The Last Of Us Review

Mother Nature - It gives birth to life, determines how we live and is now making a stand against humanity. Is there any chance of our survival, or are we yet another species facing extinction?

Story
In The Last of Us, you take on the role of Joel, a broken man and father who lost everything he ever truly cared about during the Ophiocordycep’s pandemic, twenty years ago. Evolving to effect and taking control of humans, Cordycep’s has decimated most of mankind and now, every day is a struggle to survive for those still living within this unforgiving environment.

Your adventure begins when you find yourself in one of the many quarantine zones around America. These zones exist to ensure the survival of those living within them, though with the fear of infection always present and no known cure for the virus, those in charge are oppressive, cold, care little for excuses and will quickly resort to extreme violence, eradicating anyone infected with the Cordycep's parasite.

A man has his hands behind his head while being escorted
The infection begins...
As Joel, you find yourself working alongside a woman by the name of Tess. Tess is a strong female character with her own shady past and a reputation shared with Joel as being a ruthless character within the criminal underworld. With direct connections to the black market, like most people she's just trying to make her own way in the world. She's a strong survivor and one who knows her way around, frequently visiting other areas to trade and talk business, even though leaving a quarantine zone is forbidden and punishable by death.

It's not long after, you find yourself in a meeting with Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies (a radical militia group pursuing a cure for the deadly virus). Promising supplies and weaponry, she asks you to escort Ellie, a 14 year old girl who swears like a trooper to one of the last Firefly outposts. Over the course of the game, Joel and Ellie's very different personalities are tested as they work together through the hardships that await them. Both characters have their own insecurities and fears, with Joel now lacking compassion, soul and being a mere shell of his former self, while all Ellie wants is someone to be there for her.

Joel stares as Ellie watches behind him
Joel: "What should I eat today"?
Ellie: "Sigh"...
Character development is really something special and there are times where you'll find yourself literally despising enemies and crossing your fingers, hoping Ellie and Joel will be okay through all of the tense and uncertain moments the plot brings with it. Along your journey, friendships are formed and lost, familiar faces are revisited and each character you meet feels unique and different to the last. Characters often ask questions we would in similar situations, keeping them relatable and allowing us to feel sympathy and a sense of understanding towards them. The portrayal of characters within The Last of Us really helps to immerse you within the world.

Gameplay
The Last of Us can be played in two ways, the first all guns blazing and the second from a stealthier approach. With limited supplies such as ammo and health, you'll really want to become accustomed to the mechanics of the game.

At the start, you have very few weapons but obtain more the further you progress. There are three weapon categories within the game which are Ranged, Thrown and Melee. Molotov Cocktails, Nail bombs and Smoke bombs are your thrown weapons with Bricks and Bottles doubling as melee and ranged weapons, distracting guards and leading them from their posts, allowing you to pass by unnoticed.

Revolvers, Hunting Rifles and Shotguns are examples of ranged weapons on offer, with heavier weapons such as Flamethrower's also available. Different weapons are better for different situations, with well placed arrows from your bow, killing targets for a more silent approach. Lead Pipes and Baseball Bats are two of the melee weapons available, while stronger types such as Axes can instantly kill opponents with one swing.

Joel threatens a man with a shotgun as Ellie watches
See Ellie, this is how you're really supposed to handle it!
To aid in your survival, you can also craft your own health kits, bombs, and shiv's with the featured Crafting System. Shiv's allows you to stealthily take out clickers (one of the more common but stronger types of infected) and access areas you otherwise couldn't. Upgrading melee weapons seemed a little useless, as supplies can be a little hard to come by and like reality, weapons break over time. Being able to patch yourself up with makeshift health kits was a nice feature, but with the same supplies being required for health or bombs, you’re often forced to make decisions on the fly.

When using the crafting system there's a risk/reward factor involved because you're left open to attacks whenever you're crafting supplies, giving raiders and the many types of infected a chance to get the jump on you. Also on the crafting menu are tabs you can scroll between, giving you the option to upgrade your health, recovery speed and abilities while scrolling again shows notes and collectibles you've picked up.

Over the course of the game, you’ll face multiple types of infected with runners being your first. These guys still appear relatively human, are heavily inspired by the 28 days later Rage victims (glowing eyes, anger, primal instincts) and are attracted to light. Next up are Clickers. These guys are blind with much of their face covered in fungus and have to use sound (echolocation) to determine where you are, often instantly killing you when disturbed. Lastly we have Bloaters. These guys are big hulking brutes with glowing growths all over their bodies. They throw spores, damaging you heavily if you remain within the area and can instantly grab you, prying your jaw and head apart. It's really gruesome and they're horrible to fight, just as creatures should be in any decent survival-horror title.

Joel is under attack from the infected and is trying to fend them off
No I won't be your valentine!
In addition to this, benches are dotted throughout the world acting similarly to those found in the likes of Dead Space and Dead Rising 2. Although more realistic and completely different to look at, the workbenches in The Last of Us function in the same way, allowing you to upgrade your main equipment by adding extra weapon slots, increasing the zoom and fire rate of certain weapons and increasing the spread of your Shotgun's blast radius for example.

The Last of Us is a stealthy, cover based, survival-horror, third person shooter. When you're not crouching or sneaking around, you're mostly caught up in fire fights. Using your surroundings, you can escape enemies by breaking their line of sight, pop out of cover to shoot or head towards your opponents, taking them out with close ranged tactics. The cover based system works well and jumping from one location to another is made easy with the ability to swiftly climb or vault over nearly any obstacle.

Many areas you will come to explore lack light but thankfully you're equipped with a torch that can be turned on and off freely. Through overuse, your torch dims but recharges once more with a simple shake of the controller. At times your torch is often the difference between life and death.

Next up is platforming and something you'll frequently find yourself doing. In order to reach certain locations or to progress through the game, you'll need to make use of the platforming featured within the game. Many games have you jumping across gaps to reach new areas but not The Last of Us. Instead you're given tools to place down or prop up against surfaces, such as ladders and planks of wood, allowing you to clamber up to out of reach locations. What I liked was that unlike most games, these items can be picked up after use and then taken to another location that was previously impassable.

Joel is under attack by an advanced infected person
Ermm... I don't even know what to say here.
When it comes to working together, characters can be helped up to different locations, where they'll then help you up or knock ladders down for you to climb and progress. When it comes to Ellie however she can't swim, so you'll often find yourself diving underwater to find hidden floating pallets to transport her from one location to the next.

Adding to the above, a lot of subtle animations have been included in game. If you approach a wall, Joel will sometimes place his hand on it while approaching Spore infested areas will prompt him to place a gas mask over his face. If you're badly injured you tend to stumble about a bit more and you can also interact with characters for extra dialogue at key points, picking up objects/touching animals with button prompts. You can even fall back into water when trying to climb on floating pallets that don't take your weight, and to me, these features were a nice touch.

Graphics/Sound
With high end visuals, realistic particle effects and life like water, The Last of Us really pushes what the PlayStation 3 can achieve, and looks absolutely stunning in the process. With overturned cars, abandoned and boarded up houses, and areas that were once densely populated being covered with mass overgrowth, the visuals really give you a sense of loneliness and abandonment, accurately portraying the world in Naughty Dog's "what if?" vision.

Deaths are gruesome with some incredibly gory finishers (whether on the receiving end of things or not), and although not perfect, facial animation is very good and partnered with the subtle animations I mentioned above, the characters genuinely feel alive within a world not too dissimilar from our own as living, breathing every day people who just so happen to be stuck in the middle of a dire situation for humanity.

Joel and Ellie stand back as a  bullet blows the head off an enemy
Some very gruesome moments.
Just like in 28 Days/Weeks Later, The Last of Us features a vast amount of ambient and atmospheric music, varying from sombre and mellow tunes to a more upbeat and intense setting during combat. This sets the mood and tone of each scene within the game, building on what is already a great experience.

Playing with Surround Sound headphones makes a huge difference also. You can hear birds chirping and singing, people walking in the distance and even the rustling of leaves as you walk through bushes. Weapons, animals and vehicles also sound incredibly accurate, while the infected succeed in sounding hauntingly eerie, creepy and sinister.

Final Verdict
It's hard to believe that these were the guys behind Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, because The Last of Us is such a huge and ambitious departure from those types of games, but it seems that Naughty Dog have learned a lot from their time with the Uncharted series and have put all of their talents and knowledge together, to create what is one of the most beautiful looking and immersive titles of this generation.

Story = 9.5/10
Gameplay = 9/10
Graphics/Sound = 9.5/10

Final We Know Gamers Score = 9.3/10
Had a chance to play the game? Maybe you have a different opinion? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet me - @CaptainCortez