The Last of Us follows in the footsteps of every zombie cliché, while remaining fresh and entertaining throughout due to an amazing story and its beautiful development of the relationship between the two main characters.
The majority of the campaign takes place 20 years after an infection has ravaged mankind, killing millions and turning even more into Infected. Infected have lost all of their humanity, and they don’t think twice about ripping people apart. You play as Joel, a survivor who does whatever it takes to stay alive; including murder. Joel is tasked with escorting a 14 year old girl, Ellie, across the U.S. The story in The Last of Us is amazing; it is enjoyable to just watch like a movie while someone else is playing. The relationship between Joel and Ellie is presented and developed amazingly well through banter and wonderfully written cutscenes, and it is one of the high points of the game.
One flaw of the narrative for me is that it fails to create an attachment to some of the ancillary characters. Without knowing how they met or what has been going on for the past 20 years, I don’t care about Joel’s drug-dealing partner. Referencing a history with one-liner’s does not effectively create the attachments The Last of Us desires. The story is not a happy one, and it’s incredibly disconcerting subject matter gives The Walking Dead a run for its money. The ambiguity of the ending left me unsatisfied, though some may say it is how the ending played out that left me unsatisfied, rather than the quality of it.
Enemy types consist of four different kinds of aggressive Infected, as well as bandits and other survivors who carry a wide variety of weapons. Clicker’s are an interesting and unique Infected who use echolocation to traverse their surroundings; making a clicking sound as they wander through the ruins of civilization.
The Last of Us greatly restricts ammo, encouraging stealth when facing a large group of foes. If Joel is low on supplies the best choice might be to avoid combat altogether. When forced to face enemies head on, the gratifying shootouts and fist fights have an appropriate amount of gore for the games depraved future; zoom-ins during combat show things like Joel smashing someone’s head against a wall, or a Clicker ripping apart someone’s face.
To help sneak around enemies while traveling in the decaying infrastructure of America, Joel can focus his hearing to “see” enemy movements through walls. Bricks and bottles scattered around can be chucked at enemies to momentarily stun them, allowing Joel to take them out. Enemies will flock towards any sound, and by throwing bottles and bricks Joel can lure enemies just where he wants them. Clickers kill in one hit, so getting the jump on them is often required.
A crafting system allows Joel to make health packs, shivs, and explosives. Melee weapons can also be upgraded to kill foes in one hit by attaching a blade. Crafting is done in real time, so it must be done while hidden from enemies. Crafting supplies are supposed to be limited, but the story creates such a desire to see every room and find every note left by other survivors that I often found myself with an abundance of supplies. Pills collected along Joel’s journey are used to upgrade things like increased health or faster crafting. Collectable Weapons Parts are used to upgrade weapons at workbenches strewn around the game world. Pills and Parts are rare, and it is impossible to upgrade all of Joel’s skills or weapons on the first playthrough. A New Game+ mode allows players to carry over their stats and upgrades from a previous playthrough.
Joel doesn’t start out with much firepower, but by the end of the game he has an impressive arsenal. Weapons include generic favorites like shotguns, pistols, bows, and rifles. Nail bombs, Molotov cocktails, and smoke bombs make for an impressive explosives cache; while shivs, machetes, pipes, and boards enhance Joel’s hand to hand power. The weapon sway while aiming is disabling at first, and even when the stability is upgraded using Pills it is still difficult to deal with.
Allies will help in battle, shooting at enemies with infinite bullets. Joel cannot phase through allies, which can hinder escapes in frantic shootouts. Allies can’t be killed by bullets or explosives, and they cannot be seen by enemies if Joel remains undetected. Allies can be grabbed and killed by enemies in shootouts however, requiring Joel to take down the offending adversary before it lands the killing blow. During stealth sequences, while Joel is undetected, allies will at times run from cover to cover in direct view of the enemies, destroying the sense of dread and impossible odds the game tries to impose.
The Last of Us is a great delineation of a man and a girl bonding in a desolate world. Minor flaws in its narrative don’t detract much from the engrossing story, and the stealth-based combat is fun enough to remain entertaining for the entire 14 hour campaign. Everyone should play it, or at least watch someone else play it.