The Last of Us Review: Substance Without Fun - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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The Last of Us Review: Substance Without Fun

While I was waiting for The Last of Us to install on my PS3's hard drive, I sat and contemplated how I would approach Naughty Dog's latest adventure. Aware that they were pushing narrative more than ever before, I decided to focus my attention on the gameplay, and just absorb the narrative as it came along. Maybe I made a mistake.

From opening cutscene to the end credits, I sat with my mouth agape. The Last of Us wasn't just well written, it had prose. I felt as if I were wondering through a virtual Cormac McCarthy novel as was intended and the game soared sky-high on its many subtleties, which is something almost entirely foreign to the video games industry.

I won't skirt around it; Joel is in my opinion one of the most incredibly complex and polarizing characters I've ever experienced in any fiction. You think you know what kind of man he is as the story opens, but you never truly understand this broken human being until his final line in the game. I might collect a few scoffs for saying this, but Joel would fit right in with the Daniel Plainsview's of the entertainment biz.

His teenage counterpart Ellie is a fantastic foil to his dark and complex demeanor. She's light-hearted yet fully aware of the doom that surrounds her. She carries many traits that exist amongst the teenage girls of today, except that she seems to carry the weariness that you might see on thirty year old woman.

The narrative beats carry these two dynamic characters through many gorgeously rendered locations and past many characters that bear the same complexity as our two leads.

Unfortunately the gameplay hinders what should be perfection. Out of place, and awkward environmental puzzles litter the levels. Arena's that carry that "I know I'm about to murder people here" appearance disrupt the natural flow of the games environments and disrupt that sense of realism and despair that existed only moments before. An unexpected boss fight, and wonky ally AI uproot the player from their masterfully fabricated immersion.

None of those things would be problems if they were consistent, or apart of the games overarching gameplay. There are times when I would find myself in a natural, flowing area where I would be attacked by infected or taken into a gun fight or stealth segment and it was wonderful. Those gamey elements listed above broke that naturalness that exists in so few games, and worked in contrast against those natural encounters that I enjoyed so much.

The most jarring aspect of The Last of Us was the final thirty minutes, when I was overrun by body-armor wearing, gun-toting militiamen. I call this the "Naughty Dog Crutch" which is when Naughty Dog makes their enemies "tougher" or "harder" by making them walking bullet sponges. The Uncharted series became arduous because of those moments and because of The Last of Us' survival elements, it becomes infuriating and intolerable.

The Last of Us is a narrative masterpiece, yes. In terms of gameplay however, it's okay. The lack of resistance in the PS3 thumbsticks, and clunky triggers only bring it down even further, and I'm sorry to say that we're left with a game that is held back by its own gameplay. The Last of Us was so incredible on a narrative level that the poor execution stands out like a shiner on a Childs eye, and I can't help but wish that the game had been saved for the PS4. The Last of Us was thought provoking, human, and intelligent, it just wasn't any fun.

Comments
  • I disagree about the gameplay, but I'm not sure how to elaborate on that. I personally was never taken out of the experience by any particular gameplay segment, and the ally AI never really bothered me. Considering that, I'd say this is a pretty easy 10 for me, especially compared to just how gamey a lot of other games are (I'd argue BioShock Infinite was a LOT more gamey than The Last of Us, for example, even though I still think that game is also great). I DO understand the problem with the militiamen, though. I thought it was explained in the story well enough that I could ignore it, and I still had fun fighting them, but it's definitely something Naughty Dog tends to do and isn't very creative mechanically speaking.
  • Best game of the year so far, 2013 is now the year of the Last of us. Just how I feel but I enjoyed your review.