Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they think about the first time they heard or saw major news events or tragic stories, just like everyone remembers where they were when people watched The Last Of Us demo at E3 2012. The fact that a game could be so intricate as to focus on stealth and combat between one player controlled character and an AI character smart enough to know how to help get you out of a jam blew your minds, and sure enough, when Ellie whips a brick at that guys head in the demo, the room exploded. The good thing is, that mechanic is perfectly realised in the final product.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Out Now
The Last Of Us follows the story of Joel, an every day guy before the Cordyceps apocalypse that wipes out a lot of the worlds population over 20 years, now a hardened thug, a survivor who will do anything to get by, and Ellie, a 14-year old girl who’s only known the post-apocalyptic world they are in now. During a routine scavenger mission, Joel and Tess, a fellow survivor, try to get weapons back off of a group of rebels fighting the government, called the Fireflies, by exchanging them for Ellie, who for some reason, is immune to the cordyceps infection. After a series of saddening events, Joel and Tess are separated, and Joel must continue his search for the fireflies with Ellie alone.
The first thing to point out about this game is it looks fantastic. I mean, stunning. The stress of 20 years of abandonment on buildings and cars are shown through the fact that vines and grass are slowly crawling up buildings, almost, to quote the developers, as if ‘Nature is claiming the cities back’. The dark, brooding atmosphere of underground scenes is in stark contrast to the open, sunny, brilliantly lit areas around housing areas and hotels, and still manage to make both of them incredibly scary and tense, with signs of struggle all over the place. The detail placed into the surroundings beggars belief and all the cutscenes balance beautifully moody with hilariously funny.
I think a lot of the success of the cutscenes and story can be put on the shoulders of the actors playing Joel and Ellie. As you may or may not know, the cutscenes for this game were performance captured – Actors are clad in Mocap suits and act out the cutscenes in rooms full of cameras, so they can inject a certain amount of personality into the scenes and characters, and it really is for the games benefit. As a player, you genuinely care about Ellie. You enjoy when she makes up stupid songs and says funny things while walking around the apocalypse, and just like Joel, start to warm to her.
Gameplay and combat seems a little familiar, and somehow radically different from previous Naughty Dog games like Uncharted. Hand to hand combat is simple – mash the square button until someone dies, randomly pressing triangle to counter enemy attacks and grapples by infected. Guns are also familiar, which makes gun fights easier, but not always the answer, as ammo is sparse and aiming isn’t as pinpoint as is Uncharted, which is a good thing. It adds to the stress and strain of trying to survive in a hostile environment. It would be stupid if Joel was suddenly an ex-marine kind of pinpoint sniper, Deadshot kind of guy.
Also, crafting and scavenging plays a massive part in the game. Players can collect refuse and alcohol while travelling through America, and use them to craft medkits, shivs, nail bombs and much more as the game progresses. Shivs can open locked doors, be attached to melee weapons to impart more damage and are the only effective weapon (bar bullets, but thats not ideal) to kill clickers, a special form of infected guys who use sonar to see, like bats. you can also collect supplements, tablets that accumulate points for Joel to spend in upgrading his max health, crafting time and melee power.
The music plays a part in making the game a tense affair as well. Its not all the way through, in fact, the music makes a few fleeting appearances to add to the tension, but that doesn’t mean that its by any means bad. Gentle, guitar music and reeds are this games version of battle music, as stupid things like Dubstep would just sound… ridiculous. It doesn’t matter whether your sneaking through a hotel, or running from a group of infected, the music never really gets overwhelmingly loud, so it can never ever take you out of the scene you are in.
The game is just brilliant. Fantastic. A jewel in the Ps3’s crown just before the release of the Next Gen consoles, and what a way to send the PS3 on its way. A beautiful, horrifying adventure through a apocalyptic terrain that would challenge anyones sanity, made ten times scarier having to look after a 14 year old girl. Everyone should pick up this title if you already havent. If you ened further persuasion, I’ll be making a walkthrough for it for Fortitude Magazine. Check it out!!