The Last of Us is undoubtedly one of the best games I've played in a long while, and one of the better IP's this generation. Good to see, that even with the release of the PS4 and the next generation of counsels coming soon, we're still getting such quality games for this generation. The Last of Us is just the type of game we needed to send this generation out with a bang, and I'm glad to say they did just that. On the technical side, this game is a marvel. Its graphics are some of the best I've seen for a consul, and its sound design and music give it a very ere feel as you traverse the ruins of civilization. The atmosphere of this game sucks you in and immerses you in its world very effectively and rarely breaks. Its far bleaker then Fallout, and more immersive then Enslaved. The only other game to make me feel the true weight of its setting is the Metro series.
But as impressive as The Last of Us is on that level, to review a game like this on its technicals would be like judging Grave of the Fireflies on its animation. That's just not doing it justice. Where this game really shines is on the depth of its characters and the power of its story. At the very beginning we are introduced to Joel and his daughter as the world falls around them. Think of then opening for World War Z in an urban setting from perspective of a man trying to escape with his brother and teenage daughter. We are thrust into the middle of the outbreak, forced to flee through the streets from the legions of undead monsters as the streets are filled with panicked survivors. The opening is fast, its tense, its emotional, but ultimately I felt it was a bit too short. I get that this is a story about Joel and Ellie and not Joel and his daughter, and they do a great job setting up the characters and world, but I did feel like ten minutes wasn't nearly enough. I would have liked to see a full length chapter dedicated to the fall of civilization, maybe concluding with Joel reaching a quarantine zone before cutting to twenty years later. This is nitpicking, I know, but with as impressive the opening was, I would have liked to see more of it.
The game doesn't really "start" until chapter two. Set twenty years after a fungal plague turned most of humanity into flesh eating plant zombies, Joel is tasked with taking a fourteen year old girl, Ellie, to a group of, uhh, "freedom fighters?" known as the Fireflies because she's somehow immune to the plague. Well it’s a good thing Joel and the Ellen Page look alike Ellie are the best video games characters I’ve seen since Mass Effect, because the entire game depends upon them. Though Joel is the hero of this story he’s hardly a mouthpiece for truth, justice, and the American way. He’s a damaged individual who’s spent twenty years doing whatever it took to survive and get ahead in a world gone mad. Though it’s not examined with any depth, we get a sense from his conversations with Ellie that he’s been a hardened criminal for some time and has done his share of murdering innocent people. He’s not a hero, he’s an antihero, but as the game moves forward that uncaring, unfeeling criminal side of him slowly dwindles and dies as his relationship with Ellie grows. Ellie’s story arch is even more profound. She serves as a stabilizing force for Joel, and humanizes his character, while also going through a major arch as well. At one point in the game you are even forced to play as her, and it’s there that she changes from a spunky, confident, naïve little girl to someone who’s learned the terrors the world has to offer her and has changed accordingly as a result. It’s really quite moving how much she changes and how strong a person she becomes as a result.
Side characters come and go, but you never really get to know them very well. I would have liked to get to know them more, or at the very least have a couple of them last more than just a chapter, but in the end this isn’t much of a complaint. This is Joel’s and Ellie’s story, and everyone else they meet along the way is kept at a distance. This also applies to many of the factions in the game. None are fleshed out, and we don’t really get a sense of what they are about. Is there a US government anymore that the soldiers serve? Where do they get their orders? Where do they get their training, their gear, etc? What are the Fireflies goals? Why do they fight the military? None of this is explained or expended upon. Again, this is nitpicking stuff and not really a detriment to the amazing personal story, but it would have been something so easy to do that would have helped so much.
But none of this would have done any good if the game itself wasn’t fun to play. Though it starts really slow, with way too many cut scenes in the beginning and not enough actual, you know, game, things quickly change once you start your journey across America. Ammo is extremely scarce, even in the later stages of the game, so sneaking and stealth kills are a major factor. It does get a bit repetitive at times and many times the simply number of people pick off during the course of the game (several hundred to be sure) breaks the immersion, but overall its almost always very fun. Big kudos for making crafting useful and valuable as well. I hardly ever craft weapons in a game like this. Skyrim, Fallout, most games I don’t even bother. But tLoU made it very easy to do, and very rewarding as well. I can’t tell you how many times I was scrounging around for the ingredients for a health pack, or a nail bomb to use against a group of Clickers.
Overall I enjoyed The Last of Us immensely. The story is great, the characters deep, the gameplay solid, and the world immersive. There’s very little I can say is wrong with this game, and the things I didn’t like are so small and unimportant I might as well not even mention them. I bought a PS3 specifically so I could play this game, and it was well worth the cost (well, I bought it used so it wasn’t that much, but still). Any gamer owes it to themselves to check this game out.