I know I am a bit late to this party, but I finally got a hold of a chance to sit down and play Naughty Dog's Zombie game. Which means, it's time for another CG review!
The Last of Us is a hallmark of story telling excellence. Naughty Dog has really become the kings when it comes to cinematic story telling. Everything from the world around you, to the incidental dialogs that happen around you as you proceed through the game, it all builds upon a really compelling world. Basically the zombie appocalypse hits the world at the beginning of the game, in which you control Joel's daughter as she watches the fist wave of chaos unfold. This section was incredible as you literally watch and feel society crumble around you, then tension makes your heart race as you, Joel, and his brother Tommy try to escape.
It doesn't go well.
Fast forward 20 years and Joel is some kind of smuggler in a broken society barely on the edge of functioning around the corrupt military forces that have formed over the last two decades. You get a feel for Joel right away, you see the way he views the world, and how he had made his survival in it. Turns out it wasn't zombies, but a fungus that mind controls people into zombies. It's a different flavor of zombie, but it's still a zombie.
So after a smuggling deal goes bad, Joel and his companion Tess go off to get their merchandise back. Only to find that the guns they were owed are gone and in the hands of a rebel underground faction called the Fireflies. This Fireflies group wants to two smugglers to smuggle something outside the city in exchange for their stuff back. Turns out this thing is a 14-year-old foul mouthed girl named Ellie. For whatever reason she is important enough to risk everything to get her into the hands of certain people.
Of course things don't go as planned and Joel's journey with Ellie is a lot more complicated than it would seem.
The story itself isn't super unique, but it is fantastically told throughout the game and compelling enough to get your through the actually gameplay short comings. You see, to me, The Last of Us is a perfect example of how I view all of Naughty Dog's games. Fantastic stories, but shitty games. The controls are finiky, the shooting is weak, and the stealth is mediocre at best. It sucks that the game part of this game just isn't very good. It's the Uncharted formula that we've seen over and over already. Where ND could have used the setting and enemy types to create a different experience, they really didn't. While TLOU does have less running and jumping, the core combat is just the same clunky shit as the Uncharted games.
However it is improved here by the more stealthy focus. Even though the stealth isn't great and can be frustrating at times. It does allow for more interesting approaches through areas. What really breaks the game for me, is that nothing is reliable. You can stealth mostly through an enemy base, only to get caught by a set of enemies you are required to fight, which then calls all the other enemies and you get overrun. Or perform a silent takedown that isn't technically silent, and the whole area is alerted.
I could not get through the game without frustrating moments, and it's all because it is build on a weak gameplay system. Which is a shame because the dynamic between Joel and Ellie is wonderful. The story progresses at a natural rate and throws twists and turns in there that aren't unexpected but still very enjoyable throughout the game. By the end of the game, I really really wish I had just watched a Last of Us movie instead of playing through it, because I didn't have fun. I got angry at Clickers catching me for no reason. I got angry at soldiers seeing me through cover when they absolutely shouldn't. I got angry trying to aim my rifle at an enemy and having to struggle with the thumbsticks. WTB this game on PC please.
Anyway, as frustrating as the gameplay was, it should be noted that the story was so good I pushed through it. It's wonderfully, done. Really.
Take the combat out of the game and I would have loved every moment. The crafting is done in a cool way, though it doesn't have a lot of variety. The upgrades to Joel's abilities are boring, but done with a great flavor to the game world and it makes sense. The notes you find scattered expand on the story even more and fill out a lot of the minor events that happen around you. It's great world building. If they somehow improved the stealth mechanics and took out the gun combat entirely, I think I would have had more fun with the gameplay sections. There were moments where I would stealth around and kill every zombie, just because choking people out was really good when it worked.
So it's kind of a hard game to fully recommend for me. But it's under 20 bucks, so it isn't a big investment either. 6/10, just from the story alone. I'd give it a high 8 if I didn't have so much trouble with the gameplay.