Okay, so I’m veeeery late to the party on this one, but I finally got around to playing The Last Of Us (the remastered version on PS4), and boy, is it good. It was hyped up immensely to me, not only on the internet but also by my friends, so I was very curious to try it. I’m not usually one for violent games, but I didn’t want to pass up a game that’s been nominated for so many awards.
Be warned: if you want to go into this game completely fresh, there will be some slight spoilers here, but I will try to keep the mid-to-late-game plot points to a minimum.
If you’re not familiar with the story, essentially it follows a man named Joel, who wakes up one morning to find that the world has…well, gone to shit. The outbreak of a new virus is turning people crazy, making them aggressive and attack others. The US military has set up some quarantine zones that are supposedly safe, so Joel brings his teenage daughter, Sarah, to one of these zones. However, just as they reach the entrance, a soldier shoots Sarah in a heartbreaking scene where she dies in his arms.
This opening act sets the tone for the entire game–dark, violent, and fast-paced. It is definitely up there in my favorite opening scenes in video games.
After that, Joel lives out his days as a smuggler with his partner Tess at a quarantine zone, and you play through a mission where you have to reach a black market dealer named Robert to recover a stolen cache of weapons. However, it turns out that Robert traded the cache to the Fireflies, a rebel group that opposes the government running the zones.
You meet up with the leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, who promises to double the amount of weapons you’ll receive if you agree to escort a teenage girl named Ellie to a group of Fireflies hiding outside the quarantine zone. This sets up the rest of the story, which has you playing (mostly) as Joel, taking Ellie across the country, trying to find the remaining Fireflies.
This being my first Naughty Dog game, I was surprised at how much story there was. The writers do an excellent job of worldbuilding, describing a post-apocalyptic America that is so bleak and violent, a world where you have to kill or be killed. The stakes are high, and you can really feel it.
The real strength of the game, however, lies in its characters, particularly Joel and Ellie. The voice acting is phenomenal, some of the best I’ve ever heard in video games, and their dialogue is very believable. This all contributed to me as the player forming strong connections with the characters, and becoming incredibly distraught when either of them were in danger. Seriously, I haven’t felt this concerned for a character’s safety since Game of Thrones.
And unlike in many other games, where the characters are one-dimensional archetypes, these characters actually develop over time. Ellie warms up to you, and you warm up to her, which shows in moments like when you allow her to use a weapon so she can defend herself. There are story pivots that dramatically alter their personalities, and the shifts feel really believable (not to mention heartbreaking). However, the bond between them eventually starts to get in the way of their original mission, which makes for some really interesting twists and turns.
Gameplay-wise, you play from a third-person perspective, with all the controls you would expect from a third-person action game. The real innovation comes in the crafting and resource management. This isn’t like your average shooter, where ammunition is everywhere and it’s just about going in guns blazing. You really need to make every shot count, just as Joel warns Ellie. Because of this, it’s usually a better option to play stealthily, which the game gives you plenty of opportunities to do.
As for crafting, you can fashion shivs that you can use to one-shot enemies, or vital med kits that can save you from the brink of death. There are materials scattered throughout the world that you can use to craft these items, and I found myself constantly scrounging in every nook and cranny for anything useful.
Disclaimer: I played this game on Easy mode, because I found Normal mode far too difficult. I don’t know if this is because this game is simply harder than other games, or if I just haven’t played enough games of this kind, but either way, my experience may differ from yours. If you, like me, find Normal mode too hard, I encourage you to drop the difficulty level. Don’t let pride get in the way of a good story!
All in all, this game was a masterclass in video game storytelling, and I highly recommend it. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype, but it truly did. Now I just need to play Uncharted.