Share & Connect
Game Developer Naughty Dog (creators of the “Uncharted” series) has hit another home run with their latest game, “The Last of Us.” The game is a third person survival horror action game with a gritty story tying it all together. “The Last of Us” will draw you in and keep you playing until you have gotten to the end.
The story revolves around Joel (voiced by Troy Baker), a smuggler charged with smuggling a girl, Ellie (voiced by Ashley Johnson), from the city. Not an easy job as the world is in a state of chaos. A pandemic has shaped the world into ‘survival of the fittest’. Joel and Ellie must contend with the infected and maybe even more dangerously, other humans.
The Infected are those who have contracted the unknown sickness and have turned into zombie-like monsters. There are five stages of the infection: the Runner, Stalker, Clicker, Bloater and the Spore Cadaver.
The Runner is a freshly turned human who lunges at prey with full force, clawing and biting their victim. The Stalker is slower and shuffles around moaning but is just as fast as the Runner. The Clicker is the enemy that has been seen the most in game videos and trailers. It has grotesque growths that appear all over the body but most notably in the face, making the Clicker blind. However, this enemy has adapted to using Echolocation in order to find its prey. It will bounce clicking sounds off of the environment in order to find you – hence the name.
The next stage, the Bloater, is an fully infected enemy twice the size of the Clicker that rushes at you. If you are out of its range, it will throw spores at you to disorient you. The last stage of the infection is the Spore Cadaver which is simply a deceased Infected. When the Infected dies, the infection seals the corpse to the environment where it will continue to release spores until it is dislodged.
Unlike zombies, the Infected are very agile. If Joel climbs up to get away, they can climb up after you. The only way to really escape is to go undetected – or fight.
Gameplay – The good and the bad
Gameplay wise, “The Last of Us” stands out by the use of environment within combat or to simply get to a new location. The environment refreshes the gameplay and makes it all the more challenging. For example, with the Infected reacting to sound, Joel’s attempt to use stealth to his advantage is made difficult by the environment. Any movement such as bumping into a box, bottle, etc. can tip them off.
This also applies to human enemies. Perhaps even more terrifying than the Infected, Hunters are bands of human survivors who prey on other survivors for supplies and cannibalism. They are relentless and while you can use stealth to your advantage, the human enemies are more adaptable than the Infected. If they hear a noise, they will check it out. If they see a fallen comrade, they will alert the group. They will surround you and come from behind to finish you off. The enemy A.I. in this game are impressive and they will frustrate you even if you play normal mode.
Joel and Ellie’s relationship is crucial to the gameplay as well. In combat, Ellie will give you ammo and even attack enemies by herself. However, Enemies can overwhelm her as well as any other non-player character (NPC) in your group if you do not help them in time. Ellie is crucial to helping Joel traverse the dilapidated buildings of once great cities as well. Because of her size, she acts as an extension of Joel; opening doors and reaching ladders with a boost. Naughty Dog has made sure that Ellie is no mere damsel in distress and she will prove this time and time again throughout the game.
“The Last of Us” is particularly worth playing for the character of Ellie. As a young woman, she has more character development and maturity than the rebooted Laura Croft (Tomb Raider) and Elizabeth (BioShock Infinite) combined. Ellie is born within the trap of the pandemic, yet does not expect to be saved by Joel or anyone else, unlike Elizabeth who has to rely on Booker to be released from the tower and then to be saved from Comstock. Elizabeth has much more power than Ellie, but Ellie exercises will to survive no matter her circumstances. Her life is threatened and she overcomes it despite the odds. Ellie and Joel both must assist each other as a team throughout the game even though at the start, Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie out of the city.
Throughout the game, Joel acquires an assortment of weapons, including a flamethrower and a bow. He can improve weapons by collecting gear and can fashion his own from different items scrounged from the environment. Alcohol and rags make for a Molotov Cocktail which delivers a one hit kill to all enemies except the Bloater. Joel can also improve melee weapons by collecting scissors and tape. Moreover, he can make a Shiv which can be used for a stealth kill or to open doors.
One of the negative things about the gameplay is Joel’s ability to use listening to identify enemies roaming around. Though helpful, it does not always work. You can upgrade this skill and other skills such as weapon swaying, faster healing, and faster weapon crafting by gathering supplement pills.
Another issue is that crafting, healing or choosing another weapon in the heat of battle is intimidating. When every enemy is advancing on you, the last thing you want to be doing is fidgeting with bombs or the menu selection. But this is a minor complaint. The menu was designed for crafting, etc. in real time.
Other details worth noticing
The musical score was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also composed the score for ‘Broke Back Mountain’ and ‘Babel’. It does a brilliant job of evoking the loneliness and fear of the story as well as granting suspense to very intense scenes.
The art direction of “The Last of Us” is amazing. Every building, dank sewer, and highway with cars rusting conveys what the world has become. Humanity is no longer on top of the food chain and Mother Nature is reclaiming what is hers.
Multiplayer in “The Last of Us” was not needed at all but it is entertaining. The multiplayer has it’s own timeline, taking place within twelve weeks. You choose the side you want to fight for: those who fight to discover a cure for the pandemic (Fireflies) or those who will do anything to survive, including hunting other humans (the Hunters). There are only two modes: Supply Raid and Survivors. Both modes are like team death match except in Survivors there is no respawn. With each win you get to build your own settlement or Clan. Also if you have Facebook, you can have your friends live in your Clan.
These personal touches to the multiplayer make it more interesting and give it a place that fits in with the single player experience. Gameplay wise the multiplayer functions just as the single player game does. You can stealth kill, craft items/weapons and collecting gear is essential to your progression. It is a shame that there is no mode where you fight the Infected or even play as one against a team of survivors.
Rating: 5/5 – “The Last of Us” delivers an emotionally charged story about survival, right and wrong and life and death. Not only does it satisfy in the story department but in the intensely terrifying gameplay as well. Naughty Dog can add another successful game to their list.
Image credit: www.TheLastOfUs.com