The Last of Us, the latest game for Play Station 3, plumbs familiar territory – but CityNews technology specialist Mike Yawney cautions players have never seen a zombie apocalypse like this before.
The world as you know it is over.
A fungal virus has swept across the US completely devastating society. Everyone who has breathed in the toxic spores has turned into a mindless, zombie-like creature, hell-bent on feeding off the flesh of the living.
In an effort to contain the outbreak, entire cities have been bombed. The handful who survived the devastation now live in fear, not only of the horrific creatures which prowl the streets, but of other survivors who will stop at nothing to ensure they have enough supplies to make it on their own – even if it means killing others.
I know what you’re thinking; you’ve heard it all before. In fact, you’ve probably played many games with similar zombie-style plots. Let’s get one thing clear: they’re not like The Last of Us, quite possibly the PlayStation 3’s swan song.
Gamers play as Joel, a veteran survivor. Joel remembers what life was like before the outbreak, unlike Ellie, the young girl he stumbles upon. Ellie was born after the devastation, and her knowledge of what life was like before the virus and the bombings is limited. She is naive, although not stupid, and she holds a secret, one which even Joel can’t ignore.
Game developer Naughty Dog set up The Last of Us as a massive escort mission, with Joel and Ellie making their way from city to city across the continental U.S. While the cities and landscapes appear to be sprawling, it’s a bit deceiving. Yes, maps are large, but for the most part the path is fairly limited.
Barbed wire, barricades and downed trees keep gamers on a set path, often preventing players from exploring areas which are out of bounds. That’s not to say there isn’t a chance to explore. Gamers will spend hours searching abandoned buildings looking for supplies and items to help craft weapons.
The choice of weapons is limited but by no means boring.
Players start off with a simple hand gun, but, through the game, players will stumble upon more powerful weapons such as a shotgun, assault rifle, bow and arrow and flamethrower – and players will need them.
Enemies are fast and fierce and require multiple shots to put down, unless of course gamers can pull off a head-shot on the first pull of the trigger.
This is where Ellie can be a huge asset. She can fend for herself, and isn’t afraid to jump in on the action, firing a pistol and jumping on an enemy’s back to deliver a glass bottle to the head. Yes, she is one feisty sidekick.
The Last of Us is far from a straight forward shooter. Players choose if they want to take on enemies with firepower or stealth. Ammunition is limited so sometimes it’s best to sneak up on opponents. Enemies are smart and are attracted to sound.
Gamers can pick up bricks and bottles to throw to confuse the enemy, or can sneak up behind them to take them out. It’s the stealth component of the game which will really get your heart racing.
Enemies known as Clickers can’t see very well, but they can hear you. Hence their name, they emit an eerie horrifying clicking sound, one which will give players nightmares – gamers will want to crawl out of their skin as they sit quietly, hoping the Clickers pass by without notice.
As players progress through the game, they will have the opportunity to upgrade not only weapons, but their skill set as well. Upgrades are based on points which come in the form of gears found scattered inside drawers and other hidden areas in homes and warehouses. Players will have to decide whether to use the points on increasing weapon attributes or giving themselves abilities such as quicker healing or faster crafting of weapons. The system is fair and there are plenty of gears to find even on the first play through.
While the enemies are plentiful, and the action intense, by far the most enjoyable part of the game comes from the dialogue and story. Joel and Ellie form a very quirky, likable relationship, one rarely seen in a video game. The voice acting is superb which breathes life into these characters. You truly begin to care for them and those they encounter along their journey.
While the dialogue is engaging, the game does have a few weaknesses. Ellie’s AI doesn’t quite live up to expectations. There are times Joel will be hiding and Ellie will be running around the room even as an enemy nears. What’s even stranger is the enemy won’t react, almost like they are programmed not to see her. Other times Ellie will disappear all together with no trace of where she went. Fortunately she always seems to show up near the exit to the next area.
The other issue is with the rules the game itself creates. Sound plays a key role in the game, yet there are times when the game simply ignores this. There are sections where players must sneak up on Clickers. Remember, these are the creatures that can’t see very well but they have a tremendous hearing. Joel is somehow able to choke them to death one by one even if another Clicker may be only a few feet away. If Clickers can hear so well don’t you think it would hear the struggle?
While Naughty Dog doesn’t reinvent the action adventure genre with new styles of game play, it does elevate this type of game to another level we haven’t seen before. Characters you care for and feel for is somewhat of a rarity in games, and Naughty Dog has accomplished just that.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced ultra-gory zombie shoot em’ up then you’ll want to stay clear of The Last of Us. Instead what you find is a well-paced, smart adventure with characters so life-like you feel like you are playing a blockbuster movie. The Last of Us is one of those rare games you’ll be thinking about long after you put the controller down.
Simple and fair upgrade system
Ellie’s AI certainly has its moments
Game breaks its own rules
The Last of Us – 9.5/10