The Last of Us (PS3)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Let me preface this review by saying that I’m new to the PlayStation 3. In fact, when I bought my PS3 roughly two weeks ago I mostly bought it for The Last of Us (and a few of its exclusives). I’m so glad I did. The Last of Us is an unbelievable masterpiece and I can’t recommend it more.

The Last of Us starts off by introducing you to main character Joel, a single father living in Austin, Texas. Following a sudden and unstoppable outbreak of a cordyceps-like infection ravages not only Texas, but also the rest of the country. After the loss of his daughter in the ensuing carnage, we see Joel living in Boston, in one of the few remaining quarantine zones. As you’ll discover throughout the course of your adventures – the majority have been either overrun by infection or just abandoned.

In the post-outbreak world, paired with your new partner Tess, you work as a smuggler – trading supplies from inside the quarantine zone to those who are attempting to survive outside of its walls. During the course of your dealings, you happen across the leader of the local insurgency group known as the Fireflies. She tasks you with smuggling a young girl – Ellie – out of the city and to a Firefly camp nearby. After some prodding, you discover that she’s been bitten but rather than turning they discover that she’s part of a very finite group that are immune to the infection. Marlene – leader of the Fireflies – believes Ellie is the key to finding a cure for the infection. When Joel, Tess and Ellie make it to the city they discover that the local faction of the Fireflies has been decimated. With tensions running high and little idea of what to do next, Joel and Ellie set out on their journey alone in an attempt to fulfill their obligation to the Fireflies.

Along the way new travel companions will come and go, but the journey always features Ellie. That brings out by far the most apparent aspect of the game – developers Naughty Dogs unbelievable ability for storytelling and character development. So many games nowadays will take a hit on developing a characters story-arc just so they can add another action sequence. Thankfully Naughty Dogs doesn’t go that route. In The Last of Us, you genuinely feel for Joel and Ellie. With each punch, gun shot or cut – you feel for them as if you were the one taking the punishment.

That’s not to say The Last of Us lacks excitement and action – because there’s definitely no shortage of that. But rather than wave after wave of intense firefights or massive explosions, the game goes for a calculated feeling of desperation. You’re not some armor-clad soldier with a wait-and-heal health system. In fact, health is rather scarce in The Last of Us. While you’re walking through houses or through abandoned sewer tunnels you’d be wise to scrounge for supplies as you’re able to eventually (if you’ve gathered enough of the required pieces) create items that can help you in-game such as health kits, bombs and shivs. Shivs serve two purposes in the game: 1. The obvious – you’re able to silently kill certain enemies and injure those who are alerted to your presence and 2. You can use them to jimmy open hidden supply caches that will yield all sorts of goodies.

Thanks to sporadic workbenches you’re able to upgrade the various weapons you’ll discover throughout the course of the game. Fire rate, reload speed, scopes and other assortments are all obtainable if you’re able to scrounge the required parts.

Lastly, on to your character. While the level of upgrades aren’t quite what I was hoping for, you’re still able to upgrade basic attributes such as his maximum health, weapon sway, using health and craft kits faster and lastly on increasing the distance of your “listening mode”. This mode is great for stealth. While holding (R2), you’re able to focus your hearing – turning the world black and white – exposing bad guys that are within range as silhouettes, allowing you to coordinate your plan of attack more easily.

Enemies are substantially more challenging than they are in most games thanks to a new AI system called “Balance of Power” – this allows enemies to gauge what you’re doing and change their tactics accordingly. This includes ganging up on you if you’re already being attacked, flanking you mid-combat, and calling for help if necessary. Certain portions of the game were near-impossible thanks to this and it made the game even more appealing.

Graphically the game is superb. Facial expressions are crisp and each map is more pristine and beautiful than the last. Over the course of the game you’ll fight in lush forests, snow-riddled towns and desolate underground tunnels. The quality of graphics definitely helps Ellie and Joel emote better as well.

One of the very minor complaints I had of this game was that they took all of the moral choices out of the player’s hands. I wish I’d been able to choose who lived or died and other choices that were made throughout the game. But, as I said, this is a very minor complaint in the grand scheme of this game. That said, you’re supposed to struggle with the morality of every scenario, and honestly, I’m still struggling with them and that’s one of the biggest positives I hope I’m able to convey to those who read this review. I’ve finished the game and I’m still thinking about the game and the choices that were made. And, depending on how you see the situation when you play through the game, it might reveal something about your own philosophical and moral positions that you weren’t even aware of before. It’s morally ambiguous for a reason.

The relationship between Ellie and Joel evolved a lot over the course of the game from resentment to one of reliance and love. Those raw emotions are what make The Last of Us such an unbelievable masterpiece. It’s fitting that a game as perfect as The Last of Us comes out in the final months of this generation of consoles. A fitting swan song, indeed and my candidate for 2013 Game of the Year.

The Good

+ Fantastic storytelling

+ Stunning environments

+ Impeccable voice acting

+ Crisp gameplay


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