The Last of Us (PS3)

The Last of Us (PS3)

Developed by Naughty Dog, Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

Rating: 10/10

The gaming industry is abuzz with anticipation surrounding the impending new generation of consoles and games, as am I (turn the page for my coverage of E3 2013). However, while we are all dreaming of what the next generation has to offer, the future of gaming is right before us. As this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) drew to a close, the greatest ever feat in video game storytelling hit the shelves. That game was Naughty Dog’s survival action-adventure game The Last of Us.

From the developers that brought us Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and the Uncharted series comes the most brutal, intense and emotionally engaging journey this generation of gaming has ever offered. Every aspect of this game is immaculately conceived and executed, from its darkly beautiful story to its diverse and engaging gameplay.

The Last of Us is set in post-apocalyptic America twenty years after the Cordycep plague began. For those fans out there of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, Cordyceps may sound familiar. It is in fact a real strain of fungus which infects insects and takes over their minds, forcing them to kill themselves in densely populated areas so as to spread the spores that have infested their bodies and hence infect all nearby insects. The premise of this game sees this strain of fungus passing over, and nearly wiping out, the human race. This fresh and chillingly real take on the zombie genre is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ingenuity and creativity Naughty Dog applied to this game.

You play as Joel, a man in his late fourties who is escorting a young teenage girl (Ellie) across this post-apocalyptic America. This simple premise is absolutely brimming with diverse experiences, locations and ideas, while at the same time telling the most engaging emotional story of the relationship between these two meticulously thought through and beautifully acted characters. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson – the actors for Joel and Ellie – are both veteran video game actors and are living proof that video games require a different skill set for every facet, including acting.

The gameplay is third-person action-adventure, though through this scope you engage in many different forms of gameplay. The world in which the game is set is absolutely stunning. Walking through the ruins of a city you reach a gorgeous swamp from which wild deer drink; this swamp used to be an intersection. The traffic lights are now wrapped with ivy, and as you look up you see that you’re in the shadow of the skeletons of great empty skyscrapers. The exploration of these environments is rewarded with items that can be used in a crafting system, allowing you to construct new weapons and consumables.

The combat is thrilling, whether it is against Cordyceps or humans. Due to scarcity of ammo, the best initial approach to combat is always stealth. The stealth systems are fantastic – you stalk your prey and take them down as quickly and quietly as possible. The odds are always against you, though, and generally stealth is only a temporary measure before you are spotted and the all-out carnage begins. Whether using firearms, melee or hand-to-hand, the combat is realistically visceral. Hitting an enemy in the head with a lead pipe will cause his skull to cave in with gut-wrenching accuracy.

To me the standard of storytelling, gameplay and design of this game represents the greatest achievement of this generation of games. It gives me great confidence that the coming generation will only continue to grow and evolve, hopefully giving us many more experiences as fulfilling as Naughty Dogs’ The Last of Us. If there is only one game you play in this generation of games, let it be this one!
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Baz Macdonald.