FEATURE: "The Last of Us" Review

Nate Ming and Joseph Luster take a terrifying trip through Naughty Dog's new masterpiece

For the first time since Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, CRN's HOTT GAME BOYZ, Joseph Luster and Nate Ming, take a long look at Naughty Dog's survival-horror adventure The Last of Us. Just so you guys know, Nate and Joe haven't finished The Last of Us yet--they're taking their time and soaking in every detail. With that said, the internet has been ablaze with critical acclaim for this PS3 exclusive--read on for their co-op review!


NATE: So Joe, were you expecting another Uncharted-type action game, or did you get what you expected with this?


JOE: I definitely didn't think they'd tread Uncharted ground again--in fact, I assumed they would actively avoid that, though the shooting is kind of in that semi-inelegant vein.


N: No blindfire, you actually have to aim, and your hands shift and sway... I like it. The action is really rough, too.


J: Yeah, it makes sense for it to be rough.



Joel stomps the yard


N: Every fight leaves you feeling drained, and every time you kill an enemy, it's more "thank god, one less to worry about" as opposed to the "next!" you feel in other games.

J: I mean, as far as Joel's skills go--Uncharted is basically mass murder, whereas this all feels much more necessary. Sometimes in Uncharted I'm just like "Jesus, Drake, why don't you give up on this dumb adventure? Do you really need to do this?" [The Last of Us] is about pure survival.

N: I wasn't sure what to think about your sorta-sidekick Ellie at first, in terms of the whole "survival" thing. I mean, in The Walking Dead, you wanted to protect Clementine. In Bioshock Infinite, you also felt the same way about Elizabeth--for her well-being if not necessarily for her physical welfare. But Ellie's a little badass, she's tough as nails and can already take care of herself.



J: I really like that about the character. It felt like she genuinely didn't want to be here, and no one wanted her there either. I mean, the story is great and the acting and characters are top-notch, even if when you really break it down, The Last of Us hits the same old beats. They just do it so well.


N: It does a lot of familiar stuff, but it handles it above and beyond all the other imitators. That's what sets it apart. Another good thing--the story is always gonna be the same, no matter what. But each encounter--the moment-to-moment gameplay--is always, always going to be different. Something's going to go wrong, or it just might go perfect, it'll be smooth sailing. So I think there's plenty of replay value in this.


J: Yeah, and I can't think of any other time where I've been in control of a grizzly 50-year-old protagonist, can you? I mean, it's pretty rare.




N: Old Snake?


J: Oh yeah, besides him!

N: Yeah, Joel's a really likable character, even though the game tries hard to make him unlikable.


J: He's... real?


N: I mean, the early minutes playing as his daughter, that was actually really spooky shit. We've all met guys like Joel, we know people like Joel.

J: I feel like they took great care to make him real at the expense of him being likable, which is noble. And thus, he bcomes likable, and relatable. More writers should let their characters grow naturally like that, rather than setting out to generate a reaction from the audience--especially a favorable one.




N: Han Solo's a total dick when you first meet him... but he grows on you. That's kind of what they did with Joel. He's not nearly as iconic a character, but it's the same thing, I think. I mean, I love how I'm carrying a backpack bristling with guns like a Rob Liefeld character, and yet Joel is a fragile, realistic hero.


J: I heard some people saying they found it hard, but I'm really not seeing it yet. I feel like anyone but Clickers, I just beat to death.


N: Yeah, it's pretty easy so far, although the difficulty ramps up pretty sharply later on. There are some parts where I get stuck for a minute, then just stop, and think, and then it works out.


J: Yeah, at a couple parts I didn't quite know where it wanted me to go, so I would end up circling a room full of Clickers a bunch of times.


N: I'm always checking every single corner for parts and stuff, so Clickers aren't that big a problem. I like to keep shivs more as keys.


J: I feel bad for the other characters. Sometimes a dude will be holding a door for me and waiting, and I'm busy scavenging.


N: Yeah, but it's for the good of the human race--their ass can wait. Joel must be strong.


J: Exactly.




N: I also appreciate that there's no "go here" button. You have to look around and pay attention to your surroundings. Like, at one point I ran around a room for five, ten minutes trying to figure out what to do next. Turns out I just didn't see a ladder on the floor. I also like how you can turn off the button prompts for a more seamless experience. The upgrades and stuff are pretty cool, too--I like how they seamlessly integrated the "RPG elements" and still kept it fast. You can't just pause the action and start tinkering in your backpack.


J: I've only messed with a few, at least as far as Joel's personal needs go. I kinda wish I hadn't wasted pills on health since I didn't feel I need to max it any more.


N: Yeah, I went for listening distance and that really cool upgrade that lets you shiv a Clicker if he gets on you.


J: You mentioned the opening earlier, and I was really surprised by what happened there. I don't want to spoil it all even though it happens right off the bat, but it's really interesting storytelling, and it kind of speaks to the ways games can tell stories in unique ways.


N: Because it's happening to you, instead of watching things happen to someone else.




J: Yeah. It also serves to give you an emotional tie to Joel right off the bat. I was actually surprised when it flashed forward twenty years--that alone says a lot about the world, which they did a great job of making feel "lived-in." Did you end up looking around people's rooms and stuff, outside of scavenging for supplies?


N: Definitely. It's kinda sobering seeing a kid's bedroom, all his toys and posters and stuff, seeing his parents' bags all packed. And that kid's diary?


J: Yeah...


N: In the house with all the Clickers?


J: Yep!


N: Jesus, that was painful.


J: What's great about The Last of Us is it feels like some really, really lavishly produced survival-horror. That's usually relegated to the lower-tier titles, outside of Resident Evil: Revelations.


N: Yeah, I was really impressed by that.


J: By the way, I almost typed Resident Evil: Retribution. Because what's the difference, whatever. All these damn subtitles.


N: Resident Evil: This One Doesn't Suck.


J: Haha! Resident Evil: Remember Why You Liked this Franchise.




N: Yeah, I think The Last of Us is the right step for survival-horror games to take. Its action is accessible and easy to understand, but the game is so much more than just the action and the presentation of the action. It feels dreary and shitty and depressing. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel... sorta.


J: I've read complaints and talked to people who don't like the action, but I really enjoy it--the combat specifically.


N: Have you ever fired a gun before? Because this is one of the few games--to me--that accurately replicates the experience of firing a gun.


J: Yeah, agreed. They say [the combat] feels clumsy, and I know we touched on that some, but I think that's the point? You are clumsy, Joel is clumsy. Call it bad design if you like, but I don't think that's what's going on here. It's more grounded but it still feels right. Of course, I've never had to fire a gun as a small mob of clicking, screaming horrors charge at me from a gutter. I imagine even then my typical style and grace would diminish some.


N: More girlish screams from my side of it, too. I mean, there's already plenty of that going around as I just play the game--just wait 'til you fight a Bloater in a confined space.


J: I've only fought one Bloater which is introduced, what, 3-4 hours in? This might be one of the few games of its type where I wasn't crying for new enemies.


N: They really space out the threats. There are only a handful of enemy types, but they're used so well in each setting. Honestly, I prefer dealing with Infected to dealing with people--people means guns.



teh loli is mine, said a soon-to-be-dead hunter whom Ellie ripped in half


J: That's when things get really messy, and Ellie says "Jesus, Joel!" way more often. People also try to beg and plead for their lives when they're the last man standing, which is a nice touch.


N: The problem is, I tried and let one or two of them go--and then they try and turn the tables on you. I don't do that any more.


J: Oh, you did? It didn't even cross my mind. I was like, "nope."


N: Yeah, I'm way too soft sometimes.


J: My favorite thing to do was press Grab and hold them for a few seconds, and then kill them. One last, sweet embrace of a man.


N: Yeah, Joel's got that whole Josh Brolin thing going on. Good way to go.


J: Imagine his musk. The word musk has never been used more properly than right here, right now.


N: We have the best The Last of Us review. We discuss Joel's musk.


J: Someone has to, it's like the elephant in the room. I mean, that's literally what it smells like.




N: My biggest worry has to be for the multiplayer. I mean, I've never liked Uncharted's multiplayer, it always felt like a clunkier Gears of War. Gears is laser-focused on the cover and shooting elements, and the different ranges of combat, while Uncharted was trying to do everything all at once.


J: I cannot aim in Naughty Dog games, at least in the opening hours.


N: Yeah, it takes me a little while to get acclimated. Overall, for this game and its multiplayer, I'm getting the impression of a much more-polished Spec Ops: The Line. Excellent, unforgettable single-player mode, and then... multiplayer. I mean, it's not bad, it's just there. Only one other real complaint, and that has to do with partner AI. What's that jerky guy's name? Bill?


J: Yes, thank you!


N: I'm trying to stay low, and this guy goes all f**king Leeroy Jenkins on a crowd of Clickers. At least Ellie is smart and follows your lead.


J: The way the AI handles stealth with you is embarassing. And yes, that guy would be all "Shh, be quiet!" and then CLOP CLOP CLOP he charges around Clickers.




N: Yeah, everybody else in the game other than Ellie is a gigantic pain in the ass. Helpful in a firefight or a brawl, but nowhere else.


J: I was worried at first, because I thought enemies would react to them. But it's kind of more distracting that they don't--they're like free-for-all ghost people that can do whatever they want, and you're still walking on eggshells.


N: It really gave me the wrong impression. Like, I thought I could follow them and do what they're doing, and then all of a sudden, SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEE




J: My first thought was "Ah, so that's where the resources for multiplayer came from. Give the ol' partner AI dudes a few days to work on something else." It's mostly glaring because so much of the rest of the game is polished to a nice sheen.


N: Two of the best things about this game--first off, Listen Mode. That is the best compromise between a "vision mode" like Batman: Arkham or Tomb Raider, and an actual, helpful game mechanic.


J: Oh, good call. Listen Mode actually seemed plausible.


N: Sound is super important in The Last of Us. They really push you to slow down. It makes sense--listen for threats, you can hear where they're coming from...




J: It feels more like the visual representation it's meant to be, rather than I AM SUPERGOD. Like, Agent 47 was a mutant with Hitman: Absolution's Instinct. He literally had precognitive abilities. Listen Mode also doesn't make things easier for you in The Last of Us, it just helps you plot out your next course of action without letting you bypass threats in any significant way.


N: You get maybe a half-second warning in this game, so you have to think fast and react accordingly. There are plenty of options, though, and "f**k it, let's fight" is a very viable one--you just won't get through it unscathed.


J: Yeah, and I think the gameplay would have bordered on frustrating without the ability, so it's a nice balance.


N: Lastly, the dialogue. The writing is so good in this game.


J: It's way above your average in-game dialogue. Also, the incidental stuff is well-done too, like how Ellie will just start whistling or humming sometimes. One time I just sat around for a while because I was using my phone to take a picture of a dead guy in a chair for yuks, and Ellie was all "Sooo... just hangin' out, huh?"




N: Yeah, the characters have a lot of personality. And that whole thing from before about a character holding a door open for you--sometimes they'll be like "C'mon, man, hurry it up," but it doesn't get annoying.


J: Yeah, it doesn't get repeated ad nauseum. It's not like--God, what was it? RE6?--I loved annoying my friends with that. HEY! HEY! C'MERE! HEY!


N: THANKS! GOOD JOB! Awright, I think that's everything!


J: Yeah, seems about it!





+ Characters you actually give a damn about don't necessarily start out as cloyingly endearing by design

+ The story hits familiar beats but does it all so well it doesn't matter

+ This is survival horror, plain and simple. The Last of Us does it better than most straight up genre mainstays

+/- Combat is unrefined at times, but it actually feels like it should be that way. Joel isn't a superhero, and things get messy, but some folks may be turned off by the sheer inelegance of it all

+/- Some areas leave you wondering just what in the world you were supposed to be doing, but there's enough left up to the player to make it seem like a purposeful lack of hand-holding

Seriously, like Nate said, that partner AI can go suck an egg sometimes. Way to take me out of a tense moment when your squirrely ass is running and gyrating all over the place

- Really, you're gonna put multiplayer in this game? Why bother? Quit clownin' yourself.

Joe's Final Thoughts: The Last of Us is a rare treat in that it actually delivers on what it promises. Naughty Dog used some of the tricks it learned from the Uncharted series, but dialed it down a notch for a game that swells when it needs to, and backs down and makes you feel downright nasty when the situation calls for it.  



+ Smart gameplay forces you to make fast decisions and be flexible with your approach

+ RPG elements are seamlessly integrated into action-focused gameplay

+ Standout voice acting and storytelling, with excellent characters and clearly-defined development

+ The game encourages exploration, rewarding you with items and upgrade parts for searching every nook and cranny...

+ ...and also plenty of unpleasant surprises, like enemies in areas you thought were clear

+ Rough, brutal combat isn't easy or even accessible, but it's some of the most realistic video game combat around

+/- Multiplayer uses a lot of the game's best features, but doesn't bring much to the table beyond just being multiplayer

- Awful partner AI can screw you up during tense moments

Nate's Final Thoughts: The Last of Us gives a pitch-perfect survival-horror adventure that focuses on great atmosphere, great playability, genuinely likeable characters, and compelling storytelling. Forgettable multiplayer and major AI goofs are the only things that mar an otherwise spot-on experience.

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