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Barely rose above my low expectations
Perhaps it's a testament to how jaded I am, but when I hear cries of "GOTY" or "BEST GAME EVER," I immediately lower my standards in order to enjoy myself, and this game is a prime example of why I do it. Which is not to say I think the game is bad; I found it reasonably enjoyable and on the whole average. But I don't think it deserves all the accolades it received.

The game's strongest point is the visuals. It may just be because I'm not a fan of the whole "zombie apocalypse" genre, but the game's environments genuinely impressed me. It was almost breathtaking. I also enjoyed the implementation of resource management, at least in theory.

In practice, though? There's a lot of times you can't afford to think about managing your inventory. The game presents a choice between combat and stealth as many good games do, but unlike a game I recently played, Deus EX: HR, it didn't seem to want to commit to doing that. It seemed like half of the game's encounters featured either waves of enemies that already know your location when you begin or feature so many enemies positioned in such a way that detection is nigh-inevitable. And on the other hand, there are some areas which strongly discourage combat and are relatively easy to get through killing less than 2-3 enemies. It's as if they're giving you an illusion of choice as to how to approach situations, when in reality, you have to play the game how it wants you to play it. I didn't particularly care for that.

The story was simple and passable, nothing special. The game gives you a lot of character and not a lot of plot, which is the main problem I have. If you're only mildly invested in the characters, like I was, there's not much left over to keep you entertained. There's nothing really unique about it either, no particularly interesting setting details, and anything that could have been interesting (such as the rampant moral ambiguity or the ending) is touched upon in only the most superficial terms. Overall, the story left too much up to the player. Without the serviceable gameplay, I would've been thoroughly disengaged.

Oh yeah, and the five minutes of soundtrack that was there was alright.

There's nothing really fundamentally wrong with this game, but I'd still say it's a definite rent. Unless you somehow haven't heard all the hype, in which case go nuts.

  # comments: 9
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Naughty Dog had a story to tell, and they told it... well.
Story and games usually don't meld very well with me. I could care less for most game stories. As long as the gameplay is solid, I can well enough ignore a crappy or half-baked storyline. But... when the stars align and both halves are present and bond in harmony... it's truly something special.

The Last of Us' story isn't really thought provoking, philosophical, or particularly unique in any regard. For the most part, pretty much every zombie apocalypse trope I know of is present (though some of the tropes are played with) and accounted for. However, the way the story is told makes for compelling drama that drove me to the end. The characters are complex and have their own motives and purposes. No character really felt like a total caricature, even the "villain" of the story. It's obvious that Naughty Dog put a lot of love and care into the story and writing. It feels like a good TV or movie drama.

But the gameplay itself should be noted. Again, nothing in the gameplay stands out as particularly original. The usual choice between stealth or action is present, the conservation of resources from games of its ilk is there, and the somewhat shoehorned RPG elements are accounted for. But like the story, the way each of these parts come together make a marvelous whole. The gameplay is always tense. I've never really played many games where finding just two or three bullets/shells felt so amazing. Every single shot is like a gift that should not be wasted haphazardly.

The zombies in this game (yeah, they're basically zombies. Come at me) are pretty damn disturbing in concept and execution. Some can see and others can only sense the player with sound. If one is alerted, you can be damn sure that the rest are too. One single bite from a zombie is fatal regardless of difficulty. Touches like that add so much immersion into the game's world.

The human enemies are ruthless bandits that will gleefully beat the tar out of the player. I grew to hate those bastards. Every single blow is felt and every single one is brutal and weighty. It's a violent, nasty, grim game and I love it for that.

The gameplay and story meld together fantastically. Just for the one playthrough it's well worth the money. It's a must-own for any PS3 owner.

  # comments: 0
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A culmination of the good things to make a good thing
Video games have moved firmly from entertainment to art. It's been like that for some time now, even though many don't consider it art or don't enjoy it for the new ideas. So I'm going to borrow a phrase from Yahtzee and call The Last Of Us something which describes everything it is, which is the video game equivalent of Oscar Bait. The fact that we've gone far enough to have Oscar Bait shows how far video games have come.

So what does the movie Oscar Bait do? It hits all the right notes of a drama, with gripping stories, believable characters, and quite often, a really depressing story. All of this is in the game. Also what seems to be in the vogue for "serious" video games is moral quandaries. Put the right kind in your game and people will automatically love your story (except for Haze). Be it white phosphorous from Spec Ops: The Line or Bioshock's slug extraction, moral iffy-ness amazes gamers, and possibly people in general. This game picks all the right story tropes and puts them together to hit home. Children of Men's last hope girl, general grizzled morally ambiguous Papa Wolf with a past trauma, along with a bunch of situations and plot devices that seem to be taken from the Zombie Movie Handbook (if one exists). The plot is indeed predictable, but still moving.

So how about the actual gameplay? Basically it comes down to a more personal and realistic Uncharted through the lens of a post-apocalyptic survival horror. Joel can't break necks like Drake or make jumps like Drake or Rambo it up like Drake, but it's quite obvious where the base of this game is. They refined the stealth mechanic, fixing almost everything people complain about in stealth games. All the enemies don't magically know exactly where you are if one person spots you (well, except for maybe the infected), hit-and-run guerrilla style fighting actually feels like you're picking them off, and there always ways out of a situation if you screw up. Straight shoot outs are generally a bad idea, and a brick is probably one of the most useful tools in the game. On the hardest difficulty, the game gets incredibly tense as you scramble along hoping they haven't seen you.

The Last Of Us is derivative in a good way. It takes the good things, refines them, and puts them together in a way that feels right. If I were to give a letter grade, gameplay A-, story B+.
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Incredible (some minor spoilers)
I hesitate to call any game flawless. As an experienced gamer, I'm mature enough to realize that there is no such thing as the perfect game, the end-all-be-all experience. Every gamer is unique; they have different interests, different skill levels and skillsets- it's impossible to make a game that hits on every gamers' bases. But damn if The Last Of Us doesn't come frighteningly close to dashing those notions like so much spun glass.

The game immerses you immediately by casting you as the main character's daughter in the very instant the apocalypse begins via parasitic fungus. Buildings explode, infected grasp at you with malicious intent, and panicked crowds run rampant. And then the character you've been controlling the whole time dies, and the game cuts forward 20 years to a world on the ragged edge, as everyone- EVERYONE- is desperately trying to stay alive just one more day. Joel (the aforementioned main character) is a smuggler who in the beginning is just looking for a stolen shipment of weapons. This doesn't last long.

I won't spoil anything- and hell, I'm not even done playing it yet- suffice to say that Joel's notion of an easy shakedown is derailed when he is charged with escorting Ellie, a young girl, across the United States. Along the way, you face off against other survivors, the perils of a collapsing world, and many, many Infected.

The presentation is sublime- the characters are all voiced and animated to perfection (as can be expected from developer Naughty Dog), but the environments are what really shine, completely averting the notion that Real is Brown by placing you in a desolate former America being rapidly reclaimed by nature (Real is Green?). The gameplay supplements the presentation and overall feel of the game beautifully. Combat is quick, frantic, and reeks of desperation. Whether you're trying to strangle that smuggler quickly, hoping his buddy doesn't turn around and see you, or scrounging for supplies, or wading your way through a hallway of Clickers, this game is perfectly willing and able to convey the overall hopelessness of the world.

In the end, The Last Of Us is still not perfect- some minor bugs, such as your companions running full-tilt through enemy territory with nary a glance break up the immersion slightly. But the overall package is highly recommendable. Seriously, play this game. NOW.
  # comments: 2
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Amazing story, at the expense of gameplay
The characters are very human and believable. Joel and Ellie’s changing relationship was handled brilliantly, with many great moments of Dialog During Gameplay, and many well-done cutscenes. Ellie eventually learning how to handle weapons, and even becoming playable, was great.

The world is also very well-designed. Posters on the wall, handwritten warnings telling people to avoid certain places, and all sorts of ambience really show a world that was lived in, but is falling apart without human maintenance. I enjoyed reading the many notes and diaries scattered about.

But how about the gameplay? After all, this is a game, right?

There were some nice new ideas added to this game that keep things a bit fresh. You can now “see” through walls, allowing you to detect nearby enemies and sneak up on them, making a mixture of stealth and guns blaring a legitimate tactic. Health doesn’t autorefill, which is ironically refreshing. You actually have to think about how to tackle each situation. The crafting system is also a nice idea, giving a bit more strategy, as players may find themselves trying to decide if a Molotov or a medkit is best for the situation.

And that’s basically it for gameplay. They wanted to tell a story here, and tell it their way. Many moments where you walk slowly because they want you to see their world. Their linear world with only some out-of-the-way areas to explore (which at least reduces the linearity and is appreciated). There are the usual scripted segments where you have to follow a specific path while being chased because the story says so, and the intro is just one massive scriptfest thinly disguised as gameplay. There's not enough actual doing stuff.

It’s trends like this, taking the interactivity out of games, that frustrate me. Uncharted started out feeling fresh but gradually got more scripted and artificial-feeling with each sequel, and this only continues that bad trend. A real shame. If this game were less scripted, less linear and more open, and maybe randomized enemy placement and encounters a la Left 4 Dead, it could have been an amazing experience. As it is, it’s just moments of fun combat inbetween scripting and cutscenes telling a great story that you could experience on You Tube anyway.
  # comments: 2
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One of best games ever
The characters seem real,the cut-scenes are amazing,the zombies gave me nightmares.From the intro i knew i will love it.One of rare games to make me cry and it's hard to make me cry. Unfortunately because i live in Serbia and my family income is limited it's unlikely i'll get closer to it then let's plays on You Tube.If you can't buy it I would recommend The Rad Brad's walk-trough.He uploads every day and is a good gamer.If you want a game that has a good plot,great graphics and believable characters it's worth the money. 10/10
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