What many have considered a new take on post-apocalyptic video games, with an emotional impact, great story, and “Gameplay”. I found The last of us one of the most basic video game experiences I’ve ever had. So let’s break down this great title and actually review it in the most unbiased way.
The Last of Us Toxic Review
From the moment I picked up the controller I got instantly attached to the story, the opening sequence is really intense. And that was it, done. The rest of the game was extremely bland. forgettable NPCs and weak origin stories did not serve the purpose of this game. Which is supposed to be a deep emotional impact and survival zombie horror at its best.
Starting with Joel you witness the first appearance of the virus which spreads instantly in your town. In a country that never had any reference to the living dead in their culture so they end up calling the infected “clickers”. Joel is a single father, whose wife was never mentioned in the game, tries to escape the town with his daughter, Sarah. Assisted by his younger brother “Tommy”, they reach the high way where a military soldier shoots them. Military took orders to shoot on sight because they did not now how far the virus spread or how can they control it. The result of this confrontation was the death of Sarah. And the beginning of Joel’s story.
20 years later, Joel is living in a military camp doing chores and collecting food rations. But also doing some business as a smuggler with a woman called Tess. The game never mentions how did Joel reach that notoriety among criminals of that time. Or how Tess was a feared character in the criminals underworld. So basically after 20 years the game tells you “Joel and Tess are big criminals now, accept it and move on”.
After getting some “guns”, Tess and Joel attract unwanted attention from other criminals who want their guns. The game never tells you why Joel or Tess get those guns. All you know is that “Robert”, who is the biggest enemy of Tess, took the “guns”, Tess and Joel want their “guns” back so “Robert” tells them that he sold the “guns”. Frustrated Joel asks violently about the “guns” location. So Robert tells him that the Fireflies got those guns now. The Fireflies are a group of justice seekers who want to restore balance to the world, or so they say. They are constantly at war with the army and therefore considered the greatest enemy of the country by many people.
Joel and Tess meet a Firefly representative who can get them the guns. In return for a favor, a smuggling Job. Joel and Tess are to deliver a teen called Ellie to another Firefly outpost. And there you have it, the greatest story set-up to ever happen in a video game.
A powerful group like the Fireflies can not send someone to pick up Ellie, they had to hire Joel and Tess for that job. Also, Joel and Tess absolutely had to accept because they wanted their “guns” back. Ellie is the only person who is immune to the virus. If she is really important to the Fireflies as the game stressed they would probably take better care in delivering her to their HQ. Instead of just leaving her with two people who consider her a burden. But that is lazy writing for you.
Probably the game’s strongest aspect. Characters are well designed and acted. But they don’t really deliver that much since most of the characters are forgettable names with no backstories. Another down side is Naughty Dog’s emphasis on presenting a homosexual character. I have nothing against gays or lesbians but forcing them into everything is annoying. Especially since homosexual gamers don’t care if a video game character has the same sexual orientation as they are. We want characters with stories, we don’t care if they like men or women.
Is a middle aged depressed man. He lost his daughter and is trying to live on but barely hanging in there. He is trying to escape his past but he can not just let go of the memory of his daughter. We are introduced to Joel’s turning point from the caring father to the current world class smuggler. Without any inclusion of his previous life, his wife, his family, nothing is there. Just a guy who lost his daughter in the beginning of the aftermath and went rogue. Though the character introduction of Joel is not very spot-on, it’s development is fantastic. Joel turning from just wanting his “guns” to actually caring about the package, Ellie. And not only does he care about Ellie, we actually think that he finally let go of his daughter, but towards the end of the game we realize that he replaced Sarah with Ellie.
Probably what is keeping this game together is the perfect acting of Ellie. The teenager who went through a lot of suffering and witnessing her friends die or turn into clickers. She is trying so hard to act like a spoiled brat but her true nature reveals gradually. She yearns for family and care after she is literally born into the dystopia. You can not miss her curiosity while she tries to figure out the world before her time and forming friendship with Joel. Ellie’s smart dialogue and plot points are easily some of the best video game moments. However, Ellie somehow doesn’t fit gameplay wise. The way she always runs around stomping the floor and nobody hears her. Or when she runs right in front of enemies and they don’t detect her. The way her movements interact with the gameplay situations are stupid.
And here comes the not so emotional side-character that I had to google before writing this review due to how forgettable she is. Tess is there as the completion of the wasteland smuggling gang. She is unrealistically notorious among thugs. How can a single person be so feared through numerous gangs? Even though she is practically alone in that underworld?. Tess’s character falls flat when she does not show any emotions throughout the game. But suddenly gives her life to save a girl whom she spent 1 night with. Tess is the example of lazy character development but happily she is only present for about 3 hours of the entire game.
The rest of the characters are somehow fillers, just to fill the blanks and give our protagonists actual people to interact with.
The last of us focuses all its weaknesses into gameplay. Which is pretty ironic considering it is a game after all. The upgrade system of collecting pills to make Joel better to upgrading weapons with metal parts felt really off. It did not actually make anything better. It all felt like I just got better at this game’s shaky aiming after playing for many hours.
The weapon damage does not make any sense. How can an arrow kill instantly but a hunting rifle requires 3-4 bullets to kill?. And I found that the propaganda of saving resources and “making every bullet count” was just made for false marketing. Because I almost beat the game on stealth, sometimes I didn’t even fight at all and I just walked around enemies. Except in these parts when The last of us forces you to fight. But given my play style, I didn’t struggle much in these forced combat sequences as I had plenty of bullets to waste.
The crafting system of using blades, which are always halves of scissors, in 3/4 of your offensive items is really a poor design. And really how can you make a proximity mine from explosives and blades? They were placed with wires in parts of the game that you had to carefully disable. But when you craft these bombs they are suddenly throwable mines that defy every logical aspect in any video game.
And what was even more painful that with all those upgrades there was not a single upgrade that allows you to carry more resources in your bag. You can only carry just 3 of each resource. And not to mention the shiv that breaks after a limited number of hits when the game explicitly tells you that “some enemies have stronger layers of armor than others”. Which should mean that shivs can break faster with different types of enemies. But no, A shiv equals 3 uses at maximum upgrades. And you must have a full durability shiv to unlock a door, which results instant breaking of that shiv. No sense at all.
What is the best multiplayer mode that you can create in a Zombie game? The obvious answer is players teaming up vs Zombies or at least a player vs player in a zombie world. But Naughty dog studios wanted to get creative and so they gave us a players vs players deathmatch. That’s it. All of the maps in that game and the different monsters that you can fight are reduced to a single mode in multiplayer. You pick a faction and fight the other faction. In a normal humans vs humans match where everyone is crouching and walking slowly until he can catch an opponent off guard and kills him. Who thought it is a good idea to make a deathmatch multiplayer mode in a game with the worst shooting mechanics? it is like a slow motion counter-strike game.
After playing some time in multiplayer I decided that I better waste my time playing an actual deathmatch game that have good shooting and movement mechanics. It is sad that Call of duty’s Zombie multiplayer mode is much better than The last of us multiplayer experience.
Walking into that DLC felt like finally getting to know Ellie. Or at least that was what I expected. Instead it was two hours of Ellie fighting hunters while rescuing Joel and getting flashbacks of her past. Which doesn’t actually tell the story of her paste, Just the 1 hour when she was bitten. Still the sequence was pretty challenging and the final showdown between Ellie and the hunters was really great. I have finished off all of the enemies only to realize I am walking into a cutscene which will put me in a fight against a dozen more of enemies. When all I had left was 4 arrows and 1 brick. Now that is survival. That last fight was more challenging than the entire main story.
What was interesting in that DLC, and in a segment of the main story where you play as Ellie, was the invincible knife. Ellie’s knife has unlimited durability and a 1 hit kill. Why didn’t Joel also have a knife?. He could find shotguns, Magnums, assault rifles and flamethrowers lying around but no knife. Also how is it possible that a knife lasts forever while a freaking axe breaks after five hits? This game makes zero sense in some points.
The last of us can reach the peak of story telling and character development without a concise story. And what it misses in gameplay is compensated by the great writing and acting.
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