The Last of Us Review: The Pandemic Is Morbidly Beautiful

Pandemic has swept the lands of the United States. People are killing each other for what limited resources remain. There is no gaming generation; there are only the grim realities of the world struck by the outbreak of a spore-like virus which has devastated countless victims.  The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s introduction into the survival genre where the stakes and limits of human perseverance are tested. The Uncharted series did amazing for part survival undertones mixed with the eclectic danger of an adventurer. The Last of Us symbolizes everything Uncharted has with a revolutionary shift into something parapsychological and exciting at every turn.

The Last of Us’ narrative adventure is simply stunning. The main protagonist Joel is a ruthless survivor with few moral grounds left to cross. Being in one of the last Quarantine Zones, Joel is tasked by his dying friend to take Ellie, a 14 year old orphan girl that is like a tomboy, into another quarantine zone away from the Fireflies, one of the two militant radical groups. The enigmatic journey across post-pandemic U.S. takes this pair through dangerous territory and the moralistic struggles of consequential choices that players will make are intense. The Last of Us’ narrative of plot twists, a resonant list of characters, and the type of survival-group dynamics encountered in every territory is one that is nothing short of memorable. The character-driven journey has elements of cinematic storytelling that have just the right amount of emotional delivery in the motifs of the storyline to present a harboring dichotomy between every environment and the message of nature in the game alone.

The Last of Us’ gameplay revolves around stealth action and many ways to become the hunter. The environment layout is undoubtedly beautiful with lush greenery, and dilapidated building destructed around a world that has a glimmer of hope, if any. The Last of Us’ mission structure carries a linear outline within a more semi-sandbox feel of the environment maps. It would have been great if The Last of Us was more of a free-roaming adventure with a central storyline than pseudo-sandbox, but the creators chose a more specific route where every map is more focused in terms of its areas and the types of storyline quests that happen. In the most negative of zones where there is complete silence, it is best to pay attention to the surrounding with the Listen Mode. The Listen Mode highlights sounds made with weapons and noticeable environment surroundings with the various human factional enemies, and the Infected enemies. Balance of Power AI is saliently spine-tingling. Depending on the various types of weapons and craftables you carry as Joel, the enemies adjust their play-style aggressiveness in addition to keeping their dwindling numbers in check. Listen Mode, however, is a bit tricky and sometimes the slightest sound alerts the Infected a lot faster while with other enemies Ellie’s loud dialogue hardly sets off ringing alarms.  This sort of immersion-breaking gameplay is a bit of a shame but not a complete dealbreaker in a game that offers a lot to come to a great cinematic perfection.

The gameplay roaming and melee combat along with weapon usage creates a significant portion of The Last of Us. This is why it is called survival adventure – Naughty Dog really highlighted what the word ‘scarcity’ means. One shot can make all the difference in the game considering scarcity in the thematic elements of food, water, and moreover supplies and crafting weaponry and more to gain a Darwinist advantage. You have to make use of the intelligent crafting system to make molotovs, shivs, and smoke bombs with sugar.  The crafting system retains its simplicity in the environments and scavenging for weapons is a central theme in the game where resources are diminishing fast in both single-player and multiplayer.

Multiplayer combines the resource and harsh scarcity tension of crafting with slow-paced survival multiplayer. In Factions, there are two modes: Supply Raid and Survivors. Set years after the campaign, the multiplayer has a sparse narrative that is 12 Weeks of survival which can use some fledging out but is passable in terms of the game.  In Supply Raid, you approach supply boxes which an enemy team also goes for in a team deathmatch like style. In Survivors, there are no respawns and four out of seven wins of rounds takes the match. At the end of the 12 weeks, you get unlockables and customizations for characters. Unlockables include 4 Survivor Skills and weapons.  Unlockables are unlocked as the population of the clan NPCs grow more and other unlockables are earned with the supply count of the clan which is a sophisticated system. Multiplayer would have fared much better with a type of survival-style gameplay mode that allows friends to create a clan of 4-player survivalists and enter matches together and die for a long time, but The Last of Us seems to have gone a different direction. Regardless, the multiplayer experience is a fun one that is more than welcome to players of Metal Gear Online and other similar type stealth action titles.

The Last of Us is undoubtedly one of the best PlayStation 3 games to come out in 2013. While it has some problems with reality immersion along with limited multiplayer deathmatch game variation style, it does a lot to make itself memorable and up there with great titles of this generation such as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots/Metal Gear Online and Uncharted. The Last of Us needs to be experienced firsthand by any PlayStation 3 owner. Just remember to tread quietly – danger lurks in every corner.

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