Ellie taking centre stage. This isn’t your average escort mission.
There are few things that leave me as bereft as finishing a good book; finishing an epic game with well-constructed characters that I actually care about is one of those things, and Naughty Dog delivers. The Last of Us opens with one of the most dramatic cinematic sequences I’ve experienced, wrenching tears from the get-go. It’s a great precursor to an emotionally investing game that will keep you wanting more and that has dominated the PS3 market this year.
Joel day care: Would you trust this rugged piece of man-bacon with your child? I would.
The Last of Us is a TPS survival horror that’s set in a post-apocalyptic future of 2033, where other people are just as scary the ex-humans suffering fungal problems that are prowling the dilapidated buildings. Not your average zombie storyline, there’s this parasitic fungus that increases the aggression and violent behaviour of its host. Based off of the Cordyceps fungi, the world has areas that are infected by its spores, and humans have to wear gas masks in order to remain fungi-free. The infection can be spread via these spores, or when bitten by an infected individual. The types of enemy you encounter are humans in differing stages of infection. The ‘runners’ are especially human-like that sprint at you when spotted, eventually turning into mushroom headed ‘clickers’ that see with sound, or the aptly named ‘bloaters’ who throw spore clusters from their bulbous bodies. Once bitten, the average-Joe turns from rational coffee barista into a hellish ‘runner’ suffering from anger issues within the shorter side of two days. That’s if they’re a strong willed Joe.
This is a ‘Clicker’. I pray to god this isn’t where Quorn comes from.
You play as Joel, a single father who seems more than qualified to babysit other children now that he’s lost his own. Ouch. I cried. He probably cried, butch beardy tears mind you. But we’ve moved on, by twenty years, and found this new kid now. She’s more than bad-ass despite being a bit on the short side, and like a roundhouse to the face, packs more than a little punch. Ellie is mankind’s last hope against fungal infection and you, being the dutiful manly man, get wrangled into being her escort. Far from being irritating, Ellie more than earns her keep, especially when kitted out with a rifle or pistol in the later stages of the game (when grumpy Joel learns that this kid takes no shit). The dynamic between these two is reminiscent of that of Gordon and Alyx from Half Life two, Ellie being the more optimistic of the pair but just as capable in looking after herself. You could also draw parallels between Joe/Ellie and Telltale game’s The Walking Dead’s Lee/ Clementine, and from what I’ve experienced Naughty Dog does it better, making the emotional interaction between Joel and Ellie more realistic and believable.
This kid gets an A+. A modern day Samwise.
The scenery is more than beautiful, worn down buildings being overrun by nature. You travel through dusty city-scape surroundings, half battered buildings that are about as safe as being a ‘tourist’ in the 2033 outback, and the more scenic countryside, and you begin to forgive the linear path of this game, it being about getting from A to B not open world. You progress though seasonal sections of the game, the weather changing to reflect the time of year, and the scenery that goes with it. Trees lose their leaves etc. etc. I spent ages just marveling at the backgrounds, it is a stunning game.
Traffic this time of day can be killer.
The combat is a mixture of hand to hand and weapons based, with a variety of combat styles you can adopt, the enemy AI reacting differently to each style. The stealth aspects of the game can rival that of Thief (for you PC gamers out there) or that of Splinter Cell. I found the game to be much easier whilst stealthing than my normal “lets-Rambo-this-mother” approach. Enemies are a little short sighted and you can get away with murder more often than not in plain sight. You collect weaponry as you progress and you have the option of upgrading your weapons on occasional benches. The crafting system also allows you to create useful items out of supplies you gather here and there, and with little effort you’ll never be out of medical kits.
Drawing inspiration from the BBC’s nature programme Planet Earth and echoing IP’s such as The Walking Dead and 28 days later, survival horror enthusiasts will very much enjoy this game.
Is it worth it? If you want a game that you can get really elbow deep into: Yes. Fan of Zombie media: Yes. If you own a PS3: Yes.
Just get the goddam game and be a man-bear about it.