Forget all you know about zombies
Do not lump the Last of Us in with the numerous zombie-related game media that's out right now, or on the way. The Last of Us goes beyond zombies and produces a work of gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking moment-to-moment survival that can rival the Walking Dead it's a meticulously crafted game which just shows Naughty Dog at the top of their A-Game and provides a glorious swansong for the PS3.
It really is that good.Story
Joel is an ordinary guy in an ordinary world, then there's a terrible breakout, something akin to an infection which spreads like wildfire. Joel's world is turned upside down in an incredible and terrifying manner as he eventually meets up with the best character in the game: Ellie. You'll find no spoilers here, either. Just remember that it's not a typical zombie game and you'll be fine.
The story is incredibly well done, masterfully crafted from a cast of characters who all have a role to play and the twists and turns are fast and furious. It'll have you laughing one moment, screaming in terror the next and crying the moment after.
It's like the best argument for a game being art we can think of, because this is cinematic gaming at its best without being a long movie-length cinematic with 10 seconds of gameplay between each sweat-laden spoon-fed segment.Gameplay
Welcome to the apocalypse and the art of survival. Right from the get-go you should learn that the Last of Us isn't about Zombies of Duty, or being Left for Dead Rising on an Island it's about being smart and learning to use the environment to your advantage, the tools in your rucksack and most of all being an intelligent gamer.
Your enemies in the Last of Us are numerous, your friends few and far between and you can only really rely on yourself and your companion Ellie. Ellie gives Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite a run for her money and then some, Ellie is some of the best companion AI we've seen and she actively participates in battles the further into the game you progress as both you and her learn about how to survive in the world of the Last of Us.
The world is a harsh place, it's packed with hidden resources and things for you to discover it's packed with dangers too. From the traps placed by ruthless human hunters, to the sections where the infected show up are intense and often have you out of breath for real. Both of these scenarios, fighting the hunters and the infected, require a great deal of thought and tactical awareness knowing when to run is a key skill in this game and you'll be doing it a lot if you want to hang onto those precious few bullets.
When a fire-fight breaks out it's a game of cat and mouse with multiple enemies acting intelligently, reacting to your every combat decision and posing a threat just by being somewhere in the area. Do you pop out of cover and see where they are, or wait and listen for them to move? Joel has a neat Listen' ability which is player triggered off Right 2 on the controller.
Rather like Lara Croft's adventure sense in the new Tomb Raider, the world is plunged into a different tone and Joel can see the outlines of where his enemies are through walls and so on. As long as they're making some kind of noise or moving around of course, if they're stock-still then you can't detect where they are and that's when the game gets to be its most intense on any of the various difficulty levels.
Enemies will engage you at range, but they'll also come up for some melee action too. Often they'll sneak around and try and engage you in a bout of fisticuffs or slam Joel's head with a metal bar. You can do the same by equipping numerous melee weapons found around the world, broken pipes, big pieces of wood and so on. They don't last forever of course and eventually your prized baseball bat is going to break after constantly slamming it into the bad guy's faces.
Your best bet is to stay hidden and take the enemies you can out the old fashioned way, with a shiv (limited use one hit kill weapons) or strangulation (brutal and effective but slow and loud depending on your enemy).
It's this mix of stealth and guerrilla warfare which elevates the Last of Us above the run of the mill action games.
Shoot and you'll soon find out just how vicious your enemies are be they human or infected. The good news is that gunplay in the game is smooth and efficient.
In fact the controls of the Last of Us are nigh on perfect the game never feels like you're fighting the control system once you get used to it and several of the gameplay systems feed into the post infected survivalist world theme.
You can scavenge for useful bits and bobs, tape, alcohol and so on. With these you can craft supplies like medkits, Molotov cocktails and shivs. The crafting menu is easy to use and crafting takes place in real time this lends an air of desperation to battles in the game and means that you need to find a safe place to restock or you could pray no bad guys turn up as you're quickly trying to make a medkit to stop yourself from dying on the next hit.
You can also find salvage which allows you to upgrade Joel's arsenal of weapons, extra clip size, and more damage or quicker reloads you can make a tactical choice here too based on your play style. This is done at one of the few workbenches scattered around the game world and you might need to search the environments to find one. You can also find bits of information about the world from recordings and notes left behind, these are all beautifully written and appear on a variety of media.