I wonder, if this is what the current generation was truly capable of, what the hell have we been playing for the last 6 years?
When Naughty Dog set their stall out you know they’ll have the goods, The Last of Us is no exception. After leading the PS3 charge with three top notch Uncharted titles they have closed out this generation with an experience that sits head and shoulders above the competition.
Tracing a journey shared between Joel and Ellie, a hardened survivor and an equally tough teenager, the game leads us into an engaging and often emotional narrative that continues to surprise right to the end.
The game delivers a world set post a viral outbreak, the initial stages of which are seamlessly woven into the opening narrative. The result leaves remains of civilisation locked up in relatively safe zones, while the barren world beyond the walls is full of danger in the form of hideously deformed victims. Ranging from stock flesh eating zombie mobs to huge chitin plated tanks, the prize for ‘Most Creepy’ goes to the Clickers. All but blind from their deformity and working on the noise you make Clickers are fast, brutal and often lethal, it takes strategy and cunning to work around them or beat them with an upper hand. On top of the non-human threat there are of course other pockets of survivors with their own agendas and reasons to distrust. It makes for a challenging world and often one that requires stealth to survive.
When these characters are thrown together, you witness their growth, following Joel and Ellie on their journey is a treat. Its not often I watch a game’s entire catalog of cutscenes, but this is an exception. The writing, voice acting and the modelling deliver a performance that surely should be getting a mention at next year’s Oscars. The story takes no cheap shortcuts or overdone stereotypes, each sequence leaves you fully entertained and drives you on towards the next section. In game its just as rich, idle chit chat between the pair flows so well, often pointing the way for the story to advance and fleshing out the depth of the characters. In fact as far as the other big game this year goes that had a clever AI co-op buddy, Last of Us has to be Infinitely better.
While the gameplay itself may take a little getting used to, once it clicks it works really well and as Joel’s arsenal expands you can start approaching situations differently. The key to maximising this aspect is scavenging every cupboard, drawer and desk you come across, finding scraps of household items to craft secondary weapons and health packs, not to mention the spare parts that can be used upgrading primary weapons. The audio and ambient effects are beyond polish and playing with a headset, I have found myself turning round to answer a question behind me or jumping out of skin at the sound of a new Clicker patrolling. The game also delivers some of the best environmental effects I have ever seen, the Winter section that plays out toward the end of the story is quite simply a joy to behold.
Of course its not all perfect, some of the grab X and move it to Y puzzles are hardly taxing and sometimes break the flow of the game, but they can be easily ignored when you are deep in the throes of the journey these characters take on. Levels are generally very open and offer plenty of scope for picking around for secrets, when they are funneled, it is done with sensible placing of blocked corridors or stairwells, at first this can be a little noticeable, but it fits the world. One thing that can often have comic results lies in the stealth aspect of the gameplay, when playing as Joel creeping through the shadows, you will often find Ellie standing in plain sight chattering away about something or other. The enemy AI don’t mind, in fact, I believe Naughty Dog made it this way to avoid Ellie’s indiscretions giving the game away.
The Last of Us is a game that should be played by everybody. In fact it is a game that engaged me so deeply I wonder, if this is what the current generation was truly capable of, what the hell have we been playing for the last 6 years?