The Last of Us

In recent years, the theme of the zombie apocalypse in video games has become more and more popular. As you know, demand creates supply - that's why numerous games about the walking dead grow like mushrooms after rain. Dead Island, Dead Rising, Walking Dead, ZombiU, Left4Dead, Lollipop Chainsaw ... examples can be listed even to the point of turning blue. So the famous company Naughty Dog (authors of Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted) decided to join the general trend by releasing their own game featuring zombies - "The Last of Us".

video game The Last of Us

Background

The plot of the story is as follows: in 2013, the world faced a deadly epidemic caused by an unusual fungus parasite called "cordyceps". When the spores of this fungus enter the human body, the fungus begins to grow right in the brain of its victim, affecting human behavior and turning it into a likeness of the living dead from Romer's horror films. And if such a "mushroom zombie" bites someone, then the bitten one will also inevitably become infected with cordyceps spores.The Last of Us takes place in 2033 - 20 years after the onset of the plague. Before us is a grim, post-apocalyptic future: over the past two decades, scientists have not succeeded in inventing a cure for cordyceps, and human civilization has fallen into ruins. A significant part of the Earth's population perished, the meager remnants of humanity huddle in quarantine zones, suffering from hunger and poverty, and beyond these zones, hundreds of thousands of hungry "mushroom zombies" live. As we can see, the TLOU setting is rather unusual in the sense that the events here do not take place at the moment the infection begins (as in most zombie games), but many years after it. It turns out a kind of zombie POST apocalypse.The protagonist of the story is a harsh smuggler named Joel - his main "job" is to smuggle various things (weapons, food) into the quarantine zones for the purpose of further resale. But one fine day Joel gets an unusual task: he has to help 14-year-old girl Ellie get out of the quarantine zone and get to the camp of the local rebel organization "Fireflies" (for some reason Russian translators called them "Cicadas"), at the same time ensuring the safety of the girl and protecting her from zombies. But our hero does not yet know that this little escort mission will eventually turn into a huge journey that will change his life ...

video game The Last of Us

Graphics and sound

When writing reviews, I usually talk about graphics last. But taking into account the specifics of The Last of Us, this time I will make an exception and immediately start with the grafon. I must admit, TLOU is one of the most beautiful games on PS3 - the characters look quite realistic, and each location from the point of view of design is a downright small work of art. Often you just want to stop and contemplate the beautiful post-apocalyptic landscapes.The interior design is also done very well - in The Last of Us you will not find the same type of half-empty rooms and corridors. Here, each location is full of small details: for example, in the quarantine zone you can look at numerous graffiti on the walls for a long time, and when we go to a children's store in an abandoned city - the number of various toys (among which you can even find references to previous projects of Naughty Dog) really pleases the eye ... In addition, in various locations, an attentive player can meet all kinds of living creatures - insects crawl along the walls of dilapidated houses, flocks of birds fly in the sky, cranes and deer can be seen in the forest ... And of course, the meeting with a real giraffe towards the end turned out to be very bright and memorable (in my opinion, the best scene in the whole game).

video game The Last of Us

The developers should also be commended for the variety of locations. During their journey, Joel and Ellie will visit dilapidated skyscrapers, an abandoned subway and sewers, school and hospital buildings, a looting bandit base, a luxury hotel, a forest, a power plant, a university, an old church, a river bank and other attractions. Given the very long duration of the game (one playthrough takes 20-30 hours), I certainly cannot guarantee that the post-apocalyptic landscapes and abandoned buildings will not bore you sooner or later. But in general, Naughty Dog did everything possible to implement the widest possible range of locations within the narrow framework of the chosen setting.

video game The Last of Us

The music for the game was written by the Argentinean composer Gustavo Alfredo Santaolaglia (try to say it quickly 10 times in a row) - winner of two Oscars for the soundtracks to the films Brokeback Mountain and Babylon. Working on TLOU was Santaolalla's first experience in creating music for video games, but the composer coped with the task quite well.The Last of Us soundtrack is quite unusual and interesting - it combines quirky compositions with minimalistic acoustic guitar sounds and dark horror ambient, reminiscent of the works of Akira Yamaoka. I would especially like to note the music on the title screen - it perfectly conveys a feeling of some kind of brokenness and hopelessness, creating the right mood for immersion in the post-apocalyptic world. However, the TLOU soundtrack is purely background music. It copes with its task well, but there are few memorable tracks in the game, and you hardly want to listen to the tracks separately from the game.The voice acting in the game is also made with high quality, there is nothing to complain about (of course, we are talking about the original English voice acting). All characters are voiced believably enough. The role of the main character Joel is played by the notorious Troy Baker (who previously played Vincent in Catherine, James Sunderland in Silent Hill 2 HD Collection, Jake in Resident Evil 6, and many other characters from games and anime), and Ellie is voiced by actress Ashley Johnson (known for film "What Women Want" and the TV series "Ben 10").

video game The Last of Us

Game process

Having finished singing the praises of grafon and Mouzon, we turn to the gameplay. And immediately we come across a whole bunch of serious problems: linearity, primitive stealth, enemies of the same type, lack of a challenge, AI jambs, protractedness, obtrusive annoying prompts, and tede, and tepe ... It's just that the eyes run up. Where to begin? Well, I'll try to tell you about everything in order.So, the gameplay of "The Last of Us" is arranged approximately as follows: 50% of the game we are engaged in the extermination of various enemies (homeless / bandits / zombies) - at these moments the game is a TPS-action movie interspersed with simple stealth elements. The remaining 50% of the playing time, we quietly and peacefully walk through safe locations, admire the picturesque landscapes, collect objects scattered on the ground and periodically solve very easy logic puzzles - at such moments the game resembles something like an interactive journey.

video game The Last of Us

What do we expect from a good "interactive journey"? Apart from the opportunity to gaze at the beautiful landscapes, of course. First of all, I look forward to two things - freedom and an exciting exploration of the world around me. And then - BAM! - we suddenly stumble upon the first rake: THE GAME MONSTROUSLY LINEST. In its linearity, it resembles SplatterHouse 2010 or Shadows of the Damned. There is absolutely no such thing as a "fork" here - all locations are like large gut-like corridors, in which there is always only one entrance and one exit.Moreover, in TLOU there is not even a way to go back (the return road is always automatically blocked every 5 minutes). So we just have to constantly go forward, and only forward. There are no side quests provided here. There is not a single full-fledged optional location here. And there is no way to influence the development of the plot. Thus, the passage of TLOU is reduced to a dull advance along linear locations from one checkpoint to another checkpoint. "Freedom"? There is no trace of her here. And it is simply inappropriate to talk about any "study of the surrounding world" in such conditions.

video game The Last of Us

Instead of a full-fledged exploration of the world, the developers suggest that we start collecting. In the course of the game, we can find and select several types of things: cartridges, notes, medallions, pills, pieces of iron and resources for crafting. The notes rarely contain anything interesting, and most of them are completely irrelevant for understanding the plot. Medallions are needed solely for obtaining achievements - in the game itself there is no benefit from them. Tablets allow you to upgrade the main character (for example, to increase his maximum life bar), pieces of iron make it possible to upgrade weapons (we increase the size of the clip, the rate of fire). But all these upgrades do not play an important role in the gameplay - even at maximum difficulty, the entire game can be easily completed without making a single upgrade at all.In addition, we can collect several types of resources for crafting - rags, ropes, blades, alcohol, explosives and sugar. The crafting system is rather primitive - only five types of things can be created from the resources found. Moreover, of these five things, only the first-aid kit is of real value (it is somehow magically obtained by combining a rag and alcohol). In general, there is not much practical benefit from gathering in The Last of Us. But this lesson still has its advantages - it helps to distract a little from the linear errands, post-shoots.

video game The Last of Us

During the journey, the developers sometimes ask us to complete small logic puzzles. Find a ladder and put it where you want it. Find a way to get across the chasm. Figure out how to get Ellie across the river (the girl can't swim). All tasks are very simple - even a first-grader can easily cope with them. If you're expecting serious puzzle games like Silent Hill, Echo Night and 7th Guest, then you've come to the wrong place.Throughout 70% of the playing time, some NPC ally is assigned to us: he helps to shoot the met zombies and homeless people / bandits, plays the role of a guide, showing us the way (so that we do not accidentally get lost in linear locations), and also gives a lot of unnecessary intrusive tips. By the way, the tips are wildly annoying. Developers from Naughty Dog constantly lead the player by the handle, as if the game was intended for young children with Down Syndrome. And only towards the end of the game the stream of stupid clues finally dries up.

video game The Last of Us

From time to time, Joel and Ellie are attacked by all kinds of bums, bandits and mushroom zombies. We will have to ruthlessly exterminate dozens and hundreds of these bad personalities, distracting us from contemplating beautiful landscapes and collecting all kinds of garbage (in one playthrough, we will have to kill from 500 to 1000 homeless people and zombies). And this is where the combat system comes into play. In TLOU, we have more or less standard TPS-action mechanics with simple stealth elements (you can sneak up behind adversaries and instantly kill them by pressing one button).Remember Metal Gear Solid, where you could hide in closets, cover yourself with a box, use camouflage, change into enemy uniforms, distract enemies with a knock, lure them with porn magazines spread on the floor, put enemy soldiers to sleep, hide their bodies, and do many more tactical tricks? And now you can safely forget about all this. Because stealth in The Last of Us is insanely primitive, and cannot be compared either with MGS or with any other more or less decent stealth game. Here you cannot hide in a closet, you cannot drag a corpse away, and moreover, the developers did not even foresee the banal opportunity to close the doors behind you (!!!). In the whole game, there is only ONE tactical technique - you can throw a bottle and distract the enemy with the sound of a falling object. Alas, this is where TLOU's meager tactical arsenal is completely exhausted.Another problem is that the gameplay scenes give us almost no freedom of choice and room for imagination. In most scenes, there is only one "correct" way of passing. In addition, 50% of the scenes in the game are designed in such a way that until you shoot all the enemies around, you will simply not be allowed to the next location. In such conditions, freedom of choice is minimized. And unlike many stealth games, which provide an opportunity to complete the game without killing, there is no such thing in TLOU. In any case, the game will make you shoot several hundred homeless people and mushroom zombies. There is no other way here.

video game The Last of Us

Speaking of the shortcomings of the gameplay, it is also worth mentioning the uniformity of enemies. The game provides only a few varieties of adversaries - people with melee weapons, people with firearms, zombies, blind zombies and fat zombies (the latter type is very rare). Also in TLOU there is only one single boss fight - and, moreover, very simple and short. Thus, for 20-30 hours of gameplay, we have only 5 types of enemies, which we have to kill in the amount of 500-1000 pieces. And one underboss. Not much.Not without some jambs with artificial intelligence of opponents. Funnily enough, the enemies can only see Joel - but they cannot see Ellie. Therefore, we often have to observe absurd situations when Ellie sits right under the feet of another bum / zombie - and he does not see her point-blank. For some reason, zombies cannot react to the light of a flashlight - so even if you are sitting in a dark room and shine a flashlight directly in the face of a monster, he will still not guess about your presence. There are often times when you strangle one homeless person - and another homeless person is standing two meters away and does not hear that his comrade is being killed right behind him. Such funny and ridiculous situations sometimes break the illusion of realism. Although in some ways the AI of the opponents is certainly good - for example, human enemies do not stupidly shoot under the bullets, but hiding behind cover and trying to bypass us from the flank. Well done.

video game The Last of Us

One of the biggest drawbacks of The Last of Us gameplay is the complete lack of a challenge. Even on Hard (the maximum difficulty level available on the first playthrough), the game is extremely simple. Firstly, the checkpoints here go one after the other at intervals of about two minutes. Sometimes it comes to absolutely idiotic situations when one checkpoint can follow 20-30 seconds (!!!) after the previous one. Secondly, Joel is very strong and can easily kill almost any standard enemy with his bare hands. Thirdly, many types of firearms (shotgun, magnum, flamethrower, sawn-off shotgun) kill opponents with one shot at any part of the body. And with other types of weapons, you can easily put a headshot. Fourthly, there are no difficult boss fights in the game. Thus, TLOU is a very easy and casual game.

video game The Last of Us

In numerous interviews, the developers positioned The Last of Us as a survival game. But in reality, the elements of survival are minimal. There is no hunger and sleepiness system like in Deadly Premonition. There is no stress and mental health scale like Illbleed. And death does not pose any danger (because checkpoints are every two minutes).All survival in TLOU comes down to only an ILLUSION of limited resources. Ammo is rare - but in reality it is absolutely impossible to "get stuck" in the game due to lack of supplies. First off, fists are damn effective weapons. Secondly, we are almost always assigned some additional NPC ally with unlimited ammunition - and he can shoot all enemies even without our participation. And, thirdly, the game provides a cunning system: if you die 5-10 times on the same scene, then from all the killed enemies cartridges will begin to pour out in batches.Thus, there is no real limit on supplies in the game. If you suddenly run out of ammo - just die 10 times, and the game will immediately pour you a huge pile of free ammunition. Therefore, there is no more real survival in TLOU than in any average TPS shooter.

video game The Last of Us

I will briefly summarize the description of the gameplay: for 20-30 hours we run around linear locations, collect garbage spread on the ground, exterminate 5 types of enemies (in the amount of 500-1000 pieces), and also listen to tons of obsessive prompts. And all this is served under the sauce of primitive stealth, pseudo-survival and total casualness with checkpoints every two minutes. Sometimes in the game you can find bright and interesting gameplay scenes (for example, I liked the episode with the sniper and the deer hunting in the forest) - but there are very few of them, and in general they do not really save the situation. Therefore, in the end, the gameplay of "The Last of Us" rolls into a boring monotonous routine. I also note that there is no significant motivation for repeated playthroughs, The Last of Us is a purely one-time game.

video game The Last of Us

Plot

Now let's talk about the plot. Attention! Q: can an interesting storyline make up for a bunch of gameplay flaws? In theory, maybe. As we know, many horror games have significant gameplay flaws, but at the same time they successfully leave due to interesting scenarios. Only The Last of Us is clearly not the case. Because instead of an "interesting scenario" here we have a boring and drawn-out mess. Let's go over the main plot flaws:Firstly, there is absolutely no intrigue in the history of TLOU. What caused people to become zombies? We were told this in the very first teasers, long before the game was released. What's special about Ellie? We will find out within 20 minutes after meeting her. What tragedy did the main character go through many years ago? We find out about this in the first 15 minutes of the game. That's all, actually. There are no other questions. The scriptwriter has lost all the potential for intrigue. Secondly, the plot suffers from the now widespread "disposable characters" syndrome. The minor characters join us, for a while they play the role of walking clues-guides - and then they are quickly deleted from the plot, and they are no longer remembered about them. Alas and ah.

video game The Last of Us

Thirdly, the plot of TLOU is rather meager - there is practically no significant development of events in it. Instead, the screenwriter plays the same worn-out record for 20-30 hours: "The heroes go to the rebel base -> accidentally stumble upon a group of bandits along the way ---> kill all the bandits ---> move on -> again meet bandits ---> again kill bandits ---> repeat ad infinitum ".Fourthly, the script suffers greatly from "militant" insanity. Joel and 14-year-old Ellie over and over again destroy gang groups one after another, killing hundreds of armed thugs. At the same time, in the game you can quite seriously hear sparkling dialogues between bandits in the style of "Oh my God! A man and a girl have just killed 76 of our comrades! We must catch them!" After such an absurdity, the TLOU script is hard to take seriously. Fifth, most "dramatic" scenes are emotionless. And the reason for this is, in general, simple: when the screenwriter first demands that we shoot 100 homeless people, and ten minutes later invites us to cry over the death of another "one-off" minor character, it only causes a feeling of cognitive dissonance.

video game The Last of Us

Sixth, uninteresting notes. Unlike Forbidden Siren, Fatal Frame, and the early Silent Hill games, where each note was a small piece of a larger story-driven puzzle, this is not the case. Notes in TLOU almost never contain important information, do not tell any coherent story, and in general they are stuck into the game on the principle of "so it was." The exceptions can be counted on one hand (Ish's diaries in the sewers and Marlene's voice recorder at the end). Seventh, the game has absolutely no opportunity to influence the course of events. There are no "moral choices" and plot forks here. There is only one ending (and, moreover, rather dull). Thus, the player here is not an actor, but just an outside observer.Considering the glaring shoals of The Last of Us script, it's easy to guess that the plot here was written not by a professional screenwriter, but by a beginner-amateur. The way it is. A certain Neil Druckmann worked on the history of TLOU - he used to work at Naughty Dog as an ordinary programmer, but then he rose to the "creative director" and decided to try himself as a screenwriter. I involuntarily recall a very similar situation with Silent Hill Downpour - there, too, a couple of would-be producers suddenly imagined themselves to be ingenious plot writers, and the result was extremely deplorable. The moral is simple: if you don't know how, don't take it.

video game The Last of Us

Atmosphere

Finally, I will say a few words about the atmosphere. TLOU is not a scary game. It certainly contains elements of horror style (monsters, eerie designs, gloomy locations), as well as Silent Hill-like ambient sounds in some places - but the game is not scary. There are several reasons for this. First, checkpoints every two minutes completely eliminate the fear of death. Secondly, in most cases, we can deal with monsters without much difficulty - so we rather feel like a hunter, not a victim.Nevertheless, in some moments of the game, you still feel its own (albeit not scary) atmosphere. When we quietly and peacefully wander through the deserted post-apocalyptic locations and look at beautiful landscapes (without being distracted by killing homeless people and shooting mushroom zombies), a kind of gloomy melancholic feeling of a lonely journey through a dead, deserted world involuntarily arises. Something akin to the atmosphere of Shadow of the Colossus or Myst ... But then at the most inopportune moment homeless people and zombies come running in, a trashy swing starts, and in an instant the whole atmosphere disappears somewhere. Like a little bird, which was frightened away by heart-rending obscene screams, and which will never return. It's a pity...

video game The Last of Us

Bottom line: The Last of Us is a beautiful dummy. A senseless linear attraction that invites us to walk through picturesque locations, simultaneously exterminating hundreds of zombies and bandits. If you are expecting a hardcore survivor from The Last of Us, an eerie horror atmosphere, an interesting plot, free exploration of the surrounding world, creative puzzles, or at least just good stealth action gameplay, then you have come to the wrong place. There is none of this here. I can recommend the game only to those people who are ready to give $ 60 purely for the sake of the opportunity to gaze at the beautiful post-apocalyptic landscapes.