Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Last of Us Remastered/ PS4




Boom! It will take me a little while to really emphasize how much of an impact this game has had on me since I first played the remastered version on PS4 last year. Words will only do so much. It was one of those gaming moments that changes the way you feel about gaming and shapes what it is that you will forever be looking for game wise and comparing similar games too. I had one such moment the first time that I ever played Resident Evil 2 and I must admit it has been a long time since I can remember the last. GTA San Andreas springs to mind and Fallout New Vegas.
The Last of Us stands out as one of those moments etched into my personal history of significant events. The way I described it to one of my brothers, who I often talk gaming with, is that it has taken elements of all of my favorite survival horrors and rolled them into one, whilst still remaining fresh and difficult to compare with another.
'Well done Naughty Dog.'



Gaming is big business, so because of this, games are being made to please those ever faithful players who keep gaming big business. The amount of playing hours is on the up. The graphics keep moving closer to real life. And more noticeable for myself, the voice acting is being taken far more seriously. So much so that the odd celebrity actor is turning up in the latest blockbuster of a game.
For the Last of Us, the main characters Joel and Ellie are voiced by Two seasoned voice actors in Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). Troy Baker, also happens to be a member of Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill band. (A little reference to Silent Hill: Homecoming, my first blog post). Troy has also voiced many characters in many popular games, of which I am sure many of you will already be aware of. This element adds to the very film like feel of the game, along with the very real fungus infection (cordyceps), Naughty Dog have developed a survival horror that isn't just playing with fantasy; you feel that they want players to get lost in a plot that could actually become a real life scenario and it certainly had that effect on me throughout.

The plot

The game begins with a little pre-history. 20 years prior to the main story. Joel is a single parent to his daughter Sarah. Although you don't know for sure, you figure that tragedy gave birth to this scenario. Joel struggles with the responsibility of being both mother and father to his daughter. On the night of his birthday, an outbreak of mutated cordyceps fungus begins infecting humans, turning them into very 28 Days Later type nut jobs, who attack and eat whoever gets in their way. During the panic that quickly develops in the surrounding areas, Joel, Sarah and Joel's brother Tommy, attempt to escape to safety. Forced to flee on foot, Sarah is shot by a soldier ordered to shoot on sight as the authorities attempt to control the already out of control infection.

20 years later, a very worn out looking Joel, winds up looking out for another young girl, by the name of Ellie. Joel, who has become a smuggler, with his partner Tess, comes across a wounded Firefly (rebel group) leader, Marlene, whilst looking for a guy who has ripped them off (Robert) with supplies, who just happens to of sold them on to the Fireflies. 'Big Breath.'
Robert dies. The wounded Marlene convinces Joel and Tess that they can have their supplies (guns) back, if they can complete a delivery for her. In comes Ellie, the delivery. Then begins what becomes one of the best survival games that I have played in a long, long time.

It doesn't take long for Joel and Tess to find out that Ellie is infected, only she was bitten 3 weeks prior and the normal period of infection taking over the host is two days. It takes some convincing, but both agree that Ellie may be worth taking to the intended destination, where more Fireflies are waiting to run tests to see if they can figure out a vaccine.

What happens from here on out, are a series of events with Joel saving Ellie, Ellie saving Joel and the two of them bonding closer whilst working through their previous traumas and losses.
'Fuck me! If that's not enough, then I can't say how a game could ever please you.'




'The story of Joel and Ellie, has similarities to the film, The Road (Viggo Mortensen ). Check it out if you haven't already.'



Gameplay

For me this game is dominantly survival horror. It is also listed as third person action adventure. I would say that the action adventure is the storyline, with survival horror being the driving force behind how the game plays out. It is difficult to say that the game is like anyone of it's predecessors in the survival horror genre. However you can implement your own similarities.
 There are many of the classic survival horror traits, such as:
1) Surviving horror (pretty obvious).
2) Surviving with limited supplies.
3) Post-apocalyptic setting.
4) The element of surprise.
5) Needing to hide or take cover.
6) Of course, mutated monsters/humans, hell bent on chewing your face off.
7) Finding and/or crafting weapons, items, and items of healing.



The game unlike some survival horrors, has a very human feel about it. Rather than it just being a creepy, in the dark, zombie fest, you are faced with a survival of the fittest type world, with the surviving humans often being more dangerous than the still quite human infected; unless they are full blown clickers that is. (See second picture). Controlling your characters isn't difficult. There isn't much fiddling about to do. Navigating your environment is pleasant. As always though, being on screen with other characters in this type of game still has its downfall; 'They fucking get in your way!'
But not as much as I have experienced in other games. Somebody, somewhere, has got to get this element right. Is it too much too ask for?  Maybe it's the balance of being able to move around so freely, that on occasion you may bump into each other.

Resident Evil 0 is on the right path, giving you limited control of your partner whilst you take lead, meaning that you can move them out of the way should they happen to just rock up in front of you whilst you're attempting to navigate a tight space. 'More on this another time.'




Once you get stuck into the game, it becomes a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Joel ends up solely looking out for Ellie, a job that he would have done differently if given the choice. But there is little choice but to push on in the hope that both can survive long enough to get to the Fireflies. There are intense moments throughout. Some really tugging on the heartstrings. At times you will have to become more stealthy than a ninja, using a technique known as listen mode. When in listen mode, your character has a heightened sense of hearing, allowing you to locate the movement of enemies close by. Traits like these can also be upgraded. At times you will need to make tough decisions on which items are more important to be crafted and which weapons and abilities when upgraded will be more effective for the next stage of your journey. The crafting of items, such as health kits and shivs, come straight from what you pick up in the environment, plus at various points you can upgrade weapons, such as handguns and bows, with parts that you find whilst scavenging. Being able to do this as you play, rather than as an end of chapter bonus is much more pleasing, as you feel that you are actually part of the nightmare, heart beating experience that you imagine Joel and Ellie must be going through. I also like the fact that you do actually have to hide and seek throughout, using stealth takedowns to lessen the chance of being outnumbered and killed by humans and infected alike, whilst still offering plenty of gun play for those who like to pop one off. Get this right and you will be in full stock of items and weapons when it is needed the most.

The Last of Us is a visual masterpiece and sounds beautiful. There are moments throughout where you are reminded of the true power of nature, seeing how it is steadily claiming back the man made concrete jungle. I have already talked about the voicing. The sound is minimalistic and doesn't really need to be anything more. The infected sound terrifying. Those in the early stages are very witch like (Left for Dead), with the more advanced stage of infected sounding like demented dolphins. I love an environment that you want to stop and take a look around in. Giving that I enjoy observing my own human surroundings, it is not surprising that I find the ever more advancing game worlds captivating. Even though most of what you are walking around in, is a bombed out dive. Homes are abandoned and the streets are littered with squats. You spend a lot of time moving underground or climbing through buildings that are falling apart. I like this, because it is very true to how I spent a lot of my own childhood. Those who are from my area of Newcastle (Benwell), will understand what I am talking about. Fair enough we didn't have clickers. We did however have charvs or chavs if you are south of England.
Despite the crumbling walls around you, there are still many magical moments to be had; such as, seeing a giraffe, seeing some monkeys and riding a horse. You also get to appreciate the smaller animal kingdom, as little butterflies and the like flutter around you at times.

The one thing that doesn't come off as pleasing to the eye, is the blood of those you put to rest. Hitting an enemy close to a wall will give off a nice splatter effect, but when it comes to them hitting the floor dead, the blood pools into what just looks like a splodge of red paint. 'Survival horror.' Real blood please.

There is another plus and that is the realistic carrying of weapons and items in a big rucksack on Joel's back. You are able to clearly see where he is storing the weapons he is carrying, rather than just imagining that he has incredibly deep pockets. Another downside, is the fact that you can just reach through things to pick up items, such as a door that you haven't yet opened up or the back end of a cupboard to the inside, putting your hand through something that should be solid. Small things like this should really be ironed out given the quality of today's games.

As I am now playing through the PS3 version, I can tell you that there isn't a huge difference between that version and the PS4 re-mastered version. Naughty Dog pretty much got it spot on first time around. The PS4 control comes into play more in the re-mastered version and that is about it.
There are many twists and turns, right up until the game ends, leaving you feeling like there really should be some more of the story to come. Lets hope so.






'So then. Are you convinced?'

I certainly was, from the moment that I began playing and it is a game that I will continually come back to and talk highly of. 
My score, (which I do just for my own enjoyment) for The Last of Us is 9 out of 10.


If you love survival horror then this should be on your list of games to play next.