The Last of Us is the latest survival horror game developed by Naughty Dog and produced by Sony Computer Entertainment, the same people that brought us the highly successful ‘Uncharted’ series. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States in the year 2033. The main objective is to play the part of Joel, where you must escort a young girl called Ellie and get her to the safety of a resistance group called the Fireflies. Along the way you must fight for your lives by fending of mutated zombie like creatures that have been infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. This is certainly high up on my list of one of the best games I have played this year; however it does have its good and bad points. I will try and explain these as best as I can.
I have to say that The Last of Us is an outstanding game; the whole story keeps you on your toes. It’s a very memorable experience. Right from the start after watching a very cinematic cut-scene, you are thrown into the post-apocalyptic world, with some very nasty characters. I loved the way the game immediately fills you in with what is happening and you are instantly hooked on the story. This game really stands out from the competition. We have of course already had similar story driven games like ‘Tomb Raider’ and the ‘Uncharted’ series. The Last of Us however just has that little something that is very hard to explain. You really need to play the game to fully understand where I am coming from. I love the fact that The Last of Us uses a third-person perspective. This seems to be the way almost all games of this nature are designed. This is absolutely fine as half the enjoyment comes from watching the amazing detail that Naughty Dog have put into the game. An example of this is when you have a fist fight you can actually see the sweat running down Joel’s face. You can see the facial expressions change as the punches fly. The sound effects are brutal and as you smash a plank of wood off someone’s face you hear the cracking of the bones. The way the sound effects are mixed with the outstanding graphics make for a very impressive experience.
The individual locations and chapters that you come across on your travels are so detailed and certainly some of the best graphics I have seen to date. I can’t help but feel that developers have now finally got to grips with the PlayStation 3 and its hardware. They are certainly using all the power and it shows that there is still life in the machine. I can’t help but get excited about the PlayStation 4 that is being released this November. You have a large array of weapons at your disposal and you can also craft items. To craft an item you need to pick up the item when you find it. After you have found the item you have the recipe. Then all you need to do is to find the parts on your travels, you can then make your item. Crafting items seems to be a large part of the game. You do need to craft items regularly. Although you do sometimes find items like medipacks lying around in the world you will find yourself desperately looking for the parts to make your own as you proceed. I chose to play the game on hard. I am sure if that is why I took so long to finish the game and found it pretty tough. Upgrading weapons is also a big part of the gameplay. To upgrade weapons you need even more parts, that again are scattered all over the place in cupboards, behind doors and on tables. These are fundamental for any upgrade. This is pretty good fun, the way it is implemented really gives you the feeling of survival.
The game is split up into chapters; there is not really a single chapter that really stands out as better than the others. The Final Chapter does have a big surprise at the end though. I love the way that as you play through each chapter, you relationship grows with the character Ellie. At first you don’t really care about her and are really just getting the job done, but by the end of the game you feel very close to her. This is where the script writing really shines. Through every cut-scene you sink deeper and deeper into the world around you. This works really well as so many other games have a pretty poor script and can be so stale they simply don’t get you hooked. In my opinion the least successful chapter in the game is probably the first few chapters after the initial wow factor has passed from the introduction to the characters and a world filled with the infected. It does seem to take a little bit of time and a few chapters to get used to the controls and work out exactly how to play the game and how to find the items you need to build things and which items are best suited for the task at hand. This doesn’t last long however. For the most part the whole game keeps you interested.
As good as this game is, there are quite a few flaws in the design; many are more design flaws than actual bugs. I will go through a few of them and explain the effects they have on the gameplay. The first issue I noticed almost immediately is a pretty bad bug in the game. If you try and punch a friendly character in the game absolutely nothing happens. They don’t flinch, tell you off or even attempt to move away to avoid your hit. Your fists just go straight through the character; there should be some sort of reaction here. Saying that in parts I also noticed you can walk straight through other characters like they are not even there. There should be some sort of collision detection built in here. Another strange design flaw in the game is that you cannot jump. Well at least you can’t jump unless you are actually standing in front of an item that you are meant to jump up onto. This seems very odd not to include in the games design. A game feels much more realistic if it allows you to jump around.
This leads me onto another problem. This is where if for example you have a crate you need to jump up onto. You have to align yourself up exactly as the game wants you to. You can spend ages tapping the Button to try and interact with the scenery before finally you find the sweet spot and manage to get up onto where you have been trying to get to. One really annoying thing I found is something that I suppose we have become accustomed to in most games. This was the fact that you cannot cling to walls and look around corners very easily. The only option you have is to stand just around a corner and hope no one spots you. It seems odd that this was not picked up during development and designed so you can cling to walls. Another strange thing that I noticed in the game is when you have certain objects, for example a ladder that you must use to climb up to reach somewhere. Sometimes the game alerts you by showing the relevant button that you need to use to make that interaction and climb the ladder. The issue arises as sometimes it does not alert you and you think, ‘Oh well it must be the usual button’, only to find that as you start tapping away it doesn’t do anything and eventually you find another button works. This seems odd and a pretty bad mistake as the game teaches you one thing then seems to keep changing its mind on the controls. There are also quite a few bugs in the game I noticed. One time Ellie was being attacked by an enemy the game calls a Clicker. As I ran to save her, after I had killed the Clicker, for some reason Ellie kept clawing away at the now invisible enemy and was still losing health. She was fighting an invisible enemy that simply was not there anymore. The only way I found to get past this was to reset to the last checkpoint or wait for half an hour until she died from the invisible enemy. Like I have said there are many other bugs and design flaws I noticed in The Last of Us. It is not as perfect as I would have expected from Naughty Dog. It is very frustrating to the player when you are trying to simply play the game, but you are left half the time battling away with the various bugs and design flaws that have been left in the final release code.
I managed to complete the game as I have already pointed out on the hardest difficulty setting. The reason I play games on this setting as it helps with two things. The first being that I feel it brings more of a challenge to the table. You get a really good feeling of accomplishment as you manage to finish a game on this setting. I do however understand the need for difficulty settings like easy. There are players out there that often like to be able to plough through a game and just sit back and enjoy the story. A final addition to games at the moment, are the trophies and achievements that you gain while playing a game. I feel that trophies and achievements add to a game and are good to have. With everything being viewable about you and your friend’s gaming success thanks to online gaming cloud technology. It can add great competition between you and your friends. The trophies are often pretty satisfying to get and can also be a great way for the developers to keep the player involved in the game. In some cases these draw the player into an area of the game world that he or she may have never experienced if it weren’t for the trophies.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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