Here is what I wrote:
I decided to pick up The Last of Us purely off of its word of mouth recommendations. I was looking for a game that my friend and I could play in a loose, co-op during her visit. She and I can share games so we are not restricted to a two player game. We are also not interested in competing against each other. A game with a good story and interesting world seemed ideal to our goal of relaxing and being social while playing a video game. I had heard nothing but rave reviews over how amazing the Last of Us is. Looking over the basics of the game, a journey through a post-apocalyptic world with great depth seemed ideal.
We went to pick up a copy after dinner and found it sold out everywhere. That was unexpected. The game has been out for several weeks. A quick search showed me that it was downloadable. We returned home and downloaded it
As a movie merged into a game, the Last of Us delivers. The switch between cinematic sweeps and player interactive measures are well done and fluid. The synchronization makes the game visually lovely. The characters are well developed with sane and sensible reactions to things. Your hero is not perfect. He limps. He shakes when he shoots. He takes a moment to get up after being beaten down.
The story is deeply emotional and one that most people will be able to connect with. My friend and I spent much time discussing if the actions of the survivors were realistic or not. Her opinion was that they were. Mine were that they were a bit narrow minded and over reactive. She pointed out that in that type of situation, people probably would behave as they were. We might not have agreed on every term but the fact that we could discuss it showed how well done it was.
The story itself is not original. Once we met Ellie we both knew exactly what the theme of the story was. That was fine. The world and the events are where the draw of the story is. Naughty Dog made the characters real and their decisions painful to watch instead of being mindless mechanics to forward the storyline.
The story itself is told to you as the characters work their way through. We know some of the start. We don’t know what happens in-between. There are notes and logs scattered around that tell the story. You have to listen to the dialog of the characters. I highly suggest subtitles to make sure that you do not miss what is being whispered in the distance if you are interested in the story.
One of the best parts is that the ‘bad guys’ are several sets. You have more than one worry in this game.
The controls are simple if a bit clunky at times. There is a crafting system to create more materials for attacks and repairs. Weapons can be upgraded and the character can as well. Both melee tools and projectile weapons will need to be used.
This is a horror game. It is often dark. Very dark. In a visual way. I upped the brightness all the way because I was in a dark room, stumbling in the dark, and it was irritating. There is a clear mix of puzzles, stealth, focused objectives and the occasional adrenaline pumping run like crazy series of situations. It is not a fast paced game but one that expects the player to spend time walking around.
There is no map! You will have to learn the layout of some places and often the only way to learn it is trial and error. There is also only one way through. Once you are in an area there is no going back. There is a hint system built in. Your companions assist you but they will not take over the bulk of the game for you. If you spend too long not going in the proper direction they will call you over just in case you missed it. At the same time, when assisting you in combat, you cannot use them to do your combat for you. I think something was missed here where you could make an option to move through most of the game with your companions doing the damage if you acted smartly.
The NPC AI is well done. They hide. They sneak. They use cover. They don’t forget they saw you. They can be snuck up on.
The Camera view is irritating. You are zoomed up onto the main character’s back. My friend commented, “It’s a horror thing.” It works. The lack of a wider view allows things to come up behind you and bite you or beat you down. Things jump out at you and the spinning is a bit clumsy. I’m not sure if it is an attempt to promote realism or just a clunky control.
I had one glitch. One cut scene would not load. We tried. We searched the web to find that no one else was having this particular problem. We rebooted. We let the PS3 cool off in case that was the problem. We did everything we could think of and after an hour left it and went out to dinner. Four hours later, we returned and the game had loaded. From the saved menu it had taken three and a half hours to load. Why? I don’t know.
I was introduced to the concept of a ‘themepark’ game or a ‘game on rails’ by the MMO community. I tend to enjoy a free world experience. However, I know many games are focused on a story and a goal. Not being able to free roam around The Last of Us was not a deal breaker. Just accept that you will not be able to explore this gorgeous world.
However, Naughty Dog appears to have a particular way that they want the player to experience the game. At times, it feels lazy. When I am running around a partially collapsed skyscraper that looks out over the area I walked through to get to the sky scraper, I should be able to jump down to that area. It may mean that I plummet to my death because it is ten floors under me. I even understand not having access to areas that I never went through. But I want to jump off buildings and die. However, I guess because Joel never did, I cannot.
There is an artificial resource shortage. Why can I only hold one bottle or one brick? I swear that if I had a backpack and bottles I’d fill it up until I clinked with each step. Instead, only one hand functions and that hand says FULL with one bottle. Sure, there are many bottles scattered around. Once I exhaust my entire single bottle I can pick up another one to be FULL again. Yet, I am frustrated that I can only carry one at a time. I wear cargo pants yet I can only carry a handful of ammunition. I know, with first hand experience, that I can carry a lot of ammunition before it hinders me. The clash of artificial restriction against basic, sensible reality is at times offensive. I am forced to behave in an irrational way to move the story forward.
Which leads to the second greatest frustration in the game. There are bricks, bottles, chair, rubble, and everything else laying around. It is all beautiful landscaping because I can only pick up particular bricks and bottles carefully laid out to help me figure out which corner to sit in and solve the puzzle of getting the NPCs to move around. The landscape is scenery but the game is survival. As I walk past hundreds of useful tools that I cannot interact with for the sixth time after dying, I become frustrated.
The greatest frustration in the game is that I cannot loot bodies. In the aftermath of a world breaking apocalypse, I am going to loot bodies. Yet, in the Last of Us, I stand there, staring at a corpse with a gun in its hands and I can do nothing about it. Instead, I run into battle with a stick to fend of the creatures that seek to kill me because I did not (because I cannot) loot the bodies. I will randomly get a round of ammo or two off of zombies for some reason but nothing from the soldier with the gun full of ammo laying on the floor.
There is no reward for exploration except when there is a reward for exploration. The game discourages hoarding. If you are full of stuff exploring won’t get you more. Sometimes you find out bits about the game world but they are not very common. For someone that can achieve kleptomaniac achievements in Fallout and Skyrim within the first few minutes, this is very distressing.
If it is the last of us why do we spend so much time killing other people. Where do all the new infected come from? There seem to be an awful lot of people around.
The Last of Us is a good game. It is a pretty game. It is a well done game. It is not a perfect game. It takes a bold direction but it still has its flaws. I don’t understand why it is ‘the game of a decade’. I can see where they pushed for a more emotional content. I did not burst into tears. I may not have the proper heart strings for the game to pull. Beyond my jaded view they did a good job of making the characters have reasons instead of putting them into a series of plot manipulators. I like it well enough but I doubt I will ever play it through a second time. In general it is well done and worth the time for someone that wants an immersive, inside a movie, focused game instead of immersive unlimited possibilities with endless paths sandbox game.