Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Last of Us

The Last of Us, released on PS3 this month is a beautifully wrapped gift courtesy of Naughty Dog. It is a survival horror of sorts, based around your character Joel transporting a young girl called Ellie across America. Set primarily twenty years after a viral outbreak has left the world in a post apocalyptic state, The Last of Us is the greatest thing that has ever happened.


The game begins with you in control of Sarah, Joel’s daughter at the dawn of the viral outbreak. The world starts crumbling down around you, in an obscenely realistic fashion with little details such as news reports on the television and distant explosions really giving you a feeling that you are playing in a real world. The virus in question is a human strain of cordyceps, a sinister, creepy fungus that attacks the brain causing the people involved to go completely mental and start attacking everything. If you truly want to shit yourself, watch this video that inspired it, as it is all very real.


Twenty years later a ragged more world weary version of Joel has to transport Ellie who is seemingly immune to the virus to a place where she can be analysed to see if a vaccine can be backwards engineered. That’s pretty much the plot in a nutshell. The game is outstanding and beyond my ability to write about, you really have to play this game immediately. Play the first twenty minutes of this game and you will be hooked and will probably cry just a little. It really is incomparably brilliant. Honestly, stop reading this and go and buy a PS3 if you don’t have one right now. Sell your shoes if you have to, you will never need to leave the house again so you wont need them.

In the early stages of the game you will find yourself coming in contact with two different kinds of absolute terror. The first are runners, they are essentially angry, fast and violent versions of humans, and they are quite allergic to bullet wounds to the face. The second are clickers, they can’t see because the mushrooms have grown all over their faces but they will click constantly using echolocation to navigate, and are much harder to kill. After an hour or so with those guys the clicking noise becomes a new language of fear. As soon as you hear it, your subconscious understands the clicks as a coded message. This message is interpreted by your heart as a command to stop, your bladder and bowels are commanded to release and your eyes are commanded to weep. Unfortunately this isn’t the half of it.


I remember watching a trailer for it last year and it showed Joel and Ellie simply running forwards climbing over things and then doing that over and over again, and it seemed genuinely uneventful. One thing you can’t grasp from watching someone else play it however is the unbearable tension throughout all of these moments. These moments are constant because of the alternating threat of other humans or of the infected. The human guards or scavengers are usually above ground, the infected are more likely to be underground, though there is no guarantee of this and running into a town or into a sewer is just a new risk. You are never truly safe and you never know what’s about to kill you and there’s a serious feeling that anything could happen at any moment, which really helps make the world feel more real. The second you feel like you’re safe you can relax and enjoy hunting for bullets, or pausing the game and apologising to your neighbours for screaming in terror constantly for the past four hours at three in the morning. This furthers the effect of its realism, the genuine feeling of relief whenever you have cleared a sewer of infected people leaves you praying that you wont come across anymore anytime soon.

Another thing you probably wont get from watching videos is the relationship you as a human being have with Ellie the computer generated fictional character. If you run off and leave her when you are both surrounded by clickers she is definitely going to die by having her tonsils eaten from the outside in. It makes good gaming sense to stay as close to her as possible, but this is not the reason you will do it, you will genuinely start to care about and worry for Ellie’s safety, her wellbeing becomes important to you, and I find myself engaging in optional conversations whenever she seems worried.


The stats upgrade system is great, the customisable weapon systems are great, the crafting section is great, the plot, the characters, the acting, the music is all fantastic. Is there anything bad about this game? This game that I can’t even part with for a minute without wondering if it’s ok? Yeah sure, of course there is the sound cuts out every now and then for no reason, sometimes the AI does silly things. The absolute worst thing that it did to me was end. Yeah sure this isn’t massively critical but I love this game more than anything. I suggest you buy one for everyone you know and love, and if there’s anyone you know and hate, make sure to tell them the ending, break their PS3 or sneak into their house and steal their copy because it is an absolute must play.

There is no flag big enough, no word limit long enough, no internet vast enough for me to describe properly just how brilliant this is. I suppose I could tattoo it on the moon, or I could just do a Santa and sneak into people’s houses and leave it there. I know I’m starting to sound a little like a cult leader here, but I think I know how new fathers feel when they say that they didn’t want kids until they had one now they can’t imagine life without them, because when I first saw the trailer for The Last of Us, I thought it was going to be shit.

But it’s not, it’s great.

Go buy it right now.

Really.

David Roberts, CeX Ann Street, Belfast



The Last of US at CeX



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