The Last of Us ReviewJoe Green
The Best of PS3
The Last of Us is a groundbreaking success, a monolithic achievement for gaming, which brings the medium closer to the emotional highs of movies than any other. Best just to get that out the way at the outset shall we?
It's difficult to critique a game of its calibre. It does so much right and so little wrong, that much of any debate on it results in an endless gush of praise. So what is it that makes it so good? Quite simply, the characters; and the unparalleled connection you make with them. Their believability as humans, with emotions, fears and insecurities, grips you and pulls you into the heart of their story. You won't want to leave them or the game once it's done. The connection between Ellie, Joel and you as the player is unlike any game I've ever played and it's brilliant for that alone.
You fear for their safety as they progress throughout the bleak and unforgiving post-apocalyptic of Last of Us. You laugh as they share a moment. You feel the same emotion they feel as tragedy befalls them and in the end, you wish a happy outcome for them. These are the kind of visceral emotions that are hard to create for a fictional pixelated character and which before now, perhaps only titans such as Disney and Pixar have been capable of on-screen.
The Last of Us also succeeds in many other important ways. It's pacing is tight once you get over the fairly typical training routine. This is helped in no small measure by intuitive and enjoyable gameplay throughout. There are dense areas to explore, populated by numerous intelligent enemies, both human and infected alike. You have at your disposal, both great gunplay and subterfuge options available, crafting smoke bombs and explosive traps all in real time. But often more satisfying is the simple tools which can end those hell bent on stopping your journey short. Found a pair or scissors? Attach them to that lead pipe you found and you have a more vicious weapon at your disposal Add to this the excruciating manner in which all of these deaths are played out, in often brutal and frenetic fights for survival, resulting in you believing you are part of the action.
Bring this kind of action to the multiplayer and you have the makings of something quite unlike any other strategic team-based fight in all it's mayhem.
These moments are also brought to life all the more convincingly by the game's graphics. At times gritty, and naturally not able to compete with the technical acuity of today's PC games, but The Last of Us brings the best of the Playstation's remaining power to the fore. It depicts a strange beauty to the world for a post-apocolyptic setting. An urban world reclaimed by nature and vegetation, but later, forestry, waterfalls and the countryside in Autumnal and Winter seasons. The fact that Ellie was born to this world and never experienced anything of life before its downfall, makes the experience all the more refreshing, as she runs around its relative freedom in awe.
The final point of praise for any tale on Last of Us however, would have to be it's final. The Last of Us builds up to a heart-wrenching and emotionally charged final. You'll likely find yourself racing towards it for an answer to everything you've fought for, but wishing all the while for it to never end. By its closure, I found one of the most satisfying and unexpected endings to a game I've experienced. By this point in the story you will undoubtedly have many preconceptions and ideas for how the game should play out. In my experience, it blew those right out the park and stunned me by its ability to keep to its focus throughout and be believable. Its integrity to remain true to human nature and not opt for the grandiose which befits any normal game's ending, was inspired and refreshing.
The Last of Us is not a game you should consider playing, listen to others describe, read about in reviews or watch in previews. It is a game you must experience, because it is an experience. A fast-paced, character driven, fun, uplifting, depressing and altogether wonderful experience. The Last of Us is not only PlayStation 3's best game, it is the game of this generation.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.