So I got my copy early (it comes out tomorrow, officially), played a good amount last night and some earlier today. I want to talk about it, because it's fucking amazing, and it deserves its own thread.
As some may have noted, it's already one of the most well-reviewed video games in history. I would not say that those reviews are at all exaggerated.
For those that don't know, The Last of Us takes place twenty-years after a fungal infection (cordyceps, that nasty stuff that turns ants into zombies, has been fictionalized to take over humans) has mostly destroyed civilization. You play as Joel, and you have to "deliver" a teenage girl (Ellie) to a rebel group across the country, dealing with pseudo-zombies and humans along the way.
Here's a trailer.
Oh, and the music is by Gustavo Santaolalla, who's kind of a goddamn genius.
Now, I was pretty fucking hyped for this game. It purported to be at least attempting some sense of realism, especially in regards to the character interaction and the violence, and its inspirations are all things that I love (Cormac McCarthy's body of work had a large influence on the creators, supposedly). Also, Naughty Dog has a pretty decent track record when it comes to telling a serviceable story with some very well-done (if not exactly innovative) characters and fantastic voice work. So yeah, I was pretty psyched for this game, and I didn't know if it would live up to the hype. But it did (or at least it has so far).
I'm maybe nine hours into it, and the game is supposed to be about fifteen-to-twenty hours total. I'm just going to go over a few bullet-points.
- Graphics are amazing, plain and simple. Animations in particular are really great. The world itself is stunning. If you've ever seen one those "what-would-earth-look-like-if-humans-suddenly-disappeared" documentaries, then you have a pretty good sense of the gameworld.
- Sound design is ABSURD. I'm playing this on headphones, and the detail is just amazing. The brilliant clicking noises the zombies make (along with their pained howling) is creepy as fuck. It's also kind of terrifying when you walk into an abandoned house looking for loot, and then hear muffled banging and grumbling noises coming from upstairs.
- Combat is actually rather unique. It's a mixture of stealth, gunplay, and melee. For those worried that this would be a bit like Uncharted's sort of "auto-pilot" style gameplay, fear not. I'm playing on hard, and you seriously have to think about how you're going to tackle every encounter. Ammo is scarce, as are supplies (needed to make health kits, smoke bombs, shivs, etc.). It's also much, much less linear feeling than Uncharted. I mean, it is still linear, but instead of feeling like you're going down a pretty-looking hallway, in the TLOU there are these big, open areas with lots of little nooks and crannies you can sift through (and you will want to, because you need those supplies if you want to survive your next encounter). In addition, your character's skills and weapons can be upgraded, RPG style.
- The writing so far is great. It's a little predictable, and there aren't really many fresh ideas per se, but the dialogue and character interactions are absolutely phenomenal. They may genuinely be the best I have ever seen in a game. The dialogue is all very natural and organic, and the voice acting is, again, the best I have ever heard. Troy Baker (who played Booker in Bioshock: Infinite -- and who sounds completely different here) is incredibly talented, and so is the girl playing Ellie. It's similar to Uncharted in that these characters aren't especially original; the tough, grizzled veteran and the wise-cracking, foul-mouthed teenager. But again, much like Uncharted, it's the writing and voice acting (and the animations, both for facial expressions and body language) that raise them above the tropes. They feel like real people, not video characters.
- Music by Gustavo Santaollala (had to say it again, he's literally one of my favorite guitarists).
There really aren't many negative things I can say about it. Guns don't quite have the kick that I'd like them to. The human enemies almost border on being a little bit bullet-spongy, but not quite -- and it's nowhere near as bad as Uncharted. A headshot with any weapon is an instant kill. The melee combat is awesome. It's brutal as hell and very effective, and incredibly dynamic. Several hours into the game and I'm still seeing new animations and context-sensitive takedowns.
The artificial intelligence goes back and forth from being some of the best I've ever seen, to hilariously bad. I'll be in a firefight against three guys, and they'll use smoke bombs, distractions, they'll flank me, realistically call out orders and talk to each other, etc., and it's all incredibly tense and exhilarating. Then ten minutes later, when I'm sneaking around, a guy will spot me as I slip behind a crate, and he'll come after me until I throw a bottle in the opposite direction and then he totally forgets I exist (this is isn't super common or anything, but it does pop up here and there). Also, the enemies do not react to Ellie until you yourself have been spotted. This is understandable, since otherwise the stealth elements would become insanely frustrating, but it definitely breaks the immersion from time to time.
So yeah, overall this is honestly becoming one of my favorite games of all time, and I'm just about half-way through. Virtually every element of the experience is perfect: graphics, audio design, music, writing, voice acting, shooting, stealth, exploration. It's all spot-on.
It also has one of most incredible "prologues" to any game I've played, period. It will undoubtedly become a classic opening, joining the ranks of Half-Life and Bioshock.
Edited by Francis Buck, 13 June 2013 - 11:32 PM.