Developer: Naughty Dog Entertainment
Distributor: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Unique Elements: A smuggler in a zombie-infested apocalypse has to keep a child alive who could save the human race.
Series: The Last of Us
Systems: PS3, PS4, PS5, PC
Release Date: 2013
Estimated Length: 25-35 hours of gameplay
Purchase Site: https://amzn.to/3xHbn6p
Reviewed by: J.T. Hanke
Final Score: 5 Moons (out of 5)
With the explosion of news surrounding The Last of Us show on HBO, we decided that we would go back in time and do a review of the game that started in all back in 2013! (Somehow, we didn’t actually review it when it came out, so we can finally put that oversight to rest. With that said, it’s reviewed like a snap from the past, so there are no references to the incredible The Last of Us Part 2 or the HBO show in the game review.)
In an alternate 2013, a mutated Cordyceps fungus begins to infest human hosts and turn them into violent, zombie-like monsters called “the infected.” As the apocalypse comes upon Austin, Texas, our protagonist, Joel (Troy Baker) and his brother, Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce), try to flee with Joel’s daughter, Sara (Hana Hayes). In the flight, a soldier shoots Sara and she dies in Joel’s arms.
Twenty years later, as society has almost been obliterated by the infection and people live in controlled quarantine zones, Joel and his partner, Tess (Annie Wersching), serve as smugglers in the remnants of Boston, MA.
When the leader of a group of rebels called the Fireflies asks Joel to smuggle a teenage girl, Ellie (Ashley Johnson), outside of the quarantine zone to the Massachusetts State House, he reluctantly agrees, because the pay is too good to pass up.
However, when Joel discovers that Ellie has a mutation that makes her immune to the infection, she becomes much more valuable to everyone and forces Joel to make ever more perilous decisions as their journey grows longer and more dangerous.
Unlike a lot of our readers I’m not hugely into zombie games or movies (I tapped out of Walking Dead after season 3), so, if you’re a publisher who is trying to hook me with one, it better be amazing. Fortunately, for this game, The Last of Us has an incredible story that pulls you in and refuses to let you go.
It also has some of the most compelling cinematics and mocap work that I’ve ever seen. While Naughty Dog’s other series, Uncharted, has some decent mocap and cinematics, The Last of Us takes this work to a whole separate level.
I love the ending for this game, but I found that it really tore me up inside, as well. Truly masterful writing.
I personally found the gameplay in the Last of Us to be pretty easy to understand and grasp, with only a few times that board layouts or controls made it hard to navigate properly. (With that said, I’ve also played it with friends who just could never get the hang of it and played it only for the storyline. Which says a lot about the writing because most people don’t finish games if the controls don’t make a certain amount of sense to them.)
As the infections turn their hosts more and more into monsters, their eyesight diminishes while their hearing gets better and better. Eventually, they can sonically “see” their surroundings using clicking noises and echo location. (Some of the most dangerous versions of these monsters are referred to as clickers because of this.) This means that making no noise when you’re near them is really important and this drives some of the most nerve wracking parts of the gameplay, because if multiple clickers become activated, you are dead. Full stop. One is challenging, but two or more en masse will tear you to pieces. This also means you want to avoid firearms when you’re around any location that MIGHT have more than one clicker.
Fortunately, to counteract exceptional hearing from the monsters, humans have learned to use a special focus called Listen mode and refine their own hearing to compensate. When you hit R1, you go into listen mode, the background will fade to muted colors and it’s much easier to see things that actively make noise due to a shimmery reverse-silhouette around them. (The game mechanics ignore things that make natural noise like rivers, wind, and waterfalls, to help the player focus there attention more naturally.)
When you’re not fighting the zombie-like infected, you’ll be fighting other bands of humans that are trying to consolidate power and murder anyone who stands in their way.
With all the danger and stealth required, this is a game that you may want to play on the easiest difficulty your first time through, because it is very challenging even on easy. Greater difficulty makes the amount of loot and ammo you find much lower, which can make it even trickier to navigate. (Keep in mind that you will need most everything you can loot to make shivs, bombs, and other tools necessary to survive. Clickers are almost impossible to kill without a shiv and they break each time you use them.)
Even if I may not be the biggest lover of zombie products or horror in general, many of our audience absolutely are. For them, this is a slam dunk.
But even if you’re not, the story arc, writing, ambience, and interactions will make this an amazing experience. The look at nontraditional family units and what it means to be human are just heartrending and compelling.
While the gameplay takes some getting used to, the compelling story and world building keeps you locked in and engaged. I highly recommend this game and hope that, at some point, they make a movie or show out of it. (This has to be one of the most cinematic games ever made.)
Presentation: 5.0 Moons (out of 5)
Gameplay: 4.5 Moons (out of 5)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5)