The Last of Us, unforgettable...
I'm sitting on the sofa staring at the screen, for the third night in a row. I'm really struggling to progress in this apocalyptic future. "This time!" I say to myself, as a stray bullet firmly plants itself into my head. I reckon The Last of Us is basically practising for when the dead will one day inherit the Earth, maybe in my lifetime? People like me will be prepared and ready, armed with 'shiv's', and sections of drain pipe! "Bollocks!", I shout! At 3:49am, my girlfriend and I have been playing for nearly six hours straight, and I need to be up for work in a few hours. I don't recall sleeping, but three hours later I was driving to work, listening to Talk Sport, trying to stay awake! Damn you The Last of Us.
You may, or may not already know, The Last of Us is a type of role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic future, after the human race has been ravaged by an unknown disease, turning its victims into zombie-like creatures - so not exactly your typical undead sort of zombie, but they want to eat your flesh regardless. Playing predominantly as a man named Joel, your ultimate mission is to transport Ellie, a teenage girl who is immune to the disease, to a laboratory, where scientists can use her to find a cure. Now, I've always enjoyed killing zombies in games, and for almost a decade, it's been my favourite type of game. I have probably spent more time killing zombies than I have, doing most other things. I feel like a slaughterman who sees the livestock as just another shipment to be dispatched. So it is safe to say, after learning of the premise of the game, I entered it with high hopes...
And I wasn't disappointed. The Last of Us takes gaming to a new level. The scenery and characters are deeper than anything I've seen before. The attention to detail is just immense, and the incredibly designed world around you will set your imagination soaring. You only need to spend a few hours playing to realise that there is a lot more to this story than first thought. Joel, our main protagonist, who we learn has had to overcome a great loss, has grown into an emotionally hard man, who is physically strong and will kill, without question, to protect himself and his comrades. He's likeable and will do whatever's necessary to keep Ellie safe, but there's a dark side to him that Naughty Dog is yet to reveal. Ellie is the smallest of the characters, but don't let appearances deceive you, although vulnerable, she has attitude and is capable of holding her own; she is probably the most powerful character by far.
The first ten minutes are very tense, with plenty of 'edge of the seat' moments. One of the first scenes reminds me of 'War of the Worlds' the part near the beginning where Tom Cruise is trying to escape the aliens that seem to be coming from all angles. Disaster strikes early on in the game and it is pretty exciting and intense, however, this ends abruptly, and for a period of time, before we are introduced to Ellie, the gameplay takes a massive nose dive. Joel and a female accomplice seem to be aimlessly rushing from place to place, and it just seems as though the creators have tried to stretch things out, or perhaps even create an illusion of 'the calm before storm'. Unfortunately, it just feels like it's dragging on, and dare I say, boring. Eventually, the game gets back on track and stays the course until completion.
Is the Last of Us worth your time? Yes, all of it. Taking its cues from Uncharted, you'll glide through most of it by the skin of your teeth, platforming, brawling and shooting your way through the hoards of enemies. There's loads of great ideas, some old, some new, but what is most notable is its cinematic qualities, in fact, it is the most cinematic game I've ever experienced, especially during a scene where Ellie strokes a Giraffe, that is peacefully feeding on a tree. In a fleeting moment, this scene alone captures the beauty, but also exposes the fragility of life. In another scene, Joel needs to help push a car down a stereotypical American street, whilst being attacked intermittently from different sides, terrific, terrifying stuff, that will have your heart in your mouth as you try to escape. One of the most profound aspects of the game is the relationship between Joel and Ellie, which is obviously not romantic in nature but evolves over the course of the game into something quite touching and something I have not really experienced in a game before.
I'm not even sure the Last of Us is a game, certainly not in the traditional sense - maybe the movie of the future. I suppose lots of people will argue why it is a game, but I can't be bothered going into such details, you need to experience it to understand. The ending was a sad moment, but I knew it was coming and had already started wondering what I'd play once it was over. Who knew that brutal killing could be coupled with such emotion? I guess there're loads of reasons why I think the Last of Us is a great game, the biggest because I'm already missing it. Uncharted was a hard act to follow but now feels a lesser beast. This is 'Naughty Dogs' best dog ever!