Score: 9.5

Genre: 1-Player Action (8 Player Online)

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog

Release Date: June 14 (Playstation 3)

ESRB: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

Package: The Last of Us unfolds to bring forth one of the greatest video game single-player experiences of all time with a rich, engrossing character-driven story while also including an interesting approach to the everyday multiplayer component.

Fun Factor: Despite The Last of Us' weighty and even depressing narrative, it stands as one of the most enjoyable games you'll have the privilege of playing.

Gameplay: The option to choose how to engage enemies with either a full-force attack or stealthily makes for an absolute nail-biting blast. The Last of Us' gunplay and melee are professionally fashioned.

Graphics and Art: Everything you witness in The Last of Us is gorgeous. The amount of detail with such graphical quality is unbelievable.

Music and Sound: The tantalizing score is wonderful, fitting the game's tone perfectly. I applaud the voice actors for delivering powerful performances, and the in-game sound design is stellar.

Replay Value: You'll want to revisit The Last of Us' story after the first playthrough, and the online multiplayer is worth getting into.

Gamechanger Status: The Last of Us is a pioneering video game of the Playstation 3's life-cycle. It's a testament to the thought that the making of video games is an art form, and one I'll remember for the rest of my days. Everyone should play The Last of Us.

Life is precious and frail, relationships are an amazing part of humanity, and the ability to overcome harsh times is based on the willingness to survive through them. Down through the years of expansion of the video game industry, games have in some form or another touched on these facts of society. Seeing comrades and opponents defeated by violence is a common commodity in video games. Interacting and even connecting with fictional characters is a cultural mainstay and the obsession over making it through the next undead apocalypse is everywhere in the medium. Naughty Dog's The Last of Us distinguishes itself by taking these ideas to the next level.

Something has happened to the world we live in. An infectious virus appears to have ushered the entire population all across the globe into a state of hopelessness and horrifying savagery. Infected roam cities and neighborhoods hunting any human survivors left. While some of these remaining survivors just seek refuge from the mysterious pandemic, others have taken up arms, scavenging and murdering in cold blood any living being no matter who or what they are. The Last of Us doesn't revolve around what or who might be responsible for the present doom or on the usual noble mission of finding an antidote for this outbreak, however. Instead, its focus is simply on two human beings: Joel, a hardened soul who is doing the best he can and Ellie, a teenage girl who not only knows no other life than this one she's grown up in but also may hold the cure to the infection because of her immunity.

As Joel, you run into Ellie fairly early in the story and become entangled with the task of escorting her to a location so a possible cure may be found. The premise is easy to grasp, though the journey is anything but.

Between you and your destination lies the lowest humanity could become morally as well as infected creatures yearning for the taste of flesh. The vicious monstrosities come in the shape of what are known to be as "clickers", "runners", and the occasional "bloater" (the name might sound funny, but when you're in a room with one of these guys you won't be laughing). I am a tad disappointed that there wasn't a greater variety of enemy types, but it's hardly an issue. These haunting figures prowl areas hissing eerie murmurs and sounds that will make your skin crawl. Your heart-rate may rise when you take these infected head one in combat as their creepy personalities match their unforgiving ferociousness in combat. Human adversaries offer up the same amount of intimidation due to their numbers and possession of weapons.

Each and every enemy type you come across in The Last of Us can be taken down on your own terms. Choosing whether to sneak past or behind enemies for a quick stealth kill, or handling a situation with less discretion are open for experimentation. Taking enemies hostage is an option as well. The Last of Us incorporates a "hearing" capability where you can tell where enemies are that is quite handy. Some combat scenarios should be performed in a certain manner because of a particular enemy type's handicap ("clickers" are blind so treading carefully when at all possible is recommended so not to reveal your position) while others can be accomplished by a combination of stealth or action maneuvers. The natural ease of The Last of Us' playability makes for intense and exciting combat situations. They never get old, especially since your resources of health, ammo, and equipment are scarce.

Due to your limited available resources, strategically assessing combat is a pivotal feature of The Last of Us' gameplay structure. Finding a couple of rounds of ammo will make your day and if all else fails, frantic melee combat and a well placed distraction could save your neck. You acquire a pleasing amount of different weapons throughout The Last of Us. Some, like a revolver or shotgun, are dependable, familiar firearms, while others, like the bow and arrow and inventive nail-bomb, add a unique aspect to the game's healthy amount of weapon options. All of the weapons in The Last of Us give off a fine sound and the gunplay is nice and sturdy as well. If you run out or decide to conserve your ammo, there are bricks and glass bottles laying around most areas you can throw to distract or coerce enemies. This can and cannot be a useful tool as it only stuns enemies for a short period of time. Ellie can also throw bricks or provide covering fire in tight spots.

Access to weapons and health is made convenient through a smart treatment of the d-pad. You can craft or upgrade items by stumbling upon a number of in-game parts spread throughout the game. The Last of Us lets you upgrade weapons via workstations, and Joel's abilities like his maximum health, hearing range awareness of enemies, and more can be upgraded at any time by accessing his trusty backpack. Crafting and upgrading are encouraged, important gameplay facets of The Last of Us that will help you carry on in the audacious storyline.

From a gameplay standpoint, The Last of Us strikes gold, but all of the things it gets right does not compare to its potent, lengthy story. The Last of Us begins with the best start of any video game I've ever played and, in the same light, concludes strongly. The meat of the game us layered with breathtaking environments, encounters with three dimensional characters, startling plot twists, and gratifying gameplay all enriched by this remarkable character-driven tale of survival. Joel and Ellie are fleshed out brilliantly and you'll come to care about them in ways foreign to the typical video game character.

Joel has a lot of depth to his on-the-surface gritty personality and Ellie, despite and because of her youth, gets the same quality of treatment. Even though they appear to be polar opposites in characteristics such as gender, age, and interests, the bond these two form is a stark highlight of The Last of Us. It's done so well that as Joel and Ellie care for each other more as they try to survive amongst what could considered  an emotionally, mentally crippling undertaking, you as the player, grow to care for them as well. The small talk between  them is executed properly, and since Ellie is only fourteen years old, the pandemic occurring twenty years earlier, the manner in which she sees the world comes out in interesting-sometimes charming- comments. Joel is especially relatable because of his tough, but humble, mindset. Their journey together will not leave you untouched.

The rough proverbial road Joel and Ellie walk on is lavished upon with extravagant environments. The astonishing graphics bring to life the stupendous skyscrapers, neighborhoods, and country sides. The lush flora, life-like buildings, the way the sun rises and direction the wind blows the leaves off of the trees is a spectacle not to be missed. One of my favorite things about The Last of Us was exploring any area possible. You learn much concerning the world through notes, letters, and such written by civilians. Some are unimportant, others are food for thought, and then there are particularly disturbing ones that show you The Last of Us' world could be our own. It is a really creative avenue for Naughty Dog to take so that besides interpreting the hideous state of the world through just two people, you can get a look at how it's hurt or affected the ordinary person.

The game also supports online multiplayer labeled as Factions. You choose to align yourself with one of the two factions, and then dive into one of the three game types. The matches entail a fair amount of teamwork and they can be fun and intense, though a bit gruesome. While I think the inclusion of multiplayer in a game that takes itself so seriously is somewhat odd, it's a very innovative style of online gaming.

The Last of Us is a challenging game. Not in terms of its difficulty, but in terms of the world you are forced to enter; the very surreal depiction of violence and humanity will keep you on the edge of your seat. Involvedly gripping, Naughty Dog has created a sublime piece of art. The work put into The Last of Us is overwhelming, and you can see the beauty of this masterpiece in the littlest detail.

                                                                                                                         WS-N, a gamer for the gamers