Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Next Step

You can also check out the Video Review here:

Dark. Brutal. Compelling. These are just three of the words I would use to describe The Last of Us. But no matter how you look at Naughty Dog’s latest release, there’s one thing that cannot be disputed. This game is an absolute triumph.

Back in 2007, Naughty Dog revolutionized the world of third-person gaming with Uncharted. The graphics, gameplay and story-telling left audience’s jaws on the floor. Now, two sequels later and a few GOTY awards under their belts, they seem to have struck gold for a second time.

The Last of Us is a brand new story with brand new characters, and once again advances on everything we’ve seen from them so far. The Last of Us pushes the PS3 to it’s very limits, and shows that games can be just as effective at telling a story as any big screen movie.

Meet Joel and Ellie. The two central characters. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them throughout the game’s lengthy play time, but don’t worry. These characters have been brilliantly realized, and even when the game is over, you’ll wish you could spend longer with them.

Alright, I’ll be honest, when she first appeared in the game, I hated Ellie’s guts. Seriously, she didn’t do anything, she always needed help and she was generally irritating. But as the game went on, and she began to develop more as a character, I realized that she was actually the star of the show. Before too long, she was helping me in fights, telling jokes to lighten the mood, and I gradually felt more and more protective over her, saving her life more because I wanted to, than because I needed to. 

Even more interesting is her relationship with Joel. At first, she is nothing but a job. Joel has been tasked with smuggling her across the country because of her mysterious immunity from the virus that has all but wiped out the human race. An organization known as the Fireflies believes that Ellie is the key to creating a vaccine, and saving everyone.

After a while though, as Joel and Ellie grow closer, she becomes far more than just a job. Joel begins to protect Ellie due to his paternal instinct, as opposed to the paycheck he’ll receive upon the completion of his mission.

There are also a large number of supporting characters who help to draw you into this bleak world. Each is voiced superbly, and after a while, the game feels more like an interactive horror movie than a videogame.This is fuelled in no small part by absolutely astounding visuals. The characters move around realistically, the facial animation is incredibly detailed, and the environments put the likes of Uncharted to shame.

Not only that, but there are also plenty to look at. Each area is timed perfectly. You’re never in one place for too long, so you don’t get bored of the sights, but you spend long enough in each environment to take it all in and enjoy how it looks. You’ll travel through a whole bunch of places, from deserted cites, to underground sewers, frosty mountain ranges, and even a suburban village that has been reclaimed by nature in the 20 years since the outbreak.

Unfortunately, as striking as these locations look, none of them are particularly safe. In your mission, you’ll face deadly soldiers, murderous human bandits known as “Hunters”, and of course, the terrifying “Infected”.
The Infected are by far the game’s most unique quality, aside from it’s incredible story-telling. These aren’t your standard lumbering zombies. The infected pose much more of a threat, and are far more intimidating.

First up we have the runners. These are people in the early stages of the infection. They still look human, and are fairly weak, but that doesn’t stop their chilling screeches from scaring the bejeezus out of me.
Next are the Clickers, and compared to the noises that these guys make, the Runners sound like gentle cooing. The Clickers are blind, and so use sound to find their prey. They click – believe it or not – and when you hear them clicking, that’s when you start to panic.

There are more infected, but I’ll let you encounter them on your own. Just take it from me, each one is stronger and scarier than the last.

Don’t worry though, you won’t be facing your enemies unarmed. There’s plenty to scavenge for weapons…depending on which difficulty setting you play on. As the difficulty increases, the supplies go the other way.
You won’t just need supplies for weapons though. Dotted around the game are supplies for crafting health-kits, knives, and even home-made explosives. You’ll also find supplements for upgrading Joel, and parts for upgrading your weapons. To upgrade your weapons, you’ll need to find an upgrade table, and considering the rarity of these, when you find one, you’ll be extremely grateful.

Everything in this game, from the gameplay to the upgrade system, works very well, all happens in real time, so don’t try to heal yourself in the middle of a fight. Find somewhere safe, otherwise things might end badly. All of this adds an unparalleled sense of realism to the game, and ramps up the levels of tension even more.

The online multiplayer works in much the same way. This isn’t Uncharted, so you won’t have two teams shooting up a battlefield. Whilst you do get given guns, you don’t have much ammo, putting emphasis on the stealth mechanics of the game. The objective of the game, rather than killing members of the other team is to gain supplies and resources for your own team, which can be done by killing other players, as well as a number of other means.

This may not be to everyone’s taste, but even if you aren’t a fan of the multiplayer, the single player alone is reason enough to buy this title. With visuals that blow Uncharted clean out of the water, and a story more compelling than I’ve ever seen in a video game, this one is worth every penny that you’ll spend, and I recommend it more than I’ve ever recommended a game before. If you own a PS3, you should stop whatever you’re doing and go buy it. If you own an Xbox, you should seriously consider investing in a PS3, just for this one. Seriously, it’s that good.

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