Saturday, 20 July 2013
etching out memorable marks throughout the course of the last six years. But as the console prepares to hand over the reins to the PlayStation 4, Naughty Dog has given the console one final hurrah in the shape of The Last of Us.
While their Uncharted series was centered around suave and assured all-action hero Nathan Drake and his penchant for rooting out ancient treasure in far flung corners of the globe, The Last of Us treads a very different path.
Twenty years after a fungal plague has turned the majority of the population of America into feral,
zombie-like mutants, grizzled protagonist Joel is forced to take a journey across America with 14-year-old Ellie, who has a secret that must be protected at all costs. What follows over the next 15 or so hours is an emotional, bleak and at times uplifting story, which is expertly delivered thanks to Naughty Dog's technical expertise, a cast of magnificent voice actors and a script which frequently tugs at the heart strings.
But while the post-apocalyptic backdrop and zombie masses are certainly nothing new in video games, Naughty Dog has decided not to go into this game with all guns blazing. Success in The Last of Us is down to what you have to hand rather than how many guns you can cram into your backpack, and Joel and Ellie's survival is more likely to be down to a sturdy length of pipe rather than an assault rifle.
Crafting items is a key part of the game and while The Last of Us is a linear adventure, it often pays to scamper off the beaten track to scavenge for materials to cobble together crude bombs, knives and medi packs - all of which are essential if you hope to safely traverse the ravaged landscape.
Stealth is actively encouraged, not only because ammo is scarce, but because gunfire draws enemies to your position. The infected mutants who shamble menacingly around react to the slightest sound, while aggressive human survivors sweep locations in packs and react with alarming accuracy, diving for cover should the fireworks start.
The Last of Us does so much right, than when it does put a foot wrong, the results are jarring. QTE button stabs have been a staple of Naughty Dog's games this generation and unfortunately they make a return here.
Lifting gates requires constant - and completely unnecessary - button presses, while the game also likes to reuse the same tired solutions to environmental puzzles.
Finding pristine ladders among the chaos and rubble to give the pair access to hard to reach ledges
is a trick used far too often, as is using floating wooden pallets to ferry Ellie across stretches of water. Even Ellie is exasperated by this mind-numbing repetition, voicing her displeasure at one point at
having to once again be transported across choppy water.
But these niggles aside, you have to take your hat off to Naughty Dog for getting back on track after the disappointing Uncharted 3 and delivering a sobering tale of love, loss and hope which will live long in the memory.