This is my first review ever, so please tell me whether it is good or not and also criticism which you think will help me improve. Also please pardon my poor excuses for photography which I shot while playing this game.
After the not so amazing and a tad bit overhyped Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog releases what is possibly the best game of this generation. Uncharted 2 was my game of the generation, given its amazing action sequences, the trite story, the graphics and its slew of supporting cast. So I will put this as bluntly as possible, just like God of War 2 was for the ps2, The Last of Us is a masterpiece, it matches and even bests Uncharted 2 in all the aspects of gaming and sets a standard of how a game is supposed to be made.
For those who have read or seen The Road, I am Legend, The Walking Dead or even Children of Men will have a fair idea of the premise of the game. There has been an outbreak of Cordyceps, causing massive damage to not only property, but also tearing families apart. The story is not about how the outbreak was caused or what caused it, it is about two people, who are sent on a mission across the country.
At the heart of the story are Joel and Ellie, with a number of secondary characters such as Tess for those who have read about her. The mission given to Joel is simple, take Ellie to the predetermined location and earn your reward. Though it may seem simple, it has Joel and Ellie journey through hell and back, fighting waves of Hunters and Infected. This seemingly simple task is made more complicated by the pairing of Joel and Ellie, both of whom do not have much in common.
Ellie is a fourteen year old girl born after the outbreak. As such, she marvels at the remnants of the old world, such as arcade machines, coffee shops, animals and even CD’s. She is curious, rebellious and not the best at following orders. She however is extremely mature for a girl her age, not afraid to do anything to protect those she cares about, including killing.
Joel on the other hand is a gruff, hardened man. He has seen both the worlds, before and after the outbreak. He has survived for twenty years in this dump, and would like nothing more than a vacation away from the hell hole he is pushed into.
The game focuses on the relationship between the two and how it evolves. Initially the two are hostile, owing to their rather controversial first meeting. As the story goes on however, the two start froming a complex and rather odd father-daughter relationship, caring for each other. By the end of the game, the two trust each other completely, confiding their fears and dreams in each other. This is made possible by the constant chatter between the two, which forms a bulk of the sotry as well as the beautifully made cutscenes, which are simply beautiful.
There are also a slew of amazing supporting characters, each with a distinct personality and quirks. These characters can be anything from caring to outright insensitive, paranoid, selfish, and even psychotic. All these characters, along with the survivors, Ellie and Joel share one thing in common; they are all scared and will do anything to survive.
There are four important groups in the world of The Last of Us, the Fireflies, the Infected, the Hunters and the military. The Fireflies are the group of rebels who give Joel the mission to take Ellie all the way across the country. They actively rebel against the authorities governing quarantine zones. The Hunters are survivors with no morals and kill anyone crossing their territory, which they refer to as tourists. The military keeps the quarantine zones in check and occasionally scour the world. The infected are human beings mutated by the virus. As such they have lost all traces of their humanity and any sense of control over their body. The infected function similarly to zombies, transforming anyone to their kind by a simple bite, diminishing the already dwindling chances of humans to survive. As such, the infected from a very real threat towards humans and no matter which group they belong to, all humans unite against the threat of the infected.
The narrative is top notch and the pacing of the game is amazing. It never feels as though the game drags on at any point of time. The game does however have its share of twists and turns and nail biting scenes. What I found to be most respectable about the narrative was that it was able to provide a happy ending without compromising the story in any way.
The world and characters are made believable in part by the superb voice acting, atmosphere and graphics of the game. Troy Baker voices Joel while Ashley Johnson voices Ellie. They are in perfect sync and speak their lines with spot on accuracy, with emphasis on the correct words and the tone with which they talk. Troy Baker also pulls of the Texan accent beautifully, which surprised me, given his role as De Witt in Infinite.
The game has all the various Naughty Dog trademarks, such as amazing action sequences, including another thrilling but small chase sequence, beautiful graphics, shifting seamlessly between of untamed wilderness, broken buildings, ice capped mountains. Naughty Dog incorporates various parts from the Uncharted trilogy and manages to create something even better, more beautiful, more stunning.
The gameplay in unlike any other Naughty Dog game. It is tense. There aren’t a load of bullets or items to be found in the world or on enemies, so it is essential to make every shot and every item used count. And as such, stealth is key because given the limited resources, even having as many as ten bullets in your gun is something to be proud of in this game. Using your smartness and thinking on your feet will have its rewards. One that I am particularly proud of is taking out three clickers with one Molotov.
For almost all the parts of the game, Joel is the player controlled character while Ellie and other companions are controlled by AI. A lot like Elizabeth in Infinite, Ellie does not require that you protect her, except when she in under attack. She will hold her own against threats by throwing bricks or bottles or shooting them. Ellie or any of the other companions never get in the way of the shooting or dance about to be seen by the enemy.
Unlike Nathan Drake, Joel is an everyday man with no special set of skills such as making huge leaps or regenerating his health, instead he flinches when he is shot, his weapon sways a lot, showing his frailty. He can’t take many bullets without a health kit, which requires a small animation and some time to use while his enemies will some way or the other have an advantage over him, be it by outnumbering him or by being infected. He is however, more resourceful, crafting Molotov cocktails or nail bombs or shivs using rags, alcohols, tape and scissors. All this is done with the help of the new crafting system implemented in the game. The crafting system too helps in adding tension to the game since all the crafting is done in real time. The various weapons acquired in the game can be upgraded to have more ammunition, faster rate of fire and all the other variants. This is done at special workbenches spread though the game. Also found throughout the games are pills, which allow Joel to get various supplements such as increasing his maximum health or reducing the weapon sway.
The two types of enemies faced are humans or the infected. The humans are more organized, flanking Joel and Ellie by working in perfect sync. The infected on the other are of four types, namely Runners, Stalkers, Clickers and Bloaters. Runners and Stalkers will always attack you in hordes, outnumbering you and withering your health down bit by bit. Clickers are a more advanced stage of the mutation. They can kill you in a single move if they get their hands on you. They make various sounds while walking, which give them their name. Luckily, they are blind and see using echolocation. I doubt that anyone will be comfortable taking them out, no matter how many times they play the game. Boaters are extremely huge monsters in the advanced stage of the infection. They too are blind and kill you in one hit if they get close. Bloaters take a lot of punishment to go down, even on normal difficulty.
From the sounds the clickers make while walking to the barking of orders to flank Joel and Ellie out, the game always has you on your toes. Fortunately, the checkpoints are spread out regularly so as to not cause frustration.
For those who love to explore and go out of their way to find collectibles, Naughty Dog has added not one, not two, but three different collectibles! There are Firefly pendants, comics of various kinds and artifacts. Also spread throughout the game are shiv doors. These doors require one shiv to be used to open and contain a massive amount of resources.
The general atmosphere of the game is ominous. For those who do not play much of survival horror, it is easy to be scared by the more dark infected infested areas. The runners and stalkers will often scare you by attacking out of the dark patches in the area.
The world of The Last of Us is very immersive. Even though the game is very linear, it never feels restricting. It is easy to get lost in the world Naughty Dog has created, either by marveling at the rain falling in the night or the lush greenery of the wild. The music, composed by Gustavo Santaolalla is very subtle. While the music was loudly roaring in all the three Uncharted games, the music in this game is very subtle. More often than not, the only sounds you will hear in the game are of your own footsteps or actions or the enemies, a lot like Fallout 3. It is usually during the cut scenes that the music becomes noticeable.
My first time through in normal difficulty it took me around fourteen hours to complete, time in which I could have completed any Uncharted twice. A bulk of this time will be spent in observing the graphics of this game and marveling at the technical prowess of this game. The game also has a New Game plus mode, where you start the story over but keep all your crafted weapons as well as supplements, a lot like the Playthrough 2.0 of the Borderlands series. It takes roughly a shorter amount of time, because the weapons have been upgraded and Joel’s abilities have improved and also tackling enemies is easier. Also, some of the trophies are available by completing the New Game plus modes.
The few hours I played the game on hard difficulty; it took me significantly more amount of time to get through the same areas. Joel takes more damage and enemies are a bit more perceptive, unlike in normal where the enemy AI was a tad bit disappointing.
Like Uncharted 2 & 3, The Last of Us boasts an amazing multiplayer. I couldn’t spend much time with the multiplayer due to my dismal internet connection, the limited amount of time I did spend were enjoyable. The multiplayer allows you to create factions which you have to support and keep on expanding. For those who want a rest from the dark and serious singleplayer, the multiplayer provides some well needed recreation of sorts.
More than a game, The Last of Us is an experience that will last for a long time. By the time I saw the end credits, I had to shed a tear and applaud Naughty Dog for such a game. Like I said before, this game is truly a masterpiece and I doubt any game, even Beyond: Two Souls will be able to top it. And as for a score, it should become obvious of what it would be.
(I would give it an 11 if I could)