Level Up! The Last of Us Review - Mania.com



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  • Rating: M (Mature)
  • Platform: Sony Playstation 3
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Naughty Dog
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Level Up! The Last of Us Review

A certain Game of the Year candidate

By Tim Janson     July 05, 2013
Source: Mania.com

When a game comes along that is as good as The Last of Us, it’s a normal inclination to look behind the curtains and under the rugs to find some imperfections.  And no, this is not a perfect game but you do have to look hard to find something to criticize.  Sure, you can point to the many obvious pulp culture influences; films like “28 Days Later” and “The Road” being the most obvious…or, just about any other post-apocalyptic setting where society has crumbled.  Originality might not be the game’s biggest strength but it uses this setting as well as any similar game that came before.
 
The opening gameplay prologue lets you know right away that this is going to be something dark, disturbing, yet special.  We meet Joel, the character you will play as, a single father scraping by with his young daughter, Sarah.  Their lives are tossed into chaos with the outbreak of a mutant virus that ravages the country, turning infected humans into rabid, monstrous killers.  A frantic escape from their home along with Joel’s brother leads them into town where Sarah is shot and killed by a soldier.  Within a mere ten minutes you find yourself sucked into Joel’s tragic world where he lives and his daughter dies in his arm in an emotionally moving scene.
 
Now jump forward twenty years.  Humans live in small, militarized zones and Joel, grizzled and angry, does what he needs in order to survive, along with the rest of what now constitutes civilization.  He’s scruffy, his hair tinged with grey, and he’s obviously weary of life and yet he presses on because that is all there is to do. Joel’s primary source of work is smuggling along with his friend, Tess, to gain ration cards to buy food and other necessities.  The pair tracks down a local gangster who has stolen a cache of weapons from them.  Eventually they discover that the guns were sold to a rebel group known as the Fireflies.  The Fireflies leader offers to return the guns, plus much more, but first she needs the pair to complete a dangerous task.  They need to smuggle a teenaged girl named Elle out of the city as she may hold the key to curing the plague. Thus begins an epic, quest-like adventure across the wasteland of America to see young Elle to safety.
 
Along the way the trio will encounter not only the plague ravaged zombies but also groups of bandits who are just as homicidal as the zombies.  Joel may be the game’s protagonist but you’d be hard pressed to consider him a “Hero”.  Joel is just as violent and murderous as the many foes he encounters.  He thinks nothing of killing and frankly he’s not a nice guy.  But as the game progresses and he develops a father/daughter relationship with Elle, it’s hard not to root for him.  The emotional trauma of his own daughter dying in his arms helps to develop this symbiotic-like but dysfunctional relationship. 
 
But it’s not only the well-refined characters and terrific voice acting that immerses you in the game but also this fully realized and darkly troubled near-future.  You’ll travel through disparate settings like dense woodlands and abandoned cities, all with their uniquely gorgeous details.  You explore them not just because you need to scavenge for much-needed supplies but also because you want to see what’s behind every corner.
 
But take care, because danger lurks around many of those corners.  Joel and Elle are going to need all their resources to survive their trek.  This means fighting in a brilliantly designed combat and stealth system.  I am generally not a big fan of stealth combat…mostly because I don’t have the patience and tend to suck at it…but Naughty Dog has nailed it!  A cool ability that allows Joel to focus his hearing and see outlines of enemies through walls or floors allows you to plan out your attacks. Yet it takes more time perhaps than wading in guns blazing but it’s worth it when your path of carnage has left bodies strewn about.  Plus, ammo is not unlimited. It’s not Resident Evil but if you go in firing from the hip you’re soon going to find yourself out of ammo and surrounded by enemies.  And there’s frankly a morbid fascination with sticking an enemy with a shiv and watching him gasp out his final breath.  And Naughty Dog has not forgotten about the AI of the enemies.  It’s smart and it plans and that makes a battle strategy all the more important.
 
The game also features a crafting system that allows you to gather various items and combine them to make something else.  You can make weapons or you can make items that will help heal or aid in other ways but be careful…this crafting all takes place in real-time.  You need to find a safe spot or else you might come under a surprise attack and that’s not going to be pretty!  Weapons can also be upgraded but again, you will have some difficult decisions on what to make and upgrade.  This isn’t one of those games where you are going to be able to max out weapons, health, etc…Choosing incorrectly can lead to your premature end. 
 
In addition to its lengthy campaign of 10 – 15 hours, The Last of Us features a surprisingly entertaining multiplayer mode.  Survivors pits you and your faction against another in a brutal deathmatch.  Supply Raid takes a different tact and offers a life-sharing mode and weapons crafting.
 
Rich charcters, gorgeous (although not perfect visuals), and a deeply emotional storyline all combine to make The Last of Us a certain Game of the Year candidate.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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fatpantz 7/5/2013 1:34:09 AM

This is almost the perfect game if it had only perfected the AI of your teammates and some of the simplicity of the enemies movements...I cant wait to see what Naughty Dog does with the sequel on next gen console.  My buddy who rips through games did 16 hrs on single player, I explored a lot more and hit 18 hrs first time through.

This game is the closest thing there is to controlling a movie imo.  It is so story and character driven that you really invest in the characters well being and survival.  There are a few moments in the game that will threaten to bring a tear to your eye.  The best in game acting to date and the devs used some subliminal imagery to play off your emotions.

 

SPOILERS ** SPOILERS ** SPOILERS **

There is an emotional scene where Ellie and Joel come across some giraffes.  It is really the first bonding moment that the two of them share.  Later in the game after she is being operated on, you are passing through a children's section of a hospital and murals on the walls lightly depict giraffes.  As Joel is already emotional and moving at a panicked pace looking for her, the subliminal image of the giraffes comes back in a heavy emotional way.

END SPOILERS **

Despite the minor bugs with AI, I can honestly say this is the best console game ever released to date and is the only one I have ever picked up to play again on the next difficulty setting.

jedibanner 7/5/2013 5:24:26 AM

fatpantz...I didn't read your full comment but it is appreciated that you put spoilers alert...I'm getting the game this weekend, can't wait to play it, looks awsome.

ActionMovieGod 7/5/2013 5:27:15 AM

Played threw it beat it in a little over 15 hours and yes Very good...

mjc519 7/5/2013 1:21:26 PM

Awesome game period!

Daybreak0100 7/5/2013 2:37:05 PM

@FATPANTZ I caught that aswell! very emotional.. sad music and all during the scene *chills*

Best game I've played so far this year. Bioshock Infinite had a great story aswell, so this was a great continuation of what is to come within the future of gaming! Naughty Dog for the WIN

hanso 7/5/2013 2:50:19 PM

 Question, this game a movie or a game?  I don't like playing stuff like Hard Rain or games with a lot of cutscenes like Metal Gear Solid 4, so if its like that I'll have to pass.  

I played the demo and I liked it but it was way short so I'm not really short how the game plays.  If its something like Bioshock Infinite where you learn the story as you play along but are constantly playing as opposed to watching then I can pick it up.

hanso 7/5/2013 2:51:09 PM

 My comment above should ready *not really sure how the game plays*

acidsquall73 7/5/2013 4:21:54 PM

Hanso - the balance of gameplay/cutscenes tips heavily towards the cutscenes side. It's an excellent game with a super strong story, but the above being your preference, I don't think you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I know exactly what you are talking about with Heavy Rain. And truth be told, as far as the cutscenes are concerned, I actually compared it to Heavy Rain to myself at one point.

hanso 7/5/2013 4:39:24 PM

 Acidsquall, thanks man.  I'll hold off on the game then, maybe give it a try on redbox or something instead of dropping $60 on it.  I have nothing against character driven/ story heavy games but they are just not my cup of tea.  They are too passive imo and I rather be more active when gaming.

Daybreak0100 7/6/2013 12:10:19 AM

I personally thought the Cutscene/Gameplay ratio was well balanced. But yeah, if you are already holding off, might as well until it is cheaper. There are a lot of "interactive" (button mashing) cutscenes.

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