Let’s face it, The Last of Us, the new title from the powerhouse developers Naughty Dog, is gorgeous!
The realism in The Last of Us is a force to be reckoned with. Even the tears look real! I spent half of the game looking around in awe at all the textures and scenery, the way curtains flowed, and how beautiful the reflections were. The gore has the same movie-like quality as well. It’s the most visually stunning game I’ve seen to date.
The game shares the same post-apocalyptic theme as many other popular titles out today, but it does it in its own way. It is mostly a horror/survival game, but also has quite a few interactive, movie-like sequences. I rather enjoyed the mix of intense battle and slow interactive scenes.
Constant dialogue has a lot to do with this as well. It really is like being involved in a movie sometimes. There isn’t many times when the characters aren’t talking. Even when you’re just walking around aimlessly,there is dialogue going on between the characters. You get a lot of background not only on the characters themselves, but also on the world as they know – and knew – it to be.
The beginning of The Last of Us shook me harder than any other game thus far. I have never had a game bring me to tears ten minutes in before. Turns out that the lovely character who you start the game with, Sarah, is not the main protagonist. However, the developers painted such a pretty picture of this young teenager that you feel emotionally attached to her from the start. Then, when you realize what’s coming, The Last of Us rips your heart out.
The main protagonist is Joel. He’s rough around the edges, but unlike most male protagonists, he plays more of a father-figure type. I mean, it’s not many games that you hear “Be careful…” so much. Joel is living in a government quarantine zone twenty years after a fungal plague broke out and killed most of the population. He meets the secondary character, fourteen-year-old Ellie, when he is asked to take part in a smuggling mission. Then the two of them are thrust into the dangerous outside world.
One of the most overlooked characters in the game is Tess. Only seen for a short while in the beginning of Joel’s story, she definitely leaves a mark on you that lasts throughout the rest of the game. I was honestly shocked at how tough this chick is. She was actually able to pull Joel’s weight when he was climbing onto a ledge, and I don’t think I know any ladies who can do that. She leaves her first scene pretty bloodied, but with a “it’s not that bad” attitude, and keeps that mindset throughout the time that you know her. This girl has a lot of strength and a lot of will.
The character development aspect of the game is more of a highlight than the game’s beauty. If the relationships in the beginning of the game weren’t emotional enough, the way the relationship unfolds between Joel and Ellie cuts pretty deep as well. Their relationship is never forced, and grows slowly but obviously over time, as any real-life one would. Ellie is an amazing, tough-as-nails, teenage girl. She is a bit of a tomboy and also loves comics, which just added to my attachment to her. Just like any teenager would, when she and Joel disagree, she will come back at him with snappy retorts and attitude. However, when she is in a good mood, she will just whistle or talk about things she sees. Joel is pretty closed off – given the circumstances, I don’t really blame him – but the way the two open up to each other is something to be marveled at in The Last of Us.
There are a decent amount of other survivors whom Joel and Ellie meet on their travels, and the game again convinces you to care for these people. Games usually do a great job at making me care for characters, but none the way The Last of Us did. It is an emotional roller-coaster that is depressing, hopeful, and brilliant at the same time.
There are a couple of details of the game that I really enjoyed seeing. The fact that Joel actually bends over to pick things up off of low shelves and such is great, and also made me laugh, as I am so used to things just magically disappearing off of every shelf. Also, there are a couple of parts where Ellie refers to things that are in the prequel comic The Last of Us: American Dreams, published by Dark Horse. That made me happy that I had been reading the comics before the game come out. The Last of Us also does a great job at giving you an opportunity for more supplies right when you think you are out and SOL. Those are just a few random things I liked.
The gameplay itself was sometimes a daunting task in the beginning. It seems like it takes forever between cutscenes, mainly because the amount of sneaking around you have to do seems like it takes a lifetime. It was almost a relief when I would get to a cutscene, because I could finally breathe again and take a break from my nearly-failed sneaking around. Then I would get thrown into a full-on gun fight with five or more people just to pile on to the stress. Most of the stress from that was due to that fact that you have a limited amount of bullets, and if you’re not the best at stealth games, those bullets are your best friends!
It wasn’t all bad though. As the game went on, I got so immersed in the story that I didn’t care how long it took to do something. I also got really good at hoarding supplies and making three of everything to keep with me, so it got a little easier the more creative I got. Each new task was relief from having to do too much of another, so I’m glad The Last of Us did a good job at mixing things up.
I do have to add that Naughty Dog hit the nail on the head with the realism they were trying to create with The Last of Us in every way, including the combat. Let’s face it, regardless of how long or stressful it was, it wouldn’t be a cake walk in real life either. You wouldn’t have an endless supply of bullets, you’d have to use your surroundings, and you would have to sneak-kill half your opponents. So, frustrating or not; good job!
The story has an overwhelming sadness that resonates throughout, and it doesn’t get any better as the game progresses. If that is what Naughty Dog was going for, than they definitely did a good job. I don’t meant that in a bad way though. If a story can make you feel its tragedy, then it’s a damn good one. Don’t get me wrong, there were high points that were just as emotionally shaking as the low, but the grief you feel never leaves you – just as the hope you feel never does.
The Last of Us is a story that I will never forget, with characters whom I cared for as if I knew them myself, and gameplay that tested my patience unlike any other. The pristine realism that Naughty Dog aimed for was accomplished elegantly and brilliantly.
You can get The Last of Us for PlayStation 3 for about $60.
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