|Dev: Naughty Dog|
|Release: June 14, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Matt Walker
How do you review a game like The Last of Us? I faced that difficult question over the last few days. Of course, I was eager--I might say I was a little more than eager--to get my hands on this title. Ever since the gameplay debut, this game is the one I have wanted above all other recently released or announced games. It had nothing to do with the apocalyptic world. It had nothing to do with the truly amazing graphics. It was the potential for something epic–a truly epic experience.
Naughty Dog is no stranger to delivering pretty epic gaming experiences; they have already given us Uncharted this generation. Those games (give or take) have always surprised the industry and players; the graphics got better, the controls refined, and the stories improved as the series progressed (again—give or take). However, with The Last of Us, I genuinely felt like it was going to be something fresh and new to the industry. What I got was so much more.
The Last of Us centers on Joel and Ellie trying to survive in this decimated world. A world infected with people turned into monsters, and uninfected people who are more monstrous and vicious than you would expect. There are a few "normal" people left in this world but even they are changed by the world that surrounds them. I’m not going to say much past this point about the story itself, because this is definitely one game you do not want to have spoiled for you.
While Ellie is not the best companion during all gameplay scenarios, she’s also no Ashley from Resident Evil 4. Ellie is smart: She hides when she needs to hide, and she fights when she needs to fight. It’s really that simple. In many scenarios, she will hurl a brick at an enemy’s head shouting vulgarities just so you can get behind them and take them out. No, she won’t be throwing you bullets or health packs as if they are candy, like some other companions, but this actually helps the believability of the world created by Naughty Dog. If not for Joel, it would have been hard to get this apocalyptic world to feel as if it were alive.
While we are no strangers to the concept of the everyman, like Nathan Drake, it is important to point out Joel is not an everyman; he is a man who has been through a lot and is still being tested every day. Joel is not a hero, he is not a villain, nor is he a confused man brought into a situation to be the hero. He is a man with a job to do, and he’s gotta get it done. He is not your typical flat hero or even the more popular heroic stereotype; instead, I can see Joel becoming the new basis for male heroic characters. To me, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. Naughty Dog thrives on the characterization, and Joel is one of the most believable characters I have played as in years.
As you progress in the game, you will have moments where characters will stop and you can interact with them. These are conversation points, and you can learn more about the characters you are around as well as your environment. Since you do lots of exploring in the game, this was a clever way to get more story shoved into the game without the need for cutscenes. It doesn’t detract from the overall gameplay; it’s just an added bonus that fills the need to know as much about the characters as possible.
I cannot stress enough how impactive and brilliant the story is. While we have had games with amazing stories this generation--Heavy Rain and BioShock Infinite to name a few--I personally feel The Last of Us is so beautifully crafted to not include it amongst those would be a crime. This is truly an example of how video games should be viewed as an art form. The graphics, the acting, all of the contributing factors are here to show why games are on the same level as any piece of cinema.
While as a gamer you want to have the whole experience, The Last of Us does this and more. The combat is so brutal and raw you will find yourself at times agreeing with the mature rating. Often times, the sheer brutality in which Joel dispatches an enemy is another indicator that this is a character that has been through hell and isn’t afraid to get dirty.