One Zombie game is just like any other. You use what you’ve got, wherever you are, not to get eaten. The Last of Us, however, is, for those of you who are unaccustomed, more about thinking your way out of the mess you’re in than being able to shoot your way out of the mess you’re in.
Resources are limited in Naughty Dog‘s new post-apocalyptic action adventure. Turns out, just like 28 Days Later, that these awful creatures are infected (not zombie) cannibals. Survival is the name of the game after civilization has been destroyed by a non-specified outbreak of an unnamed Resident Evil-type mad-scientist-run-amuck-type disease. And, of course, there are no specifics.
Details are left deliberately vague because any attempt at explaining what’s basically ridiculous would give an erection to any of the handful of science-nerd friends you own who love to do stuff like attack the pseudo-science in movies like Gravity, and, of course, this game.
At any rate, The Last of Us makes a conscious effort to focus the story on the surviving human characters and how they go about coping when chaos strips away all that’s familiar. The world itself is very visually arresting, the art is very high quality as is the voiceover talent.
Beginning with a short prologue to introduce the point-of-view hero/protagonist Joel as he reacts to the initial outbreak, the game then hurtles forward 20 years to the shattered ruin that is America.
Divided into existence in militarized quarantine zones, the remnants of the population suffer on the cusp of starvation, refugees in their own country.
Joel is no longer a good-looking young boy. He is now a crusty, mean-spirited, hardened cynic forced by circumstance to escort Ellie, a ‘Special’ young lady, across the country, and the rest of the game chronicles their journey. I refuse to play Spoiler, as the story veers away from the familiar and clichéd at this point. The growing relationship between the two main characters—tough cynic and virginal innocent—may not be new but the dialogue is often wicked fun as they veer from here to there, from adventure to adventure. Accompanied by a number of fully realized supporting characters and villains, you’ll find it all quite original and exciting.
A warning, though. If you’re concerned with the reaction of your own or someone else’s kids, things get very, extremely violent in a very specific, clear manner. Although the violence is not voyeuristic or rendered as a relentless continuum, some very, very nasty stuff happens! Such behavior is, nevertheless, story-wise, acceptable as we learn just what Joel and Ellie are prepared to do for the sake of survival. Best bet if you worry about your kids is for you to be the judge. Be pro-active. The folks who make the ratings are about lining their pockets, not plotting a moral course for your children to be erudite philosophers. Take care of business yourself!
As in Naughty Dog’s previous Uncharted series, production values are at a premium. Play environments are varied and often exquisitely rendered eye-candy, with trees and plants and gross stuff you can almost smell in the countryside along with exotic bougainvillea in forests. After all, zombies and humans can’t simply exist in sewers alongside the rats. Additionally, characters look detailed and animated in exquisite complex detail.
Above all, The Last of Us flows well on PS3 as each cut-scene flows seamlessly into the next with no mechanical breaks or load times between areas. Once you’re used to it, there’ll be moments where upcoming plot points seem artificially choreographed. Still, if you’re already familiar with Uncharted, much of the fighting style(s) will be familiar. This game is convincingly more street, however, and the fist-fighting and gun-fighting sections are raw fun. Still, what really gives this game its edge is fighting zombies. They’re tremendous!
Sure, Naughty Dog are late arrivals in the zombie games sweepstakes, but this baby is up there with The Road, The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, Arkham Asylum and Fallout. The Last of Us is a really good game and well worth the US$39.95!