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The Last of Us - Review

The Last of Us Re view for PlayStation 3 at GAME

Uncharted Territory

Naughty Dog, the makers of the hugely popular Uncharted games, have made themselves a reputation as purveyors of the highest quality AAA action epics, with Hollywood production values, thrilling storylines and stunning visuals.

With their new game The Last of Us, they've excelled themselves. It's a masterpiece of storytelling, engineering and gameplay with a mature attitude and serious, stripped-back style. It makes Uncharted look like child's play, and the competition look silly. Put simply, it's one of the best games of its generation.

The Last of Us takes place after the outbreak of a fungal virus that devastates America, turning most of the population into zombie-like infected monsters. It follows survivors Joel and Ellie on an epic trek across the country to get Ellie - for reasons we'll leave secret for now - to the headquarters of the Fireflies, a resistance movement. Joel's a tough middle-aged smuggler with a troubled past, Ellie a precocious teenage girl. The way their relationship develops is what gives The Last of Us its huge emotional power, but it's far from the only reason to recommend this amazing game.

Beautiful Destruction

The first thing that grabs you about The Last of Us is its astonishing world. Although we've seen similar post-apocalyptic set-ups many times before - in I Am Legend, The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later, say - Naughty Dog makes this one so powerful by setting it 20 years in the future, showing a world that's already ended. People live in slums ruled by a paranoid and cruel army, while most of the country is empty, overgrown and falling apart.

The Last of Us Re view for PlayStation 3 at GAME

Starting in Boston and heading west over the course of a year - the seasons changing as you play - the game takes you through crumbling skyscrapers that are falling apart, cities empty of all life and strewn with wreckage, and wildernesses unchanged by the fall of man. It's awe-inspiring and stunningly beautiful and sad at the same time.

Naughty Dog's artists and programmers have done amazing work, and with its incredible lighting and animation and jaw-dropping views, you'll scarcely believe The Last of Us is not playing on the next-gen PlayStation 4. The dark, haunting atmosphere is also helped by great sound and music; the music is often left off, leaving you to really feel the loneliness and tension of the survivors.

Make no mistake, this is a much darker game than Uncharted - and much harder, too. Playing as Joel, you need to fight through or sneak past both infected and hostile humans, and the action blends third-person shooter gameplay with elements of stealth and survival horror. Given the survival theme, it makes perfect sense that ammo is limited, and you need to scavenge supplies and craft them into what you need - be that med kits or Molotov cocktails.

And because all of this is in short supply, you often need to vary your tactics and think on your feet. This makes the action extra gripping - sometimes, when fighting infected, it's as scary as Silent Hill - but also wonderfully varied. Although you'll need to restart often, it's not a chore because you always have options, and a fight never plays the same twice.

It's not for the faint of heart, though - this is an extremely violent game, with lots of gory executions. It can be a bit much sometimes, but the feeling of constant danger really underlines what a harsh and brutal world Joel and Ellie live in.

The Last of Us Re view for PlayStation 3 at GAME

The Heart Of The Matter

If that sounds too bleak, what really makes The Last of Us work is the drama. The story has some unexpected twists for sure, but it's really quite simple - essentially, it's a road movie about Joel reluctantly starting to feel responsibility and affection for the girl he's been dumped with.

It takes a while to hook you in, because writing and acting are, by video game standards, extremely understated and subtle. But in the long run that only makes the characters more real to you, and their plight more moving. Once the game hits its second half and takes you through some extraordinary situations and locations, it's hitting with more dramatic power than you've ever felt from a game. The ending is like nothing you've seen in games before, and will leave you speechless.

Many people said Uncharted 2 was like a playable movie, and that's true - but the movie you were playing in that case was an entertaining, throwaway action romp. The Last of Us is thrilling and spectacular too, but its portrayal of desperate survivors in a world without hope is also far deeper, more moving and more thought-provoking. It's a masterpiece that you will never forget. (And it has multiplayer too!)

GAME's Verdict:

The Good:

  • A powerfully moving story with the best acting and writing you've ever seen in a game.
  • Tough, absorbing survival gameplay that varies and never gets old (with fun multiplayer on the side).
  • Technically and artistically stunning, The Last of Us will blow you away.

The Bad:

  • It's a little slow to get going, and the characters take a while to get under your skin.
  • The set-up is incredibly well realised but not all that original.
  • Some people might have mixed feelings about how it ends.

Published: 10/06/2013

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