|Posted by Halbridious on June 22, 2013 at 6:15 AM|
Lets be clear: The Last of Us is already my personal candidate for GOTY. As of June, this is a hands down frontrunner. We'll see what happens when the new consoles release and we get to look at their launch games, but until then...
So what makes The Last of Us such a clear favorite? What is it about? The Last of Us is a dynamic adventure game, styled as a 3rd person shooter, made by Naughty Dog, of Uncharted series fame.
Artistically, the game has a gritty, yet vibrant realism. It's set in a series of towns and landscapes devestated by the games version of a zombie apocalypse, and each environment is GORGEOUS. Levels are very linear, but the game is so heavily story driven this is not an issue in the slightest, instead allowing you the freedom to scavenge for your ammo and crafting items while funneling you into the next area. Each area is well set up for the strategies you might use to fight off varius opponents, and all are totally believeable - none of this gears of war "chest high walls everywhere because thats how we do it" nonsense. Every piece of cover really feels like it fell there. When that building crumbled during a bombing, because the owner of that car parked it there to escape into the cover of that garage, ect. It just feels so very right.
The game's story is centered around Joel and Ellie. Joel is an older man, a veteran scavenger and smuggler, while Ellie is met maybe an hour into the game, a young girl who drives the story. The interactions, emotionally, between the two, and the well designed supporting cast, are among the best written pieces ever witnessed in a game. Without giving away any spoilers, you'll know by the first hour exactly how strong this story really can be. The characters are voiced well, and are synched to their voices well, allowing the quality cinemetography to really show during cutscenes and action scenes alike.
As far as the action goes, it plays very similar to an Uncharted, or maybe a Resident Evil game (though without the wierd movement RE uses). Stealth plays a big factor, as ammo is rare, and your reserves are limited anyways - most guns don't hold more than 2 magazines worth of ammo in reserve. Melee weapons can be picked up but shatter after a few swings, boards lasting only 4 hits, while bats or pipes last longer. This means that for most situations, you stealth around until you're caught, club your way free, then finish off the last few with your carefully guarded ammo. This sets a familiar pace for each battle, yet keeps you on your toes for each one. It all works rather smoothly, gunplay and melee alike, and different triggered animations really help the flow - punching an enemy into a counter will cause joel to smash their face down into the counter, or against a wall perhaps.
The RPG elements, while minor, allow players to tweak playstyles just a bit - the game gives you manuals at predetermined times to upgrade the quality of equipment, slowly making things like your breakable shivs (A necessity when fighting high lvl zombies) last longer, or medkits work better. Throughout the game you can also pick up various "pills", some form of steroid or whatever, which can be spent on minor skill upgrades, like steadying your aim, making you craft or heal faster, ect. Speaking of crafting, the game has a somewhat limited system, but one that provides everything you need - in the end, you'll be able to make more shivs, a couple kinds of explosives, and medkits, as well as upgrade your melee weapon. It all spawns from 6 materials you find, each of which have a limited space in your inventory - 3 of each at a time. You'll have to decide which is better for you, that shiv or a spiked bat, or other important supplies like a medkit or molotov, ect. Guns also can be upgraded a bit - most significantly in reload speed and magazine sizes.
Multiplayer is a little forced - certain rpg elements are added to compicate things, and the directions aren't very clear, but it is entertaining enough, a few rounds are a worthy distraction when you want to just shoot something. The inventory loadouts can allow for a nice variety of playstyles, all in good fun.
Overall, there are few things to complain about - personally, I'd love a slightly deeper crafting system and more space for items and ammo, just so I could get a little wilder, and I wouldn't mind if melee weapons lasted longer, even if they were weaker in trade, since many of them break after just 2 beatings. I also wouldn't mind a slightly different style of inventory management - the one they have works just fine, i just don't find it to my organizational taste.
Nevertheless, this game is an EASY 5/5