It seems like the zombie genre is here to stay and The Last of Us is Naughty Dogs take on the Zompocalypse. For those of you who don’t own a PS3 and are wondering who Naughty Dog are, they made some pretty successful action adventure games in the Uncharted series.
The Last of Us places you in the shoes of Joel, a man who seems to be making his living in the Boston quarantine zone by smuggling all sorts of goods in and out of the safe zone. After a short and sweet tutorial you are soon tasked with smuggling some human cargo, a teenager by the name of Ellie. The Fireflies, a group of rebels fighting against the occupying governing forces of the quarantine zones, ask Joel to take this teenage girl to their main encampment, and they give him the incentive of giving him back the guns they took from him (that’s a good incentive right?).
Once you leave the camp it becomes clear that the visual design of this game is quite amazing. The environments are not only pretty but they all fit in really well with the whole story of abandoned and salvaged cities and suburbs. Along your journey you meet a wide range of people, most of which I guess you would expect to find in the Zompocalypse. There’s a crazy guy who lives by himself and seems to have laid traps over several blocks in a city and there are people living and trying to survive in communities. The character design is well suited to the situations the people you meet find themselves in. I can’t honestly say that outside of the main characters there are any memorable characters that you meet along the way. They seem to be there to serve a purpose and you kind of forget about them once you’ve moved onto your next objective.
The game mechanics themselves are really good, the shooting and cover mechanics work well and I found that stealth actually works really well. The Last of Us also features a scavenge and crafting system for essentials like health packs, and weapons like molotov cocktails and smoke bombs which always keeps you on your toes, trying to scour every corner of a building before you move on. This crafting system is especially cool in multiplayer as you can roam the map looking for supplies to build bombs and you constantly need to scavenge for ammo. The game also seems to bring things into reality a bit by not letting you carry 1000 rounds of ammo. For most guns in the game you get enough to get you through a couple of fights without having to desperately look for more ammo, but it is definitely a better idea to not go in guns blazing. This leads me to one thing I found annoying in The Last of Us, I felt that when I finally got max ammo for most of my guns there was another forced gunfight. I like how you are generally free to approach a situation how you see fit but I don’t like being forced to use most of my resources because my character just happens to fall in the middle of a bunch of enemies, or worse yet, you spend all this time sneaking around a bunch of enemies only to find a blocked door at the other end which you have to make noise and alert everyone you just sneaked past.
The story is mainly driven by the dialogue between Joel and Ellie and the bond that they share. Unfortunately for me I thought that the whole way the relationship develops is very predictable and a little cliché, first Joel doesn’t want to show emotion and wouldn’t you know it, Ellie becomes like a daughter to him. I think I struggle to connect with Joel as a lead character as I think the depth of his character comes from him as a father and the bonds between a father and a child. Me not being a father I felt like this connection is lost on me and because of that I didn’t actually find the story that compelling. I think another thing that didn’t help was I got sucked into the hype of some sites rating The Last of Us as a 10/10, which I think made me critic it harsher than I might have had I not been drawn in by hype. I also find the lack of explanation as to what’s behind the virus a little disappointing too.
All in all I think The Last of Us is a really good action adventure game with some cool features like scavenging and crafting. Unfortunately for me it didn’t quite live up to the hype and I felt that the story and sometimes the characters fell into some tired, predictable clichés. If you like Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series then this game will most likely be right up your alley, but if you’re after a game that keeps you guessing story wise, you may want to look elsewhere.