Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: The Last of Us (PS3)

Few games have been as anticipated as The Last Of Us.  Officially announced December 10, 2011 on the Spike TV Video Game Awards, it's been a long wait for players and an even longer development cycle as a second team at Naughty Dog started working on this game in 2009 just after Uncharted 2 shipped.

The Last of Us tells the tale of Joel and Ellie as they journey through a bleak world that has been infected by some apparently unstoppable contagion (transmitted by bite). Their ultimate goal may be to find a cure, but it won't be without a high cost to both of them.

There are various stages and terrifying forms of infection: a "runner" to a blind "clicker", and eventually a bullet-absorbing "bloater." There are also human enemies in the game. The military is out to "protect" everyone, which in this case, won't work (I don't want to spoil the story completely for you). There are also marauders in various places that will try and take you down as well. Although overall there isn't a great deal of variety in the enemies, they do all react differently and require different tactics to defeat.

From the very beginning of the game you will notice that the graphics are absolutely amazing. It's amped up even further by the incredible amount of detail in the world. It's not enough that the textures and draw distance, from a technical perspective, are great but also that little details fill the world above and beyond what we have come to expect from video games. I've heard some people talk about how the environment and world can be considered a character onto itself and if this is the case, the environment in The Last of Us deserves a 10 out of 10.

Although the game is linear, it never really feels that way. You start out in a dark environment, then move to something brighter (and outside), and then to various other places in between. A snow level is present (although the lava level, a prerequisite for all video games released in the early 2000s, is suspiciously missing) and you can even ride a horse. Add in some swimming and you might think that the Last of Us is a mash-up of sorts of The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario 64, only at much higher resolution (and with much higher personal stakes).

Of course it is neither of those games, but their influence is present. The gameplay will remind you very much of the Uncharted games, which isn't surprising considering it is built with the same engine and by the same studio. I only ever felt like it was Uncharted with a new skin every once in a while (quite less than I was expecting too, quite honestly). Don't expect the over-the-top action sequences of Uncharted; however, this
game is grittier, darker, and quite honestly more brutally violent and realistic.

In terms of things I felt could use improvement, I must say that the artificial intelligence of the enemies is both amazing and a little surprising. The checkpoints are generously spread throughout the game so that when you die (and trust me, you will die) you restart at points that are never too far from where you were. If you watch closely, enemies will try different tactics to take you down each time so you can't necessarily rely on their patterns to defeat them. The fact that they ignore your companion characters however does take you out of the immersion a little bit, but it's something that must have been a conscious design choice. I suppose it's better to be taken out of the experience than to be frustrated because an A.I. character doesn't properly hide.

I found the moments of combat my least favorite part of the game. The exploration is amazing, although there could have been more puzzles or made more complicated.

The story will take you roughly 15 hours to get through and you're bound to enjoy every single minute of it. Adding the light RPG elements into the game that allow you to craft your own medical kits and upgrade your weapons is a nice touch (and the fact that using them works in real-time, meaning you'll have to be 'safe' for the moments you want to do anything like that) and really adds to the game overall.

The multi-player is great for a game that is designed as a single-player experience. If you liked what you saw in Uncharted 3, this is going to live up to your expectations and beyond. If you are just looking for a great multi-player experience, however, this might not be the game for you.

If you have a PlayStation 3 there is no reason why you shouldn't buy this game (unless you are not old enough of course). The story is incredible, the gameplay is fun, and the graphics and sound are amazing. Naughty Dog had a lot to live up to with the release, but they have delivered in spades. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for a sequel. This game is everything you were hoping for, and more. Go get it!

- Syd Bolton

P.S. I have the "Survival Edition" which includes a beautiful art book, soundtrack, additional DLC items, a bonus comic and a steel-book case. If you love concept art make sure you get this edition!

The Good:
- Amazing graphics and sound
- Incredibly detailed world
- Incredible amount of improvisation available to the player

The Bad:
- Combat can be frustrating and somewhat repetitive
- Another post apocalyptic Zombie game, really?
- The A.I. can sometimes take you out of the experience

Score: 9.5 / 10

Syd Bolton surrounds himself in thousands of classic video games as Canada’s top video game collector at the Personal Computer Museum.