“The Last of Us” is the newest game from Naughty Dog, a company known primarily for its lighthearted action trilogy, “Uncharted.” Let me just say up front that, for anybody going into this game with that fact in mind, be warned: “The Last of Us” is a far cry from the Indiana Jones-esque protagonist, cheesy one-liners, and femme fatales of the “Uncharted” trilogy.
“The Last of Us” is not a game that is suited for people who have weak stomachs or who can’t handle intense emotional situations. In my vast experience with games of an emotional nature, none have come close to the intensity”“ both on screen and between the lines in “The Last of Us.”
The game opens 20 years after the Cordyceps fungus hits the world, breaking society apart. You play as Joel, an incredibly flawed but empathetic-in-his-own-way kind of character who is charged with delivering a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, to a rebel group. Although Joel is an incredibly compelling protagonist, the real driving force of the game is Ellie.
With this game, Naughty Dog focused on creating a memorable bond between the two primary characters. They passed this test with flying colors. Things start off rough with Joel and Ellie, but as the plot develops and some of mankind’s most evil crimes are brought down on them, these two characters form a bond more memorable than anything I have experienced in any game I’ve ever played. The bond between Joel and Ellie is the emotional core of the entire plot.
Before discussing the story further, I’d like to talk a bit about the actual gameplay. The major gameplay focus in “The Last of Us” is stealth, and the stealth mechanic is outstanding. What this means is that if you get caught, you actually have to handle the fight that ensues. Combat is not easy (which is why there are a variety of items at your disposal to help you avoid being seen), but even on the hardest difficulty setting everything is both doable and enjoyable.
While the gameplay is superb in “The Last of Us,” the most compelling part of the game is its story. The story is a linear plot bombarded with depression, death, questions of morality and a display of the most extreme boundaries of human evil, all lining up to what is perhaps the most emotionally hard-to-swallow ending in gaming history. It is satisfying and complete, but it simply will not sit right with most people (because it isn’t supposed to). The ending remains true to the logic and nature of the characters and of the world, and is bound to keep nearly everyone who experiences it thinking for months after the fact.
In short, “The Last of Us” is a must-play for anyone who owns a PS3. Unfortunately for Xbox and PC gamers, Naughty Dog only makes games for the PS3. But for PS3 gamers, “The Last of Us” is worth every penny and more.