Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: The Last of Us

So, I've finally joined the ranks of the gamers on the next generation of games. Of all the games I could start with, I picked The Last of Us to get through first.

In the near future, a pandemic hits and spreads across the world. In one of the most original takes on the zombie genre to come along in years, this is caused by a fungal infection, appropriating the brain of its host in order to spread and propagate itself. Many of you might know there is a real-world version of this, although it currently only affects insects. As you might expect, one of the nice things about such a version of zombies is that it inherently creates different enemies based on how long they've been infected. So you're not just seeing the same monsters all the time, but without some side story of mutation. 

Some people have argued this is a drama, not a horror game. Make no mistake, this is a horror game. There may not be a huge number of scares, jump or otherwise, but it contains several common horror elements. There's the zombies, of course, as well as approaches to cannibalism, and even child rape. So there is a lot here that makes this a horror game, although it's main goal isn't just to scare or creep you out.

Technically, this game is almost perfect. The visuals are stunning, with a very high attention to detail. The controls are flawless and the mechanics are well executed. Enemy AI is good and challenging, as well as different between enemies, with tutorials on how they behave and how to take advantage of it. 

Granted, it's not perfect. The fully physical companion can be a pain in the ass at times when she's standing right where you need to go and won't get out of the way, and the lack of any general kind of map feature makes it easy to get lost at times, even though the areas you have to explore are kept pretty tightly confined.

The real treat of this game though, is the story.

The game starts you out playing as Sara. The daughter of Joel, the older man on the package, just prior to the outbreak exploding out of control. While you switch back and forth between Sara and Joel in this introduction while they and Joel's brother Tommy try to drive out of town, there's not much to do other than run and witness what is probably the most intense and heart-breaking opening sequence in any video game. 

Returning to Joel, some twenty years later, we are treated to a grim future where the governments have collapsed and the country is basically under military occupation, complete with curfews, food rationing, and checkpoints between major parts of the cities. Less depressing is the way nature has been reclaiming the world in the meantime, offeringus beautiful views of streets with trees breaking through them. This is where you start, exploring this new world as Joel and his friend Tess go about their business of trying to survive under the heel of the military. 

We're also introduced to a group that goes by the name of Fireflies. Originally petitioning the return of the government, they've been hunted down by the military. It's through the Fireflies that we meet Ellie, a young girl who may be immune to the fungus. Joel and Tess end up being hired to deliver her to other groups of Fireflies (who are always dead by the time you get to them), and eventually, it becomes Joel's mission to transport Ellie across the country to the lab himself so that they can try to make a cure from her. 

The game is full of tense moments and some truly heartbreaking scenes, including the death of several people you get attached to through the game-play. You also pick up letters and notes written by and to other people that really gives you a good idea of what it must've been like during the evacuations and while people are just trying to live out their lives. 

Of course, there are some heart-warming moments too. The ending has also generated it's share of discussion, as far as what it means exactly, with people attributing it to bitterness and revenge as much as one person's healing and love. 

So it's definitely worth checking out if you haven't and you have a Playstation. It didn't win over 200 Game of the Year awards for nothing. 

~ Shaun

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