The Last of Us (PS3)

Sony Computer Entertainment


The guys and gals behind the awesome Uncharted series looks to showcase their masterful control of story telling and the PS3's power. Is it as good as billions of GOTY awards claim it to be?
Well this game should be. As Naughty Dog's last major release on the PS3, I expected The Last of Us to be the "dramatic, post-rap battle microphone drop" of the development team's library. In a toilet of mediocre PS3 exclusives and rudimentary FPSs, what better way is there to sign off video game development for a system than with the splashing of a luminous golden nugget of a game, ripe for the plucking by gamers yearning for such riches?

Exactly, there isn't one. And with that lovely image in mind, lets find out if this golden nugget is a floater or a sinker. 


IT STARTS OFF OH SO RIGHT

In this post-apocalyptic third person shooter, you play as Joel, a rough and tough cliché from Texas who looks exactly how you're picturing him.

Sony Computer Entertainment
Gruff Joel is gruff.

Joel eventually finds himself escorting the young Jodie twenty years after after shit gets real and people begin eating each other. Or is her name Ellie?
Ellen? Yeah I'm feeling that her name is Ellen.
Ellie, as it turns out, is a happy-go-lucky, plucky girl who is, uh, plucked straight from a 90s sitcom. What’s awesome is that your gut instinct is to not like her because "plucky" is a gross way for anyone to live. But over time, she becomes one of the best written characters in any video game. I'll come back to these two partners in crime later because I want to talk about the best part of The Last of Us.
 
POETRY IN MOTION
You know, even after playing many good looking games on my PS3, I am still surprised each time I load up The Last of Us. Especially impressive is how close the gameplay graphics are in relation to th stunning cut scenes. Pay close attention to the insanely detailed models and you’ll see things that have no business on a goddamned system with only 512mb of ram.
Sony Computer Entertainment, Xombitgames.com

Sony Computer Entertainment
Throughout the campaign, you’re treated to some (oddly) beautiful set pieces. Unlike Uncharted, which derives beauty from exotic locales, the appeal in the Last of Us’s level design comes from everyday places shown in a state of natural, wild decay. Those words sound like something you’d only find in a teenager’s “dark book”, but when you play and see this game in motion it makes sense.
My favorite area is the university you visit when riding horseback as Joel. There is something especially haunting yet poetic about exploring the empty dorms once filled with the optimistic voices of youth, now turned zombies, destined to die where they once lived as if they would never die.

Sony Computer Entertainment
The Last of Us Wikia
Very poetry.
I still hold that Beyond: Two Souls is the most detailed, graphically impressive video game on the PS3, but The Last of Us is the best looking. Allow me to explain. The Last of Us, according to my retinas, comes within 90% of Beyond's visuals while being more of a playable video game that Beyond. In that way, The Last of Us is the best looking game on the PS3.
Sony Computer Entertainment

THE BEST STORYTELLING IN ANY VIDEO GAME TO DATE? NO DOUBT, YES.

In addition to the gorgeous visual presentation, you'll be served top notch music, voice acting, and writing. The background music is of the tender, melancholy variety, pairing well for with the freshly zombiefied world. Here’s a brief snippet of The Last of Us’s main theme. 

 
Between that dramatic music and movie-grade voice acting, the supremely sublime sounds of The Last of Us doesn't cease to impress. For the most part, the writing itself creates believable characters in believable situations, with the characters saying things that make you think, “Yeah, that’s how a Texan would behave in a situation like that.” These expertly crafted elements, the visuals, music, voice acting, and writing, blend into a powerful, emotional response machine that churns overtime to evoke strong responses from the gamer, compelling him or her to believe that these game characters are real people going through real problems. It’s a machine that works diligently and effectively, and there’s no other video game in recent memory that I can say that about.

Ellie's character, in particular, is phenomenal. Despite the horrible situations and challenges she faces along with Joel, she remains a relatively normal, happy kid. Perhaps it's result of being born into the post-apocalyptic world and carrying around a huge secret, even still, I loved every moment that she talked. She also helps Joel, you, throughout the game by calling out enemy locations and even taking some down for you. Not bad at all for an escorted NPC. Joel, on the other hand, born before the apocalypse and quite stoic, is your typical blank state white male lead. Boo. But that Ellie, though!


To sum up, The Last of Us presents itself as a story driven experience with exceptional presentation. There are zombies and third person combat, but those things aren’t what you will most remember after playing. Speaking of barely decent combat, this game is by no means perfect. For example, the story, for all of it's goodness, does include frustratingly predictable been there, seen that cliches.

GameRevolution GR
Black people in horror fiction? Ohhh brother.

TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE COMBAT
That's three "terribles", one for each Uncharted game with poor shooting controls. If you're craving action adventure thrills, meter your expectations. The story itself is adventurous but the game's levels are linear with multiple paths to take to reach your predestination. That’s a problem because everything else about the game will lead you to believe that you can explore these awesome environments, their walls calling out “Explore my insides! Experience me!”

Sony Computer Entertainment
You can look, but you can't touch anything.

Beckoning the player to explore when of course they cannot do that all is totally bogus. At least it’s forgivable, as you learn how small the boundaries are early on and the limited areas that you can explore are still pretty neat. 
Less forgivable are the controls. I know, alert the news, I have problem with controls in a video game. Before you dismiss this as only moaning, hear my question: After three Uncharted games, how is it that Naughty Dog has yet to figure out nonshit shooting mechanics? I recognize that I’m not a patient gamer, and I also recognize that Naughty Dog’s aim in this game was for above average realism. Even then, The Last of Us is still a video game, therefore things like its poor shooting mechanics are an embarrassing blight on an otherwise awesome experience. It’s like going out to eat and the waiter spreads poop on your fries, but insists that it’s no big deal because the steak is cooked to perfection. Never mind the perfect steak, your fries are covered in shit!


Then again, the game does allow you to upgrade shit aiming (and other “skills”) with an in game skill tree, but that makes no sense. The forced RPG elements subtract from the raw, believable experience that The Last of Us should be. You’re taken away to a fantastic world filled with people that you care about, and in the middle of it all you have to stop to spend imaginary points to make your player’s aiming slightly less shitty? It’s like the waiter from earlier farting during your steak dinner, expecting the ripe essence of ass-parmesan to make those shit-fries taste better. It does not. The fact that your character, Joel, for all of his Texan manliness, moves with the urgency of a land tortoise in labor.
That's The Last of Us’s RPG elements in a fartshell. Making the gamer upgrade things like ammo capacity and accuracy in the middle of a zombie apocalypse where the characters go long hours without even having food in this powerfully emotional, story driven game is distracting nonsense. Beyond that, a game’s biggest challenge should never be poor control calibration. Just give us non-shit aiming at least, Naughty Dog. Or a flamethrower, I'd also take a flamethrower.
  

The worst thing about Last of Us is that it's too mediocre of a video game and too good of a movie. I mostly found myself in excitement for the cut scenes and the lovely environments, than for blasting zombies in the face. It’s definitely enjoyable to play despite the aforementioned, but the combat isn't remarkable. The story is too gripping, the actors’ performances are too believable, and the visuals are too stunning for their own good. This is something I wouldn’t expect from a tried and true development team such as Naughty Dog, but you know what? The rest of the game is so damned good that most qualms are quickly quelled when awesome stuff happens as in the following, spoiling video.


So what that you can't shoot worth shit, check out those giraffes, eh?!


COMBAT ASIDE, STILL INCREDIBLE
Fans of anything zombie related will definitely love The Last of Us’s original, fungus based zombie designs. For the less dorky of us out there, the overwhelmingly fantastic presentation will blow your away, more than making up for those shitty French fries and other negatives noted earlier. As I said before, what you will remember most about The Last of Us is what it does best: telling an engaging story through stellar presentation second to none. In a time where many believe that the zombie craze needs to rot away, The Last of Us is a kiss of life exactly when the genre needed it. 
 
FIND OUT MORE
You can find this game for as low as $16 on Amazon.com at the time of this review’s writing. There's a prettier remastered PS4 version you can buy which is just plain silly considering this game already looks incredible on the PS3, but don't let me tell you how to spend your own money. I've once spend 120 dollars on a novelty TV remote shaped like a sonic screwdriver. That is not a joke; it's a sad fact.


Games969.com


DID YOU KNOW...
-in game locations approximately correlate to their real life counterparts in the United States?
-there’s a supposedly very good online multiplayer mode that I never got to play because the schmucks at Naughty Dog require an online to pass goddammit?
-I am poor.

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