The Last of Us is a survival horror game developed by Naughty Dog and released for the Playstation 3 in June 2013. And I have to admit that this game never failed to keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The environments, characters, combat, stealth and crafting all combine to make an interesting and enjoyable experience, even if it’s not always pleasant.
You play as Joel, trekking across a post-apocalyptic United States as he escorts a young girl named Ellie who may be the key to curing a zombie-like infection. Not only does the story expand as you follow your journey, but the stealth and combat sections are merged seamlessly. You might hope to sneak your way through the game, and it’s possible to be quiet a lot of the time, but you’ll also be forced into intense combat at close quarters.
In addition to basic weapons such as glass bottles and bricks for light melee attacks, and the heavier wooden planks and steel pipes, you can also often use the dynamic environments for kills. See someone near a wall? Chances are Joel will use it in one way or another.
That’s not to say Joel can’t be stealthy, especially as he can heighten his sense of hearing and determine the location of certain enemies with a set radius (Which can be disabled if you feel it’s cheating and detracts from the game). You have multiple options for stealth kills, from suffocation to attacking with an improvised ‘shiv’, but at all times you’re aware that any noise can attract the attention of the other enemies.
The pressure is constantly on as Joel and Ellie fight for survival. Ammo is constantly low and resources can be hard to find, making it likely you won’t make it through the game without dying a few times. You’ll need to be always on the look out for resources ranging from alcohol to rags, scrap metal and tools which can be strewn around in the environment, left by dead bodies, or in the occasional safe.
Once you’ve accumulated enough goodies, you’ll get to start crafting with them. Over the course of the game you’ll increase your crafting abilities by finding books, which are sometimes found alongside a new weapon itself. From health packs to smoke bombs and IED’s, Joel can seemingly make the lot, which can make a big difference to the way you treat enemy encounters. Why risk a physical attack when you can place an IED and then lure some enemies over to check it out? And panic moments can be eased with a well-placed smoke bomb to give you some cover.
Although some sections of the game might look a little dated to gamers running high-spec PCs, it’s stunning for a Playstation 3 game. The environments, and the facial animations of the characters, are both packed with fine detail which makes this a beautiful game from start to finish. Even when you’re low on ammo and trying desperately to avoid a zombie, you’ll still appreciate the water dripping from clothes as Joel and Ellie emerge from water, or the movement of the grass as they sneak through it.
Sidekicks can generally be an irritating bunch, but Ellie is a pretty vital part of the game. As well as spotting items and distracting enemies, she’ll also occasionally help out with the violence if you get stuck. She progresses as a character through the game and her role becomes increasingly important. But at the same time, you don’t spend too much time worrying about bad character AI as she generally stays nicely out of the way unless she has to be involved.
What does become irritating at times is that the enemy AI doesn’t react if they spot your sidekicks – they only seem to see Joel. That’s probably not a bad thing as it avoids the potential for getting killed because Ellie didn’t hide, but at the same time it does break the immersion in the world slightly. Also on Medium difficulty, the enemies did seem to find it a bit too easy to spot you, but it’s surprisingly rare.
The game holds a lot of surprises, and should take you a good 12-15 hours to get through. And the graphics are supported by some nice voice acting by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson which makes the quieter moments more enjoyable as you get to know the characters more. Behind all of it is a musical score composed by two-time Acadamy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla
Score: 95/100 – Must Buy!