Naughty Dog is one of, if not my absolute, favourite video game studios.
The first game I played on the PlayStation 3 was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and I have kept up with that brilliant series as it has continued over the years.
But, I think we can all agree that Naughty Dog’s undisputed masterpiece is their 2013 game The Last of Us, created by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, which was remastered for the PlayStation 4.
The tale of Joel and Ellie travelling across a post-apocalyptic America is the height of video game storytelling, with many emotional and heart bounding scenes.
There were numerous times I cried during my first play through, even in the first 20 minutes, which is something no video game has ever done for me.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson both give enthralling performances as the two lead characters, with the game following their growing father-daughter bond in both its positive and negative consequences for the two.
This culminates in an ending that is so morally ambiguous that it makes the simple line of “Okay” crushing.
It is not just Joel and Ellie though because almost every other character is exceptionally written.
From Joel’s partner in crime Tess (Annie Wersching), to his estranged brother Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce), to the paranoid Bill (W. Earl Brown), to brothers Henry (Brandon Scott) and Sam (Nadji Jeter), and many more, the characters of The Last of Us are some of the best in video game history, with Joel and Ellie right at the top.
The story accompanying these characters is also enthralling, which shows how amazing the writing is because the story could have easily become very cliched.
There are so many zombie games out there, many with save the world plot lines, so it would have been easy for The Last of Us’ story to fall into this cycle of mediocrity.
However, with the game focusing on the fantastic growing relationship of its two leads, and having a new type of zombie never seen before, the game jumps over the mediocrity scale by a wide margin and leaving it completely in the dust.
Having the source of the infection be the very real Cordecyeps Fungus was a stroke of genius and it makes for some incredibly scary enemies to fight.
Speaking of, the gameplay in The Last of Us is also amazing and accompanies the brutal story well with its likewise brutal conflict.
Fighting Clickers, Runners, Stalkers, and Bloaters throughout is a constant nerve wracking experience.
This culminates in a flooded basement segment some time into the game that is absolutely terrifying the first time you play it.
But it is not just the infected that you have to worry about because people are even more dangerous and, whether you go in using stealth or go guns blazing, it is almost always an intense experience trying to take them out.
Although, it is probably best not to go in all guns blazing on Grounded Mode because, if you try to do that, you will die… a lot.
Seriously, Grounded is an incredibly difficult mode to beat the game on.
I must have died around 100 times in the final, brutal combat sequence of the game.
What makes the combat of The Last of Us so satisfying though is its intensity.
You can just feel every punch that Joel dishes out.
Also, when you play as Ellie during the winter segment, which is my favourite level of the game, she is realistically much weaker than Joel, making gameplay a lot harder, as you have to think of new ways to get around or kill enemies.
Helping the intensity of the combat is the reward of it you feel from scavenging and then crafting from various materials, creating Molotov cocktails, nail bombs, smoke bombs, and med kits to help you throughout the game.
The supplies needed to make these things are also fairly spread around throughout, adjusting the quantity based on the level of difficulty you are playing at.
Upgrading your weapons is also fairly handled, based on how much you scavenge as well.
Materials to build weapons is not the only thing you can find scavenging though, because there are also various notes and pieces of information that create side stories about people trying to survive in the outbreak.
One of these stories is about Ish, who I didn’t find much about on my first play through but on subsequent ones, where I made sure to scavenge, he became a very fleshed out character, even though we don’t meet him in person.
Accompanying this fantastic level of story telling and gameplay is the incredible soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolla, who deserves just as much praise as Druckmann, Straley, and the rest of the creators for adding to the game.
All of this combines to make The Last of Us an emotionally intense experience that is, without a doubt, my favourite video game of all time.
Accompanying this masterpiece in the Remastered addition is the DLC, Left Behind, which mostly details the last happy moments shared between Ellie and her best friend Riley.
Just like the main game, Left Behind is fantastic and a worthy addition to the story.
So, as you can expect, I am incredibly excited for the sequel, which will be released tomorrow.
Unfortunately, a lot of story details were leaked about the game and I accidentally stumbled across one of these spoilers the other day.
I don’t know if what I saw is true or not but, even if it is, I won’t allow it to taint my experience of the game.
And whether I end up loving, hating, or even having mixed feelings about the sequel, The Last of Us will remain an incredible experience for me that I will constantly find myself replaying for many years to come.