The Last of Us is a genre-defining experience that blends survival and action elements to tell a character driven story about a population decimated by a modern plague. Abandoned cities are being reclaimed by nature and the remaining survivors are killing each other for food, weapons and whatever they can get their han... Read More »
Genre: Survival horror, action adventure
Release Date: 14/06/13
The Last Of Us: Factions Review
The Last Of Us – by now you must have heard of it. If you don’t own it yet, you should go out and buy it right now. You don’t have a PS3? Well, you should go and buy one of those as well. Yes, it is that good, and worth it! It is an experience that cannot be justified by words alone. The multiplayer however? Now, that is something that takes away the emotional character ties and leaves the gameplay untouched for an online multiplayer that has now become one of my personal favourites. Though to be fair, I have never been big on online gaming. The fact that I have enjoyed this so much alongside the main campaign just proves its glory, or at least its uniqueness.
The online multiplayer is called Factions and it consists of two modes – Supply Raid and Survivors. In Supply Raid you must simply kill off the entire enemy team to win, and in Survivors you must eliminate all enemies in a series of rounds. The difference here is that once you die you won’t respawn until the next round. I can only assume that at some point down the line Naughty Dog will release new modes, but even if they don’t it wouldn’t really bother me. I barely touch Survivors as it is, because Supply Raid is good enough! On occasion I enjoy testing my ability to stay alive in Survivors, but in Supply Raid I can still make accurate, clever, and stealthy kills without the restriction of surviving in order to win. I can slip up once or twice and still play well enough to come out on top at the end of it.
The best thing about Factions is that the gameplay remains the same – un-watered down, and just as fun. There are four points around the map that you can pick up supplies from crates in order to construct health-packs, shivs, molotovs, bombs, etc. and parts that you pick up go towards purchasing ammo, upgrading your weapons, and buying armour. These parts can also be picked up from dead enemies. The best thing about having these boxes scattered across the map is that it forces you to move around rather than just perch in one spot. In terms of hunting your enemies, each person has their own way of playing, be it going off on their own, or working as a team. You can set up custom ‘load-outs’, with weapons you want to use and perks you want to add. These range from pistols, shotguns, bows, and assault rifles – the majority of which can be silenced to hide yourself on the mini-map (crouching also helps you here) – and the perks range from having a bigger blast radius on your explosives, zooming in further when aiming, creating items 75% faster, etc. There is plenty here to experiment with, and hours of fun to be had in doing so.
You start Factions off by choosing to align yourself as a Hunter or a Firefly. From there you have 12 weeks to reach the end of your journey, where each match counts as one day. Every now and again a mission will present itself, usually in the form of an attack from the opposing group to the one you chose. You must choose from a list of options – downs, executions, bomb kills, shiv kills, revives, etc. – and reach a certain amount for the one you chose in order to survive. If you fail to achieve your mission you could risk losing your clan and having to start all over again from week one, day one. Your level and unlocks will remain, but this can still be extremely annoying. Collecting dropped supplies from your enemy is key to keeping your clan healthy. If you don’t they can fall hungry, and even sick, eventually leading to death.
Like many forms of media these days, you can connect to your Facebook profile. Fear not – nothing will get posted to your wall. All it does is simply take the names from your friend list and use them as you recruit new survivors to your faction. Say you don’t fully accomplish one of your missions? You may have to choose two of 3 people to survive. Little messages will also come up giving insight into what you survivors (friends) are doing i.e. re-stringing a bow, or spit-roasting a raccoon… It may not add to the actual gameplay but it is a cool little idea that makes levelling up seem a bit more personal. I repeat one more time – it does not post to your wall!
Getting kicked out of games has happened to me twice now. It’s not horrendous, but a glitch nevertheless that is not only annoying but has resulted in me forfeiting my missions and allowing members of my clan to go hungry or sick. This aside I couldn’t really put a finger on many other flaws. There could be a few more maps available, although the ones that are currently up are all great fun to play on. More game modes would probably be a welcome addition to most but as mentioned earlier, it really doesn’t bother me.
- Personal touches make it more fun
- Decent variety in perks and loadouts
The Last Of Us: Factions Review,
You might have seen some of the reviews surrounding The Last of Us by now – the scores from major sites have been publically slotted together on a pretty graphic, with perfect scores encircling the game’s title. A game receiving a perfect score from so many publications is a rarity, and often something to be wary of. A game can’t be ‘perfect’, can it? If there’s perfection, surely every game developer should just give up now, because really… there’s no way to beat what has just been.
It’s an issue so many reviewers struggle with – you may personally love the game to the point of seeing perfection, but will the wider audience feel the same? After all, everyone has a different opinion of what classes as flawlessness. But enough about the anguish a reviewer goes through at times to convey a game’s achievements into a single digit… The Last of Us. Deep breath in…
When I play games, I seem to have this unrelenting urge to play as much of it in one day as possible. This often leads to 12 hour stints of shooting people in the head, multiple life-changing conversations throughout narratives, and goodness knows what else in a very short space of time. It’s a lot to take in. The majority of the time it’s because I need to get through the game in order to review it successfully, so I know the ins and outs and not give you, the reader, a half-arsed write-up based on a mere handful of hours with said game. I’ve heard that happens elsewhere, however… Sometimes though, I do play for 12 hours with enthusiasm because I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. Several games lately have had that effect on me – Bioshock: Infinite and Tomb Raider for example.
Picking up The Last of Us, from the moment I began, to the inevitable close, all I wanted to do was push forward – live the story that was unfolding around me. It’s definitely unusual to be so engrossed in a narrative from the very start. The characters are portrayed in such a way that you instantly acknowledge them as real people, with real feelings, not just going through the motions reading some dialogue from a script. The combination of the young girl, Ellie, and the strong fatherly figure of Joel on their journey through dangerous circumstances is something quite beautiful to behold.
It’s strange, as there are so many mechanics and tropes in The Last of Us that we often take for granted in other games, or even mock for existing in an over-saturated market, yet somehow it all feels fresh and wonderful. A man looking after a girl, zombies… no, not zombies, ‘infected’ by the cordyceps-type virus, stealth, third-person shooting – we’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? It’s startling to think that we’ve done this multiple times over in the past, yet the relationship between Joel (Troy Baker’s best work to date, I might add) and Ellie (voiced by the beautiful Ashley Johnson) feels alive, without burden to take care of someone, without handholding. The infected seems… realistic, considered – more so than your generic zombie that wants to run at you and eat your brains. There’s meaning behind the madness, although it isn’t always caused by the infected. In a world where people are quarantined, and those who aren’t fend for themselves in the wild, the living are just as deadly. Trust no-one.
Although set on a linear path, there is still plenty to explore if you’re feeling brave. Houses often need to be broken into in order to scavenge well-needed supplies used for crafting, but don’t presume the buildings are completely abandoned. Infected inhabitants still roam hallways, sewers, sheds. Never assume you are alone. Never let your guard down. Doing so will often get you killed, instead of taking the silent approach of stealth-kills, or simply avoiding the issue altogether.
As I’ve said previously, The Last of Us doesn’t hold your hand, and you don’t hold Ellie’s. Every encounter with either infected, soldiers or merely people trying to survive can be handled in whichever way you see fit. Sneak through an area completely undetected, purposefully position yourself behind distracted enemies to either strangle them or use a crafted shiv, or why not go in guns blazing? The choice is yours to make, although ammunition is hard to come by at times so use it wisely.
This level of choice leaves the game open to so many possibilities. It doesn’t mention that you have these options as such; it just allows you to work out how best to go about things on your own, depending on your style. It makes the game feel intuitive, and I’d love to go back and try it differently now.
I’ve tried to avoid all key plot points for obvious reasons. This is a story I would never want to spoil for anyone, with several twists that keep the suspense flowing throughout. It’s not just the narrative, however, that carries it. As I’ve said, the choices you make in each instance determine how you perceive the game, and the need for ammo and crafting supplies makes sure you’re constantly aware of the danger you could well be in… but it’s not just that either. It’s the minor details; the way Joel hugs a wall when he’s in cover, the way he puts his arm over Ellie if crouching near her, the conversational tidbits that make the characters seem to genuinely interact in a human style that I’ve never really seen in a game. It’s the beautiful lighting, the spores in the air that cloud your vision, the difference between dark and light areas, the way Ellie shields her eyes if you shine your torch at her. And the music… it rivals Heavy Rain’s score in ambiance.
So, is The Last of Us the perfect game? My god, it’s close. Everything about it screams amazing, and I have to say it’s possibly one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in a game… without a doubt. I didn’t want it to end, but I needed to know the ending – that evil want we all have I guess. If I had to pick at anything, it would be that very, very rarely Ellie or another character would get in my way, but for 99% of the time that wasn’t an issue, so to even bring it up is a bit of an insult. Well-realised characters, not just the leads, but also the strong, influential females that will leave any feminist without an argument, will stay with you long after the game is over. Basically, I can’t stress enough that anyone should play The Last of Us – even if you come back at me with ‘but it’s survival horror and I don’t like that genre‘, play it for the interaction between characters, the stealth, the gun-play, the vistas. Play it for whatever it is you enjoy in games, because you’re going to find something you like here.
- Wonderful locations and graphics
- Obvious research gone into the way the infection has spread and caused mutations
I hate review scores.
Stepping into an overgrown warehouse, full of rusty barrels, crates and smoke, I knew very little about The Last of Us. After arguing with cloakroom attendants about how to hang my coat, and wrestling with a toilet attendant to actually allow me to relieve myself, I put my hand in a box full of an unknown substance to be rewarded with a cocktail…
Just to clarify now, this isn’t usually what happens at gaming events, and these strange occurrences were explained to us during the presentation – they were psychological tests. Almost laying the smack down on a girl in the loo, and then proceeding to use the clean sink rather than the dirty one – in doing so breaking the rules – most likely meant I would survive in a world of mutants, right?
The presentation, kicked off by entomology expert – Dr David Hughes, was one of the most interesting yet nauseating experiences I’ve had whilst learning about a game and it’s antagonists. Crickets drowning themselves to release parasitic worms, ants with fungi growing from their corpses, and the slightly disturbing information that toxoplasmosis effects so many people across the world were just a few fragments of information we were to learn about. Ideas from fungal and parasitic infections have been pooled together to create the mutations you see in The Last Of Us; thought-altering, body-modifying cordyceps-type fungi that make these enemies all the more deadly. It’s not something any of us would like to experience, let’s put it that way – neither being one of the infected, nor being on the receiving end of their rage.
Game director, Bruce Straley, and creative director, Neil Druckman, took to the stage, detailing some of the key ideas within The Last of Us. Playing as Joel, you are charged with aiding Ellie, a girl of 14, on a journey to reach a resistance group. Their interaction is something rarely found in games; Joel, a man who has seen so much, and fought his way to where he is now, together with Ellie, born during the two decades of infection, only knowing the world as it is now, makes for interesting collaborations. Ellie often follows suit: if Joel crouches under a trip-wire she will do the same, if he ducks behind cover she will follow and whisper any helpful hints for the surrounding area.
Keeping both Joel and Ellie alive is a daunting task. The locations are often larger than you might expect, with small supplies littering alleyways and abandoned buildings, used for crafting. Streets are desolate, cars abandoned by the road-side, and plants, unkempt, cling to buildings inside and out. Encounters with the infected are at times quite limited, but with this comes an overbearing suspense that keeps you on edge at every turn of a corner. I found myself crouching when opening doors, when looking around walls, when peaking over the edge of a building. During the times I let my guard down, walking into a garage without scouting it out first for example, I died. The Last of Us is unforgiving to those that forget how dangerous the world has become, even for a moment. There is no respite.
The infected come in different stages of development – I came across runners, that literally do just that, and clickers. Runners sense you by sight, and will grab you if they get close enough. A mash of a button later and the game will aid you with an auto-aim headshot if you chose to use your gun. Clickers, however, are not so forgiving when confronted. They run too, but often at an odd pace, stopping occasionally to seek you out by sound; their faces have mutated so sight is limited. If they grab you, there is no escape. You die, and that’s that. In a world where you have to fear everyone, including non-infected survivors, this is a harsh reality, but one that works so well. It makes you question every decision, worry about veering off course to seek out more supplies. It makes every encounter feel like an actual fight for survival.
A section of the demo we got to play included a search for a friend of Joel’s that owed him a favour. We’re told the guy, Bill, wasn’t particularly forthcoming at the best of times, so seeking him out and asking for aid probably isn’t the best option, but one our characters have to do. After ducking under and disabling several of Bill’s trip-wires, Joel ends up swinging by his ankle on a weighted trap, while Ellie tries to cut the rope to free him. The commotion alerts nearby infected, so protecting both yourself as Joel and Ellie while hanging upside-down is your only choice. As mentioned, the runners aren’t too hard to face; once they’ve grabbed you, the game helps by offering a quick head-shot. The clickers, however, while the wrong way up, while swinging, while trying to aim several headshots to take just one down is enough to make your heart race. I’m not ashamed to say I died a few times during that scene.
Whatever else is out there for Joel and Ellie will no doubt be tougher than what I faced. It’s a harsh world, and one that should be treated with respect. Within it’s beautiful, overgrown façade lies death, sickness and very little hope. The connection between the two characters is something most games strive towards but fail, and I can’t wait to see how their bond develops over time. The Last of Us is definitely one to pick up at launch, and won’t be a game you can put down easily.The Last Of Us: Factions Review,
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