This Is Why I Love Gaming
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.
The combat also doesn’t just let you run through and blast your way past the enemies either. There were times that I had that option, but only because I had previously stored a boatload of ammo. Even then, things didn’t go as planned. Mostly because the enemies were smart – like really smart. We had seen this in the demo at E3 last year, but nothing captures this gameplay fear tactic than it actually happening in-game, and it happens a lot. They also acted more like a human player would, hiding when enemy fire was going on, sneaking around to get a better advantage point. In fact, the biggest problem I noticed occasionally was collision. Most of this came from Ellie being seen and the enemy not always reacting to her. Visibility on Joel, on the other hand, meant a firefight or brutal fisticuffs.
All of these elements transfer over to the multiplayer as well. This makes the multiplayer that much better in the grand scheme of things. There’s also a story going on in the multiplayer. While, admittedly, not as large in scope as the single player, it adds a much-desired layer to this side of the game. The biggest thing about the multiplayer is that you really need to experience it yourself. One person saying it’s great or garbage doesn’t do it justice. Mainly due to how you feel while playing. Sure, you are taking out other rival players, but it’s just not the same. You are taking care of your teammates and the people at your camp, trying to feed them, making sure there’s no sickness, recruiting new people–all while holding on to hope. Trust me, it is loads of fun and compellingly engaging as well.
The Last of Us is one of the best games I have had the pleasure to play in my life. The graphics are gorgeous and believable; the soundtrack is pure audible gold for the ears; the story and actors deliver in a way that it should become industry standard. However, there is one thing The Last of Us does better than many games out there–it treats you like an adult. It doesn’t hold punches; it doesn’t try to hide away from hard issues; it is just what it is. You are not a stupid gamer, and Naughty Dog realizes this and therefore doesn’t treat you like one.
In an industry where big, epic, and huge are the normal, it is refreshing to see the importance of the little things. In fact, I believe this is The Last of Us’ strongest suit. You will play this game and feel the overwhelming storyline, like the characters, and, after you have let it all soak in, some of your favorite moments will be the small things; the things you didn’t have your hand held through. I could rave about this game all day long, but the simple fact is that Naughty Dog has solidified themselves as one of the best storytellers of this generation with the Uncharted series; The Last of Us is just the best damn icing on the cake.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Will astonish you and make you question how games will improve next-gen. 5.0 Control
The controls add another layer of greatness to this game. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Everything from the silence to the loudest moments is exquisite. 5.0 Play Value
This game needs only one word to sum it up–epic! 5.0 Overall Rating – The Best
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best