I'm quite late in reviewing this game as I was recently given a PS3 and I am catching up on all the PS3 exclusives that I missed being a Xbox/PC player. If there was ever a definitive reason to pick up a Playstation 3 it is for The Last Of Us.
The Last Of Us is a beautiful, brutal and emotional ride through the USA in a post-apocalyptic setting. You play as Joel, a survivor, who at the start of his game loses his daughter to the dangers of the outbreak, she is shot by military whilst Joel is trying to escort her to safety. After quite a heart-wrenching, scene setting opening you are shortly introduced to Ellie, whom you must deliver to a gang of survivors called the Fireflies as she is immune to the infection. It's a classic story of travelling from point A to B trying to survive and dealing with any encounters on the way.
The game takes the simple (if slightly cliche) storyline and deals with it so well that you can't help but enjoy every minute of it. Naughty Dog do such a good job of making you feel something for the characters you encounter with some of the best voice acting and character animation/cutscenes that I have seen in a long time. At times you feel like you are watching a film, each event, some of which are quite unexpected, is so well placed and timed that you just want to carry on to see what happens next. You see the bond grow between Joel and Ellie and become almost like a father and daughter pair, it's one of the many unexpected in game partnerships that work so well.
Aside from hitting the nail on the head with the story and setting the gameplay is pretty well polished also. The game regularly changes pace, whether you are fighting other infected, sneaking around bandit camps undetected or exploring locations for supplies, all of this is done fantastically. You have a choice to be stealthy or guns blazing throughout the entire game, though it is not recommended you go for the last option. Supplies are limited, bullets are precious so every shot counts when fighting. Stealth gameplay, apart from being extremely intense at times, can be useful. You can strangle guards or even sneak through entire segments without being caught picking up supplies as you go. Later on in the game you can get yourself a bow which is useful for taking out enemies silently, and very satisfying when you get a hit.
The gun play can be challenging, each weapon reacts differently and has different properties to them, which you can upgrade. But you can also upgrade Joel to be more steady and efficient with weapons either making "Shivs" that you have crafted last longer or seriously increasing accuracy with all firearms. The only way you can upgrade yourself or your weapons is by scavenging. You have to find "Supplements" to upgrade Joel and "Parts" to upgrade your weapons and then finally come across a workbench to apply those weapon upgrades. The supplements are held in Joels backpack which can allow you to do crafting of medical kits, molotovs or smoke bombs on the fly, if you have the right materials that is. This added a whole new aspect to the game for me that actually made it feel more like a survival. The Last of Us knocks the intensity level way up to 10, especially if you are low on ammo or supplies and you have a horde of Clickers in front of you.
Graphically, since the game come out a couple of years ago, it's a treat to look at. Water ripples, blood pools reflect the game world, and character facial movements and animations are spot on. The game is pretty brutal too, aside from all the blood and loss of limbs one of the things that surprised me the most was the brutality of when Joel strangles someone from behind. The victim claws at Joels face while slowly sinking to the ground and I am sure you can actually see the eyes roll back when they die. The finer details in The Last of Us just made me love the game more.
There is only a few minor things I can pick the game up on, which are only some buggy discrepancies that take away from the immersion. One being during a particular mission where you are sneaking around an apartment block, I could see enemy bandits above me as the shadows of their feet were slightly clipping through the floor. The other big one being that you are always partnered with someone or maybe a small group of people, though the only person who can get caught is you. One mission involved sneaking through a bandit encampment and you had to avoid a spotlight at the front gate (you dont have to but if you want to get in un-noticed this is a must) and one of the companions that i was with was clearly in the view of the spotlight but it was dismissed. Like i said only minor faults but they can just be a bit of an immersion killer.
The game has about a 14 hour campaign which is the perfect length before the game starts to run out of ideas and just become tedious, it executes its story exceptionally well throughout though.
I can't recommend this game enough, I cant give it any less than a 9 purely because of how surprised I was by it and how little it does wrong. If you have never played the Last of Us before and you are looking for a dramatic well told brutal story then pick it up, and if you don't own a PS3 get one just to play this game.