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The Last of Us: something to fight for

Wednesday, 5 June 2013 15:00 GMT By Stace Harman

The Last of Us stands as the culmination of the developer Naughty Dog’s journey from the creator of Sony’s erstwhile bandicoot mascot to a master of interactive story-telling. You really should play it.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us is developed by Naughty Dog, the developer responsible for Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and Uncharted. It is set for release worldwide on Friday June 14 and is exclusive to PS3.

Protagonists Joel and Ellie are voiced by seasoned voice artist Troy “Booker DeWitt” Baker and video game debutant Ashley Johnson. Other seasoned-hands also make an appearance.

The musical score for The Last of Us is composed by Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla, who won two film Oscars for his work on Brokeback Mountain and Babel.

A piece of concept art from The Last of Us has been included in the tenth annual Into the Pixel exhibition. It’s one of over two hundred pieces that can be unlocked upon completion of the game.

The Last of Us features a multiplayer mode called Factions, details of which can be found here, with a video trailer here.

Towards the end of The Last of Us there’s a short, seemingly incidental conversation that takes place between Joel and Ellie as they walk a ruined highway into a dilapidated city.

Pragmatic survivalist Joel is in a rare wistful mood and, buoyed by a fresh spring breeze, he briefly reminisces about a time back before the outbreak.

Ellie is only half-listening. Born post-outbreak, Joel’s old-world is alien to her and she’s ruminating on more recent, still-raw, memories of a harrowing winter.

It’s a quiet moment and one that’s easy to overlook because, like Ellie, you too are preoccupied with the events of that harsh winter and are replaying in your own mind recent interactions and confrontations.

Still, the onset of spring along with Joel’s uncharacteristic whimsy and Ellie’s unusual disquiet marks an important milestone in the pair’s relationship; one that serves to highlight where the two of them have come from and what they’ve had to endure to get to where they are.

You’re given time to reflect on this as you guide Joel through the wreckage of long-abandoned cars, following a routine that has become second-nature.

You scavenge for useful components that can be combined to create tools, weapons, healing aids and makeshift bombs; you find more examples of the damning and desperate actions of the city’s long-dead inhabitants.

While this moment marks a turning point for Joel and Ellie, there are many more momentous events and poignant exchanges than this to be found throughout Naughty Dog’s PS3 swansong. Neil Druckmann’s script, the performances and voice work of the actors, the vision of Naughty Dog’s designers and artists, and Gustavo Santaolalla’s evocative score all come together on numerous occasions to mark The Last of Us as a stunning example of interactive storytelling.

More important than any of these because of the nature of the medium is the way in which your own actions contribute to the experience and lend meaningful continuity to the story and setting. It has long been a staple of the medium to collect things: essential things, useful things, and just plain shiny things.

Here the gathering of items, equipment and trinkets fits perfectly within the context of scavenging and survival. Friendly NPCs even subtly acquiesce to your kleptomania, thus ensuring that your inevitable raid on their supplies is tacitly acknowledged and does not to jar with the narrative.

Throughout, Naughty Dog ensures that your constant desire to search the darkened rooms of abandoned buildings for supplies and trinkets is balanced with the role that such spoils play. Some enhance the story, enrich the relationship between Joel and Ellie or contribute materials for use in the streamlined crafting system, while still others add a handful of scrap that can be used to modify firearms or grant Joel basic ability upgrades.

Sometimes these items will be collected from quiet areas that are designed to let you explore spaces that were once heavily populated or structures that served functional, everyday purposes, such as bars and office blocks.

At other times, there’s an elegant risk and reward system at play, as you traverse areas crawling with infected or hostile human survivors and have to balance taking down lone sentries or wandering stragglers with the potential pay-off of scoring more supplies or uncovering additional secrets.

Often, something will go wrong and you’ll be spotted by someone or something. Sometimes you’ll move too noisily and attract the attention of the blind but fearsome clickers. In yet other areas you’re being actively hunted. Whatever the reason, sometimes you have no choice but to fight your way out. It’s at these times that you’re likely to expend your supply of makeshift explosives and ammo as you’re forced into tense fights in which the AI will attempt to flank you and catch you unaware.

It’s here that the ability to craft items on the fly using the clean UI comes into its own as you constantly move from one location to another, scavenging for that last component in order to create a healing aid or offensive tool to give you the edge. It’s at these times that you’re thankful for Joel’s substantial arsenal, but the sheer number of weapons at your disposal is otherwise conspicuous within the context of a survival experience.

By the end of The Last of Us you’ll have amassed an abundance of firepower to which you’ll have added dozens of upgrades. Its elements such as this, when Naughty Dog is making concessions to standard video game tropes, that The Last of Us is at its weakest. A constant trickle of new weapons that add to, rather than replace, older ones certainly offers an open approach to combat but it also undermines the otherwise excellent sense of authenticity.

Similarly, Joel’s ability to ‘listen’ grants the tired super-power of being able to see through walls and while its use is entirely optional – and is in fact denied to you on the hardest difficulty level – it feels like an eleventh-hour addition for the sake of accessibility.

Elsewhere, the otherwise excellent companion-AI that governs Ellie and other NPCs occasionally gets caught out and shatters the carefully constructed illusion. The worst example of this is that nothing happens when a friendly NPC is caught in two minds of where to hide and bumps up against adversaries while you’re stealthily moving through an area.

In a bid to avoid frustrating fail states, Naughty Dog has programmed the enemy-AI to respond in the first instance to your actions, and so it will only acknowledge the existence of your companions if it has spotted you first. It’s a rare occurrence but one that’s impossible to excuse or ignore if and when you witness it first-hand.

The Last of Us keeps things fresh throughout by providing numerous varied environments to explore and a changing of the seasons that mark the passage of time; the pacing of the narrative ensures that you always feel like you’re moving toward something and not simply being shifted to a new area in order to collect another set of goodies. Despite just a handful of enemy archetypes, combat never feels stale thanks to the variety of scenarios into which Joel and Ellie are thrust.

All of this pales against the achievements of the excellent script, nuanced performances, beautiful score and the overall level of continuity and rich context that the setting provides for your own actions. While individual elements of The Last of Us can be picked at, as an overall experience it is memorable and, in some respects, peerless.

Thank goodness, then, for the long console cycle that has provided Naughty Dog the time and opportunity to create The Last of Us. It serves as a fitting and worthy culmination of the developer’s work on the current generation of hardware and an exciting and emotional precursor of what it can achieve on the next.

The Last of Us arrives on PlayStation 3 on June 14.

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10 Comments

  1. ArcticMonkey

    Good read. Sounds like it may be Bioshock Infinite versus The Last of Us on alot of people’s GOTY lists. I’m going to gamestop today to pay for my copy. These two games alone seem to have made 2013 a special year for gamers.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Stace Harman

    @1 Thanks. For me, BioShock better addresses wider themes concerning society and governance but The Last of Us is much better in terms of the writing and acting of personal relationships.

    In BI, Elizabeth was the star but in TLoU it’s the relationship between Joel and Ellie and how they affect one another that’s key. Also, Baker’s portrayal of Joel is far superior to his performance as DeWitt; Joel is a much better written character, too. Johnson is superb as Ellie.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Lengendaryboss

    @Stace
    Impressive impressions and good thoughts on Baker’s performances in BI and TLOU, one which i agree with.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Beta

    Excellent write up and very interesting. IMO Naughty Dog has always been fantastic at creating characters and character relationships.

    I think Baker’s performance being better as Joel than Booker is maybe because he had more to work with when it came to Joel. (Performance capture vs voice only).

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Stace Harman

    @4 Absolutely. The performance capture allows for much more nuanced performances and some occasional looks or gestures throughout the game convey a lot of meaning that doesn’t then need to be hammered home by way of verbal expression.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. ArcticMonkey

    @ Stace And thanks for those follow up distinctions. The BI and TLoU trailers both had themes of, man goes to save a woman/girl from a form of imprisonment and together they trek through a strange world. I think you nailed it, Irrational goes for stylization and Naughty Dog goes for a cinematic feel. Both are world building, and masters at their craft.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. daytripper

    The wait for this is taking ages, can’t wait to play it

    #7 2 years ago
  8. redwood

    will read this after i play the game ;)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. manamana

    @redwood exactly. I went on information embargo long time ago. I really can’t wait to play it.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Stace Harman

    Heh. Had forgotten about this write-up but came across it while researching something else – have already played TLoU through twice on both Hard and Survivor but I think it might be time to revisit it once more. Simply stunning stuff.

    #10 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Sony has dropped the price of the PS4 in the UK. For a limited time only, you can grab the console for £299.99 from Argos, Game, Tesco and Very. Go to Amazon.co.uk and you’ll get it for £289. You’ve only got until April 28, then it goes back up to £349. Go, go, go. For […]

  • Mad Max: first ever gameplay footage revealed

    Today, we get to finally take our first look at gameplay from Mad Max. Avalanche and Warner Bros. have shown off the first gameplay trailer for Mad Max today. The trailer below offers a look at melee combat, car combat, customisation and much more. Give it a watch below: There are a few new screenshots […]

  • Overlord: Fellowship of Evil has four-player co-op like we figured

    Codemasters has pulled the veil back on the next Overlord game, and its a four-player co-op game called Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. Rhianna Pratchett is back to write the story. The game may be co-op at its core, but it can still be played single-player. Each of the four playable character have strengths and weaknesses, […]

  • Update now available for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon X and Y

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire along with Pokemon X and Y are being updated by Nintendo to fix a few bugs and in-game text. There’s also the possibility of a few hacks and exploits being fixed. Per Nintendo Life (via Serebii), both patches are 250-270 blocks in size, and it’s a mandatory update which […]

  • Side-scrolling cover shooter Not a Hero gets a demo

    Not a Hero, the upcoming game from OlliOlli developer Roll7, has received a demo. The demo for Not a Hero was made available today on Steam. In the game, you play as Steve, the campaign manager for BunnyLord. A time-travelling rabbit who’s running for mayor of London. Think this is an absurd premise? This trailer […]

  • You have until April 30 to export your Green Day: Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 3

    Harmonix has announced that those looking to export their song collection from Green Day: Rock Band into Rock Band 3 can only do so until the end of the month. April 30 will be the cutoff date for anyone who wants to export tracks from Green Day: Rock Band into their Rock Band 3 library, […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight minimum, recommended, and ultra PC specs revealed

    Batman: Arkham Knight is looking like it’s going to be quite a taxing game. Nvidia has released a list of the minimum, recommended, and ultra PC requirements for Batman: Arkham Knight. Here’s the full thing: Minimum OS: Win 7 SP1, Win 8.1 (64-bit Operating System Required) Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom […]

  • Bloodborne patch 1.03 is live, reduces loading times, fixes suspend/resume bugs, more

    Patch 1.03 is now live for Bloodborne. The patch reduces loading times, adds item descriptions to loading screens, and fixes other various bugs. From Software has pushed update 1.03 live to all Bloodborne owners. As promised, it reduces loading times by approximately 5 to 15 seconds. Another new addition is showing item descriptions instead of […]

  • Battlefield 4: first look at Community Map in action

    Get your first look at the map designed by the community of Battlefield 4. Battlefield 4′s community-designed map is a reality. DICE has recently updated CTE to include an early version of the map. It’s not fully textured as Westie is about to show you, but the layout is nearly finalised. Westie goes over the […]

  • Microsoft apologises for uploading misleading Witcher 3: Wild Hunt footage

    Xbox’s YouTube channel uploaded a video of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt yesterday that was captured from the PC build. The most recent gameplay video for the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt appeared on the Xbox YouTube channel and showed a quest from the game’s opening section. A few minutes after it had gone live, […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator’s new game is Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

    Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the game Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets has been working on. Patrice Desilets has just announced that the next game his indie studio Panache Digital Games is making is called Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. The announcement comes from Desilets’s keynote at the Reboot Develop event in Croatia. The trailer started […]

  • Bloodborne: Cathedral Ward closed door mystery solved

    The mystery of the locked door at the bottom of the Cathedral Ward in Bloodborne has been solved. Bloodborne, like earlier From Software games, is filled with doors that don’t open the first time you try them. Some will give you “locked” messages, others “does not open from this side”. Some of these will open […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets is revealing his next game now [UPDATE: ended]

    Patrice Desilets, one of the original creators of Assassin’s Creed is hosting a presentation where he’s expected to talk about his next project. Patrice Desilets has emerged once again. This time he’s attending development conference in Croatia. Desilets is giving a live keynote and there’s a good chance we’re going to hear about his next […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: everything you need to know about gear upgrades & The Reef

    Bungie revealed plenty of important details in last night’s Destiny stream. Let’s go over everything. Alex wants to make sure you don’t miss any of the information revealed yesterday. Most of it affects all Destiny players too, even those who don’t intend on buying House of Wolves. During the first stream, Bungie explained the armour […]

  • Mod-friendly Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access in May

    Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access next month for a full release, Stardok has announced. The developer called the game the “largest and most diverse strategy sandbox to date,” as players have a variety of tools such as diplomatic treaties to resource exchanges, and United Planets resolutions to hundreds of research directions for […]

  • Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim is out next week on PC – here’s the pre-order trailer

    Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim will be released next week on PC, and today, we have a pre-order trailer for you. The game will be made available on April 28 for $19.99/€17.99/£13.99 on GOG, the Humble Store and Steam. Along with improvements over the original PSP version, it will contain less backtracking, controller support […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – full gear set up to level 34 in PvP and PvE, upgrades, more

    The Destiny: House of Wolves livestream this afternoon was chock full of information. Read onward for our full report. According to Bungie, Petra Venj, who serves the Queen, is the main story agent who leads the player through the main series of quests. Players who complete bounties will be able to level up in her […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – watch the livestream right here

    Bungie will host a Destiny: House of Wolves livestream at 2pm EDT today, and you can watch it right here. Watch live video from Bungie on www.twitch.tv The stream will introduce the new social space, The Reef, as well as gear upgrade paths. House of Wolves contains new Strike missions, The Prison of Elders three-player […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 22 team includes Barcelona, Chelsea players

    This week’s FIFA 15 Team of the Week is now available for FIFA Ultimate Team players. Each team member, as with previous weeks, is selected base on the previous weekend’s matches. Here’s the list of players now available: Starting GK: Claudio Bravo – FC Barcelona (Spain) CB: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus (Italy) CB: Ömer Toprak […]

  • Sony’s Spring Fever Sale winds down with Shovel Knight and Call of Duty discounts

    It’s the final week of Sony’s Spring Fever Sale which means more games have been added to the mix. Shovel Knight, which launches today is one offer, and the rest are all Cal of Duty titles. The Taken movie series is on sale as well. With Shovel Knight available today on PlayStation 3, PS4 and […]

  • Drivers for Xbox controllers, voice messages, more features available in Xbox One preview

    Microsoft has announced new features coming to Xbox One and the Xbox App on Windows 10 through the preview program this month. Some of the new features have been requested by the community for both Xbox One and Xbox One SmartGlass. Here’s what to expect, straight from the horse’s mouth: Xbox on Windows 10 Game […]

  • Total War: Warhammer has been announced for PC, Mac, SteamOS

    Total War: Warhammer has been announced after previous teases from The Creative Assembly touched upon it. The game will contain “gigantic monsters, flying creatures, legendary heroes and storms of magical power.” It is also the first in a trilogy which includes two additional standalone titles and extra content packs. It will feature thousands of warriors […]

  • This video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features a quest from the prologue

    A new video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, showing off the Precious Cargo quest contained in the game’s prologue. The quest tasks Geralt with helping a merchant retrieve a mysterious box from the swamps. The scene looks familiar, but we’ve seen so many videos for the game it’s hard to tell […]

  • Limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online kicks off tomorrow on consoles

    The limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tomorrow, and Sony has provided details on the tester for those who’ve been invited to participate. The beta test contains the full version of the game and will run from April 23-27, and will start and […]

  • Dying Light debuts in second place on Media Create charts

    Techland’s Dying Light made its debut in Japan lats week, coming in a respectable second place behind Nintendo’s Girls Mode 3: Kirakira Code. The zombie shooter sold 25,530 units on PlayStation 4, while the top earner for the week moved a little over 55,000 units on 3DS. Another western release when landed on the chart, […]

  • Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven will release in the west this June

    Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven has been given a release date by XSEED Games, which announced the localization back in February. The title will launch for 3DS in North America on June 2 digitally and through retail. It will be an eShop only title in Europe and Australia when it releases on June 4. A […]

  • This Overlord video teases four new faces of evil

    A new Overlord game is in the works, going by the previous teasing and this video – which teases the possibility of four-payer co-op. Or just four characters to choose from. We don’t know just yet – all we know is the team is asking you to “join the fellowship.” A new entry in the […]

  • GTA movie will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar’s Sam Houser, the BBC confirms

    The GTA movie Game Changer will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar co-founder and president Sam Houser, theBBC has confirmed. The BBC also confirmed Bill Paxton will play Jack Thompson, a role Paxton already confirmed last week when speaking with Deadline. Here’s the synopsis per the BBC: “Conceived for an adult audience, this special 90-minute drama […]

  • Take a look at Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode

    Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode has received a trailer today. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold will come with two modes, Classic and Story. Classic Mode was trailered today and in it, you’ll get to make your party by choosing from 13 classes. You’ll be able to customise them too using the character creation tool. Revamped […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows to come with new challenge mode

    Shovel Knight’s upcoming expansion Plague of Shadows will bring with it a new challenge mode. Shovel Knight developer Yacht Club Games has revealed the challenge mode, one of the new additions coming to the game with the free Plague of Shadows expansion. “Are you more into digging than distillation? Already have your Feats book long […]

  • Nvidia releases complete graphical guide for GTA 5

    Those with GeForce cards will be happy to know that Nvidia has released a comprehensive graphical tweaks guide for GTA 5. Nvidia usually produces graphical guides for the big AAA games, and GTA 5 is no different. Their guides offer in-depth coverage of each in-game setting, how much they affect framerate, if they can be […]