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.
If you would like to contribute to the site or would like to see more guest posts like this email us at thespawnpointblog@gmail.
Thanks guys and see you next week!
In case you missed all the fireworks yesterday, the gaming world shifted again with Microsoft reversing their DRM and online policies. The story developed throughout the day after Patrick Klepek from Giantbomb ran a story about the changes coming to the Xbox One which later Microsoft confirmed.
The rundown is this:
- There is no longer an online requirement.
- You will only have to be connected during the initial setup of the system.
- No more 24 hour “check-ins”.
- Downloaded games will still work whether you are online or not.
- You XB1 disc based games will work in the same manner as your Xbox 360 ones did
- You will be able to trade and loan your discs as you see fit.
- All region locks are gone.
In my opinion this is a huge flip-flop on the part of Microsoft, I expected this somewhere down the line, but not this soon. Along with the public outcry, there had to be some unfavorable preorder numbers or the Jimmy Fallon effect that made this come about so quickly. Either way it’s a win for gamers of all stripes because now we get to focus on the important part, the games.
The ball again is in Sony’s court and I have to wonder if this muffles some of the feel good rhetoric promoted at E3. What if anything will they do to possibly sweeten the pot now that the feature set playing field is even more level.
With all that being said there are still many questions gamers should be asking.
Will gamers now feel “safe” to buy their XB1? There will surely be a PR bump from this mea culpa, but will those new adopters forget the other bits and pieces that they previously weren’t happy about like the always connected Kinect? A friend of mine brought up a great and possibly troubling point in reference to MS’s all seeing eye. He pondered “since the XB1 needs the Kinect to function what happens if it craps out? Does that make your XB1 pretty much useless? How will MS deal with warranties on the peripheral, will they be tied together in some way?”
Also, since they are dropping the proposed plans of reselling your digital titles, how will that impact their digital marketplace? What if anything does that do to the pricing scheme in that realm?
Consumer still have some months before these systems launch, being diligent and asking the companies directly about your concerns will be key in the seemingly ever moving landscape we find ourselves in as next-gen gamers. My suggestion to you is to think with your head, not your heart, and especially with your wallet.
Sony released a firmware update last night (4.45) that is rendering some systems useless. They’ve pulled it down for now but I would suggest that you hold off on updating for fear of bricking your machine.
Sony announced that they are aware of the problem and are working on a solution. With gamers being so fickle I wonder if this has scared some of their new supporters off after such a great week of PR for company.
We’ll keep you posted with updates as we get them.
E3 2013 will do gown as one of the most interesting case studies in corporate maneuvering in the history of the videogame business. The day started with mountains of fan excitement. People had gathered their information and drizzled their speculation sprinkles on top, waiting for Microsoft and Sony to show their wares. For the less initiated, E3 is the Super Bowl for gamers; or better yet our yearly World’s Fair. The place in which we get to hopefully have the “World of Tommorrow” moments that will show us what our favorite hobby will look and feel like in the years to come.
Day one of E3 provided many of those moments, both forgettable and not, leaving everyone in the gaming world abuzz with excitement and some wanting a way-back machine to recompose and rethink.
Microsoft, after coming off a three week public relations beatdown by gamers and press, had a lot to prove. Their restrictive DRM, online check-ins, and inability to share or purchase used games brought out all daggers and pitchforks from the community. The promise of games was supposed to satiate most and squelch some of the fires set at the last press conference. However, they lost so much good will with their backward thinking that I don’t know if anything but a complete reversal of policy would have made people forgive their past misstep. To their credit, Microsoft showed some damn awesome games. Metal Gear 5: The Phantom Pain and Quantum Break showed where the system wants to go with their future: big, robust titles that will show the power of the Xbox One.
Microsoft took some interesting risks as well with the games like Project Spark and Below. Both in my opinion reached out to that Indie-gamer base that the Xbox was sorely lacking in the current gen.
One of the bigger surprises of the night for them was the huge deal they inked with Twitch TV. Millions of gamers watch and interact with streamers on a daily basis. Being able to stream directly from your XO will be an amazing feature that many would-be stars will take advantage of. It will also be interesting to see if those who already have big followings on Twitch will be able to cash in somehow.
All that being said, the star of the show for Microsoft was TitanFall from Respawn. An immersive futuristic Call of Duty-esque game with the mech warfare included. Nimble “pilots” wall run and jetpack their ways around the battlefield while racking up XP points. The game looked fast, fluid, and extraordinarily fun. With the gameplay they showed, they gave folks a reason to buy their box–and then most of the good will was sucked out of the room when they dropped their $499 price tag.
Hesitant cheers filled the room when the number was spoken, and even slight groans could be heard in the background. I think even with all the bad news surrounding the XO, people could still see what the future held and were starting to rethink their position, but that price seemed to remove most of the benefits they showed during the conference. Or at least made die-hard Xbox fans willing to wait to see what Sony had to offer later that night.
Overall, Microsoft had a really good conference. The lack of apology for not listening to the fans in any way would have gone a long way toward rebuilding faith that the company wanted gamers to be happy. The lack of post-conference press questioning and no follow up left a bad taste in the mouths of many and set the stage for Sony to steal the night.
Sony had been waiting in the wings for awhile, and going last during the conference day would absolutely play into their favor. Microsoft had shown their hands and Sony could maneuver and adapt to the messaging provided by their rival. They started the ball rolling albeit slowly by setting the stage with PS3 and Vita software. Although many gamers are chomping at the bit to get to next-gen. Sony showed that there are some quality games coming down the pipe until the end of the year. Critically-acclaimed games like “The Last of Us” still bring about oohs and ahhs but people really wanted the new stuff.
A couple of minutes later the PS4 was revealed: a two-toned slanted box. An Xbox One with a methadone-addict lean. As you can see I’m not a fan of the design and think they went safe but I guess in the end the box’s looks don’t matter. What you can play on that box does and they showed some great upcoming titles like “The Order”, “infamous: Second Son” and many Indie titles that I’ll go into more detail in my “On My Radar” posts coming this week.
PS4’s biggest showing was Bungie’s game Destiny, the game looks gorgeous with expansive worlds. Awesome weapons and gameplay situations called “Public Events” that will add to experience by gathering large groups of players to take on community-timed challenges or enemies. The way it was implemented looked amazing and made me want that game now. Knowing Bungie’s background and ten year commitment, I think gamers on all platforms are in for a surprise.
Lots of great content was shown but the bombshells that everyone was waiting for were about to be dropped. Sony had been eerily quiet on the used game front especially after Microsoft went whole hog on the game lock-down stance. Rumors abounded that Sony would adopt the same policy of letting the publishers determine how used games would be dealt with and online connectivity “check-ins”. And with one fell swoop, Jack Trenton changed the landscape of the next gen universe by confirming that the PS4 wouldn’t adopt ANY of those previously discussed programs or policies. For good measure, Sony threw in a snarky instructional video showing how to share your games on the new system.
That wasn’t the final straw: a price tag of $399 garnered cheers and howls from the crowd and left many people slack-jawed that Sony undercut Microsoft by a full hundred dollars with the kind of hardware they were pushing. Social media streams blew up, people claimed new alliances with the PS4 and others deemed the XO DOA right out of the gate.
It was an interesting spectacle on many fronts. You don’t really see things like this from entertainment companies, especially during conferences held that closely together. It was refreshing, though, to see one company listen to its most ardent fans and–at least for that night–seem to understand what those consumers really wanted.
Huge kudos go out to the Sony team for being adaptive and not doubling down on stupid.
Some things you might have missed
- Your Xbox live subscription will carry over onto the XO
- An XO “Day One” sku will have a “Day One Achievement Code” and special controller
- No more MS Points, you can use real currency from your region
- XO will be released in November and you can preorder on Amazon now
- Kinect Sports Rivals will be a launch title
- Crimson Dragon will have Synchronous and Asynchronous gameplay.
- PS+ will carry over to your PS4 and Drive Club will be free to members
- You will need a PS+ subscription to play multiplayer games
- The system will come with a 500GB HD and you can swap it out for a bigger one
- A new headset will be available at or close to launch
Whew!! As you can see, the amount of information coming out is fast and furious, but I am on the case trying to bring you the most up-to-date information. Be sure to check out the “On My Radar” features this week, when we go more in-depth with some of the games from the show. Lots of trailers and thoughts coming so stick with us and let me know what questions you have. Tag your questions with #TSPe3!
Sony came to the stage last night with a man questions to answer. Could they keep the momentum they had from their initial conference almost six months ago? What would their next-gen console look like? Would they have games that would wow not only their fanbase but those gamers who were on the fence? They finished the night in firm command of the conversation and possibly a hold on holiday sales for this upcoming year. The PS4 had a bunch of games that perked interest and here are the five I’m most interested in getting my hands on.
The Order 1886
- Steampunk monster hunters, with a knights twist.
- Initial story seems really interesting.
- Cool looking weapons, let’s hope with lots of variety.
- Hoping actual gameplay keeps some of this trailer’s style.
- Multiple protagonists maybe?
- Huge deal that Sony is continuing to foster the relationship with Indie Devs.
- Bringing their games to the Sony platform will just bring more to the fold.
- Don’t Starve, Secret Ponchos and Mercenary Kings all looked great.
- Indie Devs can self-publish, again huge incentive.
- Games look easily portable to Vita as well, many getting a PS+ push from the start.
- The game looked better than the initial showing.
- The new open, bright environments will do that game and the Guerrilla engine justice.
- New Combat options including the “Owl” personal combat drone should be very cool.
- Mutiplayer should be amazing as well.
Infamous: Second Son
- Graphics looked amazing, crazy particle effects.
- Really emotive characters.
- Protagonist was a snarky bad-ass (New DMC Dante-esque)
- Felt like a playable version of the Chronicle movie.
Quantic Dream Demo
- EXTREMLEY impressive detail.
- Kind of graphics we really want from next-gen.
- This kind of technology can help to create the emotionally deep gameplay we have been dying for.
Let us know what we missed and what you are excited for. Are you buying a Ps4 day one, if so tell us why in the comments below.