Much like Halo or Metal Gear Solid, The Last of Us is a game that defines a generation. Not just a console generation, but an entire generation of gamers. For decades to come, we’ll be comparing future games to what The Last of Us has accomplished here. It’s a shining example of what game developers and publishers can deliver when all necessary encumbrances are removed.
If you haven’t played it and you don’t have a serious aversion to ultraviolence, plan to do so. If you’re like me and don’t own a PS3, go borrow one from a friend.
With all this praise in mind, let’s talk about what categories of gamers will be affected the most by The Last of Us experience.
The Last of Us is indeed an well written, told and acted story. Ellie and Joel’s story is one I will not soon be able to forget. As a father myself, I could completely relate to the decisions Joel makes throughout the game. Ellie’s reaction to the world around her and her constant questioning of the world before her time really helps to ground the player in the harsh reality set before us.
There are of course conclusions throughout the game that will polarize fans. But no matter what our opinions of the narrative direction, I don’t believe anyone could argue that the overall storyline and character interaction is quite honestly one of the best in gaming or even entertainment history.
On a purely subjective note, The Last of Us is easily one of the best stories I’ve encountered as a gamer. Period. It’s rare when a game’s story can actually make me feel something. The Last of Us took me from holding back tears to laughing out loud at the excellent banter between the characters.
As I stated before, I had wrongly assumed that The Last of Us would be an interactive movie with clumsy mechanics and lacking game elements.
While the interface takes some time to master, once you do, the funfactor and intensity perpetually climb as you play through the game. It’s been a very long time since a game made me remember why I’ve been a gamer all these years. The Last of Us is just down right fun to play.
The combat is brutally intimate. You won’t spend much time shooting enemies from a distance and forgetting about the encounter seconds after the last shot fired. You will be fist fighting, breaking enemies heads open with metal pipes and smashing their skulls in with the heels of your boots. I don’t know if I’ve played another game to date where the fighting is this in your face.
While The Last of Us is viciously violent, I applaud Naughty Dog for giving us a game that gives purpose to the violence and holds the characters accountable for their violent actions.
The tactical elements of the game serve only to enhance the action. You can’t run through many situations with fists, pipes or guns blazing. You have to be smart and outwit your enemies equally as well as you’ll need to out-fight them once your battles begin.
Resources are scarce so you’ll need to put some heavy thought into how you’ll take a particular group of enemies down. Use up all your ammo on a lesser foe, and you may struggle later when you really need it.
Gamers who like to level and develop characters will find a good bit to love with The Last of Us. The game houses a leveling system that allows you to increase Joel’s stamina and abilities through finding and applying medicine to the various skills on his skill tree. The game also houses a unique crafting system that allows you to create and augment your weapon and equipment in a very practical and satisfying way.
While The Last of Us is mostly a linear game, I was very surprised to see just how open and engaging many of the areas were. Walking through the city streets and suburban housing developments allows you a decent amount of freedom to scavenge for supplies. This was one of the core play mechanics that made me fall in love with the game. Looking around just one more corner to find the items necessary to increase Joel’s abilities was extremely satisfying.
It goes without saying that The Last of Us is a visual marvel from the technical perspective. What I found most excellent about the visuals was how Naughty Dog built a lush and beautiful world to serve as the backdrop to such a dark and horrific story.
The luscious green trees that grew up through buildings and asphalt were a great metaphor for the humans who endured and survived despite all the death and decay around them.
Naughty Dog didn’t add a ton of music to supplement the gameplay and it was absolutely the right move. The sections of the game that do have music were handled brilliantly with a beautiful and appropriate score.
That said, where The Last of Us really shines is in the voice acting and sound effects. When you hit an enemy in the head with a metal pipe, the sound is so real that it’s jarring. it really gave weight to the violence I was committing such that I could actually feel what I was doing. On top of that, you have Joel and Ellie’s interaction brought to life by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson who did a wonderful job selling the highly emotional scenes throughout the game.
I almost never replay video games, but, I can’t wait to start my second play-through of this excellent game. The Last of Us is a masterpiece. It’s arguably the best game I’ve played this generation and most certainly one of the greatest games I’ve played in my entire gaming life. If you can stomach the violence, this is one game that you cannot afford to miss.