- Game: The Last of Us
- Release Date: June 14, 2013
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Genre: Action/Adventure, Survival
- Platform: PlayStation 3
The Last of Us takes place in a dystopian United States of America that has been ravaged by an infectious disease for 20 years. This disease is a fungal infection of the brain (much like cordyseps) that causes humans who are infected with it to become rabid and violent. As time passes those who are infected grow more and more disfigured and violent, possessing the ability to kill others with relative ease and strength but lacking the ability to see due to fungal growths. The game follows Joel, an older man who has been around since before the infection broke out. Living in a Boston quarantine zone Joel makes his living as a smuggler, trading weapons and other items with those stuck outside of the quarantine area. While on a job, Joel and his partner Tess come across the leader of the Fireflies, a group of insurgents who rebel against the bodies governing the quarantine zones, and are given a once in a lifetime chance to save humanity. The leader of the Fireflies asks Joel and Tess to smuggle a 14-year-old girl across the country to a medical facility. The catch is that the girl, Ellie, holds the key to creating a vaccine for the infection plaguing the Earth thus saving humans from more infection and death.
Throughout The Last of Us players will experience true survival as they encounter groups of mercenaries who kill outsiders, dangerous infected beings, and life threatening circumstances. Around every corner is a new obstacle to overcome as Joel and Ellie trek across the country in hopes of helping humanity while struggling with finding themselves both separately and together. The game explores some extremely dark themes, Naughty Dog wasn’t afraid to make players uncomfortable with how intense and dramatic life can be under these circumstances. Character development is done in such a brilliant way making both Joel and Ellie relatable while keeping players emotionally tied to them. NPC’s are also extremely well done and as the story progresses players will become more and more absorbed in the world the game puts them in.
The Last of Us is played in the third-person perspective. Players will control Joel throughout most of the game but will also have the chance to control Ellie at key points. The game features gun fighting, melee combat, and stealth aspects. Players can ultimately choose how they wish to play, but many circumstances call for a more stealth-like approach to combat. This is mostly due to that fact that Joel and Ellie are typically outnumbered and overwhelmed. The dynamic stealth system allows players to make more natural choices in stealth combat, choosing where to go and when to strike or walk away. Naughty Dog implemented a “balance of power” system to the AI, meaning that AI react realistically to the situation they are in such as taking cover when they see the player or attempting a flank if players stay in one place for too long. The AI will also exploit the players weakness such as a lack of ammo or being injured.
There are a variety of weapons to discover and use throughout the game such as multiple kinds of pistols, a shotgun, hunting rifles, and even a flamethrower. Ammunition is extremely scarce, forcing players to choose their shots wisely. It’s also pertinent to remember that guns are loud and the noise will alert enemies to the player’s presence or cause infected to spot and/or swarm the player. There are various melee weapons to be found and used to inflict more damage including pipes and knives, though players will always have to option to opt for standard hand-to-hand combat at any time. Explosives and other throwable objects may be created and used against enemies as well, such as molotov cocktails and smoke bombs.
Players will be given the opportunity to manually craft equipment by picking up supplies from around the environment. For example, health kits and molotov’s can be crafted from alcohol and rags, elements which can be found by exploring the environment. Crafting can be done at almost any point during gameplay, but players must choose their crafting moments wisely as it renders the character vulnerable for a short period of time. The crafting system only furthers the survival elements, strengthening the games core features and forcing players to zone in on critical thinking. Overall the gameplay is well done and natural, making for an enjoyable experience for all player and all play-style preferences.
The visuals in The Last of Us are stunning. Environments and characters are brought to life through ground breaking graphical content and design. Areas explored throughout the game look and feel realistic and facial animations among the characters are spot on. The setting is very unique for a story based in the USA, the locations are real (Boston, Salt Lake City, etc.) but they are not the same as we know them to be today. Nature reclamation has begun and plant growth as well as natural wildlife have overtaken much of the country. The streets of Boston have been decimated by bombs, but plant life thrives over the cracked pavement and fallen buildings.
The original soundtrack for The Last of Us is breathtaking and poignant, evoking the proper emotions at the proper times. One of the most memorable aspects of the game is the voice acting, which is absolutely amazing. Troy Baker brings Joel to life with his professional talent and Ashley Johnson did an exceptional job at voicing Ellie. Overall, the game features a remarkably talented voice acting cast worthy of praise.
- Story/Plot: 10
- Gameplay: 9.5
- Presentation: 10
- Length: 13-16 hours
- Replayability: High
- Entertainment Value: High