The Last of Us.
I’m not one that’s especially into (essentially) zombie games, so I initially wrote The Last of Us off. Wasn’t super interested. But I started to hear more and more buzz about the best games of 2013 and even the best PS3 games ever and The Last of Us was consistently at the top of that list.
So I gave it a shot.
You play a majority of the game as a man named Joel. The opening scene showcases the initial moment when an infection hits the United States. Joel barely makes it out, but his young daughter doesn’t make it. Now cut to 20 years later and we follow Joel as he is trying to get by, alongside a ragtag group of survivors. Soon into the game, you encounter Ellie, a young girl who Joel needs to take on an epic journey across the country. The gameplay focuses on equal parts shooting and stealth, giving you a vast plethora of ways that you handle different situations.
Let me begin with the cornerstone of this game and that’s the dynamic duo of Joel and Ellie. Their conversations are interesting and they actually begin to rub off on each other as the story progresses. Joel begins as a jaded survivor who has lost hope in humanity and Ellie is an optimistic kid who doesn’t understand the dangers that exist in the world. The voice acting was stellar and the animation was perfect, even giving us almost unnoticeable little mannerisms that help us to understand these characters.
Now, there’s essentially two types of enemies that you face in this game. There’s the infected, with the minor villains being crazed humans thirsting for blood, but the bigger badder enemies become fungus-covered behemoths that have lost all sight but use hearing to track you. Then, you also fight other humans for a majority of the game. This might be former military-types with helicopters and riot gear… or it might dangerous bands of thugs that want to cut you into bits and eat you. Fighting this enemies forces you to change up your tactics, but the game gives you tons of options. When confronted with a group of infected “clickers,” you can throw debris to get their attention and draw them into a small area, and then use a molotov cocktail to burn them all to bits. A human squad would look towards the debris but see past your trick. Humans also tend to act defensively, as they might barricade up and you have to find a weak spot in their defenses. Infected runners though, charge forward with zero thought about their personal welfare. These varying situations make the game interesting from start to finish, as you have to adapt to constantly changing scenarios.
To combat these enemies, you have an assortment of small and large weapons, as well as items that you can create from scrap debris, such as nail bombs, molotov cocktails, and smoke bombs. You find just enough supplies to craft a few of these items and you have to use them sparingly. In one of my first encounters, I used all my molotov cocktails but still had a huge amount of ground to cover, so I had to resort to throwing debris and avoiding combat altogether. Also, certain supplies can be used for multiple things. Do I use my alcohol and rags to create bandages and heal my wounds, or to light my enemies on fire with another molotov cocktail? Your ammo that you find is also pretty sparse, so I ran out of certain ammos many times and had to adjust my strategy.
I died often, but the autosave function for this game is incredible and has only minimal loading. It would almost instantly start me at the beginning of that battle and let me continue and try new tactics. It was very much appreciated.
Now my highlight… Throughout these battles and as I crept through these dangerous areas, I was always completely engrossed. From start to finish, I was on the edge of my seat. Maybe it was because a mob of thugs had me cornered in a grocery store, or maybe because I was climbing through sewers trying to evade the infected, or maybe it was as I just listened to the incredible dialogue play out. It was an engrossing story and one that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go.
And while I don’t traditionally like zombie games, this isn’t a game that tries to shock and surprise you. You see them from a distance and you get to mentally prepare for how you tackle the scenario, which I appreciated. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was terrified a few times as they broke past my defenses and came charging in on me, but it was a sort of suspense that made my eventual victory even sweeter.
In general, the game is also stunning visually. Incredible work here and a crazy amount of details.
What doesn’t work?
This game absolutely deserves all the praise it’s getting. It’s a little visceral, so people with a light stomach might have a hard time with some of the more intense action. And our heroes make some pretty drastic decisions, so people that have a hard time distinguishing games from reality might struggle with some of these choices.
This game is two things. 1.) An incredible stealth shooter, that lets you feel like an incredible badass as you take down hordes of trained soldiers. And 2.) An emotional story of a man and a girl, who help each other cope with a dark and depressing world. It’s amazing and one game you should have on your list to play. It’s a PS3 exclusive, but anyone with a Playstation 3 should have this on their radar, no doubts.