This game was one of my most anticipated games of 2013 along with Beyond: Two Souls (I’m still patiently waiting for this title!). The Last of Us is Naughty Dog‘s latest creation and they do not disappoint; everything from the narrative to the soundtrack flawlessly works together. It’s evident that so much time and effort went into finely tuning even the clothes on Joel’s back. In the opening scenes where the outbreak is only in the beginning stage, Joel looks like a handsome, got-it-together father. 20 years later, he’s a rugged, run-down, shell of a man who’s priority is his own survival. The characterisation of Joel as well as Ellie is something I really enjoyed and will discuss further on. Also, I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything for you guys!
I was lucky enough to get my hands on The Last of Us on the day of release, but this meant I encountered the auto-save bug. I only lost about an hour of progress, however I’m not a fan of replaying horror games. Yet somehow I’ve played Amnesia four times now…I have no idea how that happened. Anyway, the bug was reported and fixed within a couple of hours, so I was able to get back into it in no time.
I am a huge fan of storytelling in all forms, but especially so in games. When a game can integrate a brilliant storyline seamlessly into the gameplay, it’s awesome. The cut scenes were used to great effect, and were woven right into the gameplay. There were no loading screens, and the graphics didn’t suffer either way, and so again it was all so seamless. It has been said that storytelling in games can affect the gameplay in negative ways, and whilst I do think this can be true I don’t believe it was the case for The Last of Us. The gameplay did have some minor flaws but they weren’t caused by the storyline, in my opinion.
I can’t really discuss the story in much detail without spoiling it, but I’m sure most folk by now know the general gist of things. It’s not the most original storyline in terms of overall plot – mass infection turns people into flesh-eating zombies, and there’s no cure except for one girl who’s immune to the infection – but it’s the way the character’s deal with this situation, and the way they interact with one another, that really sets it apart from the usual zombie games.
The detailed script could have been written for film, it’s that good. There’s just so many moments in the quieter scenes that I loved. As Joel and Ellie are walking, Ellie finds a joke book (full of puns, to be exact) and starts reading it to Joel. I don’t know why I enjoyed this part so much. Maybe because Ellie is so casually reading puns, because Joel is clearly not interested, or maybe because it seems quite a normal thing to do. Also, on more than one occasion Ellie tried to learn how to whistle. Why she thought to do that whilst all hell was breaking loose in the next room, I don’t know.
This brings me on to the characters themselves. The characterisation of Joel and Ellie could not have been more flawless. They are so believable, and I was totally invested in their survival.
I’ll start with Joel. I felt so much sympathy for him in the beginning, and then as it cut to twenty years later, you see how much he changed. I believe he’d been that rugged survivor for twenty years as it showed on his face as well as in his actions. He was totally dedicated to survival and nothing more. Then, he’s handed the responsibility of Ellie, a young girl found to be immune to the infection. He doesn’t take to her at the start and it’s not clear why.
Ellie was born years after the infection broke out, and so living in the quarantine zone was all she knew. She’s immune to the infection and is the possible cure. She takes everything in her stride and seems to be used to living on the edge; she’s eager to help Joel out but he feels protective of her. The way the two of them interact is brilliant; they are wary of each other at the start but when they’re comfortable around one another, their personalities shine through. I think Ellie really helps bring Joel out of the rut he’s in and he acknowledges this and accepts it. When they began talking about their future it was so heart-warming and lovely.
The Last of Us did, however, fall short in some gameplay elements. The puzzles were not difficult in the slightest, and it felt like hardly any thought had went into them. Take this example – Ellie can’t swim and so Joel must find a way to help her across the water. After a few seconds of searching you find a raft floating on the water already. Most of the puzzles are of this variety and so it’s not the most challenging side of the game. Understandably, it’s not a puzzle game however if just a little more consideration went into these, the gameplay would have definitely been on par with the narration.
When I wasn’t absolutely terrified (which was most of the time), I had a lot of fun playing this game. The gameplay did lack some solid ground in areas, however the narrative more than made up for it. The plot may not have been original, but the ending…was no where near what I was expecting. It ended absolutely perfectly in that I want to know more! I’d recommend you play it just to experience the ending. Oh, and the incredible storyline and characters.