The Last of Us Review

The Last of Us (PS3)
Developed by Naughty Dog
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
Released June 14, 2013
Review Written December 20, 2013

After being out on shelves for the past few months and voted as many gamers’ 2013 game of the year, The Last of Us proved to be astounding. It felt like a headlong dive into a twisted dream amidst the aura of heartbreak and anxiety within every step. After finally cracking open the hoard of deals acquired from Black Friday I finally found myself introduced to the new world that Naughty Dog had created. Blind to any gameplay footage and any possible spoilers over the past few years, I went into the Last of Us with only the few details during the game’s reveal from Naughty Dog and praise from others over the past few months. All I had in my mind was that I would be playing as a man named Joel who had to take a young girl named Ellie safely across North America.

The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic survival against mutated zombies, becomes so much more as soon as you step foot into its reality. The environment, the music, the characters—they all play a part in the grand scheme of leaving you in awe. Many times I found myself in amazement by the scenery that Naughty Dog crafted, how minute details were left for us to find like messages left by characters, posters of movies from that games’ reality, and the use of debris and landmarks to display unwritten tales. The game immerses you into a world of dark days as mother nature slowly takes possession of the concrete jungles. Throughout the game there is never really a moment where I felt that the setting was lacking studio development or even noticed if any levels designs were reused and repeated. All of the level designs felt purposeful to the plot and the flow of the game.

A world left ravaged, many survive in slums as best they can.

Many of my tourist moments were often cut short. There was a reason for my heightened awareness of the surroundings and the intricate details Naughty Dog had strewn about; my fear of being found or at least my fear of having Joel and Ellie being found. One thing that amazed me about the Last of Us was its ability to create tension without having cheap jump scares or even overly frightening characters. My fear was created through the savage atmosphere of the game’s tone, the characters, and the minimal amount of supplies. Often I’d remain stealthy in order to reserve health and munitions but nothing ever goes according to plan as I was often found. That’s not to say you can’t go through the game undetected, but as I played I actually started to get nervous and would slip up in a way that would lead me to shootouts with my combative foes. The AI for each enemy is characteristic of the personalities created and I always felt they matched their purpose. All enemies still created fear within me and I strangely liked it.

As with the tone created by the setting, characters, and enemies, the story took the biggest toll on my emotions. Many times the plot was so heartbreaking that I almost had to put my controller down and turn off my PS3 to dwell on what had just happened. I often found myself on the edge of my seat mumbling to myself about what I hoped to not happen. After experiencing half of the game I started looking at the title, The Last of Us, and questioned its significance. When I first started out I had just assumed it meant the last of humanity as humanity is appearing on its last legs, but as I kept playing another thought occurred. As the game slowly creates this storybook development of Joel and Ellie’s relationship as a plot focus, I started to think the title was targeted at them. The Last of Us meant more about the last of their relationship, the end of Joel and Ellie as a unit; as a team. I became mortified after thinking this and the second half of the game became a crawl for me as I kept thinking the worst for each character. By the end it was not so much of the last of Joel and Ellie, but the last time of me being a part of their journey.

Teamwork is best for survival, or is it just a burden?

After completing the main campaign I was left wanting more and so I took a look at the multiplayer aspect of the Last of Us. During my first game, I had assumed it would be like the main campaign and I was very wrong. The multiplayer aspect although just four versus four, is very visceral and raw in comparison to the main campaign. Human players being less predictable than AI made for a more daunting experience. After a week of constant losses I started to gain a foothold in the matches until finding my style to play. Unlike many popular multiplayer shooters, in The Last of Us going guns blazing will often fail yet using the lessons taught in the main campaign lead the way to success. Being very fun and addictive, the multiplayer aspect was a welcome addition to the game and not a cheap add-on.

Merely a second away from death.

With all this laid out the Last of Us is a very violent game, but it is because of the setting of its narrative: survive any way possible. With both single player campaign and the multiplayer campaign as great facets of the overall experience, The Last of Us has been one of my most enjoyable and memorable gaming adventures in the last few years. Every minute that passed made more emotionally invested in Joel and Ellie’s story, almost making it disheartening to finish it. I’m fairly confident that I’ll be talking about the Last of Us for years to come and that’s why I recommend buying it for your collection to experience what could possibly be the last great release on the PS3.

Review Written by John of The Time Heist

Editorial Note: The Last of Us SPOILERS BELOW

I wanted to use this spoiler section to talk about certain parts of the game, if you’re still reading you’ve been warned there are spoilers. I was devastated within the first ten minutes of the game. The death of Joels daughter was a big blindside to me, but truly helped in setting the gloomy tone driven throughout the game. The feeling that any given character could be gone next made me very hesitant and cautious during my play-through. Another turning point for me in the game was the University of Eastern Colorado. I seriously thought Joel was dead and that I’d be playing as Ellie who would get murdered some how. It was genius story telling, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time hoping for some sort of closure on Joels death as you trail the buck through the forest.
Once they gave the reveal of him being alive I stood up and started shouting in celebration. This type of character driven story telling is what I wish more games had; the ability to make me care and become invested in the characters I’m playing as or interacting with. This was pushed even further in the final level where Joel goes all Rambo to save Ellie. I felt like I was in his shoes, running, dodging, and surviving just to get to her, Ellie. I didn’t care that this was hindering humanity’s chance at regrowth, I just wanted to reunite the two together again. Naughty Dog did a damn good job and I applaud them on this game as I really never wanted it to end. I look forward to a future sequel if Naughty Dog ever decides to create one.

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