Definitely one of the only games to make me feel a sense of loss time and time again, yet still have hope for the future. Starting off from the Prologue all the way until the final scene Joel and his companions encounter terrible loses and even more horrifying events. However, even after the end of the game I still have hope for mankind and Joel and Ellie. I hope that Naughty Dog, the developer, leaves this as a one-hit-wonder or tells a different story in the same universe (maybe inbetweeen the intro and the meat of the game seeing as there is a 20 year gap that isn’t talked about). Regardless of what they do, The Last of Us will go down as one of Naughty Dog’s best narratives.
*I’ll try to remain as spoiler-free as possible! But it MAY contain some spoilers.*
So first off, let’s talk graphics. The Last of Us delivers some awesome detail to the characters and the environments. At every turn in the game I felt like this is a living environment that was playing through. From the ruined cities of Pittsburgh to the snowy mountains in Colorado. There were few minor bugs with graphics in the game and never took away from the experience I felt. There was an instance in the game where I shot a guy and his blood got all over this rock formation and made it transparent somehow, but that was pretty much it. Naughty Dog has been known for their work with water from their time on the Uncharted franchise and they carried that tech over to LoU (Last of Us). You hop in water and you get wet, you hop out of water and you slowly dry off. Sounds simple enough and is such a minor detail that it is hard to notice, but further adds to the immersion of the game world. I noticed few times that they haven’t really gotten the trees and such blowing in the wind down just yet and I noticed this most when in Colorado as winds were heavy, but not even the branches were swaying. Like I said before, just minor things I noticed. Now what was critical to the game was the character’s ability to display emotion well. While may not be as good as Beyond: Two Souls coming out later this year, they still did an excellent job of capturing the facial responses to situations and adding the ever so subtle tear dripping down the characters faces on occasion. If not for their excellent job on their characters, this game would haven’t done nearly as good of a job. So bravo Naughty Dog animation team, you rocked. Another thing about the environment was the excellent use of atmosphere in the game. If the lights were off and in a ruined section and things were quiet, you probably knew some infected were about to spoil your rare moments of peace. Overall the graphics in this game aren’t flawless, but are really really good.
Collectibles and Crafting
Other than admiring the beautiful vistas in the game, you can collect and unlock things throughout the game. Personally I believe the hunting down for collectibles shouldn’t be always active, about 3/4 of the way through the game I realized I was searching for loot while Ellie was in danger and I felt bad for looking around for loot, but I also wanted to find all the collectibles in the game. It took away from the game’s immersion a little bit, but nothing to be upset over as it is essential to look for supplies, just not as important to find every firefly pendant in the game. With that aside, there are over 140 artifacts to find throughout the game and those can include notes, firefly pendants, comic books, and training manuals. In nearly every game I play I NEVER read the codexs or things that I pick up, but I felt compelled to read these in LoU and I’m glad I did. They provided insight into the world and gave perspectives about the outbreak on multiple fronts. So if you want that little bit of extra story I recommend you try and find all those notes. Crafting on the other hand, I found it incredibly hard at first to keep a good stock of supplies. Once you get into the game a little bit you’ll notice that you find more supplies and end up having too much of things if you find yourself holding onto your objects. To be honest I found myself using melee instead of wasting bullets and bullets instead of throwing a molotov or bomb. The only thing I used on a regular basis was the shiv which I found that blades were difficult to come by, but were the most useful item in my opinion.
Naughty Dog decided to throw in a few RPG elements into the game and they did so in a good manner. You upgrade Joel’s physical abilities such as health, his ability to sense enemies, his weapon sway and more; to do this you find these capsules throughout the world that are in the form of potted plants and pill bottles mostly. To my knowledge it is impossible to max out your skills in one playthrough, which is why they provided a New Game+ mode after you complete the game. This allows you to carry over your enhancements you made to your character and then max out everything to be the ultimate survivalist. Don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of upgrades throughout your first playthrough. The weapons on the other hand were much harder to upgrade them all fully. First you need parts, and these parts are few and far between. You may stumble across the rare 25 or even the 50 part packs, but usually it’s just a handful of single parts when one upgrade may set you back 75 parts, it makes your upgrade selections to need to be well thought out. Not to mention you can only upgrade at workbenches which are even more sparse. Don’t know why I’m able to build a smoke bomb out of sugar and explosive materials in a matter of seconds anywhere, but I can’t improve my weapon without having a special table to work on. The upgrades though are very useful and can highly increase your chance of survival. I suggest you focus on reload speed first as you may find yourself being chased by clickers and if you have to sit and reload, you’ll be dead.
You have at your disposal a wide variety of weapons for your deadly arsenal . Ranging from the shotgun for close range to a hunting rifle for long range to the bow for stealth. Oh and you can’t forget about the beautiful melee in the game. Nothing feels better than beating an infected runner to near death with your bare hands and then smashing their heads into the nearest wall to deliver the final blow. The close combat in the game is perfect and is so fluid and dynamic that I never imagined it working that well. For the first part of the game you’ll only have your hands available, but you soon pick up melee weapons and can even upgrade them to do one-hit kills. The melee weapons are good, but they don’t last very long as they have a very limited lifespan. The pipe gets the most use, but you start off only finding a 2×4 and it has 4 hits and then it’s done. You can’t craft melee weapons (besides upgrading them) either so if you’d like one then you better save one that you find or hope you come across one soon. I mentioned a few of the guns earlier, but you have 4 handguns and 4 larger guns. I found the bow to be really awesome and one of my favorites to use in the game especially when stealth was key. For the most brutal killing I preferred the hunting rifle that I upgraded with a scope and armor piercing rounds. I found it hard to kill enemies at first because I was afraid to waste bullets and didn’t want to run out in any instance, but once I took a turn at multiplayer I found things becoming a little bit easier as I got more comfortable wasting ammo. So don’t be afraid to shoot! Other than that, the stealth worked out well and I found myself waiting behind many corners until an enemy got close and then strangled him in the shadows.
I will admit that during the opening scene I wanted to shed a tear for Sarah, Joel’s daughter, and multiple other times throughout the game when your companions leave you. Naughty Dog’s narrative abilities have been good, but they really wow’d the crowd this time. Neil Druckmann, the writer and director for LoU did an amazing job for the storytelling process. While they had one ending and one story to tell, it still felt captivating. There wasn’t a moment in the entire game where I couldn’t understand the characters and their actions. Even at the end I froze on what should be done next, but then I thought about it for a second and did what needed to be done. I imagine Joel freezing up then too, the final decision of the future of mankind is up to him at the point and isn’t an easy decision to make. Enough about the end though, the bond between Joel and Ellie started off pretty weak and grew strong over the time they spent together. Not only did the in game characters begin to like each other more, you, the player, began to like the dynamic between the two of you. In fact whenever I got separated I was upset, because I lost my buddy who helped me out in tough situations and provided some interesting dialogue. There’s a section of the game where you get this other guy’s little brother and he gets Ellie as your both separated and even though you have another companion, it still wasn’t the same. The entire time I felt moved by their story and I stayed up late multiple nights just because I wanted to see their story through.
Multiplayer on a seemingly singleplayer only game is always perceived as a bad thing and that they did it to jump on the band wagon, but LoU has a good and unique multiplayer experience I believe. For some details on the gameplay modes and other details about the multiplayer check out the reveal they announced earlier. I’ve only played a few games as I’ve focused on the main story lately, but from what I’ve played I have thoroughly enjoyed. The first thing you do is connect to Facebook if you have one. At first I had no idea why they wanted me too, but once it gets established it is actually pretty neat. So you have this clan of survivors and you’re tasked with going out and getting food for them. Your Facebook friends and other names are members of your clan and it updates occasionally saying someone from your friends list is doing something. Doesn’t have any impact on the game, but still a neat feature. You start out with 5 healthy survivors in your clan and grow from there and with each match you progress 1 day out of a 12 week period (which is 84 days and basically 84 matches) you acquire more survivors. If you have collect the needed amount of food then your clan grows and everyone stays healthy, if you don’t then members start to get hungry and sick and then things just go south from there. You don’t have experience points either, you just collect food and that works as your experience of sorts as you unlock items for your loadouts as you get more food. You can acquire food by opening up boxes laid out through the map or by killing enemies. You also can craft objects in the matches as well by collecting supplies and parts with the parts serving as a sort of currency in the game that gets reset with every match.
I am very pleased with my purchase of the game and will be replaying it at least once more to find more of the artifacts and just to enjoy killing some of the infected again. However, the story doesn’t end here… there was a Season Pass released so we’ll have some DLC to look forward to and maybe we’ll get to explore more of the world with Joel and Ellie. The core game experience is amazing and I loved every moment of the game. My playthrough on the Hard difficulty took about 15 hours and I managed to collect over half of all the artifacts in the game.
Here’s a tl;dr summary of the review:
- Score: 9.5/10
- Pros: Captivating story, fluid combat, beautiful graphics, solid gameplay mechanics
- Cons: Upgrades were sparse, minor bugs
- Rage Factor: Those clickers with their one-shot attacks…