The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Video games mine post-apocalyptic
themes so often that it's easy to numb to the sight of ruined cities. Often,
the end of humanity is just a striking backdrop for yet another first-person
shooting gallery. As a result, these epic onscreen calamities often feel rote.
In The Last of Us, Naughty Dog brings the impact of the end of civilization home
by narrowing its scope; it doesn't focus on the fate of the planet, but on a
pair of survivors who band together to navigate the dangerous and emotional
aftermath of a disease that has decimated mankind.
The Last of Us tells the story of
Joel, a taciturn smuggler, and Ellie, a brash young girl. They are brought
together by chance in the months following a global epidemic that has killed millions
and left thousands of others wandering the country as sightless, feral
This duo's journey starts with a
simple transaction. In exchange for a cache of weapons, Joel and his partner
Tess are tasked with delivering Ellie to a group of revolutionary survivalists
who believe she holds the key to a possible cure for the disease. It ends with
one of the most complex conclusions I've ever seen in a game. In between, you
experience a survival adventure that features both quiet beauty and brutal
violence in abundance.
The concept of survival serves as
the core of The Last of Us. Ammunition and supplies are scarce, and must be
scrounged in deserted buildings or created from cast off materials through a
crafting system. You constantly live in fear of both the horrifying infected - the
vicious "runners" and twisted "clickers" - and the ragtag human sects that
still roam the barren cityscape.
While most games sell the fantasy
of superhuman powers, The Last of Us constantly reminds you of your
vulnerability. Stealth is the key to your survival, as overwhelming odds often
encourage you to remain in the shadows before leaping out to perform graceless
executions with blunt instruments like shivs. If events escalate into melee or
gunplay, you are forced into tense, harried battles that leave you breathless.
While the game never lets you feel at ease during combat, the play mechanics -
from stealth to the weapons - are solid. I noticed occasional AI lapses and
some of the "trial and error" frustration that creeps into any game that relies
heavily on stealth, but overall it's an impressive action game that distills
the strengths of the survival horror genre into something that's both deeper
and more accessible.
The combat is versatile enough to
support a surprisingly competent multiplayer mode, which pits you in four-on-four
variations on team deathmatch that emphasize deliberate guile over twitch
shooting. It's an enjoyable experience, with a robust progression system,
though it feels at odds with the sparse, emotional feel of the single-player
As strongly executed as The Last
of Us is, it isn't for everyone. It's extremely violent; at points when I
wondered if the on-screen carnage was overwhelming the fragile humanity of the
Though Joel and Ellie's journey is
grim, it remains rooted in one of the most poignant, well-drawn relationships
I've seen in video games. The light, campy quality of the Uncharted series
causes some to overlook Naughty Dog's brilliance at creating realistic,
believable dialogue. Using its skill in service of The Last of Us's somber
tale, the studio created another high mark for interactive storytelling. As
Joel and Ellie's relationship grows, we come to know them as friends, giving
each fight to save their lives real weight.
What's left unsaid in this game is
just as important as the lines that are spoken. Naughty Dog frequently lets its
haunting vision of a deserted countryside speak for itself, effectively and
gorgeously conveying the loneliness that comes with living on after the end of
The Last of Us is a deeply felt, shockingly
violent game that questions what we're willing to sacrifice and, more
disturbingly, what we're willing to do to save the ones we love. The conclusion
offers no easy answers. You won't forget it.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.