‘The Last of Us’ Diary: Part VI — Say Hello to My Little friend

May 21, 2015 in Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Hunters

Here come the Hunters

Note: This is the fifth part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here and Part 5 here.

Day 10 (May 14, 2015)

After farewelling the affable Bill, Joel and Ellie keep driving until they reach an elevated bridge packed with abandoned cars, forcing them to change route. This leads them right into a trap set up by “Hunters”, basically criminals who hunt down travellers and other people for their possessions and god knows what else.

Joel, having been “on both sides” in the past, is able to see through the act and avoids the initial onslaught, but their car eventually crashes and they must take out the nasty dudes one by one. Vastly outnumbered, it’s just not a smart idea to take these guys head on, so stealth, quiet kills (either by choking or shiv) and taking hostages becomes very important.

What shocked me, however, was that some of these bad dudes had impressive weapons of their own, including my favourite, the Molotov cocktail. There was this one time when I killed one of the Hunters and was feeling very pleased with myself as I waited behind a car for his companion to walk right into my lap, and before I knew it I was on fire and screaming! The bastard threw a Molotov cocktail at me! That’s my move!

molotov

Watch this

Molotov2

Bwahahahaha!

This brings me to the subject of weaponry, another aspect of The Last of Us that hits the nail on the head. The weapons system in this game is sublime. It’s smooth, it’s real time, and it’s neither too easy nor too hard. I still stuff up way too often when I panic, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The fundamentals are straightforward. If you don’t have a melee weapon, you can punch and kick your opponent with the square button. It’s not as simple as button bashing, however, as if you time the punches wrong or if you are out of range, your opponent will seize the opportunity and beat you up. Dudes can also grab you from behind like in a prison shower, so you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Occasionally, the game offers an opportunity to perform a counter move, at which time the triangle button will pop up on the screen. If you press it in time, you can evade a punch and then carry out attacks of your own.

Take that!

Take that!

Bullets are relatively scarce throughout most of the game, so I was a big fan of just punching it out. It’s a great stress reliever, especially when you’re surrounded by so many enemies. Even better than punching people is a great melee weapon — like tyre irons, baseball bats and wooden beams — particularly one that has been “upgraded” so that the blades get “stuck” in the enemy and you have to pull it out. The only un-upgraded weapon that has a similar effect is the axe. I may have just outed myself as a sadist, but boy it is satisfying.

The axe is Jack's fave weapon too!

The axe is Jack’s fave weapon too!

Moving on to projectiles. The game has the brick and the glass bottle, both of which can be used to divert the attention of an enemy or stun them, so you can then run up and hack them to pieces! It’s one of the most useful items in the game, especially against gangs of clickers or when there aren’t many human enemies to battle.

I already mentioned the Molotov cocktail before. My second favourite after that is the smoke bomb, which creates a cloud of smoke to briefly incapacitate a group of enemies. The most valuable aspect of this weapon is that enemies will not shoot at you through the smoke, which is particularly useful when taking on multiple baddies.

The one I use the least is the nail bomb, which sounds nasty and is quite explosive, but I tend to prefer the Molotov because I like watching my enemies burn. With the nail bomb there’s just body parts left lying around in the aftermath.

nailbomb

I really don’t know why I don’t use the nail bomb more

In terms of guns, The Last of Us has plenty for players to find and upgrade. You start off with a small handgun, but later one you will come across shotguns, rifles, magnums, guns with scopes, and even a flamethrower. I like how the game splits them into short and long weapons, so you can equip one of each at a time for ease of access. If you want to change guns you’ll have to crouch down and reach into your backpack, which could render your vulnerable to enemies. As the game progresses, you’ll get the opportunity to add one more holster for both short and long weapons.

The shittiest long-range weapon has to be the bow and arrow. I’m a big fan of Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead, but the bow in The Last of Us is not a crossbow but more like a Katniss Everdeen bow. It’s quiet, but the range is limited and shaky as hell, and if you miss they’ll all know about it.

Daryl's crossbow would have been much better

Daryl’s crossbow would have been much better

My favourite short weapon is probably “shorty”, which is more or less a short shotgun. I can’t aim when I freak out, and shorty provides a pretty solid blast radius. My favourite long weapon is the good ol’ shotgun. Again, it’s the blast radius that I like, though it’s its ability to blow apart enemies at close range that brings me back to it over and over again.

Shotgun

Shotgun blasts at close range are the best

And of course there is the flamethrower, which is one of the last things you’ll find. I don’t find it super useful because it has a relatively short range, but the effects are undeniable spectacular.

flamethrower

The flamethrower in action in a multiplayer game

The upgrade system is based on these gears you can find lying all over the gaming environment. An upgrade — like faster reload time, higher clip capacity or reduced sway — costs a certain number of gears, so you should pick and choose your favourite weapons and just stick to upgrading those. Importantly, upgraded can only be done on tool benches, which you’ll be able to find in limited number of places.

And before I forget, I really like that you can actually see the weapons on Joel’s back. Realism!

Anyway, the Hunters are a bitch. After clearing out the first batch, Joel and Ellie venture into an old hotel and have to take out a whole other gang of them. Things get interesting when an accident forces the two to separate, and when Joel finds himself being overpowered by a macho Hunter he ends up being saved by Ellie.

Ellie blows some dude's head off

Ellie blows some dude’s head off

This leads to Joel trusting Ellie enough to give her a gun, though I certainly could not tell that she helped at all in the next sequence, when she was supposed to help me out with a rifle from above while I took on another batch of Hunters. She was useless. I was on my own out there, I tell ya.

Days 11 & 12 (May 15 & 16)

All that hiding from Hunters leads Joel and Ellie onto a building ledge, from which they travel around the building and through a window. Suddenly, Joel is jumped by a dude out of nowhere, but being the badass Joel is, he starts pummeling the dude until Ellie lets him know that there’s a kid pointing a gun at him.

The dude and the kid are Henry and Sam, a couple of brothers. They seem to be less wary of us because of Ellie, and soon an alliance of sorts is established. It’s clear these two are going to be our new travelling companions, for however long they last.

Henry Sam

Henry and Sam

Henry and Sam, as soon as I saw them, brought up memories of Michael and Walt from Lost.

walt and michael

Walt and Michael

I initially thought Henry and Sam were father and son, as I did with Michael and Walt, but as it turned out they are siblings in both cases. Harold Perrineau, who played Michael in Lost, is nearly 52 now, and even though “black don’t crack,” he’s just way too old now to play Henry in the movie version of The Last of Us unless they change it to a father-son relationship. So I don’t know who they’ll get. Michael B Jordan (the new Human Torch in the Fantastic Four reboot)? Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)? You tell me. As long as they don’t get Jaden Smith to play Sam (who’s supposed to be 13) I’ll be OK.

Travelling with Henry and Sam was pretty cool while it lasted. There was a sad scene when they found themselves in a toy store and Sam wanted to pick up a toy robot, only to be admonished by Henry because their rule is to only take what they need. Later on, if you look carefully and not face Joel in Ellie’s direction, you’ll see her pick up the robot for Sam, which is a nice little touch to the game.

Toy store

Henry forces Sam to leave the toy robot

The plan they came up was to escape the Hunters at night via a guarded gate. I tried stealth for as long as possible, but eventually I didn’t know how to proceed without gunning down the dudes on top of the tower, so we ended up having an all-out gun battle. Fortunately, Henry could hold his own, and it wasn’t that hard to take care of all them.

After passing the gate, this suped-up armored car starts coming after them, and in the panic Henry and Sam decide to ditch Joel to save their own skins. Dick move on their part. Ellie comes back to join Joel because she’s awesome, and together they find another way out.

The armored car tracks Joel and Ellie down later on and they’re forced to jump off a bridge.

Bridge

Jumpin’ Jumpin’

The next part of the story takes a bit of a leap here, no pun intended. Joel passes out after crashing into rocks from the current, and when he wakes up he sees that both he and Ellie had been rescued by Henry and Sam. What are the odds?

Ellie convinces Joel to not smash Henry’s head in, and together they move on again, this time into some sort of underground sewerage facility packed with zombies.

Sewers

Smells nice

This was a pretty intense part of the game because it was such a claustrophobic environment. What made it worse as the gradual discovery that there used to be a group of people living in there, with little kids and all, led by this dude named Ish, who left a lot of diaries and notes lying around for people to find. They all died, of course, because some idiot left the door open or something and the zombies came flooding in. All it takes is one idiot.

This was also the place where Joel and Ellie get separated again, and for a little whole Joel ends up with Sam and Ellie with Henry. Mixed things up a little, I guess, but it didn’t make much of a difference, to be honest.

After the escape from the facility and a bit of scavenging came something a little different — an encounter with a sniper. This part was really fun but also really frustrating. Basically, there’s a sniper up in a building up ahead with a bunch of henchmen guarding him, and Joel must find a way to get to the sniper without getting shot. This meant plenty of stealth as I proceeded up towards the building, but it was extremely difficult to get to the sniper because it was hard to pick off all the henchmen without being spotted.

I died about a dozen times, more or less, before I figured out the best way, which was to throw plenty of smoke bombs to shield myself from the sniper while I picked off the henchmen. It wasn’t easy, but I got the job done, and after disposing of the sniper something even more interesting happened — I had to become the sniper!

Barry Pepper or Mark Wahlberg?

Barry Pepper or Mark Wahlberg?

As Joel waves Ellie, Henry and Sam to come toward him, the trio gets swarmed by enemy combatants, and Joel must use the sniper gun to pick them off before they get to his friends. I sucked at this, of course, so it took me a few tries to take out all the enemies.

Shortly after that, zombies come running, but it appeared that it didn’t matter whether I’d be able to shoot any of them because there were way too many anyway. I knew there must have been a reason for this, and sure enough, my fears were confirmed when the story led into a long cut sequence with Ellie and Sam. This could only mean one thing — someone was going to die soon!

And I was right. Sam got bitten during the zombie attack earlier and turned over the course of the night. And when he attacked Ellie the next morning, Henry was left with no choice but to shoot his little brother. Wracked with guilt, Henry shoots himself in the head.

Henry

Do it!

I wasn’t too torn up about it. I still remember Henry leaving me behind earlier! Karma’s a bitch, bitch.

Still, first Joel’s daughter, and now Sam. That’s two dead kids in one game already. Brutal.

‘The Last of Us’ Diary: Part V — Scavenging

May 20, 2015 in Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

upsidedown

Shooting zombies while hanging upside down is a tense experience

Note: This is the fifth part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

Day 7 (May 11, 2015)

It sucked saying farewell to Tess, who sacrificed herself so that Joel and Ellie can escape the nasty soldiers. From here, it’s just the two of us (we can make it if we try). Just the two of us (you and I).

Record store

One of the coolest things about the game is just listening to conversations between Joel and Ellie as they wander through the wilderness. Shortly after leaving Tess behind, they walk into an old record store full classic vinyls, and Ellie remarks on how sad it is that no one is around to listen to it. Kinda made me upset just thinking about how there’s no one in their world listening to this.

A major part of the game that I have not gone into detail is the art of scavenging. Most survival horrors and action games require players to explore environments and look for items and boosts, but few do it as well as The Last of Us.

For starters, the game features “realistic” household goods you would expect to find in a post- apocalyptic world — such as scissors, tape, alcohol, rags, sugar, etc — and requires the player to combine them to create different usable items like health kits and Molotov cocktails. One of the most important things you can make is a shiv, which allows you to kill clickers with. Stuff can also be added to melee weapons to make them extra deadly.

Secondly, the items don’t just pop up in random places and are typically found in places like kitchens, bathrooms, military camp tents and so forth. It adds a sense of realism to the exploration and scavenging you don’t always find in similar games.

Thirdly, it actually takes time to create items from the raw materials. Most of the time that’s irrelevant, but occasionally you’ll find you need to craft a health kit or shiv when you’re under enemy attack, and in these situations you can’t just pause the game and make one because it will leave you vulnerable to attack.

The Last of Us™ Remastered_20140808021751

Fourthly, the game keeps items relatively scarce so that you can’t hoard them for a rainy day. I never felt like there wasn’t enough to survive, but I also never felt like I was super comfortable to the point where a glut of enemies didn’t scare me. It helps that you only have enough space in your backpack to store three of each crafted item, so even if you can make more you won’t be able to.

Lastly, I felt like there was just the right amount of scavenging and exploration in the game. Some games have so little scavenging that you feel like it’s a waste of time, while others provide too much freedom to explore and can end up confusing and frustrating players.

Take for example the first Resident Evil game. That was a game that required heaps of exploration, scavenging and puzzle solving, so much so that you can literally spend hours moving back and forth all over the place just to figure out what you’re supposed to do next. Freedom is a great thing for a game like Grand Theft Auto, but for a survival horror it’s a little too much.

Juxtapose that with the latest entry in the franchise, Resident Evil 6, where there was so much pointless, superfluous activity even a brain dead person (no pun intended) could figure it out. There were just so many empty rooms and corridors that served no purpose, and sequences that required nothing more than the press of a single button.

The Last of Us manages to find a middle ground that creates the “illusion of freedom”. You feel like you have enough freedom to move around and explore if that’s what you like to do, but not so much that it becomes frustrating to navigate through the game.

Days 8 & 9 (May 12 & 13, 2015)

Day 8 saw the introduction of one of my favourite characters, Bill, an old acquaintance of Joel’s. Bill’s a reluctant hero who has set up traps all over the place and only agrees to help Joel to settle their ledger.

Bill

Bill and Ellie don’t get along, and that’s just fine

The plan is to find a car, and Bill apparently knows where we can find one in working condition. Bill’s extremely resourceful because he knows his way around and is pretty handy with a gun. I knew I could count on him if I ever got in trouble with runners or stalkers.

Part of his appeal is the hilarious banter he has with Ellie and the one liners he spews out. He’s such a macho, gruff kinda fellow that it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that Bill is actually gay (unless he was a lawyer talking about his old practice when referring to his “partner”). What I like about the decision is that it doesn’t feel forced or cliched — for the sake of adding “diversity” to video game characters — and comes across as just an aspect of his character that doesn’t change anything of substance about him.

Bill 2

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

It was therefore quite an emotional scene when, after discovering that the engine of the car they were looking for had been emptied out, Bill stumbles across the body his partner hanging in a house, apparently from a suicide. It was just a split second, but the pain that flashed across his face said it all. Joel would later find a letter from said partner trashing Bill and calling him a coward, a letter I would withhold from him for his sake (though I read somewhere that you can show it to him).

Bill Partner

Bill and Joel discover the body

Fortunately for them, Bill’s partner had taken the car parts and put them in his own car, which meant we now had a vehicle to get away from Boston. Sadly, it also meant saying goodbye to Bill, as we dropped him off back home after we managed to get the car started (while fighting zombies along the way). From the way they said goodbye, it looks like we won’t be seeing him again in this game.

PS: I thought it was interesting that the fact that Bill’s gay completely went over the heads of some people. OK, maybe “partner” can mean several things, but it was pretty obvious from the way he spoke of the dude and his reaction to his death that they weren’t just buddies. And just to make things extra clear, the men’s mag that Ellie pulled out in the car — a very funny scene, by the way — should have made it crystal. I guess sometimes you just have to shake your head at the stupidity.

Bill Mag

Ellie pulls a joke on Joel

‘The Last of Us’ Diary: Part IV — High Tension

May 15, 2015 in Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Joel takes on a Bloater

Joel takes on a Bloater

Note: This is the fourth part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, and Part 3 here.

Days 5 & 6 (May 9 & 10, 2015)

So now Joel and Tess have picked up Ellie and intend to take her to rendezvous with the Fireflies. Naturally, this requires sneaking out of the Boston quarantine zone and venturing through lots of dangerous shit with soldiers and zombies.

The Last of Us starts to pick up from here. Tess and Ellie are both NPCs (a new term I learned which means non-playable characters; I thought it meant National People’s Congress), but only Tess really helps out by attacking enemies.

Speaking of which, I love the variety of enemies in this game and how it mixes the humans with the zombies to provide different strategic experiences. With the humans, you have to sneak up on them and strangle or stick a shiv into them from behind so they don’t make too much noise. If they discover you, you’re screwed, and you’ll have to end up taking them all out the old-fashioned way like Emilio Estevez in Young Guns. With limited ammo and supplies, that’s not often a good idea, and you’ll have to make the most of the terrain and your ability to run to take them out one by one.

Going out in a blaze of glory!

Going out in a blaze of glory!

It’s really nerve-racking taking on humans because some of them have either guns or melee weapons. Using your special listening ability to see where they are hiding is often crucial, and having the patience to take your time is key. Like Eminem, my palms were sweaty.

One of my favourite tactics is to throw a bottle or brick at a human enemy to stun them, then race up to grab them and do my thing. I’ve also learned that sometimes you just have to run and forget about fighting them. It’s not like that in every game.

A military pamphlet you get in the game explaining the different stages of infection

A military pamphlet you get in the game explaining the different stages of infection

The zombies — known as “the infected” — provide a different experience. There are at least four types, as far as I know, depending on their stage of infection. The Runners are basically like humans, except they can’t use weapons so they are easier to kill. However, they also travel in packs, and Joel can’t fight like a character from Dynasty Warriors so the best option is usually to run away and hide.

The Stalkers are the next level up and they are pretty ferocious. They’re aggressive and can jump out of nowhere, plus they also travel in groups. Not a good idea to engage these guys head on. Then there’s the Clickers, or as I like to call them, the Motherclickers. These bad boys freak me out with the clicking noise they keep making. They’re blind, but they have super hearing, so you must try and sneak past them if you can, or distract them by throwing something in the opposite direction. The worst part is that you can’t kill them by punching them, meaning you must have a melee weapon or gun equipped. In the panic of battle, my number one option usually ends up being run!

Clickers

Hiding from a Stalker, a very ugly one

Whether it’s fighting humans or zombies, The Last of Us is probably the tensest, most atmospheric game I’ve ever played. I was on the edge of my seat, sometimes literally, and I even had to turn up the air conditioning because it was making me sweat. The last game I played with great atmosphere was Heavy Rain, but that was more like a “choose your own adventure” extended cut scene as opposed to a real game.

heavy rain

A scene from Heavy Rain

The most action-packed game I’ve played recently is Resident Evil 6, which had plenty more zombies but was extremely poor in generating any real suspense. It was over-the-top and arcade-like, and the zombies were more like pinatas for you to destroy rather than real dangers.

ResidentEvil6

A scene from Resident Evil 6

Games I’ve played that have been both engrossing and atmospheric, with just the right amount of action, including Resident Evil 1 and 4, and Silent Hill, though those games aren’t on the same level as The Last of Us in all categories. There’s nothing quite like sneaking up on a dude, strangling him, then being jumped by a Stalker, then running to hide from a Clicker, before smashing in the head of a Runner.

Zombies

Joel crushes the head of a zombie against the wall

The Last of Us is not relentless action by any means, but it’s precisely because of that the game is able to build up so much suspense. Rather than boring, the silence comes across as eerie and unsettling. You just never know what’s going to break that silence.

Anyway, by the end of day 6 of playing, Joel and Tess finally managed to take Ellie to the place where they’re supposed to meet up with the Fireflies. But of course, they go in to find all of them dead. To make matters worse, Tess has bad news. She’s been infected! No!!!

Tess Bitten

Could you show me a little more?

Naturally, I was devastated. I had been hoping that Joel would be able to keep her around like what Michonne did with her zombies in The Walking Dead, but alas, Tess preferred to sacrifice herself instead to allow Joel and Ellie to escape from the soldiers. As Jack Bauer said when Renee Walker died, “Dammit!”

Conan

My reaction to Tess’s death

‘The Last of Us’ Diary: Part III — Casting the Movie

May 12, 2015 in Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

scenery

Note: This is the third part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

Day 4 (May 8, 2015)

I’m really starting to get immersed in the game now and can’t wait to play it every night.

After meeting the wounded leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, we are introduced to the female lead of the game, Ellie, a young girl who is seemingly very important for some strange reason. As it turns out, Marlene wants Joel and Tess to help the Fireflies smuggle Ellie out, and if they do so, they’ll get their guns back “and then some.”

Introducing Ellie

You get a good sense of Ellie’s spunk and feistiness from the first time she appears on screen

It’s pretty obvious that Ellie is supposed to be some kind of substitute for Joel’s dead daughter, and their relationship will form the crux of the game’s emotional core. It’s a good dynamic. Joel’s disillusioned, hardened and wary from years of doing nasty things to survive, and the last thing he wants to be reminded of is the one thing (or person, rather) that will remind him of his former humanity. Ellie, on the other hand, is also hardened by the environment she has had to grow up in but seems to be looking for a parent figure, making the two of them a perfect match.

The first time I saw Ellie’s face — I think it was in a poster or trailer — I immediately thought of Ellen Page. It’s an uncanny similarity many gamers have noticed.

Ellie vs Ellen

Ellen Page vs Ellie

This caused a bit of a furore when the game came out, because Page did not lend her likeness to the game or perform any motion capture. What caused more confusion was the fact that Page was actually starring in another video game, Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream’s follow-up to Heavy Rain. Here’s what Page looked like in that game.

beyond two souls

Ellen Page’s likeness in Beyond: Two Souls

Page was apparently not happy about it, and Naughty Dog actually did some editing before the game was released to make Ellie look more like the actress who did the voice and motion capture, Ashley Johnson.

Ashley-Johnson

Ashley Johnson

It’s not a big deal that she looks very little like Ellie, since the actor who played Joel, Troy Baker, looks nothing like his character either.

Joel

Troy Baker doing motion capture for The Last of Us

Whatever.

What I find interesting though is that a lot of people are calling for Ellen Page to play Ellie in the movie version of The Last of Us. While Page does look young for her age (28), getting her to play a 14-year-old is a bit of a stretch. The actress who has been tentatively attached to the movie project is actually Maisie Williams, whom most of you will know as Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.

Maisie-Williams-The-Last-of-Us

Maisie Williams as Ellie?

I like this idea a lot. Williams is 18 but seems much younger on Thrones, and she’s only 155cm tall, which would allow her to easily pass as a 14 year old when paired with a taller actor. Besides, I think it’s stupid to cast actors for a movie adaptation of a video game based on their physical resemblance to the characters.

Other names fans have brought up include Dakota Fanning (too old, unless they up Ellie’s age in the movie), Elle Fanning (she’s 17 but too tall at 5’8″, plus her acting in Maleficent was…), Ariel Winter from Modern Family (she’s 17 but probably could do it), and Chloe Grace Moretz (she’s 18 but can look young, so maybe). I don’t think any of them are as suitable as Williams at this stage.

As for Joel, there are currently no actors attached to the project, but that has not stopped fans from speculating who should get the job. Top names being thrown around at the moment include Hugh Jackman, Josh Brolin, Dylan McDermott, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Gerard Butler, Russel Crowe, Bradley Cooper, and Viggo Mortensen.  I’d actually prefer someone less famous, but out of that bunch, my money’s on Hugh Jackman. He has the stature and built, the physicality to take on zombies bare-fisted and the vulnerability — as demonstrated by his performance in Prisoners — to make a convincing Joel. Josh Brolin would be my second choice and McDermott by third, but none of the others feel like good fits.

Jack Human

Jack Human as Joel?

As for Tess? Lena Heady from Thrones would be excellent because we know she’s got the balls to pull it off. Of course, the actress who did the voice and motion capture, Annie Wersching, would be a good choice too.

Cersei Lannister as Tess?

Cersei Lannister as Tess?

Anyway, back to the game itself. As expected, it does not take long for Ellie to reveal her secret. I had suspected that she’s important because of some link to a cure for the virus, and as it turned out, I was right. Joel, Tess and Ellie are accosted by a bunch of soldiers, who use this special gadget to test whether they are infected or not.

Ellie Infected

I knew it!

After taking down the soldiers, they discover that the machine returned a positive reading for Ellie. She was bitten a few weeks back and hasn’t turned, an anomaly considering everyone is supposed to turn within two days of infection. So that’s why they need to get Ellie to some scientists so they can figure out why, and perhaps develop some kind of cure or vaccine for the masses.

From here, Joel and Tess will have to babysit Ellie until they meet up with the Fireflies, but I’m certain something else will happen so that the plot will require Joel to travel with Ellie all the way across the country. That’s just the way these stories work, but rather than complain about its predictability I’m going to praise The Last of Us for the way it has handled the drama thus far. In any case, the game looks like it’s going to be a lot more action packed from this point forward.

Stay tuned for more!

‘The Last of Us’ Dairy: Part II — Hello Tess!

May 11, 2015 in Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Skyline1

The first shot of the Boston skyline in The Last of Us

Note: This is the second part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here.

Days 2 & 3 (May 6 & 7, 2015)

So now it’s 20 years into the future and Joel still looks pretty good for a guy barely scraping by in a post-apocalyptic zombie universe. He’s woken up by knocking at the door and goes to open it.

And hello! Say good day to Tess, who just strides in like she owns the place.

Tess1

Tess says hello

Let’s face it: Tess is hot. Not hot in the supermodel, unattainable way, but in the “will we see something between her and Joel in this game?!” way. Spoiler alert: sadly, no.

Tess is a member of Joel’s gang, and they seem to be pretty close. It’s not clear how close they are, but in a world where there aren’t many people around, and those still walking are zombies or look like zombies, I think it’s safe to say there are benefits in that relationship.

So apparently some dude called Robert has stolen some guns from the gang, and Tess and Joel have been tasked with tracking him down. This offers an opportunity for us to use Joel to wander through the Boston quarantine zone and outside of it.

Walking Dead Comp

Unfortunately, Joel has no time for hoops

The outdoor scenery in this game is magnificent as you can see from the scene above. There’s growth all over the buildings, which look worn down, dirty and dilapidated, and yet there are signs of former civilization everywhere. You know what this reminds me of? The Walking Dead (TV). It’s the first thing that came to mind when I walked out of the quarantine zone.

walking-dead-WEB

A scene from AMC’s The Walking Dead

The game has other similarities to the show. Both are character driven and have a gritty, contemplative tone. It’s not super fast paced but feeds off the tense atmosphere. And the human enemies are arguably more dangerous than the undead ones. I know The Walking Dead has an official video game based on the show, but I’m assuming that like most tie-in games, it sucks, so I’d definitely recommend The Last of Us for those looking to simulate the feel of the TV show in a video game.

Anyway, Joel and Tess go on to infiltrate Robert’s hideout, introducing players to the game’s combat system. I love combat system in this game. I love the entire control system. It’s incredibly fluid, and there’s no long-winded tutorial where you have to try and memorise everything in one hit. In the Last of Us, mini-tutorials pop up when you need it, and you get a little bit of time to practice before you have to utilise the newly-learned moves in a live-fire situation.

Gameplay1

Joel learns to shoot

The controls are so fluid and appear to have evolved by combining all the best aspects of other games before it. You can crouch and stand with the press of a button, run and leap over hurdles, pick up and throw projectiles, fire shots, reload weapons and change weapons in your arsenal with ease.

Moreover, the game promotes the use of stealth to take out enemies rather than going in all guns blazing. It adds a new dimension to the game and encourages the use of smarts and strategy to get the job done. You can sneak up behind people and put them in a head lock, which then allows you to drag them around as a human shield, choke them out, or stab them with a shiv. If you make too much noise you’ll attract attention and the enemies will come all at once. The realism is impressive.

I also liked this thing called Listen Mode, which you can activate with the press of a button. It basically enhances Joel’s hearing ability so you can scope out whether there are enemies in the next room or hiding nearby.

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The useful Listen Mode

The learning curve is relatively flat considering how much you can do. I still panic sometimes when it gets tense, but once I master the controls I’m going to be master of my domain.

Day 3 of playing ended with Joel and Tess tracking down Robert, which leads them to the leader of the rebel Fireflies, a woman named Marlene. As soon as I saw her I thought of Sasha from The Walking Dead!

Marlene

Marlene vs Sasha

Oh, and just when I thought Tess couldn’t be more awesome she goes ahead and blows Robert’s head off just because.

She’s been praised by reviewers along with Ellie (to be introduced soon) as examples of strong female characters. Rather than describing her as strong character, however, I think it’s better to say she has “personality”. She’s strong-willed and takes no BS from anyone, but she can also be ruthless when she wants to be.

Tess2

Tess!

That said, she still doesn’t look realistic. I mean, look at her body for goodness sake. I suppose Naughty Dog still has to satisfy the “30+ and still living in their mother’s basement” demographic. And it’s not just the female characters, if we want to get into it. The main male characters are always generically handsome (Joel is no exception) and either athletically built or unnaturally buffed.

But look, I’m not complaining. We’ve come a long way since the original Lara Croft Tomb Raider days.

The evolution of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

The evolution of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

Oh, and lastly, a bombshell. The actress who did the voice and motion capture for Tess was none other than ‎Annie Wersching, who played Renee Walker on 24! Mind blown. Maybe Tess’s body is not unrealistic after all.

Annie-Wersching-FOX-Photoshoot

Annie Wersching

PS: I’ve been told spoilers are OK since the game is two years old. So spoiler alert!

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