What do you get when you cross The Walking Dead and Uncharted? The Last of Us. Naughty Dog’s post-apocalypse masterpiece effortlessly oozes a foreboding atmosphere from it’s opening scene right up until its last. This is a game full of hauntingly beautiful imagery, touching moments and tense encounters. The Last of Us serves up a veritable bounty of human emotion. This is a game that sticks in the mind, long after the credits roll.
The storytelling is expertly crafted, it’s not often you feel for a character in a videogame as you do for Joel and Ellie in this. Second only to Telltale’s fantastic The Walking Dead Season One, The Last of Us excels in character building. Joel’s story is a devastating one, but he wants to survive. The world might be a dangerous, scary place, but light can be found in the darkest of places. Joel’s light comes from the people he meets. The conversations are natural during gameplay, the dialogue is realistic – characters react to their surroundings and situations as you’d expect.
The gameplay is… a little less realistic. Borrowing from the Batman school of game design, Joel can crouch down and listen closer to his surroundings in what’s essentially detective mode. It’s a very useful tool, but isn’t exactly realistic. I suppose the zombie things with exploding heads aren’t that realistic, either. In fact, for a game steeped in realism, The Last of Us can get quite out of this world. Joel can take a lot of shots from enemy guns, but get too close to something like a Clicker and you’re dead in one. The mixture of the realistic storytelling and unrealistic gameplay is smooth throughout however. I originally wrote The Last of Us off for having what looks like “really boring gameplay”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Yes, there is a lot of walking between points, but the shooting is exciting, tense and can be rather difficult. The slow pace of the walking sections allows for character and world building, whilst the shooting sections liven things up. It’s a brilliant mixture that never gets old, especially considering your combat options open up the longer the game goes on. You can upgrade Joel’s weaponry, health and a variety of other perks by finding pills, plants and cogs in the gameworld. The light RPG elements allow for more variety in how each person plays and experiences the game – it’s entirely up to you what you upgrade.
What is the same for everybody however, is the quality plot. It’s full of highs and lows for our determined hero, easily rivalling the best Hollywood has to offer. At times, Ellie’s dialogue can stray into pointless edginess, but unlike other games (Assassin’s Creed for example), it never feels forced. Ellie is meant to be a little annoying, but she’s damaged and in clear need of guidance. The quasi father-daughter relationship has echoes of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but it’s all the better for it. The last of Us is always believable, often relatable and can get quite emotional. It’s phenomenal.
Picking up and moving a ladder as light flickers in through shattered windows, the emotionally charged score soaring in the background as Ellie talks to you about comic books – Naughty Dog are the masters of their game. Scenes such as this are what The Last of Us is all about. Yes, the world may be falling apart, yes, there may be ridiculously evil people around you, but seeing new life grow where man once was is hauntingly beautiful. Trees stretch up buildings, water finds new homes in train stations, monkeys scatter near where a zoo used to be. The Last of Us constantly reminds us that beauty can be found in the darkest of places, and for that we should be thankful.
The Last of Us Remastered is an essential masterpiece. Videogames don’t get much better than this.