The Last Of Us is a game that our own Nathan Birch was worried would flop this year. But that was before we played it. It’s in no danger of flopping; it’s simply too good for that to happen. Which doesn’t mean, however, that it’s perfect: Here’s what Naughty Dog did right… and what went wrong.
It’s Possibly One Of The Best-Written Games In Recent Memory
The game isn’t immune to some zombie cliches: No points for guessing why Joel winds up taking Ellie across the country. But by and large, it’s well-characterized; Ellie is very much a teenage girl, and Joel’s not always nice to her. The tutorial in particular does a superb job of explaining Joel’s mindset and why, twenty years later, an essentially decent man has become a violent petty criminal with a fairly high body count.
The game’s environments are also filled with hints about what happened in a specific area, or to a specific person. Some of the darkest moments in the game are shown to you as you scavenge.
In Most Situations, You Can Play It Your Way…
Although the game will occasionally force you into a battle situation, or a moment where you have to run if you want to stay alive, most of the time how you play it is up to you. You can sneak past the enemy, you can shoot it out, you can choke them to death one-by-one, you can mix and match.
…And If That Goes Wrong, You Can Wing It And Not Get Killed.
Unlike a lot of games where stealth is a major component, if your plan goes off the rails, you can still generally get out of the situation without dying. You can sprint behind cover, herd enemies into a bottleneck, blast your way out, and survive.
The tools the game gives you are so balanced, so effective, that you can swap strategies and feel like a cross between Mad Max and Batman; it’s that thrilling and cathartic. Speaking of which…
All Of Your Weapons Are Useful, And You Want To Use Them
Most games have weapons that either suck, or just aren’t as effective as others, so you tend to stick with a handful. Here, every weapon has benefits that suit it for different situations. For example, if a group of enemies are bunched together, a Molotov cocktail will wipe ’em out. If they’re advancing on your position, throw a smoke bomb. If you need to knock an enemy off-balance, dope slap them from a distance with a brick (which is far, far more comedic than Naughty Dog was probably intending, but hey, as a strategy, it works).
More than that, though, every weapon has a different heft, a different feel. And sometimes you get so immersed in the story you become genuinely angry. There will be a few times where you choose to do this:
Not because it’s the best way to do it, but because the guy in question has it coming.
The Enemy AI Is Challenging But Doesn’t Cheat
Enemies are not shy about hunting you; human enemies will flank you, hide, lay traps and ambushes, and have all types of weapons to use on you, for example. But the game doesn’t generally drop some BS out of nowhere; you’ll see enemies coming, as a rule, unless everything goes to hell and you get swarmed.
But not every game is perfect, and as you play through the game presents a few problems.