I can easily understand why The Last Of Us has achieved so many 10/10 reviews. The PS3 is at the end of its cycle, a strong system that, in terms of its generation, was certainly a late bloomer. As the system aged it became known for its story-heavy titles. Think of Journey’s minimalist take on gameplay and narrative. Or consider Heavy Rain, Uncharted, or Infamous, to name a few titles held together specifically by their characters and experiences. It makes sense to seek out a poster child, a pinnacle of this decade coming to an end, by the same team whose games practically introduced the idea of movie-level production with videogame interactivity. We want to pin up The Last Of Us as the culmination of a generation as well as a glimpse into the future of gaming.
These are dreams The Last Of Us admittedly adheres to pretty well. Thanks to Naughty Dog’s reputation and fame in the industry, TLOU is a title used to platform character as an element, in a way even your casual or Call of Duty shoot-em-up gamers can unify behind. Gameplay is smooth, not highly varied, but serves merely as a challenge between scenes, a method of identifying with the men and women within this fictional universe. As a player, your experience here will likely depend on the games you’ve played in the past. Some games have done the “care about the characters” bit before, few have surpassed TLOU in terms of emotion but none in the true depth of character shown here. Ellie and Joel are the furthest from being “bags of bones” in a long history of gaming. It’s a true achievement, and makes The Last Of Us a game worth playing for anyone who hasn’t gotten that experience before.
Thus ends the true pitch of The Last Of Us, the game that strove to be what we all thought Dead Island would be, and succeeded. To be honest that’s almost all you need to know. Whether you enjoy the third-person Uncharted-esque gameplay or not is actually almost irrelevant. It’s an emotional roller-coaster but lacks slightly in terms of actual gameplay. The stealth isn’t perfect, and neither is the pacing in combat, especially when the game sets up a good deal of forced combat scenarios, which are seriously jarring after you spend forty-five minutes stealthily avoiding everyone. I’d even suspect that an hour could have been cut out of the game just by making Joel walk faster, but these pieces keep the game in a more realistic setting than anything else. That’s exactly what Naughty Dog was going for, and for the most part it rings true.
Other gameplay elements are pretty standard. You can upgrade yourself and your weaponry, and despite my qualms the stealth is way better than in Uncharted. Gunplay is difficult to master and is made to feel like a last resort at times, though with a wide variety of weaponry there’s at least a lot of options to play with. Crafting weapons and health kits makes exploration a necessity and occasionally a chore, though it lends itself again to a stronger view of the run-down world Joel and Ellie are living in. A few more options of things to craft would have been nice, but I guess those extras will have to wait for the inevitable sequel.
Should you get The Last Of Us? If you have a PS3, you’d be doing yourself a hindrance not to. It’s a primary example of what can be done right under proper supervision, a game made for players willing to get invested. And it heralds a bright new future for substantial, narrative-heavy games. Even with its solid but fleeting multiplayer, the core game reminds us that truly remarkable single-player experiences are becoming few and far between. The Last Of Us may very well be that for you, and you only have to give it a chance. Is it the pinnacle of today’s gaming scene? No. Is it close? Extremely.