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The Last of Us: The Verdict

By Stuart Andrews

Reviewed:

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  • Editors choice
Last Of Us screenshots 2

Summary

Our Score:

9

The third-person aiming and shooting works as well as it does in Uncharted, but with a more realistic approach to targeting, fire-rates and reloading. In Uncharted you can spray machine-gun fire around with near-impunity. In The Last of Us, you wince when a headshot fails to hit home. And while Infected enemies play fairly dumb, becoming most dangerous when you panic or they emerge in numbers, human enemies are a little bit smarter. We’ve had moments of farce chasing government troops around the furniture, but also moments where we’ve been outflanked, outsmarted and outgunned.

Last Of Us screenshots

The Last of Us: Plot and Character

All of this is great but not necessarily the makings of a classic. What makes The Last of Us more than just a good game is its storytelling and atmosphere. It helps that there’s a real depth to the characters, and it’s the kind of depth that comes from the performance and the dialogue, not some trail of background info that’s supposed to make you understand them.

“Show, don’t tell” is the old Hollywood maxim, and The Last of Us follows it most of the way, with Joel’s world weary attitude evident in every word and animation, and his teenage charge Ellie’s youthful spirit just the same. The game then throws them into situations that don’t just test your skills as a player, but reveal new aspects of their characters. In the end you care not because you’re constantly being told you have to care, but because you’ve got to know and like these people.

The Last of Us

Tess, Ellie and the other CPU-controlled characters also play a vital part. On one level they provide effective and sometimes unpredictable support, throwing you ammo or coming to the rescue when you’re swamped, but they also fill the game’s deliberately sparse soundtrack with life, with natural-sounding dialogue that takes you further into the story while the action is still progressing. There are cut-scenes, but where possible the game works hard not to stall its flow.

The Last of Us: Graphics, Sound and Atmosphere

The graphics, meanwhile, are consistently fantastic, with some of the most detailed characters, monsters and environments we’ve seen on PS3, and stunning lighting that’s employed with a real eye for the fine art of cinematography. Outside of the city it’s a lush and verdant kind of apocalypse, with nature running rampant in the midst of urban decay, and some of the vistas are plain beautiful. Familiar settings – office blocks, apartments, backyards, high-street stores, a suburban school – are twisted into locations for frantic fights to survive against Infected and the most feral human foes. The juxtaposition of the normal and abnormal is just as effective here as in The Road or The Walking Dead.

The Last of Us

Most of all, The Last of Us thrives on its atmosphere. It’s hard to call it scary in the sense of a Resident Evil or Dead Space 1 and 2, but it’s horrifically tense, knotting your guts as Joel senses Infected around the corner or you’re trapped with homicidal survivors all around. You soon learn the different types of Infected, and come to fear the blind but unstoppable Clickers and the hideous, over-powered Bloaters, and some of the human opposition aren’t any more lovable. The violence when it comes is fast, brutal and surprisingly graphic, but rarely cheap. It’s the kind of violence that makes you want to turn your head away, though as much is suggested as actually shown.

The Last of Us

As always, it’s the soundtrack that does much of the heavy lifting. The score, deliberately stripped-back and heavy on washes of synth and finger-plucked acoustic guitar, is by turns dark and unnerving, then oddly warm. The use of effects is equally focused, meaning events have real impact when they need to.

Verdict

It’s easy to deconstruct The Last of Us, look at all the individual elements and say that it’s not doing anything that new or that special. You can moan that it’s linear, that it denies players real choice and that some of the means used to prevent you leaving the current bubble are clearly artificial. Yet when you’re playing it, none of this matters. What matters is Joel and Ellie, getting them to their destination, and taking this rich story to its end. The Last of Us might not be the most stunningly original or mind-blowing game you’ll play this year, but it’s an intelligent, polished and grimly satisfying work of gaming art.

Read more: Best games of 2013

Overall Score

9

Technicpuppet

June 5, 2013, 7:39 pm

Not my type of game at all, I don't like linear type action adventure games but going by all the reviews and the amount of people who loved Uncharted I think a lot of people are going to be very happy with this game.

To be honest I was kind of hoping it wasn't like uncharted because a lot of what I have seen of it appealed to me.

Rus74

June 6, 2013, 5:06 am

TLOU showcases a great combination of the ingredients found in movies like The Road, the zombie phenomenon, desperate survival themes and scavenging objectives into a delicious game. However, I would rather put something "new" like State of Decay or Remember Me into my plate as it seems to offer more. My opinion will still not stop me from playing all three titles though. Great review.

andyvan

June 6, 2013, 8:53 am

I've just ordered a PS3 Slim because of this game. Picked up a copy of the Ico/Shadow of Collussus HD remake while I was at it. May as well squeeze as much life as possible out of it until the next generation arrives.

Matthew Bunton

June 16, 2013, 8:47 am

A typical Naughty dog game with high production values but you spend more time watching their games than you do playing them.

Brilliant Interaction

June 16, 2013, 10:51 pm

Video games were born and died with the PlayStation1 in a way. The amount of effort put into graphics these days has affected things a lot. Modern consoles have noisy fans. The PS1, the N64, had no fans. The original Nintendo too. Dust and evergy sucking graphics units turn me off gaming these days. If I can get games like this to run on my silent PC, I might give it a try, because I do like linear games. I loved the old resident evil games.

Hamish Campbell

June 17, 2013, 1:19 pm

Or, you could play it using headphones.

Your choice.

Falcon D. Stormvoice

June 21, 2013, 2:16 am

It's pretty much the opposite of Uncharted. It's action in the sense that you have conflicts.

Falcon D. Stormvoice

June 21, 2013, 2:18 am

Nope. Lots of great gameplay that adds to the story here.

Jameel

August 19, 2013, 11:26 am

I'm not sure to get it is it good

Jameel

August 19, 2013, 11:28 am

Tell me

Matthew Bunton

September 2, 2013, 7:20 pm

I just couldn't get into this game I played about 10 hours and just gave up on it. Whilst the story was good I want good game play. The game was very repetitive and amounted to sneak, kill, cut scene repeat and rinse.

Very disappointed with it to be honest and as I predicted a typical Naughty Dog game where you watch it more than you play.

Falcon D. Stormvoice

September 4, 2013, 11:10 pm

It was white-knuckles tension and fear interspersed with moments of false security that only heightened the sense of impending doom. I couldn't play this game for more than 10 minutes at a time due to the sheer emotional toll it took on me -- people were wondering why I was taking such long breaks from this game I had waited forever to play. And I am not prone to histrionics. Being one of the best stories ever told with an ending that left me feeling stabbed in the heart was just the icing on the cake.

It's unfortunate that you were unable to extract that from the experience.

Falcon D. Stormvoice

September 4, 2013, 11:15 pm

So you can't play awesome games because of the fairly quiet PS3 fans, and we should downgrade graphics so we don't have a slight fan noise?

Are you perchance afflicted with a form of high-functioning autism?

Falcon D. Stormvoice

September 4, 2013, 11:15 pm

It's the best game ever.

Moo

September 5, 2013, 12:15 am

New loot system looks much better than PC version. Also no AH makes this one worth to try. Xbox 360 version would be my choice.

Matthew Bunton

September 5, 2013, 12:48 am

Maybe I should give it another go then.

You make it sound so good, glad you enjoyed it that much.

The finisher

November 6, 2013, 11:54 pm

The game was great! thanks for the small tips that I used and did not use! :)

Mart van Duijn

February 21, 2014, 8:39 pm

I think the trailer is too ´´badass´´ though.. What do you think?

Sircue

July 10, 2014, 4:47 pm

Or you could just give up gaming altogether, since this is not your thing.

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