The word ‘epic’ is used too easily and dare we say, a tad toounfairly, in the world of video gaming. However, some games do deserve to be tagged with it. And Naughty Dog’s latest creation, The Last of Us, comes right on top of the list of worthies. At a time when the horror video game genre has pretty much turned into a ‘run, hide and kill zombies’ (often without the ‘hide’) exercise, this is a game that not only looks and plays well, but also does something that few games do.
We are moved. Yes, the core idea of the game is standard horror-survival genre stuff. A strange infection has killed millions of people and left cities desolate shadows of what they were. The military has stepped in, jackbooting its way over sentiment as it roots out those who are infected and keeps the healthy ones in quarantine zones. Lurking outside are the infected themselves, looking to spread the infection. And in the middle of all this, a cynical black marketeer with a heart of gold (you, of course) decides to help get a fourteen year old girl out of the madness to a resistance group. So you have got almost everyone against you - the authorities, the infected, and nature itself.
It is an unforgettable journey. The sound of broken glass under your feet, the flapping of the winds of the odd bird, and most of all, the silence. Quite often, the loudest sound you will be hearing is the breathing of your character as you sneak behind clever enemies (they know when you are low on ammunition and are very adept at finding cover themselves), hurdle over obstacles, and hide in nooks and corners. The music is brilliant and the graphics good enough to make you think you are in a theatre.
Great graphics. Great sound. And yet the biggest winner of the game is its story. It is not really about running up a list of kills or big explosions. It is about the relationship between the two characters at the centre of the game -- the cynical guardian and his ward. You end up being as concerned about how things stand between them as you are about their survival. And it is this that makes The Last of Us special -- the stress on humanity in a world of undead. Epic? Definitely. Play it. Be moved.
The Last of Us (PS3)