The Last of Us Review
Author: Jeff McAllister
The Last of Us begins with one of the most intense and emotional scenes I can recall ever having played through ever in any game, and while it slows down right after to give you some time to breathe, it’s not long before the game cranks back up again and tosses you into a maelstrom that will have your emotions flopping up and down, left and right, from beginning to end. The Last of Us is easily one of the best looking games on this generation of consoles and the performances by each and every character is a marvel. It’s a rare thing when a game finally gets released and it is even better than the hyperbole that it had built up for itself.
The Last of Us follows a grizzled survivor named Joel, some twenty years after the onset of an fungal disease epidemic which turns those who get infected into savage shades of their former selves, who has been living in one of the many Quarantine Zones that are set up across the country. Soon after you get your bearings on what is happening around the Quarantine Zone; who’s who and how the way of life operates, you are introduced to Ellie, a brash fourteen year old girl who curses worse than a sailor, and soon becomes Joel’s traveling partner. As you leave the zone and set off out into the wilds of the outside world, the pace of the game can get sometimes a little too predictable.
Through your journey you’ll need to solve environmental puzzles, fight groups of enemies, and in between have periods of no action, but rather meaningful interactions or conversations between the two characters. The environmental puzzles are often very similar, such as needing to find a ladder or a plank to get across a gap, pushing a dumpster against a wall to be able to reach a higher ledge, or needing to find a wooden palette to get Ellie across deep water as she can’t swim. While the puzzles aren’t difficult to solve, the issue is that you aren’t able to actually solve them if you are still involved in combat as the prompt to interact with the item needed won’t appear.
The combat of the game is where the biggest issues arise. You will often come across groups of enemies, whether they are regular humans, who appear in the form of bandits, military, or the resistance group known as “The Fireflies” or those that are infected which come in two forms; Runners and Clickers. The Runners are those who have been recently turned and are viciously fast and feral. The Clickers are blind fungus covered creatures that look like the crew of The Flying Dutchman straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
When you run into groups of enemies, you’ll have a choice of trying to sneak past or go full bore and use your scavenged weapons and sparse bullets to deal with the threat. More often than not, the humans are just a pain to try and sneak past, while the infected are much easier. If you do get spotted by the humans, the game quickly turns into a frantic cover shooter and although you do have more than guns at your disposal, it’s the main go-to when you’re in a pickle. If you think the game is just one big escort mission by having Ellie with you at your side the whole time, you’re way off.
Ellie is just as capable in combat as Joel and more times than I can count, she saved my hide by throwing a brick or a bottle at the face of enemies that had me in their sights. When guns and Ellie’s bricks don’t cut it, Joel also has melee weapons for some cringe-worthy up close attacks such as axes, baseballs bat, and pipes that he can use to crack a skull, but unfortunately -until you get them upgraded- each will only offer a few strikes before they break and are rendered useless. You also have access to a crafting system in which you can build makeshift items like smoke bombs, grenades, and shivs by putting together certain combinations of items that you scavenge along your travels.
The true brilliance of the game is the interaction between Ellie and Joel. The way their relationship is conveyed over the course of the game is absolutely stunning. The conversations the two have range on various topics and while it’s not always a pleasant back and forth, it is no less admirable. The times that Ellie brings things up out of the blue that she has never seen before, as she lived in a quarantine zone for her whole life, to times that she lets out a “Shit, Joel!” in abhorrent disbelief as she sees him smash someone’s face into a wall, are all fantastic and add an incredible depth to the two characters. Other characters encountered along their travels are no less intriguing as you learn their plights and histories, and try to figure out whether or not you can trust them.
When you are done with the 15-ish hour long campaign, there is also a multiplayer mode called “Factions” that you can sink your teeth into. While it’s not quite your traditional multiplayer mode, the game is set up so that it is played out over in-game days and weeks. There are two game types that can be played; Supply Raid and Survivor. The former is one round where a team has a set number of spawns allowed and the latter is the best of 7 rounds. Much like the single player mode, you can craft and upgrade weapons and items, as well as earn supplies from picking up salvage. You will need to earn a certain amount of salvage per day to keep your survivors alive and healthy in your camp. It’s a very different type of multiplayer and while it may not be for everyone, it is certainly something unique.
The Last of Us is a superb game, make no mistake about it. It’s easy to nitpick at the issues with the gameplay because they stick out like a sore thumb from everything else that is beautifully done. For all the problems I had with the combat and the repetitive puzzles, they are transcended by the characters, the dialogue, the interactions, the mannerisms, the facial expressions, the visuals, and everything else the game unexpectedly throws at you. I had high hopes for the title and it did not disappoint. Do yourself a favor; go buy the game and play through what will easily be a resident on many Game of the Year lists.
Title: The Last of Us