‘The Last of Us’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated June 28th, 2013 at 8:27 pm,

The Last of Us Review

Sony-owned developer Naughty Dog has historically stuck to developing one franchise of games per console generation. They had Crash Bandicoot for the original PlayStation, the Jak series for PS2, and on current-gen systems they’ve seen mighty success with Nathan Drake and the Uncharted games. Sneaking one more title in before the PS4 hits the market, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is a brand new IP exclusive to Sony.

How does The Last of Us compare to Uncharted and is it a worthwhile current-gen investment? Read on for our review.

The Last of Us builds on many of the core pillars of Naughty Dog’s last three releases, especially when it comes to attention to detail in the level design as well as wonderfully rendered and animated characters, but everything from the story and style of play to the weapon mechanics and enemy types are vastly different. The Last of Us isn’t a fast-paced adventure with a joyous story. That’s not to say it’s not fun. It’s a different kind of experience, one where players feel tension, confusion, shock and sometimes, misery, and are rewarded for surviving through it. And the only reason it works is because of how well realized its protagonists are.

The Last of Us Screenshot Joel and Ellie looking

The story begins with an outbreak in late 2013. There’s panic and anarchy, and all of a sudden its 20 years later. Whatever the source of the pandemic is or was doesn’t matter; the world and remaining few people who reside in it are forever changed. In The Last of Us, players are taken along an epic journey with Joel and 14 year-old Ellie. They are the stars of the game and their relationship is so genuine that despite their extraordinary situation, gamers won’t help but feel for them, think like them and do everything in their power to assist them. It’s a testament to the brilliant writing and performances, arguably the best we’ve ever seen in a video game. It’s that fact, combined with polished gameplay and a highly realized world that make The Last of Us one of the best games on current-gen consoles, despite its flaws.

The third-person gameplay of The Last of Us crosses several genres. It’s a linear, story-driven game by design with areas to explore and puzzles. More often than not, players will find themselves simply moving, traveling from one place to the next and scouring abandoned buildings for critical resources. There’s an RPG element at play where the player can loot weapons, equipment or materials to craft or upgrade them. It’s a practical system that plays into the idea of scavenging to survive. Workbenches and tools are required to craft holsters or permanently improve weapons, and rare training manuals can improve their effectiveness. To craft items, equip different weapons in the limited holsters or apply first aid, Joel needs time to stop, take off his traveling pack, and take out what’s required.

The other crucial gameplay elements are found in  combat encounters which can  - and often should – be avoided by opting for the stealth option. The most useful feature, and the most video gamey, is the character’s ability to listen through walls and thereby see exactly where enemies are. That description may make the skill seem out of place but it’s essential to playing the game in a non-shoot-em-up way – and it actually works well with the stealth mechanics. Whether or not players choose to avoid conflict however, it’ll find them regardless and by nature The Last of Us is an extremely violent game.

The Last of Us Screenshot Runner punch

Stealthily creeping up behind infected or humans to take them down lethally is animated in a way that emphasizes how brutal killing is. The game uses the environment in takedowns, so when not strangling, giving someone the blade or stomping their head, the player character may be smashing an enemy’s face onto a desk or into a wall. An equal level of unapologetic violence is displayed when entering full-on melee combat with objects found in the game, from bricks and bottles – which can also be used to distract enemies – to axes, bats and metal pipes, etc., many of which can be upgraded by taping on some scissor blades for a few extra one-hit kills before the tool begins to degrade and become unusable.

The melee system is impressive and very intuitive to control. The same goes for the gunplay which has been refined from the Uncharted series with much improved weapon mechanics, albeit different mechanics with slower-firing weapons. With the scarcity of ammunition and more realistic focus on the action front, shootouts are more calculated and intense. Every bullet literally counts and shots cannot be wasted.

The Last of Us really is about survival in every sense of the word and what people are willing to do to help others or help themselves overcome the worst physical and emotional situations. The violence – much of the time in self-defense – isn’t out of place here, and in the established world where food and resources are hard to come by, killing is sometimes a means to survive. The infected, in their various forms, are not the only enemy at play. They’re a part of the background that is sometimes unavoidable. It’s the humans element, and the relationships formed, that defines Naughty Dog’s latest and greatest.

The Last of Us Screenshot Approaching ranch house

For a linear game, players may occasionally find themselves not exactly knowing where to go. The character(s) may know the answer, but the player controlling them may not. It’s one of the issues carried over by Uncharted and the solution usually involves a ladder. Moving ladders, planks and large bins is a repetitive part of the game, but each scenario is different enough that it works, and the character dialogue makes the drawn out sections enjoyable and interesting.

The Last of Us is not a fast-paced action game, but players must be quick to react if they draw the attention of armed bandits or infected hordes. While stealth gameplay is the preferred choice, there are quicktime events and plot moments where players are forced into a skirmish and the AI, both enemy and friendly, isn’t always up to the job. Friendly AI frequently walks in the line of sight of enemies, sometimes even bumping into them, to no effect. They’ll even speak at full volume in moments where silence is necessary to avoid the horrifying Clickers – infected who can “see” via sonar. I even had Ellie walk into an explosive trap after Joel told her to avoid it. Enemy AI on the other hand, occasionally has difficulty traversing or observing, sometimes with them running in circles or back and forth bumping into each other, and it allows them to be exploited. It’s not common and in the later sections of the game, doesn’t seem to be an issue at all.

The focus of the game is on its meaty single-player campaign that can run upwards of 15 hours, even more for players looking to replay in new game plus mode, but The Last of Us also features online multiplayer. There are two modes, Supply Raid and Survivors, and each features four vs. four combat under different conditions. Supply Raid gives each team a shared pool of respawns whereas in Survivors players are out for good when they die but have a chance to be revived when downed. The gameplay is naturally slower paced than traditional competitive third-person action games and draws from the single-player survival elements, meaning players need to scavenge goods across the map to craft items, while playing stealthily.

The Last of Us Screenshot molotov throw TLOU mp

There are some changes to certain mechanics from single-player to online play however, as players are limited in how long they can use their ability to listen for enemies through objects, but they can tag them for allies to see. Players can fully customize their look and their loadouts for multiplayer and there’s an ongoing progression system that’ll give them skills or skill boosts, along with a meta game that sees players growing their own clan of offline characters that play into special objectives they may try to complete while playing online. It works and there’s fun to be had across the two modes, but its limited, arguably unnecessary, and may not have a lasting appeal for most players. Think of it as bonus content for gamers who want to enjoy the mechanics with others.

Many of the themes and situations are the tropes of post-apocalyptic and zombie fare, but The Last of Us does it better than all the others. The narrative and characters to the gameplay and level design, combined with mindblowing presentation values, all help raise the bar from what players should expect from narrative-driven video games. Releases of this level of quality are hard to come by and Naughty Dog deserves applause for crafting this epic. It’s not only a contender for game of the year, but a contender for the best game to release on the PlayStation 3.

___

The Last of Us is a PS3 exclusive and releases June 14, 2013.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5
(Masterpiece)

TAGS: Naughty Dog, PS3, Sony, The Last of Us

26 Comments

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  1. Got such a stonk on for this game.

  2. Why. Why do I only have an xbox.

    • I AM THINKING THE SAME THING.

  3. Just think, if this is possible with 7 year old hardware, imagine what we might get in the next generation of consoles.

    • Especially from developers like Naughty Dog!

  4. I am super excite.

  5. Will this game be released for PS4 as well?

    • Hard to say at the moment, but it could easily be available on the PS4 via their PSN store.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if a year from now that were the case but there’s no way they’re going to talk about it and forego sales for it on the PS3.

  6. Great review rob! Always enjoy your writing and your taste in games!
    I can’t wait for this. Been excited and anticipating it since the very first reveal trailer. Loved naughty dog since ps1 days.

    Plan for the 14th is as followed.
    See man of steel at midnight.
    Pick up the last of us first thing when I wake up. And play.

    Maybe see man of steel again lol

    • If only I didnt work!!! I think 14th seems like it should be a holiday or something for both of these coming out at the same time!!

  7. THis game single player sounds great. But honestly the multiplayer doesnt at all sound appealling. To me it sounds like the generic online shooter game, with the addition of crafting. They could of added in an ACTUAL survival mode where players had to survive against infected and other players, no respawns, an open map to explore. And i would of been sold on multiplayer. Shouldnt of gotten my hopes up i guess.

    • Actually, the multiplayer is really intense. I’ve been playing it a lot and have found the joy in taking down enemies in a group. The multiplayer just requires a lot planning and working together then most games I think. And since ammo is limited in the maps and everything is in real time, you have to make sure your alone or have someone with you when crafting. it’s a lot more in depth then it sounds, trust me .

    • I may never play the multiplayer. I don’t like online multiplayer. But I do know that at least one of the modes gives you just one life and has perma-death for the rest of the match. I imagine that makes it much more interesting than the average generic shooter.

      Either way, I’m of the mind that it shouldn’t have been included at all. After playing the game, I feel multiplayer can only detract from the gravitas that this game exudes.

  8. Looking forward to play this game..thanks for the info.

  9. Hey Rob does it have button remapping for the controls??? Disabled gamers like myself need it or we can’t play some games. Petition for it: http://www.change.org/petitions/console-game-developers-and-console-manufactures-make-custom-button-remapping-a-standard-in-all-console-games#

    I hope it does I REALLY WANNA PLAY THIS GAME!

  10. Isn’t it weird that the zombies have no role in the multiplayer? Maybe they’ll add more modes down the line similar to Mass Effect 3. It’s hardly worth complaining about though. Can’t wait for the game!

  11. Too bad QA failed at catching all the bugs ahem auto save bug. I am ashamed at my colleagues for being rushed.

    • I heard about that during E3. I never came across that since I know form PC gaming days to manually save all the time. That’s horrible though.

    • No rush. They delayed. And as the “bug” has been explained to me, it has to do with playing the game while connected to the servers and having the day one patch. Well, of course they couldn’t have play-tested the game with the day one patch on their servers.

      Yet another point in the case for not requiring always-online.

  12. the mechanics don’t seem fitting for a linear ‘on rail’ story driven game… it’s something you would expect (and would be more suited) in an open world RPG. not saying the features are bad etc, just weird given the style of the game. i really like the level design and from what i’ve been told the character drama is very deep and fleshed out :)

  13. After buying and playing this game i can officialy say multiplayer is just like any other multiplayer, extremely repetetive and boring. Not to mention we cant even change our skin color/gender or outfit ( yeah we only get to customize our helmets and hats). So dissapointed in ND right now. And dont even get me started on the bugs / dumb AI’s in single player. Ive already returned my game for a full refund.

    • There was no need to add in multiplayer and I don’t plan on ever going back to it.

  14. I’m thinking of getting a ps3 so I can play this game. What other good exclusive games are there on the ps3? (don’t mention god of war or uncharted. I’m not interested in those.)

    • I wasn’t interested in God of War either, but I found it a thrill once I got over my stubbornness. Same with Uncharted, didn’t want to play it because it was a shooter, then I found out it was a brilliantly crafted series.

      But aside from those, Heavy Rain is an amazing game. Journey is the best Indie experience you can get, and Flower and fl0w aren’t far behind. I abhor online shooters, but Starhawk won me over — the seamless combination of air combat, shooting, RTS building and ground vehicles makes for an engaging experience beyond the usual “aimshoot” experience. LittleBigPlanet is a delightful platformer padded with the fun of creating your own levels. I really look forward to the upcoming title Rain, which reminds me of Ico.

      I don’t play sports games, but, I understand they have those too.

    • LITTLE BIG PLANET!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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