The Last of Us Review

So you may have gathered that The Last of Us is set in a zombie-filled planet Earth, and you play through the game as Joel (mainly) and Ellie (on occasion) as they struggle to survive in a very harsh, and sometimes beautiful, environment. As with practically any zombie-esque narrative, the prospect of a cure is involved. And hence the motivation for your journey is revealed! But it’s certainly not as simple as that. The narrative is actually quite complex, and the characterisation is genuinely superb. The developers clearly placed a great deal of attention on building Joel and Ellie’s relationship, but the other characters you encounter throughout the game are equally as well thought through.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m a fan of games that take patience and thought. Real Time Strategy (Warhammer 40k, Command & Conquer, etc.) and Role-Playing Games (Final Fantasy, The Elder Scrolls, etc.) are two of my favourite genres, and I love any games that involve stealth (Hitman, Splinter Cell, etc.). I do also like First Person Shooters, but if your video game repertoire consists of nothing but run-and-gun style games, The Last of Us will kill you off fast, and often!

Thankfully for me, The Last of Us has elements in it that appeal to all my video game interests, and it does them very well!

Considering that there are actually very few types of enemies, the gameplay is incredibly varied. There are the typical infected who charge and attack but can be batted away pretty easily (but if there are a few of them, you can quickly get overwhelmed); then there are Clickers, who have reached a state of infection that their face somehow resembles a plant (or the T1000 in Terminator 2 when Arnold Schwarzenegger shoots it in the head at point blank range with a shotgun) and now have to hunt via sound (and if they reach you, they kill you instantly!); and then there are the Bloaters who, like the Clickers, also hunt by sound, but are far more formidable! And of course there are human enemies. You even encounter a Humvee at one point. But make no mistake, this is a survival game – you have limited supplies, and practically everyone and everything you encounter can, and wants, to kill you.

The beauty of this game more than anything is that it is genuinely engaging and emotionally gripping. Nature has reclaimed a lot of the environments that you come across, most of which are very beautifully done, and the game makes sure to draw your attention to them! From small moments where Ellie points out how lovely the view is, to witnessing her encounter a giraffe for the first time, the game really does draw you in emotionally. There were lots of points where I was genuinely sad, anxious, and inspired, and there were far more points where I was actually scared!

Admittedly, a lot of the scenarios feel like they’re based on the same premise of “this is a new place, let’s explore, survive, and be on our way”. Obviously there is an actual purpose and narrative that shapes the actions of this travelling duo, but you could be forgiven for thinking that a large portion of the game relies on the same basis, because it does, but it’s the differences that really shape this game. Although I knew I’d be performing a lot of the same actions in each place I ventured to, I was still aware of the sheer precision behind it all. Everything from the location of each enemy to the height of each wall really felt like it had been manufactured with the intention of making the game that little bit more varied and more difficult as you progressed through it. This attention to detail is something I was very thankful for, because it means that even as you get more used to the game and its mechanics, it still presents challenging scenarios for you.

That being said, the plot has a lot more to it than simply going to new places and exploring them. The developers threw in just the right amount of twists and tangents from the main storyline to keep things interesting. What’s more, these deviations from the main plot feel completely believable and organic. I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say that there’s a lot more to surviving in a zombie-filled world than just venturing from one place to the next, and that sometimes bad things (and bad people) happen! The main way these plot changes feel organic is that the developers actually put them to really good use. They provide the perfect opportunity to develop Joel and Ellie’s relationship, but it’s done in such a way that it isn’t blindingly obvious. In fact, it’s very easy to get carried away by the action in those instances and only dwell on the relationship building part once the game settles down a little again.

Even the ending has the right kind of twist to it: not so much that it’s unbelievable, but just enough to be not entirely predictable. I felt far more emotionally engaged by this game than by any book, film, or TV show that I’ve ever read, watched, or… watched (with the possible exception of Game of Thrones).

So to sum up my review of this game in the shortest and simplest way possible: it’s good… damn good!

Posted: June 30th, 2013
Categories: video games, reviews