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The Last of Us

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

I’m afraid I am going to be yet another reviewer fawning over Naughty Dog’s latest work of utter awesomeness. The Last of Us is absolutely brilliant. Not entirely flawless. But brilliant nonetheless.

Here’s the story. A virus infects the world and makes everyone turn angrily batshit. The game starts with a father and his daughter chilling out at home when the virus hits. This is really well done. You initially play as the daughter and are basically just wandering around getting scared by the news, then an explosion outside, then the neighbour going psycho and getting killed by your dad, and then a chase outside where the roads are full of panicking people and infected and carnage and… well… exciting stuff happens. Shit goes down and you get really involved with the characters and the story from the start.

Then The Last of Us skips 20 years ahead and you’re the dad, Joel, who is a smuggler in the quarantine/military zone of Boston. Joel and his partner take on a job to smuggle a 14 year old girl called Ellie to a group of rebel types. Things predictably turn unpredictable and Joel and Ellie end up having to cross a post apocalyptic America that is full of bandits, psychopaths and infected mutants. I won’t say any more as part of the joy of the game is the way the story unfolds and some of the events and scenes on their journey are pure genius.

Post Apocalyptic prettiness

Post Apocalyptic prettiness

Like Naughty Dog’s Uncharted┬áseries, The Last of Us is a superbly crafted game with an engrossing story, great characters, and superb game dynamics. It is also ever so pretty. This is a more serious game than Uncharted though and a hell of a lot darker in tone. Think The Road as opposed to Indiana Jones. Some parts are just downright fucked up.

You generally spend the time either sneaking around or shooting the crap out of everything. Due to a lack of resources, you normally end up doing a mixture of the two. The game dynamics, fighting, weapon handling and so on are brilliant. If one way causes you to die instantly (which happens a lot) you are constantly forced to re-evaluate your tactics. Which is a good thing. The way the weapons fire, the levelling system, the ability to upgrade weapons and make new ones are done flawlessly and are intuitive. This is a well made game.

the-last-of-us-shot-oneMy only gripe would be that the AI can be a bit dumb sometimes. It’s also quite predictable. Don’t get me wrong. It is easily as good as other games, its just that the bar has been raised so high by the rest of The Last of Us that anything short of near perfect is a slight let down. You may not even notice.

The Last of Us is one of the best games I have ever played. I still occasionally daydream about the world and the characters and suddenly find myself trying to remember the name of the series or book or film where ‘that thing’ happened that was really cool and then remember it was this game. As they did with Uncharted (which are all also the best games I have played) The Last of Us is a finely crafted piece of interactive entertainment. It is yet another example of why I pity those who love a good story – be it book, TV show, movie, comic, etc – but don’t play modern games. Interactive storytelling, when done well, can tell a story in a new and incredibly absorbing way. The Last of Us cannot be recommended enough.

Here is a trailer just to give you a taster of the character dynamic and the the sort of dark survival stuff you can expect. Enjoy.

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2

I finished this game a week or so ago and I’m still a little traumatized and exhilarated. Dead Space 2 is superb on every level. It’s exciting, well paced, well designed, looks stunning, and has a great story. It is also unbelievably violent and gory to the point where I am now utterly desensitized to pretty much anything a game can throw at me.

Predictably, Dead Space 2 continues the story begun in the first game. You play Isaac Clarke (a scifi nerd nod of respect to Asimov and Arthur C.) as he struggles to survive against various beasties, monsters, and zombie-like necromorphs aided by a large selection of limb-slicing weaponry.

There are some superb set pieces with ridiculously large baddies and zero gravity action. There are also smaller and more creepy enemies like weird screaming little children necromorphs and, even creepier, little crawling babies that make an odd wailing noise and then explode when near.

Evil exploding babies

The story is fairly good too. There are double crossings and weird religions. There’s also a sub-plot with Isaac’s dead girlfriend who appears every now and then to freak you out. The action is set in a massive floating city and is awesome. I spent more than a few minutes just staring out the window.

I didn’t find it particularly scary but that is probably due to having watched a shitload of horror films and generally being desensitized to all things spooky and violent. My wife walked past at one point and was a bit freaked out by the casual way I shot the arms and legs off a necromorph then calmly walked over and stomped on its head, causing it to explode. Then I got jumped by another one who thrust a limb down my throat and ripped me in half. I barely noticed and sipped my tea.

Above all though, Dead Space 2 is just a great game. It’s brilliantly made with gorgeous graphics, realistic physics, superb and easy controls, and just the right amount of ammo and health to make it a challenge while remaining fun. I only played the solo mission though. There is multiplayer but I could never get it to work, although hopefully that is fixed now. Even considering this I still didn’t feel short changed.

Highly, highly recommended.
http://youtu.be/z7Qy_4sWs3I