The Last of Us – First Impressions

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The Last of Us by publisher Naughty Dog, available for  Playstation 3 is a stealth action survival horror game in the “zombie apocalypse” genre. Avoiding geeky arguments about proper zombie mythology, the hoard is caused by a fungus infecting the brains of human beings that causes murderous hatred of anything not infected, a la 28 Days Later. Players control Joel, a smuggler leading a teenage girl, Ellie, to a resistance group.

These are some first impressions of The Last of Us and not a complete review. There are no spoilers.

Graphics

The Last of Us looks amazing. There have been plenty of games that look this good, but action/fighting games usually do not. Publishers like to tease gamers with amazing graphics from cutscenes, and then give us gameplay that looks like mud. The cutscenes in The Last of Us are better than the gameplay graphics, but the degeneration isn’t remarkable. Issues I noticed with the Playstation 3 version were typical annoyances such as limbs popping through walls and inanimate objects turning into clear patches on the screen. This late in the console generation, these problems should be nonexistent in major releases.

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Sound

Sound is crucial in survival horror, and The Last of Us does a nice job. Music is used sparingly, which is proper for a game that places players alone in a world where everyone, infected or not, is hostile to his or her existence. The infected are particularly creepy. Clickers, whose brains have been destroyed by the infection to the point that they have no eyesight and hunt by echolocation, emit a sound that resembles the sound that my shoes make when I’m walking around my apartment alone at night while playing a scary video game. Needless to say, I was a little jumpy last night.

Enemy Artificial Intelligence

The Last of Us shows how far stealth action games have come since Hitman and Splinter Cell. Players used to be able to take out an enemy and then hide in the shadows and wait until the other guards forgot that they had just stepped on their friend’s corpse. Like the guards in Far Cry 3, enemies in The Last of Us go into a permanently alert state once players call attention to themselves. In the few hours that I have played so far, I have spent a good deal of time running and hiding from rabid freaks who want to eat my face.

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I was going to add a section on whether or not the game is fun, but I haven’t reached a conclusion on that yet. What I can say is that the game is challenging in a way that doesn’t seem unfair, and it’s not so linear that I feel like I’m trapped on a railroad track. So far it’s an entertaining and well-made game, and I’ll have more to write as I play it.

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