I have recently finished playing through this game and wanted to share my thoughts on Naughty Dogs' newest game. No need to worry about spoilers as I will be mostly talking about the gameplay.
The level structure and flow of this game remind me greatly of Resident Evil 4. In both games you move in a mostly linear fashion into different obstacle filled 'arenas' and have to reach a certain exit. It can be case of simply going from point A to B or figuring out a puzzle of some sort. These arenas sometimes have helpful items for those who look. Now that I think about it both games also have the main character escorting an NPC as well.
Now where this game starts to differ is in the options it gives you to traverse these arenas. The Last of Us has a strong emphasis on survival and management of resources. Weapons degrade and break, ammo is scarce and you need a decent amount of time to bandage up and heal your wounds. It really makes you think about the consequences of your decisions about whether to engage the enemy or sneak by undetected. The enemies range from bare fisted humans to armoured infected all posing different levels of threat.
Scattered about the level are items like bottles and brick that can be thrown to distract enemies. You also have a special vision with which you can see outlines of enemies that make noise. If you want you can still opt to attack the enemy and you have a good amount of options for this as well. You can throw the aforementioned bottles at enemies to stun them and go in for a one hit kill provided you have the equipment. You can hold up human enemies and use them as shields while you pick off his friends. The game also has a nice upgrade system for both melee and ranged weapons if you do prefer to duke it out. However, with the things mentioned before the game is probably trying to push the stealthier choice as being the better one but aside from the occasional forced fire fight the game leaves the rules of engagement up to you.
What is impressive is how fluidly these two systems interact. The enemy AI helps in this as well as itís not omniscient. You could be sneaking, get caught, take cover and pop off a few rounds to scare them into cover then sneak to a different location better suited to flanking them or just run off. The AI only searches where it saw you last so getting seen is certainly not the end of your stealth run. This unfortunately only applies to the human AI as far as I can tell. If you get spotted by an infected then your only options become fight or run. Ellie also has decent AI and will aid you often by either attacking enemies with bricks or her pistol and can be a great help at times.
In terms of controls too remind me of Resident Evil but refined. The right stick moves you in different directions but does not change where you are looking. To turn you use the left stick. It has that 180 turn that is present in resident evil games as well. Another thing that really impressed me is the cover system. To take cover behind something you just walk up to it (and crouch if necessary). Thatís it! The simplicity is impressive and it works really well. You can also do stuff like pop out from cover to take a shot at enemies or lob brick just fine. It removes that annoying stickiness that some games have with regards to cover.
So, most of the time this game work really well and is an absolute blast to play with very organic tense moments created that will be exclusive to you depending on how you play the game. The controls are excellent and do not hinder you. The level design means that different ways of playing the game are valid and the combat has some serious punch to it. However I do have some grievances with this game.
I played at normal difficulty and the game from beginning to the middle is a thrill ride as the survival element is in strong play and you have limited resources and need to be creative to combat the challenges the game throws at you but by the halfway point if you had been scavenging and upgrading you wonít have the issue of shortage of resources. It removes a lot of challenge from the game as now you can engage fire fights or infected knowing that you have more than enough resources to heal up later.
My final gripe with the game is in regards to the stealth. When I think of stealth, I think crawling slowly, memorising how the enemy moves and then masterfully evading them. Unfortunately the stealth in TLOU seems to hate me for it or something. If you stay hidden in one place for too long, the mobile enemies (the human ones at least) are almost guaranteed to walk towards you regardless of how obtuse a route you have chosen. Itís amazing how they can magnetically home in on you. In turn, what this encourages is moving extremely quickly through the level without giving them a chance of even beginning their patrol because if you do it becomes almost impossible to sneak through. This is particularly evident in a hospital section where you need to reach the end of a corridor. If you get to the end and don't dash for the door immediately the other guards just start swarming where you are making it a death trap.
In conclusion, this was a really fun game to play, the mechanics work well most of the time and it will suck you in with its gameplay. If not then certainly with its story and characters. An excellent game indeed. read