The Last of Us review
SG Gaming Info takes a look at the Naughty Dog’s game of the year contender, the post apocalyptic PlayStation 3 exclusive, The Last of Us.
Naughty Dog and great games always seem to go hand in hand, in the PS1 and PS2 era we had the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, in the PS3 era we had the Uncharted series. I think it is safe to say their latest game, The Last of Us can be added to the list of great games from Naughty Dog.
There are three things that make The Last of Us a great game: the world, the story and the characters. Honestly you can have at least two of three things and still have a good game, but seeing the world, the story and characters all executed in such a great way is a rare sight, well for me anyway.
The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a spore based outbreak has infected large sways of the population, making them deadly killing machines. The story of The Last of Us takes place twenty years after the outbreak started, at this point humanity is struggling to stay alive behind giant walls protecting cities, but out in wild those who haven’t being infected fight to stay alive.
The Last of Us focuses on two characters Joel and Ellie. Joel who was born before the outbreak began and as such knows two worlds, the pre-infected and infected world he now lives in. Ellie on the other hand only knows the infected world, a world where people live in fear of being infected and turning into a monster. Joel’s role in The Last of Us is to smuggle Ellie out of the city, into the lawless wasteland and to the “Fireflies”.
The world that we see through the eyes of Joel and Ellie is amazing, in a brutal way. We see just how far humanity has fallen due to the outbreak, once mighty US cities have fallen apart as the world begins to reclaim the land and people have resorted to performing unspeakable acts to survive. While early on it appears that only the infected are your enemy, you quickly learn that the people who live outside the protection of walled cities cannot be trusted. Make no mistake the world of The Last of Us is grim. Naughty Dog doesn’t try to make anything happy in this world, because honestly how could you? The world has ended and all you can do is fight to survive or die. At multiple points in the game, the world genuinely made me feel scared because you really just didn’t know what would happen next, I guess I have a fear of the unknown.
The game’s story is primarily about Joel bringing Ellie attempt to get to the “Fireflies”, but there is much more to the story. The story is more about Joel and Ellie exploring a harsh lawless world. As the story goes you experience the hardships that Joel and Ellie must overcome to complete their task, and by experiencing these hardships they become stronger people for it. Overall, the story felt like a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, it had its intense moments but it was well balanced with those moments of calm where you could just walk around feeling like these two characters were the only two people alive in the world.
The Last of Us has some of the best characters I have seen in a game, this is mainly down to the fact that the game makes you care about them through the though and easy times. What makes this work is the fact the personality of the characters don’t change from gameplay to cutscene. For example in many games, you could have a character who could have no problem shooting dead a handful of enemies, but in a cutscene that very same character could be shown to be scared to fire a gun. This lack of continuity always destroys my immersion, thankfully there is no such problem in The Last of Us. The game does a great job of evolving the characters of Joel and Ellie. When you compare them to how they were at the start of the game to the end you see some genuine character evolution. Another example of the how well the characters are handled is when Ellie has to use a gun to kill a person for the first time, she knows how to use a gun, but she has never used one on a person and the emotions are shown in both cutscenes and in gameplay.
What could have damaged The Last of Us in the character department was only having the two leads fleshed out, but nearly every character encountered is fleshed out, this means you grow to love or hate a character for a legitimate reason and not because the game said this guy is good or this guy is bad.
It is all well and good having a great story, world and characters, but what about enemies. Well truth be told, The Last of Us has some rather scary enemies in the form of the infected humans. They are broken into four categories: runners, stalkers, clickers and bloaters. Each category represents a stage of infection. Runners are stage 1, they appear human but the infection has take control and Bloaters are the fourth and final stage, the infection has taken full control, this is also the most powerful enemy. Coming across an infected as I said before is scary, not because of how they look but how they appear. They pretty much appear out of nowhere. Countless times I expected to be attacked on a quiet street or eerily quiet house, crouch walking expecting to see an infected just around the corner, but 9/10 there wouldn’t be one. See, this is what the game does well with the enemies. The game builds tension, you know the infected can’t see you, but they can hear you and as such you instinctively try to not make a sound by crouching, even though there is no sign of them the game creates a level of fear making you think a clicker will be in the next room and kill you. Now it might sound stupid to some people, but what really pushes the fear is the fact that an infected can kill you quickly, in fact a clicker can kill you in one shot.
There are other enemies apart from the infected, the other enemy are bandits, these guys aren’t as bad as the infected, in fact they are rather easy to defeat, but what makes the bandits interesting is their story. I won’t spoil anything about them, but what they do is messed up, but if you think about it through their eyes it makes sense in a sick kind of way.
So far everything about this game seems perfect, but unfortunately not everything is perfect. While The Last of Us has a brilliant world, story and characters, the gameplay unfortunately doesn’t live up to expectations.
It seems like when Naughty Dog started making The Last of Us, they focused on making a great world and while they were doing this someone pointed out, that they have to decide on how the game should play. From reading the above praise of the game you might be mistaken for thinking that the game was stealth focused, and if you thought that you would be partly right. The game does contain stealth and the game does say that stealth is a tool you should use, but the problem is there is no need to use it when you can just shoot your way through a problem, especially when fighting non-infected. This issue is compounded by the fact that ammo is easy enough to come across, there were multiple times where I found myself tripping over ammo for my weapons. In some regards tripping over ammo isn’t a bad thing because there are occasion where stealth is nearly impossible and you have a band of clickers, runners and other infected trying to kill you, you will be thanking your lucky stars that you had a ton of ammo.
Looking back I think Naughty Dog wanted to make an easy and difficult experience for people, easy is the normal easy – hard mode while difficult is the survivor mode. The difference between the two is that in survivor mode, you have to stealth and be careful about your ammo. While the above issues I mentioned are mostly fixed by survivor. Survivor mode also takes away “listen mode” an ability which allows Joel to see where the enemies are through walls, a great tool to help set up an ambush or to find the best way to sneak through a room. I can’t say much in regards to survivor mode since I have only completed the game on normal.
What else is there to say about the gameplay? Well let’s talk about the infected again. When you look at them they are a great enemy, but they were the bane of my existence when playing the game. I found myself dying several times because when I thought I cleared out a room a clicker would come out of nowhere and kill me in one shot and cause me to start again. Thankfully checkpoints aren’t too far from where you die, but I found there was a good possibility that the same clicker would once again appear out of nowhere and kill me. I found that fighting infected was down to luck, I found myself hoping that the Molotov cocktail or nail bomb I had would be able to kill enough enemies for me to be able to get some steady shots at the clickers which are only weak to headshots. The worst experience for fighting infected were when you are in a situation where you cannot escape, and for a game that includes stealth, a forced fight where you have to kill waves of infected for X amount of time is annoying, well for me anyway.
While fighting is annoying, the game’s crafting and upgrade systems isn’t too bad. To craft new weapons, you need to find certain materials and if you are a collectomaniac you are in luck because you will find yourself searching every building in an area to find all the crafting materials you need.
The upgrade system on the other had is a bit different. To upgrade your gear and character you need to find gears and tablets. Medicine for character upgrades and gears for weapon upgrades, find these items are important to doing well in the game. Unlike with crafting, activating upgrades is a tad different. While character upgrades can be done at any time, gear upgrades can only be done via crafting tables. Crafting tables are a rare sight in the game with about six tables existing in the game.
Gameplay in The Last of Us isn’t particularly bad, it is good but when compared to other parts of the game it just doesn’t seem as great.
Before drawing a conclusion on the game I have to point out the soundtrack. The soundtrack for this game is brilliant. The music sets the tone well brilliantly, and rarely if ever seems out of place.
The Last of Us is a great game, with a fantastic story and cast of characters set in well realistic post-apocalyptic world. The only major downside of the game is that the gameplay is average, not terrible but not something you want to write home about.
The Last of Us Information
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: survival action
Rating: Mature 17+
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release date: out now
Website: Official The Last of Us website
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.