unique feel that assures that it won't get lost of the myriad of other great games out there these days.
Furthermore, Last Of Us cashes in really long and really hard on the zombie craze going around these days. I, personally, have never really gotten into the whole zombie thing. They're undead, slobbering, not very interesting, blah blah blah. So after Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, the Resident Evil movies, the Resident Evil games, The Walking Dead, and so on... the zombie thing really doesn't do it for me. So if zombies are your thing, rejoice. If you're as burnt out as I am, don't lose hope yet, this game has other redeeming qualities.
So on to the details.
This is truly one of the best qualities of an otherwise really good game. The graphics are crisp and clear at all times, and the attention to detail is amazing. Last Of Us is a fairly long game (it took me over 15 hours, taking my time), and almost all of the locations look and feel very different. Everything from the lighting to the colors to the themes all go very far to portray a world where everything has gone awry. Some of the lighting filters changing from indoors to outdoors seem a bit stilted, but on the whole that's a very minor complaint. The only other problem with the graphics is the moving water. It looks very chunky and clippy. Water is always a tough things for games, so I'm willing to let this slide, but if you're looking for a flaw, here it is. Regardless, from beginning to end, the visuals are stunning, and really keep the player engaged in the story-- a very odd praise for graphics, but very true in this case. In line with that, this game is EXTREMELY gory. It's not distasteful with exploding globby bits like Blade or Species 2; but it is very explicit. If you have a bit of a weak stomach for gory and/ or horrifying scenes, I would recommend you skip this game.
Based upon the way Last Of Us started, I really expected sound to be a bigger deal. It is a big deal, insofar as sound is one of the main ways you locate and track enemies (and enemies track you)... but it isn't implemented very consistently. You'll always need to keep track of the sound you're making and the sound your enemies are making, but some of the game elements seem a bit hokey. This wouldn't be such a big deal, except that everything else in this game is so extremely NOT hokey that these small things come across as extremely incongruous.
Not a whole lot to say here, really. The controls are very straightforward. There aren't any really complicated button mashing combo sequences, and nothing is really trying to trick you. They're just... buttons. Some of the buttons are different than you might expect from your typical first or third person shooter, but this isn't your typical first or third person shooter, so you'll adapt quickly. One thing that I really like is that going into your backpack (which will quickly become an integral part of the game) does NOT stop time. You can definitely get your face eaten or your spleen impaled while trying to craft something. That said, the menus are very simple and easy to navigate, and you have ample time between fighting to poke around your inventory.
The gameplay in this game is exactly what it needs to be: you sneak, you do some shooting, you do a little stabbing; you survive. There's nothing particularly innovative or novel here, but it's all done well enough for the purpose. For those familiar with the Uncharted series, expect less shooting, more sneaking, but otherwise the same basic elements. For those not familiar with the Uncharted series, expect a little shooting, a lot of sneaking, and some fairly basic gameplay elements.
STORY: 5/ 9
That's not "five-ninths"; that's either a "five" or a "nine", depending on how you look at it. When I finally beat the game a little while ago, my first thought was "This should never have been a video game. This would have made a better six part television mini-series". So I said that earlier, and I stand by it here. Another way of phrasing it would be "Last Of Us has a great story, but a poor plot". What's the difference, you ask? A story is the over-arching purpose and function of the narrative. "What is this media (game, movie, TV show, etc) trying to convey?" Conversely, the plot is the sequence of events depicted in the narrative. "How do the events I'm seeing now related to those I saw ten minutes ago, and what does that imply for future events?"
So in the case of Last Of Us, it has an amazing story-- the overall purpose and narrative is absolutely spectacular. In the same way that you simply don't spoil a story like Fight Club by talking about it (it is the first two rules, after all), I can't give you any details about the story of Last Of Us other than: the Zombie Apocalypse has happened... good luck. Quick note though, if you're looking for a story about zombies, this doesn't have it. The zombie thing is really more the backdrop for this story... an interesting take, but done very well.
That said, the plot-- the literal sequence of events depicted in order to tell the story-- is fairly weak. Most of the actual events of the game have very little to do with the development of the story itself... other than to lengthen and embellish the overall story. Be prepared for very long, very boring periods of... walking. For example, you're watching the movie Major League with a friend, and all of a sudden he starts telling you about how he played baseball in high school. Twenty minutes into his rambling, you realize his tangent has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie, or your watching it, or your enjoyment of it. A lot of the individual sequences in Last Of Us feel very similar.
Which leads back to my statement at the very beginning: if it were a six part TV mini-series, the pacing would fit in perfectly. Instead, the series of segmented, contiguous events is incongruous with the over-arching continuous storyline. Certainly don't take this to mean that the plot and story aren't good-- they are-- but the sequencing and pacing are disjointed enough that I don't think this game deserves a rating of 9.5. This is further underscored by the fact that you have very long periods of just running around for absolutely no reason, until you come into an area where you will very obviously have an altercation of some kind. This adds an even stronger sense of predictability and staged cycles to an already stilted series of plot events.
Not to end this discussion on a negative note, the overall plot really is very good. The only knock against it is that it comes across much more like a dramatic movie or a very well written book than it does a video game. Conversely, most really good movies would make horrible video games. So Naughty Dog has chosen to do something here very much against the grain, and while the RESULTS are very good, the delivery leaves a bit to be desired. (For those who have played it, I got a very similar feel from Heavy Rain, except that the ending of Last Of Us is much better.)
If you've ever had a burning desire to watch a middle-age Nathan Drake sneak his way across the Zombie Apocalypse, this game was made for you. If you've ever wanted to watch... anything else... at all... I would advise renting it. By the end of the game, the story really is very good, but it's a very long and at times tedious process to get there. Because of this, Last Of Us has very little replay value. I'll probably play it again at some point in my life, but I'm in no real hurry.
Naughty Dog did an excellent job of creating a post-Zombie Apocalypse world. It's intricate, detailed, and very visceral. It has an established order-- chaotic though it may be-- and follows a logical pattern... but this is established very early in the game, and is developed very little as the plot unfolds. So once you've gotten used to the world you're in, the only thing left to look forward to is the plot... and that comes very slowly and arduously.
Even so, the story makes this game worth playing, and the gameplay is effective at conveying the story. Last Of Us has a good deal going for it, and only some pacing issues hindering it. On the plus side that makes it an absolutely brilliant story-telling adventure. On the down side that makes it a really really long game to tell a fairly simple story.
So if you absolutely love zombies and everything related to zombies, get this game. Otherwise, I would recommend renting this game first. It is a good game, but it's nowhere near as good as most of the reviews online make it out to be. It's riding the crest of the contemporary zombie wave, and will be lost as soon as that wave crashes. It has a good enough story to be considered "a game with a really good story", but doesn't really have enough lasting value to make it to the list of all-time greats. Definitely worth a playthrough, but don't get wrapped up in the hype.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The Last of Us (US, 06/14/13)
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