20 years ago, the United States was overrun by the Cordyceps Fungus; a fungal infection that caused America to fall. This infection overtook its victim’s mind, and spread from person to person, inevitably leading to the destruction of government and society alike.
Flash forward to the “present”, (2033) and step into the shoes of Joel, a grizzled survivor just trying to see the next day. Joel is both haunted by his past and disturbed by his current future, and takes odd jobs in order to eat, stay clothed and obtain shelter.
When Joel takes on the task of escorting Ellie, a teenage girl born after the fall, across country, the two of them embark on the most important – and perilous – journey of their lives.
When you first start up The Last of Us, you wonder if it will be like every other zombie cliché you’ve seen before, and to be fair, many of those elements are there, such as the fallen government, rogue survivors and of course, the Infected.
However, what sets The Last of Us apart from the rest is… well, everything.
The game actually focuses less on the actual events of the outbreak or on the Infected itself, but rather on the story of Joel and Ellie surviving one event after another. This microscopic zoom gives players the feeling that they are right there with both Ellie and Joel in their struggles, their obstacles and even their triumphs.
The actual gameplay is tight and intuitive. The game blends action with stealth seamlessly, and requires all facets of it in order for you to progress. Sometimes you will need to take out enemies using stealth, and if you mess up, you may even feel bad about it, because it’s so satisfying to get right. Other times, plans must be abandoned in order to live, and that means going in guns-blazing.
There are multiple types of enemies in The Last of Us, mostly falling into the categories of human and Infected. Humans are varied in their purpose. Most of the ‘human enemies’ you come across are really people like you, trying to survive. But The Last of Us really plays heavily on the “Us or Them” theme, and at times you do what you must in order to see another sunrise.
The Infected are another story. Infected range from simple zombie-like creatures to blind Clickers; creatures that, once they find you, basically means death. And whether you use a gun or a melee, will determine if they find you or not.
One last thing we wanted to mention is crafting. Players will comes across a bevy of scavengeable items that they can use to create new, combined items. The real question is: what will you make? Will you create a healing pack, or a Molotov? Are you a defensive player or an offensive player? Or will you skip certain items altogether in favor of having storage for other possible items. Everything in The Last of Us is in short supply, including bullets, and must be harvested somehow.
Graphics and Sound
Like Naughty Dog’s other successful series, Uncharted, the voice acting is superb. The tones fit the characters and dialog really moves the story. Ellie asks many questions about the past, and Joel’s voice gives you the sense that he’s seen his share of hardships. Other sounds, like ambience and enemy noises are also spot on and lend to the verisimilitude of it all.
The graphics are top notch. What is nice is that the environments are unique; not ‘copy-and-paste this building here, with the same batch of trees over there.’ Each town, each road, each forest, feels unique and makes exploring fun. Characters models look great and everything about the looks adds to the drama of the story.
There are times where The Last of Us is a trifle slow. Others might even complain that the story is too gruesome. While these might be true, we think they actually add to the realism of the story. If you were a survivor, you wouldn’t think about how bloody it was to shoot someone in the face or stab them in the neck if it meant your own life would be spared.
The Last of Us is one of those few games that you play through, and you actually feel satisfied about it. So much so, that you go and play it again, with a New Game Plus. And while TLoU offers a decent, two-mode multiplayer, the story is the real winner here, and worth playing through at least once.