In The Last of Us, you’re a man (who looks exactly like Dylan McDermott with a beard) on a mission to protect a girl (who looks and sounds exactly like Ellen Page) during the zombie apocalypse.
And therefore, it’s much more complicated than, say, Resident Evil. It’s not a run and gun game. Because I feel better putting bullets in zombie heads, I tended to be a bit trigger happy…until I ran out of bullets. But the good news is, your sexy character is one helluva good melee fighter. In fact, in The Last of Us, melee is often the way to go, which is fine because the controls are so responsive.
The big problem for bloodthirsty monster killers like myself is that a majority of the game relies on stealth tactics. Hide, sneak up on a guy, wait for the correct prompt to grab him, get him, then sneak on up to the next guy. I actually began to enjoy it when I was taking on zombies—particularly this thing called a clicker, which pretty much gets you with a one-hit kill if it touches you.
The part I didn’t like about the stealth was that a good part of the game doesn’t have you sneaking up on zombies, but humans with guns. Way too much of the game felt like an army game to me. So I had to patiently stealth my way through these sections to get back to the horror. What made them worse was that little Ellen Page had a tendency to be a typical teen brat and jump out into the open calling, “Over hear, you dick wad!” Okay, she doesn’t say dick wad, but it’s been so long since I’ve said it that I just needed to get it out of my system. But she does taunt the gangs of human baddies, even throwing bottles and shit at them while you’re crouched behind cover and screaming, “What the fuck are you doing?”
But that’s the kind of thing that actually makes The Last of Us so real. Everything feels so genuine to life. I was seriously whispering during the stealth segments for fear the guys would hear me. And just when you think the game is going to be nothing but stealth, you are suddenly thrust into a chase! Another character will cry “Run!” And so you run, and you are seriously afraid to stop or look back, but you can hear the zombies and practically feel them breathing down your neck as the camera stays close at your heels. It’s TERRIFYING.
Thankfully, although the confrontations with baddies with guns become massive challenging battles, the game doesn’t have much in the way of “boss” battles. It wouldn’t really feel appropriate to suddenly stop for a big battle in a game that is always moving forward. There are unique segments to break up the constant travel and fight scenarios: you have to keep zombies at bay to protect a character doing some sort of task, you take down zombies from behind a Gatling gun, you push a car to get it started as zombies attack, you hop on a horse for a chase, you swim and dive to progress on your journey (no sea monsters, thankfully), and you even hunt animals for food.
What I love most about The Last of Us is that you can’t really get tripped up (at least, not in easy mode) in repeating sections of the game over and over again. When you die, the game literally restarts you right before the spot you died. No getting sent back to previous saves or checkpoints. Amazing.
Another refreshing aspect of the game is the inclusion of a gay character (actually two if you play the bonus DLC chapter). The guy in the main story is not in the game all the way through and his orientation is really just incidental; it’s hinted at when he first appears and only fully revealed right before you separate from him. The only issue with his character is that despite him being not even slightly stereotypical, at the last second, there’s a really petty presentation of his partner’s role in his life that completely spits in the face of the value of gay relationships. I was totally shocked.
The game gets progressively harder, but you also get to upgrade all your weapons as well as your abilities, which is especially crucial because everything is done in real time. Need to heal in the middle of a showdown? Good luck, because your character begins a time consuming bandaging job as the enemies surround and then pummel you. And unless you complete the animation sequence of healing, it has no effect, so no half-healing allowed!
Certain aspects of the game become repetitive, but later in the game there are some serious plots thrown in that make The Last of Us pretty much a video game version of The Walking Dead. Forget about zombies—the other survivors and communities are your biggest concern.
Once you’ve completed the game you get to play the bonus chapter titled “Left Behind” (DLC for PS3, included on PS4 game disc). Since you play as the little Ellen Page character, you’ll be disappointed to learn that you don’t get to carry all your upgrades and weapons into the game. In fact, supplies are painfully limited, even on easy. And the game jumps back and forth between two stories – one is a character-driven look at how little Ellen Page and her best friend experienced time together growing up during the outbreak. So much of this part is filler, but the final chase scene is fricking terrifying.
The other story is straight-up gameplay. You go through a segment in which little Ellen Page was on her own for a short time during the events of the main game. And dang is this part hard! In fact, the one genuine “boss” battle of the man game (pitting you against a human) also has you controlling little Ellen Page, and that is also super difficult, more so than anything the male character goes through!
In the end, because you become emotionally invested in these fully realized characters, the conclusion of the game is fairly shocking, giving you no choice in the final decision you make.