With buzz at deafening levels regarding the PS4 and Xbox-one, we have entered that awkward time between consoles in which no one really seems to want to invest in currently available platforms. Everything new and shiny is ‘coming soon to PlayStation 4, Xbox One’, etc. However, Naughty Dog decided to issue a parting shot on the PlayStation 3. This parting shot is, I think it’s fair to say, the most impressive entry in console gaming.
The Last of Us is an epic journey of a man named Joel and a young girl Ellie across post-apocalyptic United States, as well as through your own emotional landscape. We don’t use the term ‘emotion’ often in relation to video game or depth in characterization. But this masterpiece from Naughty Dog lets you do exactly that. The Last of Us characters have sort of roughness around the edges, vulnerability, and shaped by what the player does in the game. The game lets you connect to the characters in a way that no other game has ever done.
Yes, there is action constantly throughout, but encounters are buffered by, well, nothingness really. Just moments of calm used to build suspense and develop narrative and characterisation – two facets of design that are so often discussed by games developers, but are so readily bypassed when the final product hits store shelves.
One of the most impressive things about this game is that the story stays away from clichés. When you have played so many generically written video games your mind sort of knows what’s coming your way but this games sort of plays with your expectations in a way that you might be expecting for something to happen but it doesn’t or something completely different happens. Also the story never lets you forget that you are surrounded by pain, misery and loss, and how cruel this post-apocalyptic world is.
The gameplay was perhaps the one area in which The Last of Us did not exceed all reasonable expectations. For instance, the gunplay is not the crosshair and it is inexact, full of sway and only a rough approximation of accuracy. At times that can be really frustrating. At times the enemy completely forgets about Ellie and only focuses on you.
The enemies consist of the humans and the Infected. The Infected are called so because they were infected from the viral outbreak that happened two decades ago. The infected who are contagious are a bigger threat than humans. The lesser infected are called the Runners and their blind hyper infected counterparts are known as Clickers and if the latter so much as get their teeth into you its game over. On the other hand Human enemies work together in groups and are generally smarter and react to what you do. So you have to approach the combat with each of these enemies with a different strategy. To make matters more interesting the ammunition is scarce so you have to use your ammunition carefully. You can also customise your own weapons with items you find along the way. However, whenever possible Stealth is the way to go.
The Last of Us also features a multiplayer aspect, which I admittedly only dabbled in. The multiplayer revolves in a heavy way around stealth and crafting, which is no real surprise given the fact that the game as a whole features these two things prominently as well. Materials are scattered around maps which must be crafted on the fly in order to give you the edge in battles against other players. By finding these items you support the group that you are a leader of. The more you find the more robust your group becomes. Although the multiplayer is not the focus of the game it’s a nice supplement and is quite engaging.