This weeks review is on a game that has received a lot of attention recently, with many people calling it the game of the decade. I decided I had to see this for myself, so I popped down to Gamestop, and bought myself a copy for $60. (It’s still strange to write that, and $60 is the same price as back home so I was all good for it). For the purposes of length, this review will be split into two, with the first part today concentrating on premise, story and characters, and tomorrows part focusing on the gameplay, level design and conclusions.
So, The Last of Us is based in a post apocalyptic world where zombies roam the earth. These aren’t normal zombies, they’re infected, which is slightly different and more believable than zombies; the first stage of transformation is crazed “runners”, who will beat and bite ordinary people like a traditional zombie. The next stage is “clickers”, this transformation entails a fungus exploding from the infected’s face, meaning they can no longer see, but click their tongues to see like a bat using sonar. The final transformation is the Boomer, a gigantic foe who will throw his fungal protrusions at enemies. Past these transformations an infected person will finally mould into a wall and give out spores to infect more people. It’s a nice concept that is different than the typical “zombie apocalypse” scenario, albeit all the familiar as well. Naughty God didn’t have to make the runner zombies, but to make the game play interesting they had to have multiple enemy types, and so it was a good fit.
The story starts with you controlling a little girl who wakes up to a phone call asking for her dad. The man on the phone sounds out of breath and scared, so the girl you control (Sarah) gets scared and has to find her dad (Joel). It’s a great scene that sets up the rest of the game fantastically, allowing you to see the world turning to chaos right before your eyes in a unique perspective. Once the screen fades to black, the player takes control of Joel 20 years later in Boston. In this time the infection has spread throughout the world, and special quarantine zones have been set up with military overlooking civilians. Rations are low, and the whole zone feels very much down in the dumps. As Joel and his companion (Tess) are smugglers, they need to get to the other side of the quarantine zone in order to get a “shipment”, and this is when you’re first introduced to the conflicting factions in this post-apocalyptic world. There’s the army, which is trying to take care of everyone in a harsh way, and the fireflies, a group of rebels that want to overthrow the army and feel they’d do a better job of protecting civilians than the government. Once Joel and Tess reach their shipment, the games true purpose is shown; in order to get their shipment, they must smuggle and deliver a child (Ellie) to the fireflies just outside of town. What seems like a simple task soon turns into having to traverse the whole USA, from Boston in the east to Salt Lake City in the west, which is a good set up for a game. The clans coupled with the new infected make for a very interesting take on the post-apocalyptic world, if not 100% original, it’s definitely a different take on a already popular genre of media. The story itself was ok, with cutscenes shinning light on the current circumstances characters found themselves in, but I found it all a bit too predictable, meaning that apart from the ending, I knew where the game was going. This is mainly because the story is based on the characters themselves, and not necessarily on the world around them.
The characters are brilliantly filled out, with Joel and Ellie having a dynamic that makes you want to continue playing, just to see how their relationship changes. Throughout the campaign, Joel and Ellie will encounter many other characters on their travels, with each of these people being just as fleshed out and detailed as the main protagonists. Joel has been through a lot and is cynical of the world around him, meaning he’s a hardened veteran that doesn’t want hassle. Ellie on the other hand is a hard ass teenager who doesn’t want to be a burden on Joel, so tries to be independent, which causes more trouble for Joel. One example of the fleshed out characters is a man called Bill, who owes Joel a favour, to which Joel uses to try and get a working car to drive across the country. Bill is a very distrustful person who doesn’t like change, which really doesn’t go well with Ellie being a independent and strong woman, resulting in some very funny scenes between the two conflicting personalities. Overall the characters are amazingly thought out, which makes for a lot of believable relationships throughout the main story, meaning it’s not necessarily the story or the world that appealing, it’s the way the characters change and evolve throughout their time together.