The Last of Us – Review

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The Last of Us is absolutely and positively one of the finest gaming moments you will not soon forget.

An instant classic deserving of legendary claim among the industries best, the narrative and pacing of Naughty Dogs latest masterpiece tells a story that at every turn feels real almost as though life as we know it could in fact take on this depraved struggle for survival. From the outset players are immersed into the plot as every character is given a genuine sense of life and hope attaching you to their reality of self-preservation. Leading the way in this regard, the two main characters of Joel and Ellie eventually share an attachment, an intriguing sort of bond that is acutely organic.

As impressive as the graphical fidelity is presented, the acting is well performed by Troy Baker who plays Joel and Ashley Johnson as Ellie. In addition, much credit should be attributed to the games writing and seamless dialogue which continues to amaze and excite throughout the fifteen hour journey. Everything spoken in the game from the most immaterial of instances as you traverse this debased universe filled with miscreants and mutated humans to the grand moments of heightened emotions, verbal exchanges seem almost too real. The relationship between Joel and Ellie continues to keep player on their toes as mixed messages are intensely performed with clarity found in speaking tones and bodily expressions, something I’ve yet to experience on such an interactive gaming level.

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The Last of Us is an adult experience as it delves grossly into mature themes, never attempting to play it safe. Despite this raw reality, Ellie, our fourteen year old brave beyond her years lovable character exudes an impressive balance of resolve and frailty causing players to cheer for her in nurturing fashion. Interestingly, you almost don’t feel sorry for Ellie while being fully in her corner every step of the way. Ellie is a bonafide survivor who has grown accustom to making it out of tightest of  spots with all the odds stacked against her, yet upon Joel skillfully placing an arrow between a ‘Runners’ eyes or brutally going for the jugular of a ‘Clicker’, Ellie is quick express herself revealing that she has yet to fully arrive at being callous of the whole ordeal.

Exploration is at the heart this intricately well designed experience. Throughout the games landscape whether taking in the fresh air of the warm sun or carefully examining the beyond dangerous corridors of the dilapidated buildings, the atmosphere has its very own personality. Thoroughly thought out and highly detailed, Naughty Dog bridges the lengthy gameplay sequences together with literal seasons beginning with Summer, all offering their unique challenges carefully building the players confidence, eventually encouraging hope to be found at the end of this arduous journey. With a disease that has effectively ruined life as we know  it for over the course of more than two decades, mankind has become it worse nightmare. Every where the eye can see the aftermath of this reality can be seen in this universe.

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This is far from being your typical zombie-infested survival horror. While the games disease infested enemies are not exactly zombies and more of mutated humans plagued by a rare outbreak, facing off against the games variety of enemies never gets dull. In fact, every encounter brings with it a real sense of desperation as each set-piece is completely randomized by the players gameplay direction. Placing you in a mixed bag of encounters, tension are always high, sometimes causing you to have to take a deep breath in order to gathers your thoughts in an effort to choose the right weapon or device for the occasion. It also becomes apparent that Naughty Dogs has developed the game they believe in, not afraid to take a strong stance against adding fluff. For example, players should not expect to be introduced to ‘Clickers’ or ‘Runners’ or any other enemy type only to have the time passed for the sake of non-stop action. This is not that game. Again, the pacing is superb and well thought out giving players a considerable amount of time for exploration and discovery

Exploration can be just as unrewarding as it can rewarding, easily presenting a great find usually at the expense of sacrificing a trusty Shiv in order to get through a door. Much of the games exploration will find you looking in the corners of barren streets filled with vegetation or highly debris-filled quarantine ares or going from room to room eyeing through desk drawers and cabinets of creepy hallow buildings. Sometimes it is a breathe of fresh air to enter a building or a sinister looking locale and not encounter a fight for your life scenario which all the more adds to the sense of apprehension and progressive tension which seems to never escape The Last of Us.

Forget about hiding behind every trigger pull with every bullet you might manage to retrieve. Early on players quickly find out that acting like Dirty Harry is a sure way of inviting an untimely death. The key to survival in The Last of Us is founded on combat variety. Scouring each area oftentimes allot key items which with many are customizable mixes offering items such as molotov cocktails, explosive nail bombs, make-shift shivs and smoke bombs, as well as ammo for your trusty bow, pistols, shotguns, semi-auto rifles and eventually the assualt rifles. Many of which can be effectively upgraded.

While we would like to conclude that The Last of Us is an experience above reproach, it isn’t without a few flaws. On the very few occasions where stealth is a matter of life and death, players will find that as you control Joel in an effort to gain a positional advantage on the enemy or simply stay put to avoid detection, the friendly AI of Ellie can at times reposition itself incorrectly, making itself clearly visible to the enemy despite for the most part being an incredibly responsive AI. In addition, there were a few times when the enemy could spot me despite clearly being out of their focus.

Rain 8743775553_66b886ac27_cWhile there might be other instances that could have stood out during our playthrough, their importance has been negated by the games overall brilliance. Even the flaws that we could mention in detail are sincerely of no consequence and don’t matter.

The Last of Us succeeds in every way as both a new interactive IP and a virtually compelling true to life escapade of dynamic thrills, surpassing today’s most acclaimed movie experiences. It just gets no better than this. This generation has undoubtedly ushered some genre defining moments ever to be sketched in our minds and The Last of Us is among those great achievements.  Naughty Dog has boldly outdone themselves crafting what is arguably their very best interactive gaming accomplishment. Ever keeping players on the edge of their seats for the whole ride, this is one title that is simply too difficult to put down once you’ve walked a few steps in the more than capable shoes of Joel and Ellie.

With a conclusion that scream sequel, this writer is simply begging for more. The Last of Us is yet another Playstation exclusive that makes it easy to throw your money at the PS4 with hopes of Joel and Ellie’s next reveal developed on Sony next-gen flagship hardware.

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