The Last of Us (PS3) Logo(http://www.thelastofus.com)  Rated M for Mature by ESRB.  In The Last of Us, a pandemic hits the world, and completely alters civilization as we know it. Humans infected by the disease have mutated and altered bodies, and simply exist to contaminate other humans, and eat them. It’s similar to a zombie outbreak, but more of a mutation that totally alters the hosts body and mind. 20 years after the outbreak, the government has failed to contain the threat, and the world lies in ruins. Nature has reclaimed the concrete jungles that were once cities, and everything is in a state of decay. Civilians are under strict military rule in safe zones protected by checkpoints, however many live outside the gates, scavenging and killing for food to survive on a day to day basis. It’s a cruel dark world, and while the Last of Us does show some glimmers of light and humor here and there, this story is not a happy one, but it is one of the most exceptional stories in gaming. The game’s story follows Joel, a survivor of the initial outbreak, who is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14 year old girl whom was born into the pandemic, out of the military zone’s control. Joel soon learns though that this mission isn’t going to be quite as simple and straight-forward as he had hoped, since nothing seems to go quite as planned in this brutal world with glimmering hope.

The Last of Us (PS3) Box ArtThe Last of Us (PS3) Logo(http://www.thelastofus.com)  Rated M for Mature by ESRB.  In The Last of Us, a pandemic hits the world, and completely alters civilization as we know it. Humans infected by the disease have mutated and altered bodies, and simply exist to contaminate other humans, and eat them. It’s similar to a zombie outbreak, but more of a mutation that totally alters the hosts body and mind. 20 years after the outbreak, the government has failed to contain the threat, and the world lies in ruins. Nature has reclaimed the concrete jungles that were once cities, and everything is in a state of decay. Civilians are under strict military rule in safe zones protected by checkpoints, however many live outside the gates, scavenging and killing for food to survive on a day to day basis. It’s a cruel dark world, and while the Last of Us does show some glimmers of light and humor here and there, this story is not a happy one, but it is one of the most exceptional stories in gaming. The game’s story follows Joel, a survivor of the initial outbreak, who is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14 year old girl whom was born into the pandemic, out of the military zone’s control. Joel soon learns though that this mission isn’t going to be quite as simple and straight-forward as he had hoped, since nothing seems to go quite as planned in this brutal world with glimmering hope. 



Presentation:
The Last of Us has done an excellent job of showing off gameplay trailers, and promoting itself, without giving off many details of the story. This is an exceptionally important factor here because the story, interactions, and emotions in The Last of Us are best experienced firsthand. Even something as simple as moving from one room to the next is a sight to see in this game. Every building is in dilapidated state, and the attention to detail is very well done. Vines will be creeping through windows; grass is growing through the cracks in the sidewalks, and you’ll also see traces of past camps from people who were once living where you are crossing through. Every area in The Last of Us is simply beautiful, and provides ever-changing scenery too, as Joel and Ellie will move through sewers, nature, small towns, and large downtown areas. The realistic detailing of the environments helps to add to the grim, but cheerful at times environment in The Last of Us. The charm in The Last of Us shines through in Ellie and Joel’s relationship. You’ll see it blossom from a “strictly business” relationship, to something much deeper and genuine. Since Ellie was born into this cruel and desolate world, you’ll hear her comment on things, such as how she’s never seen nature before, or how she’s “read” about items in town from books she’s scavenged. It’s these little interactions, and unique character styles that make The Last of Us such an excellent game. The Last of Us is an emotional game, there’s no doubt about that. And the emphasis on human bond and relationship that Joel and Ellie share in their cruel world is powerful and not to be ignored by the gaming community, because games with this much depth comes only a couple of times per generation.

 The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots

Graphics:
Naughty Dog’s previous series, Uncharted, had some simply stunning locations and graphics in the game. You’ll see that trend continue here in The Last of Us, but with a much more realistic tone and approach. While Uncharted felt and looked like an Indiana Jones “big Hollywood” game, The Last of Us feels more like a dark, gritty, and realistic gaming experience. The action sequences, the sets, the environments, the characters, the situations, all seem so completely believable and realistic. The graphics on PS3 look crisp and clean, even only at 720P, which is what the game maxes out at. I was impressed at the game’s ability to render such large buildings in sprawling cities, and still deliver a solid FPS rate, while not deteriorating visible objects around me. You’ll notice a different color palette for each area you’re in, such as more grey colors used in big cities, luscious greens used in the plants growing over the cities, and faded reds and browns representing the aged forgotten buildings. The Last of Us is such a fine looking game, and exceeded all my expectations of what I thought it was going to deliver visually. I was very impressed by how Joel interacts with the environment as you move him around it. He’ll put his hand on a ledge when close to it, push off of a wall as he runs past it, or even move is arm to go around Ellie’s body when they’re hiding behind cover together. Naughty Dog manages pay attention to many little details, which all help contribute to the immersive experience in The Last of Us. 

The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots

Sounds:
The Last of Us features a very well orchestrated score throughout the game, which will range from soft and melodic sounds, to faster paced music to keep up with the momentum of the game. There will also be moments in the game when old songs are played through a radio or something similarly in the background. These powerful sound effects set an eerie tone in making you stop and look at the source of the sound as you scan the remnants of civilization beautifully crafted in the environment. As for the voice acting, expect nothing but some of the finest voice acting I’ve heard in gaming. It’s not just Joel and Ellie’s voice actors that perform with emotion, the voice actors performing the roles of supporting characters do a great job as well. These voice actors successfully portray each character’s attitudes and emotions as if they were real life Hollywood actors on screen. Even if you don’t know each and every back story, you’ll understand these characters so well from their personality and emotions portrayed through the game’s designers and voice actors. It’s moments like these that make video games seem like they transcend genres, and turn into some sort of interactive movie through the quality experience they present.

Gameplay:
The main appeal of The Last of Us is the unforgettable single player story campaign. The game plays like a third person cover shooter/stealth game. Since ammo and weapons aren’t in plentiful amounts, you’ll have to be very resourceful on how you take down enemies, or avoid them all together. Joel can grab bottle or bricks nearby to throw to distract enemies, or throw at enemies to stun them while he gains the upper hand. When battling other humans, the AI will change their tactics based on what weapons Joel is using, or what he is doing. For example, when I switched to a melee weapon, the enemies kept their distance so they could continue shooting at me since I had run out of ammo. Although resources are somewhat limited, there is no limitation to the number of methods the player can use to tackle combat scenarios. You’ll gain access to a variety of weapons and tools Joel can craft or upgrade to improve his combat capabilities or the player can spend upgrade points to increase their stealth and defense capabilities. Joel can acquire parts to make weapon and gear upgrades in the form of nuts and bolts scattered throughout the world that you’ll need to find. Joel can upgrade his abilities by collecting medicine also scattered throughout the game’s levels. Crafting is an important aspect of gameplay as well, since Joel can create shivs, medical packs, and other weapons or healing items from parts scattered throughout the abandoned towns. You’ll need these crafted items and upgraded weapons to aid you in battle against a variety of foes The Last of Us will toss at you. You’ll not only battle different types of infected, such as clickers that can kill you in one hit, and more bulkier versions on infected that are much more difficult to take down, but also battle soldiers trying to contain you as a threat, and other scavengers looking to kill you simply to claim your loot. Every combat scenario is slightly different, and had me thinking differently each time as well. I’d think about the best strategy for the situation, which weapon to use, even scan the environment for objects I might be able to use to my advantage. The Last of Us does provide a good break from combat periodically though, with many exploratory segments through cities, in which you can converse with Ellie, and learn more about each character, and what’s happened to them in this cruel and unforgettable world.

The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots

Along with an excellent single player campaign is the additional bonus of two multiplayer game modes as well. One is a multiplayer death match style game, where two teams of four will battle against each other. However, each team member only has one life, so the tension of combat in single player is also carried over to multiplayer in this game mode. There’s a second game mode in which you and 3 other players must protect your clan from waves of enemy forces, similar to a horde mode of sorts. The multiplayer modes are fun, and give you another reason to keep The Last of Us on your shelf after completing it.

The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots   The Last of Us (PS3) Screenshots

Conclusion:
This year, gaming has seen many excellent titles. The Last of Us is another all star title in the roster. Similar to Bioshock Infinite, this is a game that gamers will be talking about and praising for years to come. They’ll discuss its beautiful environments, and praise its emotional and engaging voice work. The Last of Us is another great example of how video games can engage and their audience with more than just entertainment, but also connect to them in an emotional and compelling story such as the one found here. If you have a PS3, you’re one lucky gamer, because The Last of Us is a game to not be missed by anyone, and deserves every bit of praise it’s receiving.

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