|The Last Of Us|
|Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Single player story mode, 2-8 online multiplayer
The Last Of Us comes to us from Sony subsidiary Naughty Dog, who cut their teeth with the Crash Bandicoot series before going on to make the highly-regarded Jak and Daxter games. In 2007 they became one of the industries’ biggest guns and respected developers thanks to the huge success of PS3 exclusive Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which was followed by the even more popular and critically acclaimed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
While the Uncharted games are pleasant, rollicking adventures loosely wrapped in a cover shooter game engine, The Last Of Us is best described a “post-apocalyptic third-person action survival/horror/adventure game." The latest version of Tomb Raider may have borrowed some ideas from Uncharted, but the Uncharted series wouldn’t have existed without Tomb Raider and anyone who played Square Enix’s massive hit earlier this year and then plays The Last Of Us will see some similarities, even down to Lara’s and Joel’s “sprint” being painfully slow, so what goes around definitely comes around in the gaming industry.
Gameplay consists of a mixture of stealth, brutal hand-to-hand combat (with any piece of timber or pipe becoming a handy meleé weapon) and a variety of projectile weapons including pistols, shotguns, rifle, bow and arrows as well as home-made bombs and molotovs. Unlike Uncharted the game has no cover mode, but you’ll still be creeping around crouch-walking for much of the game, using any available cover and stealth. There are also plenty of occasions in which a tactical retreat (or running away screaming like a little girl in my case), using Joel’s “sprint” (L2 button) such as it is (he’s not the fastest runner) and breaking away from and attack and losing an attacker’s line of sight or getting far enough away so that enemies can’t hear you is also the best course of action. This is because The Last Of Us is definitely not just a shooter, and ammo, while not exactly scarce, is extremely limited on the default difficulty setting—finding 3 rounds of ammo can make you rejoice like you’ve won the lottery. Hunting and searching every nook, cranny, cupboard, locker, desk and drawer of the detailed and expansive locations soon becomes second nature, and, while this may be a turn off for some gamers, picking up and collecting stashes of ammo and other junk (parts used for upgrades) can be done in one swift movement with a press of the ‘Triangle’ button and without having to look straight at the items or be stood right on them, making the process a lot less annoying and repetitious than in certain other pick-up-centric games such as Resident Evil 6, Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
As well as picking up junk parts to make and upgrade weapons with (from bombs to stronger, more effective melee weapons) there are tons of other pickups in the game; some collectible comics (Ellie’s favourite sci-fi comic), Firefly pendants, notes left by other survivors or artifacts, Ellie’s jokes and guides that teach you the ability to upgrade the various weapon types. Some are easy to find and others are well tucked away—fortunately you can replay individual chapters in order to find them if you miss them on your first play-through.
In addition to the Infected you’ll come across various groups of hostile humans and it’s usually best to use a mixture of stealth and aggressive gunplay to take them out as they have extremely convincing AI that reacts realistically to taking damage and they will also search for you as a group if they hear you or see you.
From time to time you’ll get help from other NPCs in your battles against the Infected and rogue hunters, and your (almost) constant companion Ellie frequently pitches in too. Her AI is quite remarkable, one minute she’ll be practising her whistling, humming or telling you a silly joke (although I suspect Jimmy Carr may be recycling them soon), then she’ll be creeping along beside you, doing a surprisingly good job of staying out of your way, and then she’ll come to your rescue when you most need it and least expect it-this literally made me whoop with delight and want to hug the girl!
Like so many other story-driven games of late, The Last Of Us also has a multiplayer component. Factions allows you to either play as a member of the Hunters or the Fireflies, the object being to keep your clan alive and see it grow and prosper by scavenging supplies, much like you do in the single player game. Killing enemies, getting kill assists (just wounding an enemy later killed by a team mate), reviving downed team mates and crafting items all earn you parts. Dead enemies can be looted for supplies and at the end of the game parts are converted into supplies. Another unique feature here is that your clan can either be populated by NPCs, or a mixture of NPCs and real recruits that you’ve played with or from your friend’s list, or NPCs with names of your friends from Facebook (this personalises your clan with familiar names but doesn’t get posted to or connected to Facebook.) There are two game modes; Supply Raid and Survivors, and you can customise the class of your character (weapons/abilities etc) to suit your play style and the game mode. Although we did experience some lag at times the game plays smoothly and the ability to craft lifesaving and game-changing items in-game gives it an almost unique feel.
- Strong story, characters and superb character models.
- The post-apocalyptic US is dying yet still manages to look beautiful in places.
- Slick crafting mechanic.
- Decent length solo story (10-12 hours)
- Slick, inventive and addictive multiplayer.
- Gory and extremely violent, but never gratuitously.
- May be too violent for some.
- Strangely there’s no-story co-op, when it would seem to be a natural option.