The Last of Us survives the test of time
It was so successful that it was remastered and re-released on the PS4 in 2014.
Jump to 2020 – Sony will be releasing the PS5 later this year and, as a send–off for the PS4, we are getting the long-awaited sequel – The Last of Us Part II.
Unfortunately, 2020 has not gone to plan for Sony. Naughty Dog – the studio behind the game – has had to postpone its release due to the logistical issues COVID-19 has caused.
With that being said, the delayed release gives us chance to catch up with the original – whether you’ve never played it before or if you just want a refresh before the sequel is released.
So, I’ve dug out my copy of The Last of Us (Remastered for PS4) and played through it again. Here are my (spoiler-free) thoughts:
The Last of Us is a survival game set in a post-apocalyptic America. Twenty years before the game takes place, a parasitic fungus called Cordyceps causes a pandemic, taking over people’s brains and turning them into raging zombie-like creatures. With no known cure, civilization crumbles.
Fast forward to the game’s present setting and you meet Joel, a grizzled and cynical smuggler who lost everything in the pandemic, and Ellie, a 14-year old orphan who has only known the brutality of this new world.
The game follows Ellie and Joel as they traverse across the broken remnants of America trying to find one of the last functioning medical labs in order to develop a vaccine.
What is fantastic about The Last of Us is how well this story is written. The game plays like an interactive Netflix series, and every level, interaction, and fight are all part of the narrative.
The story steers away from tropes of the genre and invests lots of time into slowly developing its characters, aided by superb voice acting and motion capture animation.
The more you get to know Joel and Ellie throughout the game, the more invested in the story you become. You feel their desperation as you’re trying to escape a horde of infected zombies in an abandoned train station, and their relief once they get out.
All aspects of the game are masterfully designed to immerse you in this world and aid the narrative. The graphics – even though seven years old – still hold up well and produce some of the most beautiful scenes you will get in a game. Although there are moments here and there where the texture of an animation will just look a bit dated, especially compared to the high-powered graphics of a game like Death Stranding.
The design of the levels – dense forests, cities overrun with nature, communities of survivors – brilliantly capture a world that has fallen apart.
The gameplay lends itself to the desperate plight of the characters and will punish you if you try and act like a hero.
Progressing through the game challenges you to prioritise your resources and avoid conflict where possible. You only have a limited number of weapons and ammunition at any given time, and you learn early on that using them all at once leaves you very vulnerable.
The game benefits from its wonderful pacing. It is a balance between moments of extreme terror and survival, and moments of peace and tranquility. The action is juxtaposed with long stretches of wandering through the world, giving you time to slowly explore and immerse yourself.
The minimalist soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla adds another layer of depth to the game. Sparse and emotional guitar riffs paired with a haunting string section add to the hopelessness of the world as you wander past bodies in the street or find unfinished letters to loved ones on the bench of an empty house.
The Last of Us offers an unforgettable gaming experience, taking around 18-20 hours to play-through. As good as it is, it does come with its fair share of violence and deals with some heavy issues, so make sure this game is for you before you start to play it.
It is also unavoidable when playing The Last of Us that it is eerily applicable to 2020. Despite the infected, The Last of Us manages to display a society after a complete economic and societal collapse with such realism that it seems like a worst case scenario for the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’ve never played The Last of Us, it is one of the most widely accessible PlayStation 4 games and cheapest too with most places selling it for $25 or under. It is still one of the greatest games ever made and is well worth playing seven years on. I can’t wait for The Last of Us Part II (check out the preview below).