Video Game review: The Last of Us

If you've played any games produced by Naughty Dog in the past few years, (the "Uncharted" series for example) you have likely noticed a steady improvement in their games. They tend to be innovative, driven by both character and narrative, and fairly deep with a fair amount of replay value both in their single player and multiplayer modes.
"The Last of Us" was teased in Uncharted 3 and finally released in June, this year. There were stories back around Uncharted 3's release that most of the game's team had been reassigned to TLoU towards the end of Uncharted 3's production and having played both, I feel that Uncharted 3 lost out on some SOLID opportunities as a result. In any case they are both solid games and I think that "The Last of Us"' Joel and Ellie fit nicely with Naughty Dog's other characters.
The game opens in an unspecified year (likely 2013) in Texas and you are playing as Joel's daughter, (not Ellie) you learn to navigate and control your character through her and you quickly see normal society fall away, descending into chaos as soon as you meet Joel (who looks remarkably like Nathan Drake with a beard) as what seems like zombies run amok. After this introduction comes to an emotional end, the story skips ahead 20 years and we are in control of Joel who has been relocated to Boston. We learn that Joel is now a smuggler and he is essentially contracted to take a package to a dropoff that isn't terribly far away. That package, it turns out, is the girl Ellie.
I'm not going to spoil the story for others who may want to know whats up... This game is a MUST PLAY title if you own a PS3. I'm not going to say that you have to own it. Not everyone likes to replay games and find everything like I do but this game DEFINITELY deserves a playthrough. Suffice it to say that when Joel and Ellie reach the dropoff point, their contacts are dead and the journey takes a much longer course, literally crossing the country and taking almost a full year.
I almost forgot to mention what caused the fall of society. It's a fungus called cordyceps. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps This fungus is known for infiltrating the brains of insects and essentially turning them into zombies before the fungus finally sprouts from their heads and releases it's spores. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis
Within the world of the game, the fungus seems to have mutated and crossed over to humans. The best part of this is that the zombies it creates can be killed through normal means. After all, they aren't dead, just hijacked. However it also means that those humans will eventually release masses of spores that will infect anyone inhaling them. The process of conversion takes about two days but sometimes less.
Using a fungus with the known propensity for invading the brains of those infected with it provided a believable cause for a "zombie apocalypse" and in many ways, helps draw the player into the world of the story.
The characters are relatable and as we get to know them, we see them grow as people. Eventually, they even develop a true friendship. One thing that I REALLY liked was the combat system.. hand to hand I mean. In Uncharted 3, the fighting felt clunky and was prone to screwing up when you needed it to do something else. In The Last of Us, you have more options, including melee weapons. I should note that UNLIKE the Uncharted games, this is a Mature title and the combat as well as language reflect that. The dialogue isn't for "virgin ears".
If I have to criticize anything with the game, I'll pick on two things.
1: After twenty years, the fungus still seems to hold the world in it's grip. No cure or effective treatment seems to have been found.
Come on guys, buy some tinactin already!
2: About halfway through the game, Joel mentions that he had always wanted to be a professional singer. After that, there are several references made to it and he even offers to teach Ellie to play guitar.
However, by the end of the game, this musical inclination is never.... satisfied. I expected the credits to play with Joel singing some song but it never happened. Don't get me wrong, the game was great and I LIKED the ending but I wanted to hear him sing.
eh, Maybe that's just me.
I have TRIED the multiplayer but haven't spent much time with it so I cannot make a full assessment of it at this time. It may be great but my team was composed of noobs like myself and we were facing vets. We got destroyed. lol
All in all, I'm going to say this. Believe the hype. This game is amazing and if I have to rate it on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a solid 10. Maybe even an 11. ;)

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