Spoiler-Free Review of The Last Of Us (PS3)
Most of us are familiar with the zombie apocalypse genre. A virus breaks out and rapidly spreads among the human population. The infected feed on the flesh of the living and spread the virus by biting the healthy. Survivors wall themselves up in camps or the military gets involved or both. Human beings find the worst in themselves in their struggle to survive. They lie, betray, steal, and murder. The honest people either die or become murderers themselves, and humanity sinks into an abyss from which it might never escape.
And fade to black and roll credits. The End. …To Be Continued.
I’m a big fan of the newer zombie genre. Sure, the original Night of the Living Dead was a scary flick to be sure, but the zombies in 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead were much more violent and predatory. Of course, The Walking Dead comics have proven the shear numbers of infected can be daunting no matter how slow they move. But the one thing I never hear much of in any of the zombie stories, comics, or movies I’ve seen or read is the what happens in the long run. What happens five, ten, or twenty years down the road?
The Last of Us, a survival horror video game for the PS3, brings some answers to that question by taking us 20 years after the initial outbreak, providing interesting gameplay while doing so.
A Compelling Story
Right from the beginning, the story behind The Last of Us swept me up and carried me along. Like any great movie, the voice acting and visuals took no more than they needed to, letting the characters react to the events around them. Playing as Joel, the protagonist so-to-speak, I felt myself caught up in the same events, lost and disoriented at times, struggling to find weapons or an escape. I felt anxious and trapped, just as I imagine I would feel if this life were my own.
This feeling didn’t just flow from cutscene to cutscene, leaving me to figure out the story as I fought through hordes of infected or while searching the landscape. The story progresses even during the gunfights and hand-to-hand combat, giving further glimpses into each of the characters’ development. When there are no infected to battle, the characters often talk to one another, sometimes battering, sometimes consoling, sometimes teaching. The people Joel meets as he travels aren’t always friendly, but they’re still people, and I’ve learned to love them each differently as we travel together.
The “new world” is another huge part of the story. As I stated earlier, the outbreak occurred twenty years prior to the main story, so quite a lot has happened to the world. Quarantine zones run like labor camps while entire cities outside the QZ walls have become overgrown by wilderness. Smaller cities have been abandoned, overrun, or walled off completely. Because so much time has passed, a lot of work has gone into the fortified structures to keep them intact and free of infected. Speaking of which, the infected themselves are subject to the dictates of time, for the longer one is infected, the stronger and more mutated they become. I’ll just leave that right there.
There are a lot of skills to learn and know in this game. Weapons and inventory items are selected through the directional keypad and used simply enough. So far, there are a bunch of little weapons and gadgets to find, upgrade, and use. Upgrades on weapons can only be performed at workbenches and cost “parts” which can be fun to look for as you explore the landscape. Upgrades on Joel’s skills (like extending his “listening” range or health bar) can be done by finding supplements, which again, can be found through your exploratory travels. There’s no “experience points” to earn in this game, so Joel’s skills and strengths can only be increased by the things that he finds. Unfortunately, I can see how this might become a little monotonous after awhile.
The gameplay itself is fluid and reactions from enemies and nonplayable characters are immediate, adding to the realism of the game. The enemy AI is unrelenting in its efficiency. There is no room for error while trying to sneak past infected or while fighting a group of bandits. Ammo and health are limited, so one must choose wisely on their methods of attack or stealth.
Character Development = 5/5
Story Development = 5/5
Dialogue = 5/5
Game Mechanics = 4/5
Over all, The Last of Us is providing an entertaining experience. Characters are fresh and they sound natural. The story is compelling and keeps the player’s attention even between cutscenes. While the gameplay and mechanics are a little lacking in originality, the realism in the game more than makes up for it.
The Geek’s Rating = 23/25
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