Truthfully when The Last of Us was first announced I was a little apprehensive about it. It was an action / adventure game with elements of survival / horror made by the same studio who brought us Uncharted, Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter and as a result, I wasn’t sure Naughty Dog could pull it off.
At the time The Last of Us was an unknown commodity and to some of us it was a hard sell no matter how much material we saw on the run up to the game’s release but nevertheless, I bought it on release day with all the hope in the world that once again Naughty Dog would deliver and deliver they did.
Now, nearly a decade later The Last of Us is considered a classic by many, and regardless of what people think about The Last of Us Part II, you’ll be hard pushed to find anyone who has a negative word to say about the original and any reservations I had at the beginning have been well and truly laid to rest.
Not only has The Last of Us perhaps become my favourite game of all time but it has also had a tremendous impact on my life as it has many gamers who have picked up the controller over the years and today we take a look back at one of PlayStation’s crowning achievements.
So, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years or maybe you just aren’t a gamer, The Last of Us chronicles the journey of Joel and his teenage companion Ellie as they travel across a post apocalyptic America in search of a militia group known as the Fireflies in the hopes of finding a cure to a deadly parasitic fungus that has nearly wiped out humanity.
Unlike most games out there, the heart and soul of The Last of Us is character and story. There is a depth to the characters not often found in gaming and the story itself has a way of sucking you in almost making the gameplay aspect of the actual game a secondary concern.
Undoubtedly part of this is due to the career defining performances from both Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson as Joel and Ellie respectively. Not only does the game contain standout character moments from each of our protagonists but it also features true character growth. Joel and Ellie don’t end the story the way we find them. They grow and evolve across the course of the game and their relationship is strengthened with each passing hour.
Spanning four distinct seasons, we follow Joel and Ellie through the world on an often heart-breaking and emotional tale full of violence and savagery, love and loss. From the opening prologue to the closing epilogue, there isn’t a moment where you won’t be hooked on what is unfolding.
Naughty Dog crafted one of the most beautiful and brutal worlds I’ve seen in a game. The graphics are nothing short of spectacular regardless if you’re playing on the PS3 or the PS4. Even now the original release of the game holds up and still looks stunning but if you have the opportunity and haven’t played it, I’d recommend picking up The Last of Us Remastered on PS4.
In terms of gameplay, The Last of Us may feel slow compared to other games out there. Joel isn’t dashing for cover and darting up walls like Nathan Drake. He’s a heavy, cumbersome character who plays in a much more realistic way when compared to the star of the Uncharted series and when you find yourself pitted in a fight with an enemy you feel every bone crunching blow that Joel lands.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of the game though is the never ending feeling of desperation. You’re constantly running low on ammo and supplies. There’s a feeling of escalation in enemy encounters as enter an area, take out a few bad guys and then your plan goes out the window and your left scrambling in an ever evolving and escalating confrontation however the game never feels like its punishing you and it always seems fair.
Almost as soon as The Last of Us came out the fanbase was clamouring for more and soon enough Naughty Dog released The Last of Us: Left Behind in which you get to step into the shoes of Ellie and flesh out her character from a time before she met Joel as well as allowing you to spend more time in Ellie’s shoes during the main story as well. I think The Last of Us: Left Behind could best be described as being a charming addition to an already endearing game.
The impact of The Last of Us can still be felt today and for a video game that came out in 2013, that’s quite the achievement. Games come and go quickly and tend not to stick around too long the way a good film or TV show does. A lot of gamers move on pretty quickly from one thing to another and while a few revisit an older game from time to time I can’t think of any game I’ve revisiting more often than The Last of Us. This article alone was really just an excuse for me to go back and play it one more time.
While I’m sure my fondness for The Last of Us has not gone unnoticed, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that the it is truly something special and something that shouldn’t be missed or over looked. It is without doubt, my game of the generation.
By Edward Laing