The Last of Us is a strange game, one where the world and tone sets up a wonderful story and characters that are very convincing that you can’t help but feel connected to them by the end, but it suffers from some odd choices.
The story of The Last of Us takes place in the future where the world has been overrun by a plague of sorts. You play as Joel, a man who has survived for 20 years since the emergence of the plague and are now living in a quarantine zone, whilst trying to eek a living out as a smuggler of certain items. It is here that Joel is introduced to Ellie, through a series of events, which ends up with them on a road trip of sorts across the United States.
While the first few hours of the game feel like they are dragging, they are paced in a way that you are sucked into the world, and it makes you feel like there is very little hope. Over the course of the game I found my attachment to Joel growing stronger, not because of who he is, but over what he does to protect Ellie.
The game itself is a pretty standard over the shoulder game, with some survival horror moments, and some stealth segments. It’s in these moments that the game struggles to find what it wants to be. Whether you are attempting to avoid fellow humans, or the infected or worse, you are strongly advised to approach each encounter with stealth in mind. However the game fails to take into account the fact that once you’re spotted your stealth options are gone.
It then turns from stealth to shooter, just like the Uncharted games, which is not an issue, the shooting mechanics are very solid and I never had issues shooting the enemies, however the lack of ammunition and other vital supplies mean that taking the shooting route is something that is best avoided at all costs, no matter the scenario.
It is in this space that the game takes an odd approach, it allows for stealth, promotes stealth, but fails to allow full stealth. The other issue that is found in the game, is one of debate across the internet, and that is how Ellie handles in those stealth segments. Now obviously there are times where you do not want enemies seeing her, and for the most part, she does remain out of sight, however she will always try to keep up with you, causing her to run out into plain sight and yet no enemies notice her.
The game also takes a unique approach to the world design in that, as man has been forced into small camps, nature has reclaimed the cities, which is nice to see that in this post-apocalyptic world. However I did notice some very odd issues with the graphics, but they are not enough to detract from the fantastic design that Naughty Dog have done.
The sounds of the game also needs a special mention, in that while there is a musical score, it does not appear very often, even in the mix of a lot of combat, while its there, you very rarely notice it and that’s a great way for the game to work. Too many games throw a massive score in your face when the enemies are around, but thankfully ND have taken the other approach where less is more. When you do hear some of the fantastic music in cutscenes you will be blown away.
The sound design for the enemies, the non-human ones is also superbly designed. The infected people sound terrific, with the clickers and others sound just as creepy as some Hollywood classics do. The human enemies also have a great sound setup in that they will taunt if you run from the fight, you will hear fear in their voice if you take out others in their group without being seen. The only complaint with the sound, is that it was mixed for a 5.1 setup, and even if you select stereo in the options, you will get muffled voices until you’re facing the person your listen. In the 5.1 setup you hear it clear as day.
The Last of Us, as I have said has some questionable design moments, but as a whole the game is enjoyable, the story is one that has been done many times, but the characters of Joel and Ellie make you want to invest in it more than most Hollywood movies.