Available on PS3 l Published by Sony l Developed by Naughty Dog l Classified R18+ l Supports 1-8 players
REVIEW IN BRIEF > The Last of Us revitalises the survival horror genre with a powerful story, compelling characters and dynamic voice acting. This brutal tale of a world ravaged by disease is no slouch in the gameplay department either, effectively adding crafting, combat and stealth to the age old concept of running like hell. In the end, though, it is the beautifully realised and deeply moving connection between a broken man and his unwelcome teenage sidekick that will stick with you after the credits have rolled.
REVIEW IN FULL by Karen Jacobson and Erin Marcon
Karen: My only concern going into The Last of Us was that it might have turned into fairly mindless ‘end of the world’ game in which we simply had to shoot everything in sight. The opening 20 minutes, in which Joel experienced the chaos and desperation of the origins of the apocalypse, put aside any fears. It was so evocative and real, something that remained true throughout the narrative. Joel wasn’t an average hero. He wasn’t a hero at all. His sole aim was to save himself and his loved ones. By the time the story flashed forward 20 years, Joel had lost any humanity he may once have had. The world had gone to hell and so had he.
Our empathy for the characters and their ever worsening plight was the foundation of the game’s success as a survival horror experience.
Erin: He assumed the guise of the ultimate pragmatist, the man willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in order to secure the next shipment of rations, guns or pills. The truth was a little more complex, of course, and voice actor Troy Baker did a fine job of hinting at the character’s underlying fragility. This broken down man did his best to ignore the suffering of others not because he didn’t care, but because he cared too much, something that became even more apparent when Ellie entered his world.
Karen: The character of Ellie was so well realised. She was smart and sassy and she could certainly hold her own in a fight. When the leader of the rebel Fireflies asked Joel to smuggle a teenager out of the quarantine zone, he was reluctant to take the mission and even more reluctant to engage with the girl. Ellie, on the other hand, had a charming openness and naivety to go along with her foul mouthed and tough exterior. Naughty Dog allowed this relationship to breathe and evolve at its own pace, which lead to real affection for the characters and a greater investment in their survival.
Erin: I couldn’t agree more. Our empathy for the characters and their ever worsening plight was the foundation of the game’s success as a survival horror experience. Other tropes of the genre, such as crafting and inventory management, were also well executed, as was the listening mechanic, which allowed Joel to ‘see’ through walls. Like you, I went in expecting wall to wall action, only to be pleasantly surprised. I spent as much time hiding from or distracting enemies as I did gunning them down. Mind you, there were still good number of human adversaries and infected goons to deal with. How did you find the combat?
Karen: It was hard to think of elements like combat, graphics, sound and story separately because it was such a holistic experience. That said, it certainly felt more intuitive than Naughty Dog’s Uncharted combat system. The sense of desperation and fear was enhanced by the lack of ammo and the fact that I couldn’t just use a rocket launcher to clear an area. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes had to hightail it out of there, especially when facing enemies like the horribly mutated Clickers. They couldn’t see me, but they had bat-like hearing. They were particularly hard to overcome if I didn’t have a shiv handy.
From its beautifully paced story and well developed characters to its satisfying gunplay and varied environments, The Last of US just felt like a very complete gaming experience.
Erin: This was, for the most part, a very immersive game, which is why the clipping and texture issues were so disappointing. They really dragged me out of the moment. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the multiplayer component either. While it too benefited from the improved shooting mechanics, it didn’t really recapture the pathos of the single player storyline, possibly because it ignored the monstrous infected in favour of endless clashes between generic human survivors.
Karen: The multiplayer may not have been bad, but we didn’t really need it, because apart from the graphical issues you mentioned, this was almost the perfect single player game. From its beautifully paced story and well developed characters to its satisfying gunplay and varied environments, The Last of US just felt like a very complete gaming experience. On top of all that, the ending was just as riveting as the opening.
Erin: It sure was! The moral conundrum explored in the last five minutes left me with plenty to think about and an even greater appreciation of the challenges faced by our heroes. This was a mighty tale told on a very personal level and one that we won’t soon forget.