There are also upgrades which appear like little pills for Joel's core skills. So he can withstand more damage, craft quicker and so on. They cost a heft amount of points to upgrade and fortunately there's a New Game+ for the Last of Us.
There's also a lot of puzzle solving in the game, from simple physics based stuff to more complex environmental hazards. You can also climb and reach higher areas just like Uncharted.
Joel's journey is fraught with dangers and takes him and Ellie across a disparate landscape post infection, with all sorts of challenges to solve and moments of sheer terror to experience – it's brilliantly put together and the various environments are packed with hidden secrets and alternate routes to use when under duress.
The Last of Us also doesn't hold your hand; it won't immediately tell you where to navigate to. Unless you wait around a while, then the hint system will kick in and you'll get a quick prompt to press L3 and be shown a rough idea of where you need to get to. Some of the navigational problems can be solved by Joel, others need the help of Ellie and Joel working together and learning to trust one another.
We don't want to go any further into the gameplay mechanics, apart from to mention that moving into cover is automatic, but not like Gears sticky cover – it's organic and it feels real as Joel interacts with the object in front of him.
There's a generous auto-save system since the game is quite hard even on the easier levels of difficulty – as well as a save where you want system to make sure you can restart where you left off.Graphics
Whilst it doesn't look like a next-gen title, the Last of Us is a gorgeous and gritty game with some truly beautiful locales to explore. There are also some very dark and scary places to make your way through which are textured beautifully (even if they are horrible) – the level of detail and design is incredibly well done for a game like this. The use of light and shadow really makes for some tense moments when you're crouched in the dark and you can hear infected all around you.
The flashlight illuminates the dark properly as well, providing only a circle of light to push aside the blackness. The graphics engine provides a nice solid frame-rate and there have been no slowdown issues whatsoever.
Loading times are swift and there's no texture load/pop-up we could detect.
The level of detail on the characters is something else, it's truly better than Uncharted 3 and that game was no slouch in the graphics department – the Last of Us is one of those games that you need to really look at to appreciate all the little details. Animations
The animations of the Last of Us are what really make the game come alive. The facial animation is some of the best we've seen with really smooth lip-synching and some excellent expressions, especially from Ellie. The combat animations, the human hunter animations and the main character animations are incredible – there's just so much detail in their movements and the fact they are context sensitive means that if Joel gets close to a wall, like Nathan Drake he puts his hand against it to steady himself when crouched in cover.
Naughty Dog has really polished the animations to a high sheen and when you get into melee combat, you'll wince. Joel will react violently to his aggressors and lash out, smashing into them with brute force. If they're close to a tabletop or counter, he'll slam their heads into the top and leave them reeling – if not dead.AI
So we have great graphics, great animations – the cherry on top of this mix is definitely the AI. Ellie's companion AI is nothing short of superb – she will fight tooth and nail as the game progresses and transform her fighting style as her character evolves. She knows how to use guns, close combat weapons (like bricks) and won't hesitate to get a sneaky shot in the back of a guy's neck with a knife if she feels she can get away with it.
We even had her use a Molotov as an area denial weapon on a group of hunters. She never feels like a burden and has actually saved us several times from the infected and the hunters.
Of course the enemy AI is just as sharp. It has a slew of tricks and it knows how to best use the environments – it can successfully flank you – herd you into trouble and grapple/close combat with the best of them. We've seen no AI errors either, and if the AI gets into trouble itself it will attempt to flee. One guy came at us with his fists, saw us with a gun and bolted.
Another surrendered when we killed all his friends – this wasn't scripted either.
Joel didn't let him live, since he'd already shot us with three rounds – we weren't in a mood to play touchy feely with the guy. Ellie was pretty freaked out about it too; I don't think she expected us to murder the dude.
In short the AI in the game is really good and will test you constantly – forcing you to adapt and survive.Physics
There's a lot going on with the physics engine. From the close combat to being shot by a powerful weapon, Joel can get knocked on his ass for example. There are also physics based swimming puzzles and explosives seem to be extremely useful and deadly in the game. It's all pretty good and works as it's supposed to.