The Last of Us isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the best ways we could have sent out the last generation of consoles. While they may not be down and out just yet, Naughty Dog’s latest is not only their finest offering to date, but is a showpiece of nearly everything this last generation has been capable of.
With some of gaming’s finest acting to date, and with one of the riskiest stories I’ve seen from a AAA developer, The Last of Us is something really unique. The world is completely realized, and exploring the fallen cities reminded me what huge developers could be capable of. In a year when most big budget games dissapointed me, The Last of Us showed me what untouched territory was still out there to discover. Though the first few hours suffer some pacing issues, and there are too many ladder/pallette scouring sequences, when The Last of Us is at its best, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played. The combat feels more versatile than any other 3rd person shooter I’ve touched, and tiny details, like enemies hearing the click of an empty clip, impressed me throughout the entire experience.
The environments tell the best stories in the game, and do a great deal to flesh out the world without needless exposition. Seeing the results of Ish’s fallen society by stumbling into them did a great deal more for me than just hearing a story it. Characters interact with each other often outside of cutscenes, and make them feel alive even when you’re all just walking down a path to your next objective.
Possibly my favorite moment in the entire game is an example of this- I split from my group and ended up in at a dead end far away from them. I was jumped by two zombie enemies, and took them out with a couple of shotgun blasts. One character who had stayed at the entrance heard the shots and shouted, “Hey, are you okay?!” and my character yelled back, explaining what happened. This tiny line of reactive dialogue is an example of how much care is nearly every corner, and shows just how clever the developers can be at their best. And the way the nail the landing in the last 5 minutes? It’s one of the most perfect ends to a game I’ve ever seen, and goes a long way in leaving a lasting impression that I’m still pondering.
The Last of Us squeezes every last bit of power from the PS3 to craft a full believable world and characters, and is the last great exclusive showpiece of the boxes we’ve had in front of our TVs for so long. 2013 had plenty of high points, but few of them were as powerful or as memorable as the highs of The Last of Us.