Naughty Dog’s much-anticipated action/horror game has much to live up to after the success of their Uncharted series. And it does just that. As of writing this, I’ve already sunk about 3 to 4 hours into the game and died more times than I can count with both my hands.
So, what is The Last of Us? It’s Naughty Dog’s new cinematic action game (after Uncharted) that’s set in a post-apocalyptic 2030’s North America that’s filled with almost every zombie fiction cliché – fall of a government, refugee camps, scrawled notes and graffiti messages, warring factions amidst the chaos and so on and so forth. Well, except the zombies here are fungus-people: Cordyceps, a parasitic fungus. And being Naughty Dog, character-driven storytelling. Yes, the game has me at the edge of my seat within minutes of starting and then stabs a knife straight through my heart right after that.
The game is as straightforward as it gets being a survival game and all: keep moving and try not to die. Easier said than done. First off, normal difficulty isn’t exactly easy – as the game will still test you on your inventory management and your ability to adapt to the different kinds of bullshit the game throws at you. Why? Because unlike Uncharted, you don’t go hero upon the enemies as soon as you meet them. You have a choice to either fight or run away and you would want to run away. Trust me. Ammo is scarce and so is healing items. The last thing you want is to get into a forced fight with only a trickle of health left and no ammo. And you think normal is hard? Try playing hard. Supplies and crafting materials become so very scarce the harder the difficulty gets. Not to mention the enemies are tougher to kill as well.
In your first major Infected fight, you’ll most probably get your ass handed to you. A lot. Like me. Frustrating as it sounds, it lets you think up different ways to tackle the situation. The game has 3 types of infected. Runners: the zombie horde, Stalkers: which I have yet to encounter and Clickers: dangerous blind assholes that kill you in one hit. Because of this, I always have to think twice before I pull that damn trigger. Take note that all that you’ve learned in other zombie games, just throw them out the window. You do not want to take a horde of infected head on. Outrun then, distract them, don’t get cornered and then take them out one at a time.
The human enemies you meet however will require that you take a different approach. Their behavior changes depending on if they see you spotting a weapon or not. However, meeting them are more of a pain than meeting the infected because they have guns and are the main reason why my death toll is so damn high.
In Uncharted, once the enemies spot you, it’s over and you’ll have to engage them in a firefight to the end. Not here though. The enemy AI here is pretty good. You can distract and flank them and they’ll react in surprising and realistic ways. Two reasons why the levels are huge – motion and stealth.
Although I can’t say the same for your companion AI. I have yet to experience Ellie helping out like how she did in the E3 demo last year. What’s weird is that the infected are entirely unable to see Ellie despite her bumbling back and forth in the level filled with Clickers. The same thing with Tess in the earlier parts of the game. You would expect her to help you stealth takedown an enemy while you did the same to his partner but no, she goes in guns blazing alerting the entire room.
As for multiplayer, I can’t say anything at all as I’ve yet to touch it.
Should you play this game?
The answer is an easy yes. Naughty Dog’s hallmark character-driven storytelling delivers a moving story about the relationship between two desperate people out to survive despite all the zombie fiction clichés. A brutally violent, horrifying and emotionally exhausting piece of work.
What I liked.
Naughty Dog’s take on the zombie genre. I mean, c’mon… Cordyceps? Who would have thought it to be THIS horrifying? And the gameplay is well-constructed and brutally intense. A step away from Uncharted. I mean this in a good way.
What I hated.
The wonky companion AI and certain forced fights. A big slap to the face if you’ve been trigger happy with your ammo and supplies.