Naughty Dog, the California studio behind the critically-acclaimed adventure series Uncharted, will have a new game on shelves next week. Like Uncharted, The Last of Us is an exclusive for the Sony PlayStation 3. But unlike Uncharted, The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, set in a world where a fungus has converted most the world's population into blood-thirsty... things.
The heroes of The Last of Us are Joel and his teenage companion, Ellie. They must make their way across the ruined United States, in the process battling other survivors and infected humans.
So how good is The Last of Us? Read on and find out.
The opening shot
"It's the classic journey into the west, the pioneer's tale – but turned on its head, because this anti-Western isn't about the birth of a nation. It's about the death of one," writes Oli Welsh in a rave review over at Eurogamer. "This melancholy twist is just one of several things that lifts The Last of Us far above its clichéd basis. The others are the outstanding engineering and art and sound design, the fine direction and performances, the touching relationship of the two leads and the tough, tense action gameplay."
"Sometimes you'll go up against fungus-blind zombies that use echolocation to track you; other times you'll take on human bandits who use their regular ol' eyesight. Depending on your play-style, you might get into frequent firefights, which feel appropriately sloppy and chaotic," writes Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku. "You also might sneak past a good amount of the enemies. Ammunition is scarce, as are precious health-restoring medical supplies, so retreat is often the best option. Fortunately, thanks to the cautious and intelligent enemies, it's almost always possible to retreat and regroup, shaking your pursuers and re-engaging from a new angle."
The gameplay, part two
"While the game never lets you feel at ease during combat, the play mechanics – from stealth to the weapons – are solid," writes Matt Helgeson of Game Informer. "I noticed occasional AI lapses and some of the 'trial and error' frustration that creeps into any game that relies heavily on stealth, but overall it's an impressive action game that distills the strengths of the survival horror genre into something that's both deeper and more accessible."
"The Last of Us carries over the super-high production values established in [the Uncharted series]," says Paul Sartori of the Guardian. "The environments are varied and lushly rendered, with large portions of the game taking place in open countryside and forests – a nice change from the usual sewers and abandoned labs (though they're in here too), while character models are equally highly detailed and excellently animated."
"Most games feel like games with a story wrapped around them," acknowledges Chad Sapieha of the National Post. "Action and clunky mechanics poke up against the fabric of the narrative like the skeletons of old furniture betraying outlines under draped sheets. The Last of Us, on the other hand, feels like a true union of story and play. Action and narrative flow together logically and organically like the prose of a great book. There’s a believable reason for everything Joel and Ellie do, whether it’s moving between the floors of a dilapidated building or trying to figure out how to operate the gate of a hydroelectric dam. The story drives everything that takes place."
The story, continued
"The relationship that grows between Ellie and Joel as they fight to protect one another is the most genuine I've ever seen," notes Richard Mitchell of Joystiq, "brought to life by superb writing and excellent performances. It's more than a father-daughter archetype, more than an easy ploy to tug at the heartstrings. A deep love blooms between the two of them, tinged with a sadness that sometimes makes it difficult to bear."
The last word
"The Last of Us seamlessly intertwines satisfying, choice-based gameplay with a stellar narrative," gushes Colin Moriarty of IGN. "It never slows down, it never lets up, and frankly, it never disappoints. It’s PlayStation 3’s best exclusive, and the entire experience, from start to finish, is remarkable. I lost myself in Naughty Dog’s vision of a pandemic-ridden United States, in the characters that populate this unfortunate wasteland, and in their individual stories. The 17 hours I spent playing through the campaign are among the most memorable I’ve ever spent with a game."
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