We have a special treat for you this week: one of our readers is an aspiring games journalist and asked if he could review a game for the world to see. I started this site with the hopes of sharing my experiences with an audience bigger than my cell phone, so I had to say yes and I think he will have a promising future ahead of him. Here is Joe Sorbini‘s review of the The Last of Us:
Imagine yourself in a world that was devastated by a pandemic twenty years ago. Nature has resumed its dominance; all organized power and civilization have been wiped out. The infection that broke out on our people has not only taken them from us, but also turned them against us. Survival is the only thing that matters in this brutal world. This is the world that was crafted by the Naughty Dog team in their latest game titled “The Last of Us”.
Naughty Dog has a long history of producing award winning titles like “Jak and Daxter”, “Crash Bandicoot”, and the “Uncharted” series. After 3 years of development, “The Last of Us” had a lot of hype coming up to its release date, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the journey that was awaiting gamers with this title.
One main feature that really makes this game special is its focus on immersion. It is the little things that may not initially stand out to someone, but when they are blended together it creates an experience that really captivates the audience. Naughty Dog has done an absolutely incredible job with this aspect, taking the time necessary to ensure that every room and street has character. Showing a world that was attacked and then left in an instant, seeing the untamed wilderness reclaim the spaces we used to inhabit. The landscapes play a major role in this game because they further drive home the fact that it is a game of survival and the environment is just another obstacle in the way.
The visuals in this game are unrivaled, like the emphasis on glare after stepping over a hill to see the sun on a horizon. Or the change in lighting after moving from an outside to inside space. It isn’t only the surrounding nature that is beautiful; this game does not have anything generic in it. One building will not look like the next; they all have been affected by nature in a different fashion. At one point in the game you will be able to enter a hotel, and once you’ve entered you will see what twenty years of being exposed to Mother Nature, the infected, and other survivors passing through can do to what was once a pristine and beautiful building. You can see that things were scavenged, eroded, and destroyed not only by time but by its inhabitants as well.
The visuals remain consistent with the cut scenes in the game. Cut scenes flows seamlessly into gameplay. The Naughty Dog staff did tremendous work with motion capture, facial expressions and body language. When you look into one of the character’s faces you can see and feel the emotion. You can tell from their eyes and how they act. These emotions even come through during gameplay. You’ll know when Ellie is upset because she won’t look at you, or she will cross her arms and pout. Also, the incredible detail on the infected makes them terrifying when they are sprinting at you. In the art book that I received with my game, it was written that each and every infected person would look different from the last, which is very impressive.
It is difficult to be immersed in a game without great sound to partner with the visuals. The sound quality of this title is on par with its graphics. Everything in this game is dynamic and has some subtle but powerful effects on the player’s experience. It makes walking through the woods feel real, and it makes being stuck in a tunnel full of the infected that much harder to bear. This amount of emphasis on sound quality really helps instill powerful, emotional gameplay. The soundtrack to this game also compliments its overall theme. It is very subtle, but when it is thrown in with emotional cut scenes, it makes the experience complete.
Another major feature that makes this game stand out amongst the rest is the voice acting done by Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). The acting in this game is so powerful that it is difficult not to build a bond with them. As Joel, Troy displays how much depth and range he has as a voice actor. Taking on the role of a rugged, hard, and vengeful protagonist, Joel knew the world before it collapsed and now his past is being revisited with his newest journey. Ashley Johnson does a fantastic job taking on this role; Ellie, a young fourteen-year-old girl, was born into this world filled with death and despair. She doesn’t know any better and therefore is callous to the violence she sees every single day. Though she is young, she is very capable and Johnson’s portrayal of a young girl wiser than her years shines through in The Last Of Us. Another thing that captivates the player is that there are no static or dull characters that you encounter in this game. Along your journey you will meet some characters that have deep histories and through a little exploration and digging you can delve deeper into they’re pasts to see how they’ve become who there are now.
The gameplay in this title just clicks with its narrative. It flows perfectly and has realistic combat and movement. Gameplay for this title consists of two different play styles: stealthy assassin, or guns blazing. Both styles are challenging, but the former is much more forgiving than the latter.
This game is incredibly realistic which means in a post-pandemic world ammunition and materials are not entirely easy to come by. Meaning you have to treat every combat scenario based on what you have to work with. This also makes completing combat scenarios stealthily incredibly gratifying because you did not have to waste ammunition and probably not lose any health in the process. Every situation has its risks and the enemies react dynamically to what you do. Throwing bottles and bricks to distract or stun opponents is a great way to get gamers thinking tactfully throughout their entire play through. Gun play carries a lot of risk when it is not necessary in the game. Though using guns is much faster and more effective than sneaking up and choking enemies, there is the chance that you will miss and draw all the enemies towards you at once. Each style costs either ammo or materials, and since you cannot strangle some of the stronger enemies known as ‘Clickers’ (enemies which are at a further stage of the infection,) you’ll have to put together a makeshift weapon to kill them.
Crafting is another aspect in this title that helps players adjust to every situation. Players will be able to upgrade their weapons and themselves. Using materials found throughout the game, items can be crafted in your back pack to help aid you through your journey. These items include: shivs, nail bombs, upgraded melee weapons, smoke bombs, molotovs, and health kits. You will also stumble upon supplements scattered around the game which can help upgrade your character’s health, crafting and healing speed, listening distance, shiv usage, and weapon sway. You can upgrade the weapons you carry by collecting parts and tools found throughout the game as well. You will be able to upgrade the gun’s clip size, power, range, and other specifics that will make your weapons more effective against your enemies.
I believe the other core mechanic that this game was built around is the aspect of interpretation. This game is incredibly open in multiple ways. The world is vast and deep with a story to match. Though there are a very limited number of executive decisions that the player gets to decide, it does not take away from the power of this linear story. This game can be beaten fairly quickly if players do not explore and just fight their way through the main story. There is nothing wrong with that style, but I would highly recommend players take their time and appreciate all the effort that Naughty Dog has put into this title. There is so much to be found in this game including: collectables, artifacts, notes, comics, materials, etc. I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly deep this game goes. Everywhere you look there is something to be found and analyzed. The extra exploration also opens some new dialog between our two protagonists that, although incidental, really grounds them in the world. The game follows a linear story but getting there is rather difficult at times. When exploring sometimes it is easy to lose your way. This is not a fault on behalf of Naughty Dog. On the contrary, it almost motivates players to explore more deeply. It puts you in the shoes of a survivor trying to find their way. This is just another tactic to immerse players and make them think like our survivors.
The game also has a multiplayer which gives this title added replay value. The multiplayer is very fun and challenging. When beginning multiplayer you must choose a faction. Once you choose said faction, you will be the leader of a clan. This clan grows as you progress through multiplayer, but be cautious because if you do poorly or leave matches, as members of your clan will fall ill or begin to starve. Multiplayer has two modes, the first being the ‘Supply Raid’ mode. The objective of this mode is to eliminate enemy players while harvesting supplies from their bodies and toolboxes placed around the map. The supplies are then transferred into parts which help your clan grow and survive. The other mode is the ‘Survivors’ game mode. In ‘Survivors,’ players compete for multiple rounds in a sudden-death-based team death match of four-on-four. Both modes are incredibly intense and provide endless hours of entertainment.
A masterpiece would be an understatement for Naughty Dog’s newest title. This game is an experience that can’t be matched, it provides a timeless tale of the bond built in a world designed to break everything. It is a journey that hooks players from the moment the game begins and leaves them begging for more when it’s over.
This game receives a 10/10 in my books.
– Joe Sorbini –
Huge thanks to Joe for contributing. If you’d like to let him know how he did, send him some love in the comments below or send him a shout at @jsorbini on Twitter.
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Thanks guys and see you next week!