Friday, August 16, 2013

August of Games: Day 16 - The Last of Us

Confession: this isn't what I had planned for today on my schedule, I had Dead Space written. Maybe I'll displace something later this month for that, but as I just completed The Last of Us I wanted to talk about it!
 The music from the game has three directions: tense ambience, haunting violin, and emotional piano. this track is the third. They're all excellent, though the latter two especially so. I should check out what else Gustavo Santaolalla has done.

The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre (Setting): Modern, Post-apocalypse, Zombies (infected, not necromancy)
Genre (Gameplay): Third-person shooter, stealth, survival-horror (sorta)
What is this game: This is the game where you play an unrepentant murderer and smuggler who is hired to take a girl to a facility outside of the Boston quarantine zone (for the record: quarantine with the healthy people inside and zombies outside). It's a tough journey they undertake as they face down infected, bandits, and military. Really though  this game is the story of a murderer growing close to the girl and coming to care for her as a daughter.
Gameplay-wise it's mechanically not dissimilar to the Uncharted games with some shifts. First, Joel is much more of a tank than Drake (despite not having regenerating health like Drake) - he's slower and less generally mobile, but hits like a god-damn freight train. Seriously, Drake had some violent kill animations, but it has nothing on the brutality Joel displays. Unfortunately he can't really take many bullets, or beatings for that matter, thanks to the afore-mentioned non-regenerating health bar, and getting caught by even one guy means everyone knowing where you are for a bit. Now, this isn't so bad in most games - I'm lame at games, but I can usually manage at least decently. The trick that made The Last of Us a lot harder to stealth was that it has this horrendous habit of checkpointing you AFTER you've already been caught. You often get a small grace of people not knowing exactly where you are after respawning, but they're looking for you. Several times I found myself wishing I could just return to the start of the fight rather than the latest checkpoint.
Guns fire very slowly for semi-automatics, at least before any upgrades. (you'd think a guy who's used a pistol for 20 years could fire it more than once every second and a half). Fully-upgraded guns are strong though, but the lack of ammo is tough - you'd think Joel could carry more than 9 rifle bullets, you've got a whole backpack. The lock-on aim system, if you turn it on, is really effective, especially with the rifle. I didn't turn it on until I started playing Ellie and it'd just had enough of missing all the damn time because I'm a shit shot. I know it kinda makes me a wimp, but whatever. That fully-upgraded rifle of David's is awesome.

What's great about it: Basically, uh, everything that isn't the gameplay. The gameplay is good, don't get me wrong! But it sure as hell is the weakest point of the game. The acting (both voice and mo-cap) is great, even though Ellie is obviously a look-alike to Ellen Page and it sucks that Ellen Page didn't get anything out of it - that's a very complicated situation though. I'll restate that though, the voice acting and writing are absolutely unbelievable. The graphics are excellent, and the design of both the characters and the enemies is really good. The environments are expansive and lush. The music is haunting and bleak. As far as presentation goes, this is the top of the line in modern days.
But that's ignoring the game's most powerful asset: its story. I don't want to spoil any more than I already have; it is DAMN good. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the ending yet. I've already expressed that I think Joel is an unrepentant murderer, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong - just that he definitely could've taken a nonlethal approach on occasion and still been completely effective. I don't mind the killing zombies, or even the killing bandits or David's folks, but the military and the Fireflies I think a nonlethal approach would have been just fine. Not completely of course, just, like, people like those last guys in the operating room?
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that even if the gameplay is a step down from Uncharted 2 and 3, it's still fun, and it is absolutely worth the experience.

How do I get it: On PS3! For $60 still I believe - it's a new game. I don't call this out usually (as I established on Day 1), but rental is currently a good option and is the way I got it, from RedBox.

There exists the potential for a sequel inside of the ending, especially because the world has other stories to tell elsewhere. However, I don't think any sequel'ing should focus on Joel or Ellie. Their story is told, and to continue it would reduce the overall impact of the first game's ending. For all the controversy about the ending, I feel it was a good idea, a good story, and a great ending, even if I don't agree with Joel's choices.

So, uh, congrats Naughty Dog. You've made a work of art that firmly continues your streak of having the most cinematic-feeling video games out there that still retain their strong sense of being a game. Chalk this one up as a complete and total success.

End Recording,

No comments :

Post a Comment