When you’re feeling like saying everything that’s going through your mind in just a few words, you have to take a big breath and stop. It’s impossible to write a proper introduction for The Last Of Us. I don’t know if it’s the last great game of this PlayStation generation, hopefully not, but it’s so overwhelming that’s almost impossible to express every emotion you’ve felt while playing it. We can start with what it is. The Last of Us is a story-driven survival game. Some would add horror, but I think it’s more like a good apocalyptic thriller with less horror. It’s not Dead Space by any means, but more like the sequence towards the end of the first Uncharted, when you had to fight that mutated crew.
It all starts with Joel on the night of the outbreak. A fungi infection is mutating people and transforming them into mindless “horrors”. OK, I admit some of them are pretty disturbing, especially when there’s only darkness around you and all you can hear is their clicky sound. There are more stages of this mutation, so you will meet runners (stage 1), stalkers (stage 2), clickers (stage 3) and something much bigger and deadly (stage 4), but the deadliest of them all are still the desperate and hungry healthy people who now behave like animals.
After a brief tragic introduction, you are taken 20 years after the outbreak. The infected are everywhere and the healthy ones who are still out there have now gathered inside quarantine zones. Joel is in Boston. He and his partner, Tess, have some unfinished business and you’ll have to take care of it. In the process, Joel meets Ellie and the main plot is set in motion. I won’t tell you anything about the story and its characters, but I will tell you that The Last Of Us is a drama centered on loss, death, family and hope. It’s about you doing everything you possibly can for the sake of your family or your loved ones. Would you kill for them if you had to? Would you sacrifice yourself to save them? You will have to be emotionally prepared to answer these questions.
In terms of gameplay, The Last of Us let’s you approach your missions either way you want. You can fight from the shadows without making any sounds, alert or distract your enemies or avoid them altogether. There are many scripted encounters that cannot be avoided and you will have to fight, so it is not possible to finish the game without killing a fair amount of monsters. To do that you will have plenty of weapons at your disposal. You will find them as you play, along with parts that allow you to upgrade them and tools to raise your upgrading level. There are workbenches scattered around, so each time you see one be sure to upgrade. I found out that having two holsters for each type of weapon (short and long) is quite useful, so should do that too. From all those upgrades, clip capacity and reloading time are most useful when you are in a tight situation. The tools you find increase your upgrading level, so if you want to get access to further upgrades for your weapons, try to find them and get to the max (level 5).
Besides weapons, you can find pills and certain components. Pills increase abilities like faster healing and faster item crafting, but they can also increase your life bar or reduce weapon sway. This is perfect for sniping, especially since you’ll get El Diablo (a pistol with a long barrel and a scope) and a rifle with a scope attached. The components are required to make items like health kits, shivs, molotov cocktails, nail bombs and smoke bombs. Always have shivs in your inventory, as clickers cannot be strangulated and have to be killed with a shiv (which at first is consumed after a kill). Certain doors are also unlocked only by using these things and believe me, you want to unlock them.
The are also locked safes around, but the combination is usually located nearby if you take your time and look for it. Do that, as they usually contain important stuff like lots of parts for upgrading your weapons or training manuals. These manuals upgrade your items. For example, upgraded shivs are consumed after two or even three kills instead of one (unlocking a door always consumes one shiv), molotov cocktails have a greater range or health kits are more effective as the replenish more of your life bar. There are other collectibles to be found like Fireflies pendants, comic books for Ellie or notes that you’d better read, as they warn you or tell the story of your location and its inhabitants.
The way you play The Last Of Us is up to you. I found myself using almost everything at my disposal and I enjoyed a balanced approach. Sometimes you can stealth kill a runner, sometimes you distract them in one place and light them up with a molotov cocktail or you can avoid a nasty clicker and go past it. I hated the noise though, so I was usually set on killing those damn things. The other big, stage 4 monsters are quite rare and you shouldn’t worry about them too much. Worry about a pack of clickers if you’ve alerted them. Yes, you will die many times if you’re not careful, but you also have two other options at your disposal. One of them is the Listen Mode. Keeping R2 pressed allows you to hear your surroundings and find your enemies. There are no limitations other than range, but you can upgrade it with pills (and you should, unlike crafting or healing speed which are not that useful). The other option always at your disposal is… running. You can run from your enemies if you feel like you’re fighting an already lost battle and there’s no shame to it. It’s just survival.
The multiplayer of The Last Of Us is named Factions. You must choose either the Hunters or the Fireflies. Basically, the multiplayer opens up as your own personal story of survival. You and your clan must survive 12 weeks and each multiplayer match is one more day out there. There are two modes available, Survivors, which is a round based team deathmatch with no respawns available and Supply Raid, a team deathmatch where you are able to respawn several times. The goal is to gather supplies and grow your clan. As you play, you get more supplies and more unlocks. There are weapons, perks and one-time boosters to be unlocked and some of them unlock automatically, while others can be unlocked using supplies. You still have to be careful, as your clan needs a certain number of supplies each day and as your clan grows, you’ll need more supplies to keep them healthy.
There are four classes available, but you have access to custom loadout slots where you can choose whatever weapons and perks you like. There are a limited number of loadout points though, but you’ll get more as you play. The four classes are assault, sniper, support and stealth. Each of them plays differently across all the available maps, which were not as big as I really expected. The catch is to find caches of supplies and build items in your inventory or else you will be quickly out-paced. The recipes are different from the singleplayer mode, so you will need more parts to make a molotov cocktail or a nail bomb. On top of that Listen Mode is limited and you have to let it recharge before you can use it again.
In Supply Raid, if one of your mates is shot, you’ll get a chance to revive him, unless he is executed first. You can buy armor (and there is even a one-time booster which lets you pay less for it), but when you are cornered by two or three enemies, it won’t do you any good. The Last Of Us multiplayer requires teams to adopt a tactical approach, so when this is not possible and everyone goes his own way, you’ll probably die a lot and eventually lose. Survivors spans across a maximum of seven rounds, until one team wins four of them. Unfortunately, the differences between these two modes are minimal, so it boils down to being able to respawn or not. If you can wait a bit, then play Survivors. If you can’t, try Supply Raid. Everything else is identical and there are no other modes or options available. I expected something along a Horde mode (co-op survival) where you could face waves of infected, but unfortunately there’s no such thing. There will be two more DLCs with multiplayer content, so one can only hope.
The Last Of Us is also a visual marvel. Every scene is detailed and alive. Character animations are natural, so I figure there were many motion capture sessions for this one. The game badly needs some anti-aliasing, but I think it was impossible to do that with the amount of detail they’ve added. The retail version also runs much smoother than the demo, which was a pleasant surprise. On top of that, the sounds add more to the overall great atmosphere and the voice acting is top-notch. There’s nothing more to ask from this game, other than minor tweaks. Sometimes, I was able to pick up some components through a wall or the textures vanished when I was down and about to die. My console (160GB slim version) also restarted on two occasions, as I was quitting the game (which was already patched), something that never happened with other titles lately.
I don’t usually rate games, so you shouldn’t expect me to give you a number. The Last of Us is a great game, possibly one of the greatest games you will play on the PlayStation 3. If you’re into story-driven games, this is heaven, so if you haven’t got it already, do order it as soon as possible. If you want some heavy multiplayer with lots of action and players, this one is not for you. We can only hope its multiplayer will grow and we already know there is at least one story DLC planned, so I think there’s more to play and discover with The Last Of Us. There’s even a new game plus option that lets you play again on the same difficulty setting, while keeping your stats, upgrades and collectibles, so I think the game is really worth its price and you’ll definitely be happy with your purchase. I swear! I really do!