COMMERCE — While Hollywood continues to struggle with putting out a blockbuster this summer that is more than mildly entertaining, the PlayStation 3 has received what is bound to be one of the best games of 2013, if not one of the most memorable experiences in the current generation of consoles in the form of “The Last of Us.”
“The Last of Us” puts players in control of Joel, a survivor of a zombie outbreak caused by the spores of a fungus mutated to degenerate human beings within days of infection. After losing his daughter in the panic of the outbreak's beginning, Joel lives in a quarantined area as a smuggler. He is assigned to smuggle a girl named Ellie, who is immune to infection, to an insurgent group that may be the key to a vaccine for the virus.
Although “The Last of Us” has the trappings of a shooter, its primary focus is survival horror. Facing the obstacles of limited ammo and overwhelming odds, the game is designed more around flight than fight, as tackling everything in the game head on is suicide.
The atmosphere created by the inability to kill everything in your path creates a sense of tension and atmosphere that lends itself well to the game’s masterful storytelling. “The Last of Us’” writing and direction is unlike many games that pride themselves in cinematic storytelling. The premise of following a cynical old man and a naïve child’s relationship may seem rather overplayed and gimmicky, but everything about this game’s approach feels amazingly fresh.
Punches are never pulled in the slightest, which leads to several heart-wrenching moments that would have been played for shock value in lesser stories. The themes of hope in dark times are thoroughly explored and tightly-executed with enough grit to provide visceral impact and enough heart to enthrall you with the outcome.
There are several triple A and mainstream zombie stories that could learn a lot from “The Last of Us.” Minor game play quirks aside, the game has a lot to offer in the realm of storytelling that should not be overlooked.