Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Last of Us

The Last of Us is one of the crowning achievements of the current generation of video game consoles and is one of the best games to ever be created. Naughty Dog, the creators of the Uncharted franchise, have indeed created another special property and it remains to be seen if this will be a standalone game or if it will be followed by a few sequels. The combination of gameplay mechanics, story, and graphics make this a must buy for anyone that owns a Playstation 3. Uncharted was a huge accomplishment on both a story and graphical level but I was sometimes disconnected from certain characters in the story. The Last of Us establishes that emotional connection within the first hour of gameplay and I was hooked.

The story of The Last of Us follows Joel, a grizzled survivor of the plague, and Ellie, a young girl that possibly holds the key to curing the plague that has ravaged the world. There is a fungus that spreads in the air through spores that turns people into a weird cross between a zombie and a mushroom. It is much more frightening than the way I am describing it. Joel is a reluctant protector of Ellie, and there are events that you play through that give you a better understanding of why he is the way he is. He must take Ellie to a safe haven, away from the oppressive government, so she can be studied to see if she holds the key to put an end to the world destroying fungus.

This is a game that needs to be experienced, and it is incredibly hard to describe the story without giving away a huge chunk of the story. We see Joel’s progression from loving father to broken survivor, and then to steadfast protector within the span of this game. He is an everyman in this horrific world and is simply doing everything that he can do to survive in it. Ellie on the other hand has grown up in this crap world and knows nothing other than chaos. He is cynical, where as she is optimistic and is finally getting to experience a world that she never knew before. They form the main emotional connection in the story and they will be the only characters that you really care for in the game. There are some characters that you feel for but I for one really cared about the welfare of Joel and Ellie. There are certain points that I had no idea if either was going to make it out alive and Naughty Dog does a splendid job of building up the tension throughout the course of your adventure. 

The technical side of this game is just as fantastic as the story of the game. The graphics are some of the best that have ever been produced on the Playstation 3. Naughty Dog has had a stranglehold on having the prettiest games of this generation and The Last of Us was no exception. Character detail is incredible, the AI (both enemy and friendly) are sophisticated, and the environments are gorgeous.  The action is brutal and there is nothing like hearing the sickening thud of a metal pipe smashing into an enemy’s skull. The sound design for the game is award caliber and gives the game is drearily terrifying mood. The screams of the infected are horrific whenever you hear them because it signals that death could be around any corner. The dialogue for Ellie and Joel is varied and engaging but the dialogue for secondary character can sometimes fall flat, but that is a very minor gripe in what is pretty much a perfect gaming experience.

The controls, shooting mechanics, and hand to hand combat are the only places that some people may have a legitimate gripe with this game. After experiencing how tight the gunplay of the Uncharted series was, it was a shock too see the looser controls of The Last of Us. But when you actually look at the mechanics, they make perfect sense. Joel is a survivor that was never taught how to properly handle a weapon, so his aim isn’t always perfect like Drake’s was. The hand to hand combat is more barbaric than in Uncharted due to the fact that Joel is simply trying to survive each encounter. Every confrontation in The Last of Us is a kill or be killed scenario and that is the world that has been created for that game. Some people have taken exception to the gunplay in the game but it never bothered me. It just added to the immersion factor for me.

I am mainly a movie reviewer and I tend to think in movie terms or relate things to movies. This is the video game equivalent of Children of Men. There is a world in which there is no hope, a reluctant protector, and a young girl, who may hold the key to saving the world. There are obvious differences between The Last of Us and Children of Men but there are definitely more similarities than differences. I realized the connection about a quarter of the way through the game and it made me enjoy it even more than I already was. There is a sense of hopelessness and dread that fills every scene in The Last of Us and the same could be said for Children of Men. Both feature characters that try and keep hope alive in our heroes but it is ultimately their young companions that bring out the best in them and give them the strength to complete their missions, no matter the consequences to themselves. Children of Men is in my opinion as close to perfect that a movie can get, and The Last of Us stand right beside Bioshock Infinite as the best games of the current generation of games.

The Last of Us is Playstation 3’s best exclusive to date and with the exception of Beyond: Two Souls, it should stand as the best until the release of the Playstation 4 in December 2013. Naughty Dog has given us a game that is both exhilarating and terrifying, while also being extremely deep and emotional. This is the best game that I have ever played on PS3 and it is going to take some time to top this experience. This was a great swansong for the PS3 and I am eager to see what the PS4 will bring us in the near future. 

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