Here’s the review of one of the most anticipated games of 2013! I have to say this title triggered my curiosity since day one, when the first debut trailer was made public back in 2011. The premise was already well-known, we knew The Last Of Us would be a game of survival on a post-apocalyptic world, devastated by some kind of virus. This is something that we are getting used to, thanks to enumerous movies and tv series about this kind of catastrophes. And of course that we could think that The Last Of Us would bring everything we already seen before in those enumerous sources. Well, instead, it offers a superb experience based on the conventional theme of “Infected/Zombish” world.
The Last Of Us tells the story of Joel, the main playable character and the protagonist of the game. He’s a “normal” guy, living what seems to be a “normal” life with his daughter Sarah. However, one day, things change when the infection breaks out and Joel takes his daughter out of town. We’ll try not to include major spoilers around here, but, after a tragic event on this first part of the game, where we are just supposed to “run” in the middle of a devastated town with thousands of people infected attacking other “sane” people, we are taken to another part of the game, which happens 20 years later, after the first events. We are introduced to new characters who’ll lead the journey of a much older Joel, now on his late 40’s. The main plot of the game is based on Joel’s mission to take a young girl named Ellie, who is immune to the infection, to the “Fireflies” Lab, so they can find out the cure to that plague. To reach that, Joel gets on a journey, alongside Ellie and other characters that he meets on his way, through multiple towns and other places, always seeking survival. Briefly, this is the main plot of the game, but of course there are secondary events who contemplate the success of various tasks.
What add even more to the story are the scenarios, which make clear the graphical potential of Playstation 3. Through Joel’s journey, we’ll be toasted with absolutely magnificent places corrupted by nature in this post-apocalyptic world. All the places are wonderfully detailed and seem to create a wonderful creepy tension that answer to the purpose of the game itself. There are no loading screens, so action won’t be interrupted, all you may get are some nice cut scenes that push the graphics to the top, which is appreciated. During the whole game, you’ll have the chance to explore many areas, indoors and outdoors. While indoor areas build much more tension, based on a game of shadows and light effects that are superb, Outdoor scenarios are simply beautiful, you get yourself lost on the amazing landscape that makes you stare at it for a long time.
However, indoor and outdoor areas might also become a bit repetitive sometimes as they present similar layouts. They all have a bit obvious obstacles where you can take cover and strike enemies, as well as similar paths to objectives, which is the case of getting objects to reach certain areas such as upper levels where you need to pull your colleague up so they can push you, or get trash cans or ladders. This isn’t a negative point at all, because the areas are still very dynamic, just like the enemies who present a A.I. above the average.
Now, the biggest challenge of this game: The Enemies. The Last Of Us isn’t just a game about “Zombies/Infected”. Joel will find a bunch of various enemies on his path, where stand Humans and Not-So-Humans. The main enemies are: Soldiers, Infected, Hostile Survivors, Hunters and Members of the Fireflies community. Each class has different types of enemies, as some are stronger than others, but the main enemies of this game are probably The Infected, who are people who were caught by the plague. Based on the time past since they contracted the virus. Therefore, the longer an enemy has the virus, the stronger he is.
We then have The Runners, which are Infected People on the first stage of infection. These enemies have poor eyesight thanks to the fungus; however they keep many human instincts as you may notice. They still have a human figure but they are easily recognizable by the way they act and move, as well as they mourns.
The second stage of infection belongs to Stalkers. They can be recognized by their disfigured face and the croaking sound they make. Besides that, they keep the same vision and speed characteristics of Runners. However they seem to have some kind of intelligence that allow them to become alert more quickly and chase the victim, that’s why the name “stalker”.
The Third stage of Infection belongs to Clickers, probably one of the most dangerous enemies on the game. They are completely blind but can sense any kind of noise. Their face is completely disfigured by the fungus, and they can be really deadly as if they grab you you’ll have an instant death. You can easily notice their presence by the “clicking” noise they make.
Finally, but not least, we have “Bloaters”, the fourth and final stage of The Infected. These are much stronger than any creature seen before. They do not hold any human resemblance. They have their face completely blinded, but that doesn’t stop them from getting to you, as they will sense you if you show yourself. Just like The Clickers, their attacks can be extremely deadly.
Every enemy in the game shows some kind of intelligence. They will interact with you and you’ll have to find your way out of fights many times in order to survive. They might be everywhere and they can be really aggressive, especially The Infected. You’ll encounter many waves of enemies to deal with, and sometimes it might be overwhelming, as they are not stupid at all. They are violent and sometimes your only way out is to run like there’s no tomorrow.
However, combat is very well implemented, in a way that has been seen before in other games. During the game you’ll have access to multiple weapons and you’ll also be able to upgrade them based on supplies you can grab all over the place. Those supplies allow you to build up some weapons and health packs. You can also find some pills and use them to upgrade abilities such as Max Health capacity and many others that are worth exploring. Your arsenal will be, therefore, quite dynamic. You’ll get to use many melee weapons that you can build up with other stuff to make them more deadly (If you grab tape and a scissor, you can put it in a plank or baseball bat and instantly kill an enemy, for example). This freedom is really welcome as it add even more the fact we are trying to “Survive” and we’ll always need to improvise ways to be succeeded doing that. You’ll be able to shot some fire with your rifle, shotgun, various types of pistols and a bow. Make sure you upgrade them and you’ll be able to take the full potential from these weapons. But if you prefer you can always take a stealthy approach and strike enemies from behind without making a huge mess. Sometimes it might be effective, others you might get yourself in big trouble as if someone sees you, everyone will aim at you. Besides these situations, you’ll have some enemy hordes where you can’t be stealthy. Instead you have to shoot and run before they get you.
But the best part of this is that most of the times you won’t be fighting alone. You’ll be able to count with the help of your partners. They are actually effective and show up some intelligence, which is rare on NPC… this way you’ll be able to save some ammo, because they are pretty scarce, that’s why stealth might be a good approach most of the times.
Taking the cue, it has to be said that during the whole game we meet some very interesting characters that seem to be dynamic and not just those “one-face” characters that we are used to know. How the hell can a game make us hate someone and right after that make us care about that same person we hated before? This is just mind blowing. Characters are so complex that they will surprise in good ways. This shows how well developed they were, and how they enriches the story itself. Even the secondary characters are complex and have a story they want to share, experiences that made them what they are today. The Last Of Us works relationships, like no game has ever done before. It make us want to play more and more, just to figure out and interact with these characters. Iam trying not to give away too much about the plot so you can figure it out by yourself.
Another great part of this game is the Sound Department, from the basic sound effects to the music, this game is put together very well. The Dialogues are very good, the voice actors really did a great job. I was very curious to see Troy Baker’s performance as Joel, and he succeeded, after seeing in other recent games such as Silent Hill 2 and Bioshock Infinite. Getting back to the dialogues, it is very interesting how the characters keep conversations out of the cut scenes, and how important they are to maintain the pace. But the characters aren’t the only ones who “speak”. We have a bunch of great sound effects for enemies, specially the infected, that make the whole situation even tenser. For the human enemies, those keep a very intelligent speech, what they say depends on what we do, and that’s just fantastic, because it actually makes us get into the action, because situations are created according to what we do. All the stuff we are talking about is sustained by great animations. The mocap was made by the actual voice actors, which makes the performance even great. The characters are very well made, extremely detailed and very natural. Yes, same goes for Ellie, the little girl well known for her similarities with the actress Ellen Page.
On what concerns the Original Soundtrack, we just need to say that it was composed by the Two times Oscar Winner Gustavo Santaolalla. The ambience is wonderful and serves the game so well that it becomes hard to describe. It creates a huge tension and sometimes it is almost dissolves on the tick air, while giving a dark melody to a variety of situations. Gustavo mostly uses acoustic guitar and mandolin to provide melodies, and we go from the tender and mysterious, to the violent and rough sounds, passing through melancholic melodies that will crave your ears for sure!
In addiction we also have a multiplayer mode that follows the controls of the single player campaign. We’ll be divided in teams and after selecting classes you’ll have to kill everyone from the opposite team, in various scenarios you can choose. This works almost works as an extra to the game because the single player takes all the credit and is so complete that you won’t feel the need to play the multiplayer before beating the whole game first! Still it is a great extra, which adds even more fun to The Last Of Us.
Over all, The Last Of Us is probably one of the biggest titles on the run for the Game Of The Year award. It offers much more than a gaming experience. It has everything a game should have: Good storyline, Stunning Visuals (probably the best I’ve ever seen lately), Well developed and deep characters, Clean gameplay, Amazing Sound Effects and OST, Great Multiplayer mode… I believe I don’t need to say anything else right? If you own a Playstation 3, don’t miss the opportunity to try this game, specially if you enjoy Survival-Horror, but be careful, this game might not be for everyone’s heart!