Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Last of Us (PS3)

Reviewed on PS3, available on PS3

Welcome to The Last of Us; a world ruled by a fungal infection that has turned 90% of the human race into zombies or corpses. Of the remaining humans, there is a struggle for control between the military and a resistance group called the Fireflies. Caught in the middle of all of this is our aging protagonist, Joel, and smart-mouthed sidekick, Ellie.

After an amazing prologue, we join Joel 20 years into the apocalypse. He makes his living as a smuggler, bringing contraband items in and out of quarantine zones. Distrusting of everyone and everything (save his girlfriend Tess), Joel avoids making friends and rarely spares his enemies lives. It is strongly implied that Joel has done terrible things to survive all this time. Early into the game, Joel encounters the Fireflies and is given the job to smuggle a girl named Ellie out of a quarantine zone and to a Firefly base, and thus the journey across the nation begins.

There are many open areas to explore in between tense moments.

Players will quickly realize that this is not your typical zombie-blasting survival game. This is a dark world with terrifying people and creatures around every corner. Supplies are always low, and direct confrontation with enemies is strongly discouraged. Hostile humans are smart and sneak up behind you. Infected will scream and charge when alerted - killing you quickly. Unfortunately, friendly A.I. is terrible, and they will often be standing in your way, or standing out in the open when you are trying to sneak (although this does not alert the enemy).

Combat is fluid and satisfying in nearly every situation in this game. When shooting guns or being shot, the hits feel real and both enemies and Joel will stagger or fall depending where shot. Melee combat feels intense, and Joel and enemies alike will use the environment to slam their opponent's head into corners or pin them against walls. Hold a human hostage and his allies will nervously circle you at gun point and try to talk you down. Infected will claw and snap at your face, giving but a moment's notice to react.

Enemies will fight you frantically.

Exploration is limited to certain areas, but the areas are frequent and the exploration is often rewarding. Most items found are used for crafting or upgrading, both of which are mandatory for surviving enemy encounters throughout the game. Unfortunately the crafting and upgrade choices aren't very interesting, and feels more tedious than rewarding. The weapons found in the game aren't very interesting either, but there are a good number of them at least.

The weapons and ammo system felt a little ridiculous to explain realistically. Joel eventually can have up to 9 weapons on him at once, but cannot hold more than 10-20 bullets for each gun. "Oh, I found bullets for my rifle but I've already got 10, I'm full up. Hey look a flamethrower, better put this into my pack." I understand the idea was to make ammo scarce to prevent blazing through enemies, but I would have preferred making the number of guns carried limited to 3 or 4, and forcing the player to choose between them.

Infected encounters are frantic and often result in death.

Gameplay - 10/10
There's no getting around it, The Last of Us is fun as hell if you have the patience to play through the slow and fast parts. The combat system is excellent and should be used as an example for third person shooters in the future. The weapons, upgrades, crafting, and inventory system could use some work.

Design - 10/10
The visuals in every environment are wonderful. The graphics do not look as amazing as everyone has been ranting about, but still capture the feel of every room in the game. The game sounds and subtle music are excellent and blend in well. The story and character design is excellent and one of the highest marks in the game, and will drive the players onward.

Replay - 7/10
Being a story driven game, there is only so many times you will want to replay the singleplayer. "Survivor" difficulty removes the ability to see enemies through walls, and makes for a good 2nd play. If you are a fan of multiplayer, it is included but I have not personally tried it. There are also unlockable outfits and such for both Joel and Ellie.

Final - 27/30 Amazing
This game is hands-down one of the better titles released this generation. It has its flaws, but they are easily overlooked in the midst of exploring the ravaged cities, or frantically running from a horde of infected. Be warned: it is a dark and often depressing game with a very dim light at the end of the tunnel. For those switching to Playstation in the next generation, be sure to pick up this gem as one of your introductory titles.

Recommended Buying Price: No more than 50$

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