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11/06/2013

REVIEW - The Last of Us (PS3)


In what has been one of the most acclaimed and awaited games in the history of the PS3, developer Naughty Dog (Uncharted) released The Last of Us, a new IP exclusive to Sony’s console that takes the technical aspects of the PS3 to a whole new level, mixing survival horror, shooting, exploration, narrative and top notch graphical and sound quality like never before.

The creators of the Uncharted series left Nathan Drake’s adventures behind (at least for a while) to bring us a new universe set in a post-apocalyptic United States of America, twenty years after a massive and destructive zombie outbreak happens in the entire planet. The protagonist of the game is a man named Joel, who after some tragic events when he was young, spends twenty years living in a military safe zone, struggling to find supplies and making allies to try and survive in this hostile U.S.A.

While working on a personal job to find weapons to defend his group, Joel comes across a teenage girl named Ellie, the other protagonist of the game, whose circumstances require her to reach a certain destination inside the country and someone needs to escort and protect her. The events eventually make Joel and Ellie join forces in what is possibly one of the best storylines ever written in a video game.


Joel and Ellie’s story and relationship is told and presented in a fantastic way, something I haven’t seen in a game in a long while. The narrative, perspective of the events and what happens in it is just incredible. The player will feel immersed in the world and the character’s circumstances and feelings almost immediately and just when you think you have seen an extremely important part of the plot, another one will instantly come to add to the dramatic experience. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen such great narrative in any game of this generation. And I’ve played a lot of games with excellent stories recently like Bioshock Infinite, Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 or even Persona 4 Golden. The Last of Us is fantastic in this way and probably the best.

Fortunately, the storyline and narrative is not the only thing worth praising in The Last of Us. The game is just as good graphically to the point that I personally consider it the best-looking game of not only the PlayStation 3, but of the entire repertoire of gaming consoles created in history. And it’s not only the graphics per se, history has taught us that sometimes, a game can have fantastic graphics but bland and boring environments (Gears of War) while some other times, a game with “weak” graphics has stunning landscapes and beautiful places to visit (Xenoblade Chronicles). The Last of Us excels at both and completely crushes the standards of what a console game is supposed to look like. In fact, I’ve personally been affected by the game’s visual presentation because as the JRPG/fighter player that I am, I feel bummed about my favorite genres not even coming close to these graphics.


I’m especially in love with the quality of the textures, use of colors and my God, the lightning. The Last of Us uses a perfect HDR that makes light behave like it does in real life, passing through transparent textures and objects, making shadows depending on what it hits, etc. It’s fantastic. I even found myself several times turning on and off a flashlight Joel carries around just to see how stuff looked with the lighting in the game. It’s that good.

In the sound department, the game is just as good. This time however, what makes the sound stand out is not a soundtrack (which is very good anyway), but the voice acting and the sound effects that make this post-apocalyptic world come to life. The sound effects are so good and work so perfectly that a very common enemy called a Clicker (some kind of blind zombies) can detect where you are depending on the sounds you make. Stumbling upon objects, running too fast, walking on water or touching the wrong thing can emit sounds in the game that these Clickers will hear and use in their favor to attack. If you have a good-enough sound system, you can surely do the same with your foes.

The gameplay makes an amazing mix of several acclaimed genres of today’s gaming industry: Third-person shooter and survival horror with stealth mechanics. In the game, you’ll take control of Joel and try to make a journey through several states in this destroyed and uncontrolled version of the U.S.A. You’ll encounter zombies of many kinds like the Clickers I already mentioned and even other humans who in a struggle to survive, have become quite wild and attack wanderers on sight to steal their possessions. These two groups form the main enemies of the game and unlike many shooters in the industry now days, the ways the game will make you fight them are extremely varied and fun.


Sometimes you’ll have to fight them head on, while other encounters will get you better results if you sneak by. In fact, even though the game is mostly a shooter, resources are very scarce so it’s not a good idea to go trigger happy because chances are you’ll run out of ammo while many enemies are still alive, even if your aim is good. Also, there’s a system where you mix items you find around to make first-aid kits, Molotov grenades, shivs and other useful things like that and the game does NOT pause while Joel is making them, so you have to be very careful when playing The Last of Us.

So as you can probably imagine, the gameplay in the campaign is really immersive, varied and most importantly: very fun. The Last of Us is not only a video game, but a piece of art. Something that other developers, both western and Japanese should take as the new standard for the next generation of consoles. It has the perfect amount of great things to easily consider it one of the top five games of the PlayStation 3 generation.

Fortunately for gamers of today, The Last of Us will pack in a multiplayer mode to add an insane amount of replayability to the game. There are several game modes available for online play, most of them team-based with pretty good net-coding which guarantees a solid performance and almost no lag, even if your internet connection is not very fast (like in my personal case).


But I have to be clear and very honest when I say that the multiplayer mode is not what makes the game shine. In fact, there are tons of competitive shooters out there that, at least in multiplayer, exceed The Last of Us in overall quality, like the Halo franchise, Team Fortress 2 or even Uncharted 2 (made by this very same Naughty Dog). What is worth praising and talking about in this game is the campaign, the story, graphics, voice-acting, narrative, the events, etc. That is what really makes The Last of Us one of the most solid games in the industry.

For final comments, I have to just put it simply and say that if you own a PlayStation 3, you have to buy The Last of Us. A game has to recognize quality whenever he/she sees it and this is a game that will deliver it. It doesn’t matter if you like shooters, fighters, racers or RPGs, this is a game that anyone who has a functioning brain and hands needs to play. I’ve said it already but I’ll say it again: developers should start using The Last of Us as the quality standard for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U and even the Vita and 3DS. To Naughty Dog, thank you for this. Cheers.


Pros:

-          Fantastic visual presentation
-          Excellent lighting, colors, environments and textures.
-          One of the most solid storylines ever created for a game.
-          Fantastic gameplay mixes several gaming genres perfectly.
-          The plot will immerse even the most casual of gamers.
-          Lots of replayability, even without the multiplayer.

Cons:

-          Multiplayer mode isn’t the best to be honest.


Graphics and Visuals……..…10
Music and Sound Effects..…..10
Gameplay…………….……..10
Replay Value……………..….9


Overall Score………………..9.8/10

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