Naughty Dog breach the zombie genre with The Last of Us

Leading a spunky teenage girl across an apocalyptic world as an old man may not sound like an enticing storyline for hardcore video gamers wanting to wipe out armies of zombies, but The Last Of Us is not your ordinary shoot-em-up.

The collapse of society in this dystopian world, caused by its inability to contain a highly contagious outbreak that causes people to become fungally-infected zombies, redefines traditional moral boundaries. Theft, murder and deceit become inevitable in a world where only the fittest survive. An act of altruism will ultimately be suicidal. Weakness, in lieu of selfishness and instinctual survival, has left the door. These themes outline every major point in the journey that Joel and Ellie, the primary characters, take.

In fact, it is this setup that allows The Last of Us to be a phenomenal video game. The linearity of the story almost takes away from the open-world gameplay, but it is impossible to want anything else considering how suspenseful and vested the player will get into Joel and Ellie’s survival. The beautifully crafted cinematics serve as an excellent break from heart-racing action squences and contribute more to the plot, in manners theatrical and literary, than gameplay could.

Character development is deftly handled; the game subtly crafts these two concoctions of polygons into believable characters. Changes in how the characters handle themselves, as seen by Joel’s rigidity in the beginning of the game to his softer stature near the end, are a large contributor to their personality developments. In addition, the characters age throughout the game – Ellie, for example, looks less like Ellen Page, the lead actress from Juno, by the conclusion. The game utilizes multiple hiatuses that take place between seasons to give the player a more realistic sense of time. This also contributes to personality changes in the characters – evident by Ellie’s cooler temperament and maturation in the wintertime.

Despite how developed the plot or characters may be, it is the gameplay that needs to be riveting to hold gamers’ attention. Naughty Dog, the developer, executes this perfectly. Just like their Uncharted trilogy, The Last of Us is filled with elaborate graphics that push the extensive graphical capabilities of the PS3. The characters are reactive and independent, and when stealth becomes important in getting past a squadron of cops, Ellie’s movements (Joel is the controlled character for the majority of the game) can compromise Joel’s position. Items are a large part of the game. There is not some magic ammo box that automatically replenishes the bullets, arrows and bombs in your arsenal. Combinations of common household items, like alcohol, cloth and sugar, create interesting weaponry such as smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails and melee weapon upgrades.

The story of The Last of Us is so well written it could be transcribed into print as literature. While the average video gamer need not look beyond Assassin’s Creed, God of War and Portal for intriguing plot lines, the grim dystopia created in The Last of Us manages to be unique in its lovingly crafted world. Even if one has a PS3 and is avoiding all PS3 purchases to save for the PS4, this game, which may or may not be available for the next generation system, is definitely worth spending the full $60 on.