The Last of Us

The Last of Us is an extraordinary title that blurs the line between right and wrong, all that matters is survival.

By Grayshadow, Posted 07 Nov 2013

When civilization falls and the moral boundaries that once defined our society are shifted, how will you react? If humans roam the earth in small nomadic packs, scavenging supplies through easily shattered alliances, would you do what it takes to survive? In The Last of Us, a fungal plague has infected humanity causing catastrophic disasters around the world. Murder and stealing no longer matter in this world, only survival. Attempting to keep your integrity and follow morals either getting you killed or worse. You can’t be weak – you gotta do what it takes to see tomorrow.

The Last of Us, Game Review, Joe, Ellie, Zombie Apocalypse, Cordyceps

In one night society crumbles. Without a plan to quarantine the viral epidemic, the infected quickly take control, spreading the disease to more people and killing anyone on sight. Those who were once called family turn on one another without warning. Joel is one of the few to survive the initial outbreak, only to cast into a brand new hell where he’ll play an essential role in humanity’s future.

Joel is the few who saw the world before the arrival of Cordyceps and the aftermath that follows. Fast-forwarding 20 years, humanity has fallen and those who survived depend on the remaining quarantine zones that still function. In those years Joel has taken a series of odd jobs to acquire food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. But as things continue, survival becomes more arduous. It’s hard to criticize Joel for his cruel actions– he understands that in this world it’s either kill or be killed. And after losing the most precious thing in his life, surviving is all he has left. He’s not a hero; rather, just another person finding his way is this new world.

Other survivors join Joel throughout his journey, such as the tough tomboy Tess. But his extended companion, a 14 year-old girl named Ellie, steals the spotlight from Joel. Early on, Joel makes a deal to smuggle Ellie out of the city and travel through what is left of the United States to a drop off point. Once leaving the zone, seeing how nature has reclaimed the land is marvelous –streets filled with wildlife and buildings about to topple sights to behold.

The Last of Us, Game Review, Joe, Ellie, Zombie Apocalypse, Cordyceps

Trust is in short supply in this world and Joel and Ellie don’t have enough to spare. They develop a father-daughter relationship over the course of the game, but their experiences blind them from caring about one another in the beginning. Since Ellie was born after the outbreak her personality is much rougher than Joel’s, and her ignorance of the outside world and life before the Cordyceps broke out makes for an excellent combination. She’ll ask questions about the new wonderful things she finds in destroyed environments and share in elaborate conversations with Joel about these new objects and places. Asking a million questions would be annoying, but Ellie’s personality wanted me to find the next conversation; talking about what a coffee shop was, for example, or looking in awe at new animals she only read about in books. Ellie is almost real. She whistles and hums during quiet scenes while telling Joel about fantasies of playing a broken down video game or wondering why people cared about tawdry problems before the outbreak. In one scene, Ellie sees a picture of a skinny supermodel and asks Joel about the food situation before the outbreak. Joel explains that people starve themselves look appealing when food is widely available before the cordyceps.“That’s dumb,” Ellie responds.

The greatest highlights of The Last of Us lie in the interaction between the characters you meet. The always spectacular voice-acting and the visual presentation makes each area you travel through overflow with authenticity. Each character you speak to feels alive, their faces displaying images of fear, desire, happiness, anger, and every other emotion you think of. Although the story itself follows the traditional global plague format, the characters throughout The Last of Us give an amazing performance. The world is also noteworthy with lush forests, overgrown vines, gas covered sewer systems, and discarded artifacts from survivors before and after the infection. The Last of Us requires you to explore these environments for essential supplies, but also to slate your curiosity.

The Last of Us, Game Review, Joe, Ellie, Zombie Apocalypse, Cordyceps

Don’t allow the beauty of The Last of Us fool you. This is a vicious title that doesn’t shy away from brutal themes. Throughout this odyssey Joel and Ellie encounter allies and enemies in various locations that require strategy in order to overcome every nerve-racking moment. The people you fight are like Joel: they simply want to live to see tomorrow and diplomacy is not an option. They take what they want through force and are more than willing to killing anyone, regardless of age or gender. 

You can choose to either stealthily eliminate foes from the shadows or shoot your way through. The Last of Us, however, favors you take to the shadows, for attempting to blast your way through hordes of enemies usually ends in death. The once healthy locales have become broken ruins used for a unceasing battles. Using the shattered furniture and destroyed debris is essential. Holding down the R2 button allows Joel to listen to the environment, giving him a glimpse of enemy locations, but this ability can only be used while stationary. If adversaries are too close, using items such as bricks or bottles to distract targets is wise, or you can use them as blunt weapons to stun them. While the stealth mechanics are wonderfully crafted, you have no control of your ally’s actions. Usually they behave well, taking control and avoiding enemies, but sometimes they’re the reason your cover is blown forcing you to either restart or resort to direct conflict.

Naughty Dog has ensured that the stealth mechanics evoke a sense of realism as you’re forced to take another silent kill. Watching your target flail in Joel’s arms as he either strangles his target or jams a shiv into their collar bone is brutally disturbing. Taking the life of each enemy isn’t easy and Naughty Dog has done a wonderful job of making each kill worth it as you stalk your prey from the dark. Melee weapons decay over time and guns use up valuable bullets, and conserving weapons for more heated fights are a constant concern. 

The Last of Us, Game Review, Joe, Ellie, Zombie Apocalypse, Cordyceps

Not all you enemies are human, though. Some of them are unfortunately living a fate worse than death. The fall of human society was centered on the evolution of the Cordyceps fungus that jumped the species barrier and started infecting humans, altering their minds and appearances to resemble a hybrid human-plant creature. Although technically alive, these creatures have no recollection of who they were and attack anyone who isn’t infected. No what matter what side you choose to fight for, whether government or faction, humanity stands against these new horrible monsters. The Infected dwell everywhere, stumbling and crying, whether it’s the hollow cities or dense forests and spotting one is truly terrifying.

Unlike humans, the infected don’t organize themselves and plan for self-preservation. Instead they attack with reckless force, shifting from slow staggering movements to instantly becoming alert and charging targets without regard to their personal safety. Fighting them requires different tactics than tackling humans, since each variation requires different methods to eliminate. Recently infected targets, known as Runners, retain their human appearance and sight, can easily be taken down using stealth or brute force. Those infected for a long period of time, however, become Clickers, losing their ability to see and rely on sound to find their prey,  announcing their presence through a continuous haunting clicking sound. The ideal way to dispose of these mutated humans is stealthy because they’re much more resistant to fire arms and can kill you with one hit. Other heavily infected enemies do exist, but nothing in The Last of Us compares to the threat and fear experienced when faced with a Clicker. No one likes dying and The Last of Us encourages experimentation by placing checkpoints at sound locations and placing you back into the action promptly through fast loading screens.

The Last of Us, Game Review, Joe, Ellie, Zombie Apocalypse, Cordyceps

Supplies are the primary reason anyone does anything, and crafting in The Last of Us from the items you find hidden throughout the environment is done in real-time. With the exception of a pause menu, everything you need to build requires you to find commodities and craft them into weapons or health items while the game still runs in the background. You can only carry three of each item and five of each crafting material, some items requiring similar crafting supplies such as alcohol and rags to create either Molotov Cocktails or Medical Packs, making you choose carefully on what you need more. Hidden away areas hold key items, often requiring a shiv to open, along with safes that can only be accessed with a combination. Items are limited in both supply and use, making each find essential to your survival. 

Joel can also upgrade himself through pills and his weapons using salvage and hidden tools found throughout. Both are limited, requiring you to stick to a select few to upgrade for optimal use, especially since you’ll need multiple play-throughs if you want to max-out everything. Joel can choose to upgrade his hearing to listening to locate enemies further, steady his aim with guns, or sharpen his shiv skills to prevent Clickers from munching on him. Lucky The Last of Us allows for new gameplus, but only on the difficulty you previously played on. You won’t be able to upgrade yourself on Normal and then attempt to tackle the hardest difficultly using upgrading items. You’ll start with basic tools like rechargeable flashlight that can be charged by tilting the control, and a standard pistol. But vy the end of the game Joel’s backpack will be teeming with weapons ready to tackle any situation.

The campaign is worth playing multiple times, but The Last of Us comes with a rich and robust multiplayer mode that combines the single-player concepts into a competitive environment wonderfully. Only two modes exist and allows eight players to compete in a series of environments that resemble the campaign, but this isn’t a tacked-on multiplayer. Naughty Dog took serious effort to ensure that the competitive field was crafted to meet their reputation.

The Last of Us’ multiplayer modes exist within another online mode called Factions. Once you begin you choose between two sides and then pick two other modes called Supply Raid and Survivors. Survivors are a best of seven matches where two teams of four fight one another with only one life. Survivors feel exactly like the single-player campaign, but instead of facing artificial intelligence controlled adversaries, you’re fighting against human opponents. Supply Raid is more generic, requiring your team to eliminate the team until their life count reaches zero.

Both modes utilize elements of the single-player adventure. Like the campaign, players are able to craft items in real-time by collecting materials throughout the environment. What truly excels The Last of Us’ multplayer, however, is the meta game that records everything you do. Your character, who can be customized with new load-outs and cosmetic items, is the leader of a band of survivors. By successfully playing online matches, collecting items and completing challenges called Missions, your settlement grows and survives, but failing will cause fatalities. It’s an addictive concept and exceeds expectations because your actions can lead to consequences that, at the time, didn’t seem to have any effect.

The Last of Us is a lawless world where the aches and protection of the law and society norms have been shattered. Traveling through the desolate wasteland that humanity once rules is incredible; especially when you start collecting all the hidden artifacts left by those who lived before the havoc began. The intense gameplay is complimented with fantastic characters and watching Ellie and Joel’s relationship grow as the cruel world attempted to remove them from existence is something every gamer should experience. Simply put, Naughty Dog has delivered another outstanding title and The Last of Us is easily a contender for Game of the Year 2013.

Adam Siddiqui, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): SCEA
Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Survival Horror, Post-Apocalyptic
Release Date: 2013-06-14

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