The Last of Us (PS3)

Seven years after launch, the PlayStation gets its killer app

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Naughty Dog The Last of Us (PS3)

Pros

  • Well crafted story and characters
  • Satisfying third person gameplay with the right dose of action

Cons

  • Enemies’ listening abilities are not consistent throughout the game
  • Game’s story and setting initially relies on too many genre tropes.

Bottom Line

The Last of Us is a landmark piece of software that's a must-have for all PlayStation 3 owners. A slightly more interesting setting and tweaked enemies would make it near perfect, but it's still a 5-star game in our opinion.

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Post-apocalyptic stories have always been around, though with the popularity of TV shows such as The Walking Dead and films such as I Am Legend, it seems like the genre is going through a resurgence in recent years. The Last of Us, from Naughty Dog, comes at a good time while the genre is still popular, yet also tries to do things a bit differently in order to stand out in the market.

The setting of the game is a world where a deadly fungus that infects people has broken out. This fungus disfigures people to the point where they no longer look and behave human anymore, and, unsurprisingly, the downfall of society soon follows. In the midst of this chaos is one survivor, Joel, who teams up with a young girl, Ellie, for a cross-country smuggling operation.

At world’s end

A man navigating a dangerous and dilapidated setting, while protecting a young girl, is not exactly a new concept. In fact, 2012’s I Am Alive from Ubisoft already had a stab at the genre, though it did not really leave a mark when it was released. That game’s narrative and surroundings may have been compelling, but the focus on realism made the overall experience a chore. The Last of Us is significantly more accessible, with Naughty Dog using its combined experience on the Uncharted franchise to craft a game that is both realistic and engaging. The setting itself does not bring much new to the table, apart from the fungal infection and the way it turns people into homicidal maniacs. However, the interaction between Joel and Ellie does elevate storytelling in video games to a new level.

The main enemies in the Last of Us are the fungal-infected humans, dubbed "clickers" within the game. The growth of the fungus means it often obscures the enemy's faces, so they have developed finely-tuned listening skills instead. This translates into the player being able to avoid encounters by choosing to sneak past enemies instead of running up and engaging them directly. This is an interesting gameplay mechanic that prioritises tactics over gunplay compared to games such as Uncharted, though the behaviour of the zombies is not uniform throughout the game. Sometimes a badly timed movement will alert a group of enemies, while at other times your characters will talk in the open and no one will attack.

Hit and miss

The combat and gunplay in The Last of Us is much slower paced than in other third-person titles, striving to blend in a bit of realism while not distracting too much from the enjoyment of the game.

Supplies are limited and need to be scavenged from the environment, and any items gathered can be combined to form new items through a handy menu. Crafting weapons and items in games such as Dead Space 3 have tended to be a chore and break up the flow of the game, but The Last of Us makes the entire process painful through a quickly accessible in-game menu.

The protagonist in Uncharted may have a steady gun hand that can pick off enemies from a distance, but Joel in The Last of Us is not quite as good with weapons, and his hands have a natural shakiness which makes targeting trickier.

The impressive set pieces and ancient archaeological puzzles in Uncharted have also been traded in for simpler environment challenges that need to be traversed. Naughty Dog has implemented an interesting mechanic where the player is able to pick up and move planks to cross over gaps. It is a simple concept that works well, yet no game has included it in the same functional way that The Last of Us has.

The story of the game, as well as how the dynamics between Joel and Ellie develop during their cross-country trek, is the true star of the game and definitely needs to be enjoyed without any prior spoilers or preconceptions. While the setting relies on a lot of the tropes associated with the genre, the overall strength of the narrative soon overcomes this.

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