*REVIEW IS FOR SINGLE PLAYER ONLY*
This is my first video game review for RantEM, and boy did I choose a doozy. Let me give you some quick info on how my reviews will work from here-on-out. I will break the review up into categories. This is done to keep myself from rambling too much, which I'm known to do on occasion. Secondly, I'll be keeping this review spoiler free. I'll reserve all spoiler discussion for The Game Time Report ONLY WHEN WE HAVE A "SPOILER SHOW." And finally, I score all games out of 10. This is only done to give you a better idea of how much I enjoyed the game at the time that I played it. Think of it as a school grading scale. 10 and 9 are A's, 8 is a B, 7 a C, 6 a D, and 1-5 are just varying degrees of fail. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to some Last of Us!
*REVIEW IS FOR SINGLE PLAYER ONLY*
The story of The Last of Us is a solid tale of a pandemic that spreads via plant spores. Humans who breath in these spores become blood-thirsty, zombified lunatics. If the infection gets bad enough, they turn into creatures straight out of Silent Hill. You play mainly as Joel, a man from San Antonio trying to survive in this twisted version of post apocalyptic America. From what you've probably seen, you are accompanied by a teenage girl named Ellie, but the game doesn't start from that point. I'm going to avoid telling you exactly how it starts, but let's say that you're in for a bit of backstory that's pretty important to the rest of the game. It's really tough to speak about such a complex story without giving spoilers, so this might seem a bit vague, but believe me when I say it's for your benefit.
What tops the story is the way it's presented, which makes the decent tale seem like a masterpiece. The way action scenes smoothly transition into cut scenes is, at times, seamless. The musical score is on point and both haunting and emotional at the same time. But the best of all is the incredible voice acting. Joel is voice by video game VO vet Troy Baker (Bioshock: Infinite, Ninja Gaiden III), and Ellie is voiced by Ashley Johnson (Growing Pains, King of the Hill) who brings so much to the character that I'd go as far to say it's one of the best performances I've ever heard. The character of Ellie is also well rounded in her writing and makes for a good match with Joel's "Keep your distance" disposition. The other characters, which I won't mention for spoiler reasons, are all pretty well thought out, but it's obvious that Joel and Ellie got most of the prep.
The combat system gives you the option of playing one of two ways. Either you can go all Snake on your foes by sneaking up from behind and putting them down with a chokehold or a shiv, or you can go in guns blazing. Since ammunition is scarce for the most part, stealth may be your best option, even if it takes you a bit longer to get through a level. What shocked me was the presence of a crafting system. The crafting system isn't all that deep, but it's definitely a welcome addition. In the crafting menu, you can craft such items as Nail Bombs, Med Packs, and Shivs. Switch over to the next tab and you can use pills that you find throughout different levels to increase things such as your Max Health and Hearing. Speaking of Hearing, you can use this skill to see through walls, so long as your enemies are making noise. It's not a skill I used often, but it's there when you need it. There are also workbenches throughout the game that you can put those "gears" scattered throughout levels to upgrade your weapons with faster reload times, bigger clip capacity, and more. Enemies are distracted by sound, and you can throw empty bottles and bricks to distract them to a general location.
The weapons available are, for the most part, the norm. Pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. The melee weapons do vary a bit, as you can add blades to baseball bats and make yourself one hell of a skull-splitter. With most cover/stealth games, the controls can get frustrating at times, and the gameplay is especially tedious in the last few hours of the game, but it's the story that drives you forward without thinking twice. This is just one of those games that you have to beat. The game took me about 15 hours to complete on Normal difficulty, which is in that wheelhouse of 8-16 hour single player campaigns that most non-RPG's stick to. There are also things to collect in the game, and you earn currency to unlock items in the main menu such as concept art and different renders to play the game with.
The Last of Us was not a game I was really anticipating. It looked great from the point it was revealed, but my level of excitement just wasn't there. I'm really glad I went against my excitement to check this one out. The Last of Us is one of those games that we'll look back on 15-20 years from now and say, "That was the game that spawned a franchise." Why? Because of the story and the execution. Immediately after this game ended, I wanted to see what was next in-store for this world being taken over by spores, of all things. The game is extremely linear, which I would usually frown upon, but The Last of Us knows where it's going and doesn't spin a convoluted yarn by throwing in tidbits just to make their combat system work. I can't get across enough that this game should be experienced by everyone with a PS3. It's an experience I'll certainly never forget. The game isn't perfect, but it's close. Those frustrating moments down the stretch, awful swimming mechanics, and some of the graphical hiccups (texture popping) definitely bog it down a tiny bit, but it sheds these hindrances and remains a great game. Just taking a moment to stop and soak in the world that has been overrun by vegetation and shaken to it's core is breathtaking. To anyone saying that the PS3 doesn't have the exclusives to support the console, the proof is in the pudding...