I’ve been a fan of Naughty Dog since the days of Crash Bandicoot in the 90s. Crash Bandicoot 3 and Crash Team Racing provided many hours of fun when I was a young lad. Still today I continue to play Crash Team Racing as it’s definitely the most enjoyable racing game I’ve played. Naughty Dog is also responsible for the amazing Uncharted series. This set of wonderful games blew my mind when I first played them. The second and third games both had great stories and excellent online multiplayer modes. From my experience with these titles I therefore expected something as special from The Last of Us. I wasn’t wrong.
From the word go you become immersed in a brilliant story about a virus that has engulfed the world leaving the majority of the population in a zombie like state. You start as the daughter of the main character, Joel, just after things take a turn for the worse and the virus really begins to spread. From here you are gripped in a dark atmosphere of uncertainty, not knowing what to expect next. This initial scene provides the back-story for Joel that becomes a continuing theme throughout the game. It helps develop his character and also his relationship with the other main character, Ellie.
When you first meet Ellie you quickly learn that she is central to the plot of the game. Your job as Joel is to get her safely to a group of individuals called the Fireflies, who realise Ellie’s immunity to the virus may be a key to its cure. During your journey you come across many obstacles and enemies (some infected some not) determined to get in your way.
As you become more and more involved with the characters you start to become attached to them. You don’t want anything to happen to them and will do what it takes to get them through safely to the next part of their story together. The great thing is you can choose how to do this by either stealthy creeping around your enemies, or by going all guns blazing with an array of weapons you pick up throughout the story. You soon realise the latter is probably not the best idea as there is limited ammo and multiple enemies. Some of the infected characters such as Clickers and Bloaters (names based on the way they act and look by the way) are best avoided until you come across stronger weapons such as the flamethrower.
Below is a video from a later chapter of the game where you are required to escape through a tunnel containing all types of infected characters, including a few of these Bloaters and Clickers. Bloaters are the big fungus-like characters and when confronted with one of these for the first time I didn’t know what to do. It basically resulted in me running around until I found the best weapon take it down.
Stealth is the best option when it comes to Clickers, who can’t see well but have an amazing sense of hearing so moving as slowly and as quietly as possible is recommended. If you get caught by one of these weird headed monsters early in the game you won’t be able to escape.
You can upgrade your skills and weapons throughout the game and you also learn how to defend yourself better. You can also collect helpful and interesting items that are scattered around the abandoned homes and buildings you explore in the game. These items can fill in the gaps in the story or just be nice little collectables such as comic books. Vitamins will allow you to make improvements to Joel’s abilities such as his listening skills, which help immensely when dealing with the situations thrown at you. With this skill you can pinpoint the locations of close by enemies and as you increase it the further you can hear.
It became clear that the non-infected characters you encounter during the game are actually harder to deal with than the infected ones, albeit a little less frightening. They are more organised with better weapons and dodging these characters is a lot harder than sneaking past a brain dead zombie.
You get better at both the stealth and combat sides of the game as you progress. There were some very tense parts of the game that took a while to get through, picking off multiple enemies one by one, sometimes retreating until the situation calmed down and then going again. It’s not a game that needs to be rushed and I was more than happy to take my time over certain areas of the story. There were times when a group of enemies huddling closely together was a great opportunity to release a nail bomb, which is just one of the many throwable objects you can acquire. This can either make life a lot easier by disposing of many of your foes in one go, or a lot harder if it doesn’t go so well. You really do have to think about every situation differently and it is another thing I love about this game.
Sometimes you think you have planned and mentally prepared yourself for the next scenario, only to be horrified to see a ledge break, or the floor beneath you collapse leaving you in a dark watery nightmare full of gruesome beasts waiting for you in each corner of the room. Things get worse when you are forced to make an unnecessary amount of racket to start a noisy device that will hopefully help get you out of your current predicament. When this results in a hoard of infected characters running towards you, it can become somewhat of a terrifying experience causing you to fire blindly into the dark, hoping your panicky shots will connect with something. Then when you think it’s all over and you’ve got rid of them all, you hear the screams of more infected braindead brutes echoing around the cramped room you hope to soon escape. You know then that you’re in for another round of Bloater battle royal.
The contrast within the game is another thing I really like about this game, where one minute you can be out in the sunshine taking a relaxed walk, listening to the birds and the sound of Ellie whistling. The next you are thrown into a dark tunnel, wanting desperately to be out of there as soon as possible, trying to avoid those four or five vicious Clickers as you go. You can never relax in this unforgiving world no matter how much the sun is shining, or how good the view of that lake looks from the hill you climbed. Danger is always just around the corner in each brilliantly thought out scene.
The Last of Us is one of the finest games I have ever played. The story, the characters and the gameplay all add up to create a stunning piece of work. The remastered PS4 version is absolutely worth getting, even if you’ve played it before on the PS3, as the visuals are a vital part of this game and are taken to another level on the next generation console. It was truly a video game experience I won’t forget.