The lights are on
One of the things I like about post-apocalyptic worlds is how quickly humanity crashes and breaks. Trust, love, sympathy, among other feelings is thrown out the window as you are quickly turned back into your primitive state of mind with only one objective, surviving. Naughty Dog does all this and adds an emotional trip to create one of the most gripping tales told this generation. The game starts off as you assume the control of Joel’s daughter who has been woken by a distress call from her Uncle. As she searches for her father you can tell that something isn’t quite right. Police sirens are going off, troubles news from the TV flashes across the screen, and a very distraught Joel comes bursting back into the house warning you of the neighbors who are acting strangely. Joel is forced to do what is necessary after they broke into the house-- that was to permanently end their relationship with the Coopers. With great sadness I am sorry to announce that we won’t be hanging with Mr. Cooper at all. Eventually you learn of a parasitic virus has plagued the city turning peaceful people into hostile creatures. From here on out, Joel begins to lose his himself as evident by not stopping for a family in need…can you blame him? Of course not but it goes to show you how fragile the human mind and spirit really are. He isn't the only one who quickly loses it. Near the end of the prologue, with Joel carrying his injured daughter, they encounter a soldier who has received orders to eliminate the targets even though he let his commanding officer know that there was a child. As shots are fired Joel’s daughter is struck and eventually succumbs to her wounds and thus the realness of the situation creeps in and sets the depressing dark, grim tone for the rest of the game. The winter section alone has enough creepiness to have the hairs on the back of your neck stand up due to a great performance by Nolan North. It single handedly can show you how far humanity has fallen. The plot picks up 20 years after those events and to make a long story short, Joel is entrusted with guarding a smart mouth, feisty teenager. A group known as the Fireflies believes she holds the cure for the outbreak of a deadly fungus. The predictable relationship between Joel and Ellie can be seen from a mile away but still doesn’t deter you from playing. The story might sound simple and cliché but the true joy comes from Joel and Ellie’s journey bringing wonderful character development. Both will traverse the country from Boston to Utah to get to their final destination and attempt to save humanity. The game really seemed to drag its feet in the character development department up until the middle part of fall but when it starts to get going, it’s a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. In the early going Joel is cold to Ellie, then slowly begins to come around, and in the end eventually accepts and loves her like a daughter. The development of these characters is really something and the bond they share is unbreakable even in this cruel world. Ellie is a wonderful supporting character who I feel actually maintains her innocence even after her first kill. She is a tough girl that knows how to survive, courageous, and enjoys simple things….although doesn’t get why girls were so skinny back in the day or why they talked about boys and how they dressed. Eventually, things start to pile up as you can see the burden she carries on her shoulders. And overall, the sub characters add something to the story journey as well so it’s not all Joel and Ellie running the show. The interaction between Ellie and Bill is gold and helps lighten the mood a bit. When you finally get past the Boston Quarantine Zone the scenery truly immerses you creating a believable and majestic world. In the 20 years that has past, nature has begun to take back what’s theirs. Moss and other greenery over take man-made structures and automobiles giving birth to an uneasy feeling as you are left in awe at a once lively city/town now turned dead. Roaming through these areas scouring for viable resources while avoiding the violent nature of the infected truly creates a world full of tense moments. It’s amazing how every single aspect of the game feeds off each other. The gameplay feeds off the story, the story feeds off the character development, and the character development feeds off the world and so on, and so forth. Stealth is certainly you friend here and to me is the only way this game should be played. Joel has some super power ability that gives him a keen sense of hearing, making enemies visible through walls. Also, be sure to conserve your items, they are too valuable to waste in a situation where you can easily choke out an enemy. During your quest you can create all sorts of aids using scraps you find that range from a homemade explosive grenade, to a medical kit and a steel rod with scissors strapped on the end to it to deliver an instant kill. You can also upgrade your guns to make it hold more ammo, or have faster reload. Now if single player wasn’t enough, you can team up with 3 other members and partake in some multiplayer action. MP takes the same concepts of single player and continues its survival theme. There are 2 game modes; survival- a 1 life per round (think Counter Strike/Socom) and Supply raid- where you have to kill the opposing team a fixed amount of times. MP has a game within a game. Each time you complete a match you get items and survivors to help build your clan. Supplies you get help the sick and feed the hungry. An interesting concept but there isn't much else to it. Only having 2 game modes will eventually become tedious as the difference between the two is negligible. They should have added specific modes to gain supplies, and one to gain survivors. They also should have added an infected mode where you can stunt the growth of survivor numbers or something similar. The Last of Us is one technically sound game and nearly perfect on almost every level. The performance game and how smooth it ran with little hiccups on 8 year old technology is in and of itself impressive. Include the fantastic facial expressions and lip syncing, the level detail that went into environments and the multiple routes to every encounter. The character progression, especially Joel’s is remarkable and the bond he and Ellie share is special. How low he goes by the end of the game show you how deep the bond goes. The game injects all sorts of emotions effectively by a wonderful written script delivered by wonderful acting. It is definitely one of the best games this generation has to offer. Naughty Dog knocked it out of the proverbial ball park, showing off their versatility as developers and further solidifying themselves as one of the best developers in the industry.
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