The following review was originally written for MMGN.com, in July, 2013. It has been revised for publication on DashGamer.com.
Naughty Dog have been the staple for the PlayStation 3 since 2007 with the initial release of the original Uncharted title, Drake’s Fortune. Since then, the thought of Naughty Dog doing anything else was nothing but nonsense. In any gamers mind, it would have been silly for the series to be simply abandoned with such a well thought out franchise, that combines the world’s of Indiana Jones, and Tomb Raider to make such a success come to life, on the PlayStation 3.
We hit 2011 and we have what is currently the last chapter in the Uncharted series, Drake’s Deception. Naughty Dog stated that after the final chapter of the series they wanted to move away from the Drake character for a while, but were quick to relieve fans by telling them that it was not going to be the last time we’ll see Drake.
We then hit the Spike TV: Video Game Awards 2011, and low-and-behold, Naughty Dog smack us right in the face with their first, full-fledged, Mature rated title. The first glimpse we saw of this game was obviously insane but the initial idea obviously stems from the popularity of the highly acclaimed television series, “The Walking Dead”. It’s not a bad series at all, I’m just not a fan of Zombie TV Series, Films, Games or anything of the nature. So when I heard this game was going to overtake Naughty Dog’s development of the next Uncharted game, I’ll admit I was not excited at all. Even leading up to the last minute before it’s release I could have cared less.
Wow, what a week can do to change that. With websites reviewing the game and giving it perfect ratings of 10/10’s, 100%’s, 5/5 stars, it was hard to resist temptation and wanting to pick it up. So, with that, I present to you the DashGamer.com review of The Last of Us from 2013, and the updated revision for The Last of Us: Remastered.
With first impressions you would think that getting used to the controls of the game would be a cinch seeing as it would be the same as Uncharted. You quickly learn that’s not the case at all. There are similar button functions like aiming, shooting, character direction and camera control that are the identical but the rest, is all new.
The new mechanics introduced to the game present a diverse, and new core presence that divides itself from Naughty Dog’s own counterpart but also reflects on the motto “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Depending on the difficulty you choose auto-aim does help quite a bit due to the new aiming mechanic Naughty Dog has instilled. It’s not as simple to point and shoot as you may think. The developers obviously wanted you to feel the presence like you were actually there breathing and panting to aim your gun in hopes of keeping it still. What do I mean by this? Basically Joel’s breathing patterns will affect your aiming in the game. If you sprint with Joel and then try to immediately aim you will hear Joel trying to catch his breathe and your aiming will not be as accurate. But even in those nervous moments of the infected being on your tail, Joel’s steadiness might be a little off. But this just adds to the effect and the illusion that you are actually there, fighting for your survival. Your inventory allows you to store quite a bit of equipment to take along on your journey.
You will be able to store health which in Uncharted series, you were able to regain by simply hiding and waiting. That’s not the case in The Last of Us. You will also be able to store weapons, mainly consisting of guns, pipes and 2×4’s. A Molotov Cocktail, which will definitely come in handy when a hoard of clickers are around. For those who are wondering, a Molotov Cocktail is an alcohol-soaked wick tied to the neck of a bottle of hard liquor with a high alcohol content. Once thrown it will explode into a ball of flames. Don’t try this at home, please.
The one thing that I find refreshing, is being able to construct your own cocktails, health kits, shiv’s and other items you may use once you find the right supplies to make them. You can also collect gears in the game to upgrade each gun for reload times, recoil and of course shooting.
Though the world is immersive and quite stunning, the gameplay can seem quite repetitive at times. Hoards of infected and then hoards of common enemies will come one after the other, keeping it quite predictable as you further yourself into the game. The game’s AI can be quite buggy at times with characters walking right through other characters, floating objects spotted and the occasional area glitch, where moving the camera slightly will expose the inner layers of pre-rendering. That does not take away anything from the experience of the game though. It’s still outstanding. You actually do feel like you are trapped in this infected world, and it’s guaranteed to bring out alot of emotions during the game. And we’ve only covered gameplay thus far.
Of course, it says a whole lot here that the game is developed by the one and only Naughty Dog. When you mesh Naughty Dog and PS3 together, you are bound to get something stunning, compelling, beautiful and immersive as The Last of Us. And now with the title remastered for the complexity and capabilities that the PS4 present the developer, it only stretches the boundaries even further. Not only does the title now run at 1080p & 60fps, the detail and design of the game is still remarkable and truly shows another jump or upgrade in quality that was shown from the original version of the title, to the Remastered version.
Something obviously taken from Sucker Punch’s inFamous: Second Son, is the newly introduced Photo Mode, which allows players to now share their snaps and moments from the title, via social networks through the Playstation 4’s SHARE option. Photo Mode mirror’s it’s options from Second Son, and does really enhance and display the beauty of this title.
The characters in the game are as realistic as they get in any game on any platform you see. The cities that are designed look horrifically beautiful, with plants and tree’s growing out of windows of building’s. They really had to think of how the world would look abandoned, and it just looks horrifying, but I mean that in the best way possible. You will find yourself taking moments to stop and pan the area to take a look at the great detail these designers went to in order to make the game look as realistic as they possibly could.
The infected design is also something that fits perfectly out of a horror movie. With overgrown fungus growing and infecting human brains, forcing itself out of a people’s skulls in some form of a cauliflower effect, to the newly infected looking like the Zombies they have unfortunately become, with deterioration flesh and infection inflammation, it just looks phenomenal. But scary of course. Joel and Ellie’s design are fantastic and great fit too. Joel’s rugged look fits his backstory that just compliments his growing love for Ellie (In a father-daughter way of course) that you will progressively see in the game.
Ellie’s look reminded me so much of Ellen Page, even after the redesign that Sony went to after people were clambering that the original design looked just like Ellen Page, which forced the company to change to avoid confusion with then-upcoming title, Quantum Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls, and the impending and evidential backlash that occurred with Ellen Page, stating that she was not “too happy” that Naughty Dog “stole her likeness”. But her tomboy look fits her attitude quite well. You really do get a sense of their emotions just pouring out on screen and this is just a bunch of polygons people, they really do get to you.
If there has ever been a soundtrack to catch the moment of any game it would have to be this one. The soundtrack that is presented in the game just leaves you wondering and pondering. It catches the pure vibe of the life that these poor souls are now leading. It almost tells the whole story itself. The careless, heartless lives they now lead to do anything to survive, just pours out in each composition that is presented in game. Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed most of The Last of Us soundtrack, is known for his subtle Argentinian compositions that fit the game’s environment perfectly.
The soundtrack really just sets the mood from the get go. As soon as you boot up that game from the main menu, you know you’re in for an emotional roller coaster, and the soundtrack just amplifies that by 200%. Some sound effects you hear will be obvious rehashes, or reused clips from Uncharted, like grabbing or switching up your hand gun for an example. But most of the environmental noises will definitely capture your attention and is really done well. With creaks and clicks that will make you jump quite a few times and the obvious scare tactic the game will impose… I mean, it’s a horror survival game, it’s expected… It really just helps you capture that moment and really makes you feel like you’re there. Funny thing is, sound effects are a vital point of the gameplay. Bumping into objects could trigger sounds and noises that would lead the attention of the blind clickers your way, so you have to be as quiet as possible. It’s as simple as grazing a plank of wood, leaning on a wall, suddenly tipping over that will have the uncontrollable infected clawing their way to bite a nice chunk out of you. It’s just too good.
To conclude, The Last of Us was the best swan song Sony could have asked for their last generation console, and to bring it over to the Playstation 4, with it’s enhancements just makes it a must own for both units. The game really brings that sense of, “This is really it”. It speaks volumes to those who have really wanted to see the Naughty Dog push Sony’s hardware to it’s limits and beyond. The Uncharted series was always the staple for Naughty Dog in that exact role. However, The Last of Us has certainly defended it’s right to be the one the best Playstation title’s of all time. With beautiful graphics, a wonderfully written story, that’s almost too good to be a video game, and music that just sets the tone for an almost death-row lead life, you really can appreciate why this title scored over 20 Game of the Year awards.