On the surface, The Last of Us appears to be a run of the mill post apocalyptic/virus outbreak adventure. We’ve seen the genre go from films like 28 days later to games like Resident Evil and just about everything in between. At one stage even Call of Duty had Nazi Zombies. Despite being constantly saturated by zombie games in the marketplace, the genre is still alive and well. You just have to take a look at all the Steam games out there like H1Z1, Dying Light, Dead Island 2, DayZ, Dead Rising to know there’s there’s no stopping them anytime soon. But back to The Last of Us. It is interesting that the developers, Naughty Dog who’s previous work included the Uncharted series decided to tackle the post apocalyptic genre, but after playing through the game, I can see how that cinematic framework from the Uncharted series was brought to good use here. Naughty Dog’s strengths developed from Uncharted have always included strong character development, a simple but focused narrative and tight combat mechanics to complement. The story in Naughty Dog games have increasingly taken on more a more important role as each game has gone by. In The Last of Us, set in North America there’s a virus outbreak that wipes out a large portion of mankind and turns them into an ‘infected’ species that are part crazy and part fungal. The crazy ones are called ‘runners’, while the fungal ones are ‘clickers’ because they make clicking noises. We’ll get into the gameplay nuances in a bit. The main character in the game is Joel who lives in the quarrantine area run by the military that is free from the infected. To gain access to weapon supplies on the blackmarket, he makes a deal to protect a teenage girl Ellie from falling into the wrong hands and deliver her to the fireflies, a group on the outskirts of town that are attempting to fight back against the infected. As the story plays out, Joel and Ellie have to keep their wits about them as they meet other survivors along the way and being careful on who they trust. The game is a fairly lengthy one at about 15 hours long and Joel and Ellie traverse a wide range of environments along the way to find the Fireflies. They also go through the whole range of seasons from Summer right thru to Spring the following year. In each new area, there are new characters that Joel and Ellie meet, that update them on the latest news. The game does a great job of keeping NPC character’s motives grey, and you never know if they are helping you or hindering you. At one point, Joel meets his brother and even though its expected that they are both on friendly terms, in the face of survival, its impossible to rule out any villainous motives by either character. As we’ve seen with Uncharted, Naughty Dog have just about perfected the art of blending cinematic hollywood storytelling within a game. Not only does it look great going from gameplay to cutscenes, but the mannerisms and motion capture of real life actors performing the roles mixes the best parts of cinema and cutting edge graphics in games. That’s Naughty Dog at its best. Once the cutscenes are over and control is regained, the player will find themselves running around in a fairly linear game world working their way to the ‘end of the level’. In The Last of Us, Joel has to escape the city first by avoiding the military and then also the infected as he gets into the outskirts of town. There’s some flexibility here as Joel can either go in all guns blazing or sneak around and stealthily kill guards and the infected too. I say ‘some’ flexibility because going in ‘Rambo’ style doesn’t always work and will likely get you killed pretty quick. There’s also the problem of needing to conserve ‘ammo’ as its a scarce resource. Joel will also traverse through a wide variety of urban and rural environments. Technically they look absolutely stunning in all their post apocalyptic 1080p/60fps glory and you would never know its a PS3 game as it looks as good as any PS4 game to date. Artistically its beautiful too, outdoor areas have a lush green look that wows especially after coming from brown and black, dark dingy sewers. There’s office buildings here, small towns, rural housing suburban areas, university, a hospital and many more areas. In terms of level design of these areas, its pretty linear, there are a few ‘ways’ to get around the level, but most are fairly open and there are two or three routes through. Most of the time, the best strategy seems to be sticking to the edges and playing it safe. Keeping quiet and taking out a few guards/infected first before going gungho usually worked pretty well. There’s a limited number of guns and other weapons here, but each offers different advantages making for interesting combat. If there are any criticisms then the biggest issue for me is there doesn’t seem to be enough enemies, by my count 3, there’s the military guards (who have a variety of weapons), the runner which runs around and attacks you if he hears you, and the clicker which kills instantly if it gets within striking distance. It definitely needs more variety on the enemy count for a 15 hour game. The environment layout also seems to not change enough as the game goes by as the areas in the first hour seem more or less the same type of design as the last hour. In some ways, its almost like some levels are reskinned of others. Overall though, the game is a well crafted experience and this is a great example of how the games medium with its ability to be interactive can do something other entertainment mediums can’t hope to match. It’s much slower paced than the Uncharted series but it goes with the more serious tone of this game. This PS4 remastered version is definitely the one to pick up as the game is technically rock solid and super smooth.
Score: 7.5 Infected out of 10