The Last of Us Review: powerful, dramatic and emotional, Naughty Dog's finest hour
- Posted June 5th, 2013 at 10:00 EDT by Steven Williamson
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A thrilling, cinematic, movie-like action-adventure with the best videogame pairing ever conceived.
- Great characters and brilliant story that takes you on a journey where you never know what's going to happen next.
- From the sublime visuals and gripping cut-scenes to the great audio work, this is a top-notch production.
- Close-quarter combat is brutally intense and thrilling. It never gets boring blasting the head clean off an Infected.
- Dull and repetitive environmental puzzles. Ladders, planks and make-shift rafts.
If Naughty Dog could bottle up the magic formula that it somehow manages to concoct each time it produces a new game, there’d be a stampede of developers queuing for a sip. As we’ve seen from the gorgeous triple-A productions of the Uncharted series, cold hard cash obviously helps to sweeten the ingredients, but Naughty Dog also knows what it takes to make a great game and creates experiences that stay with you long after you’ve finished, stories that engage, and worlds so captivating that you can quite happily spend a chunk of the campaign staring all doe-eyed at the detailed scenery around you.
With so much pressure on the Santa Monica-based studio to produce a game that lives up to its illustrious back catalogue, The Last Of Us has a lot to prove. Just how do you create a title that lives up to the Uncharted series? Well, it turns out that all you have to do is create a game with a totally different vibe, while ensuring that you meld any new ideas with everything you’ve learned from past games: strong story-telling, emotive characters, great level design and standout moments that make you forget that you’re playing a video game. With all these ingredients combined, you get a complete entertainment experience.
Though the tale told in The Last Of Us is much darker than the Uncharted series, just like Nathan Drake’s adventures, this is an entertainment package that pretty much feels like you’re watching a great movie where you’ve landed the starring role. The Last Of Us is a survival action adventure that takes place following the outbreak of the Cordyceps plague which has decimated mankind. Pockets of survivors exist in Quarantine zones manned by the government, while off-shoot militia groups such as The Fireflies live outside of the control zones in Boston. The big threat to them all is the parasitic fungus which has taken hold of society and controls the nervous system of humans, turning them into zombie-like creatures with fungal deformities that have a penchant for human flesh. Once bitten by an Infected, humans then turn into these hellish freaks.
The game follows the plight of a number of characters trying to survive the plague and fight off the influx of the Infected, but it largely concentrates on the relationship and journey of Joel, a father who spends his days dealing in arms and drugs in Boston’s black market, and Ellie, a 14 year-old girl who he gets forced to take with him across the city as he heads for the base of the Fireflies. Heading out of the quarantine zone is extremely dangerous as the streets are full of Infected and dangerous groups of humans who will do anything for survival, but it turns out that there’s good reason why Joel has to risk taking Ellie on this trip. It’s this twist (no spoilers here) that helps you understand just how precious Ellie is.
The Last Of Us starts with a bang with the introduction of Joel, who looks like a rugged, tougher Nathan Drake clone complete with life-worn face and suitably aggressive beard. As an explosion breaks out across the city and a TV report reveals that something serious is brewing that will effect mankind, we immediately learn about Joel’s circumstances prior to the spread of the fungal disease and discover what has made him such a tough character. From here on in, we immediately empathised with Joel’s plight and were instantly hooked by his strong character. 12 years after the initial cinematic and heart-wrenching opening, we fast forward to Boston and the Quarantine Zone.
Joel starts off the game as a ruthless character totally out for himself, and it’s no surprise considering the harsh environment where he now dwells and the suffering he’s already had to endure. This is a man who knows what the planet was like before the plague so it’s no wonder he’s bitter and angry at the world. We see this attitude portrayed through his relationships with various characters; including Tess who he works alongside in the Black Market, his brother Tommy, and Ellie, though his personality evolves as things progress drawing you deeper into the narrative and his motivations.
Joel can’t stand ... (continued on next page) ----