The Last of Us may be set in a dystopian future post zombie apocalypse, but it isn’t a game about zombies, survival, violence or action. It is a game that explores what it means to be a father, what makes people good or bad and ultimately tries to answer the real question, “what are we surviving for?”.
It is a third person action-adventure that can be played either by attacking enemies directly or using a stealth approach. There are plenty of weapons – a bow, rifles, pistols, melee weapons, molotov cocktails and other home-made devices and empty bottles or bricks can be thrown at enemies to stun them or elsewhere to distract them. The scope of play and the added extras, like collectables, artifacts that add to the story and the ability to craft first aid kits and upgrade weapons as well as a system paid for by yet another type of collectables that allow upgrading your character, keep game play interesting.
The Last of Us is slow to unfold. I didn’t intially connect with any of the characters on an emotional level, there’ a lot of zombie cover-and-shoot combat and some stealth and sneaking around whilst throwing empty bottles into the distance to draw sound sensitive zombies away to clear a path. The story was there, but it wasn’t one I could relate to, the game play was familiar fun, but nothing new, the world was beautifully rendered, but pretty sunsets aren’t enough to compel me to play. I kept playing because this couldn’t be it, there had to be more to game that had so much going for it.
I am not sure where the turning point came; it gradually happened over the first half of the game. It started with my first weapon mod, being able to customize my guns to suit my play style was great. I explored and scrounged more, looking for any scraps I could put to use. My repertoire expanded, giving me more weapons and with it, more choice. The world became more interesting as I discovered that although the combat sequences were gruesome, they were interspersed with long walks, some environmental puzzles, conversations and scavenging that created such an everyday normal feeling that when combat did arise, it was shocking, out-of-place and necessary. As this isn’t a game that asks for the mindset of a soldier, the combat free scenes carry much more weight.
The characters developed and changed over time to become more complex. They gained emotional depth with each decision and as they got to know each other, I got to know them too. I formed the same emotional bonds they did and having been both a fifteen year old girl and being a parent, I could relate very well to both the main protagonists. The Last of Us slowly unfolded into one those games I know I will use as a benchmark against which most future games will fall short.
Single player campaign: The single player campaign is about 20 hours of game play. Although not an open world, it is an intricate world with much to explore and found and many collectables and taking the time to scavenge and track these down will take longer.
Multiplayer: There are three multiplayer modes, two are team deathmatches, each allowing up to 8 players.
DLC: There is one DLC that is included with the Remastered Edition.
Camera mode: New to The Last of Us Remastered, camera mode is a nifty addition that I used to take many beautiful screenshots of a world that makes such good use of light and shadows. It also makes it easy to take screenshots during combat as a click of L3 pauses the game to allow altering the screenshot by changing the brightness, removing characters, changing the field of view and more. Absolutely brilliant, I could play just to take scenic and action shots.
The Last of Us is accessible for anyone with a visual impairment, persistent visual symptoms like blurred vision, photophobia or colour blindness.
Written text is in an easily readable font with clear text formatting. The size is standard or larger, but not adjustable and text is white against a dark background. Interactive elements are clearly highlighted and easy to see. The reticule is white and changes depending on the weapon. Information is displayed to the left and right, but not on the edge of the screen, just at the edge of the central visual field. There are many distinctive audio cues that is very helpful during combat scenes in particular. The UI is small but easy to see and interpret.
There are no flashy scenes, flicker or repetitive patterns that I came across and I don’t think anyone with photophobia (light sensitivity) will have any issues. One zombie type throws up some illuminated spore bombs that are bright gold, but they are encountered very rarely and if the bombs are avoided, as they should be, they aren’t a problem. Some early scenes in spore heavy dark areas have low visibility, but they are short and not particularly difficult and the sense of stumbling in the dark accentuates the atmosphere in the game. I found them annoying, at times I could barely make out the outline of my character and could not see anything else, but persevere through them by just moving forward and melee enemies you stumbled into; they are short-lived and open up to much more visually appealing and accessible settings.
Colour is never used as the only indicator. It is used in conjunction with symbols and text in the menu and pop-ups that require specific button presses is colour coded – for example the triangle button is displayed in green. It is also used in the health bar in the UI, but the health bar also shrinks so it is a cosmetic feature.
Motion (simulation) sickness and balance disorders
There is some simulated movement in various devices, but most of the time they are either cut scenes or short sequences. It is a third person perspective that is reasonably easy to tolerate, but might present a bit of a challenge for anyone that hasn’t played a similar type game for a while. There is no difference between controller and camera movement. Movement and viewpoint is controlled separately with the analog sticks. Initially I had to play in half an hour to forty-five minute slots, but by the end of the game I had adapted to the simulated movement of the character and no longer experienced any issues.
The Last of Us can be played with or without sound and is accessible for deaf players as well as anyone with a hearing impairment, hearing loss, tinnitus or other auditory disorders. It does require a higher level of attention to detail when playing without sound.
The audio is excellent and one of the main elements that make The Last of Us so memorable, but information is not conveyed through audio alone. There are visual indicators, such as when an ally requires assistance and the listening ability of the character highlight enemies with a white outline. The audio can be adjusted in the settings with 5 sliders for effects, music, dialogue, movies and chat. There are no disproportionately loud sound that would be difficult to tolerate for anyone with hyperacusis (sound hypersensitivity).
Audio cues do help players, but playing without sound I felt that the in-game visual elements could be interpreted to supply the same information. Some enemies make a clicking noise when they are near, however if they are near you can either see them or detect them with Joel’s sonar listening ability that lights them up. If you are within the line of sight of an enemy, there is a distinctive audio cue to warn you. Again, it is a little harder without, but if an enemy can see you, you can see them, so with good visual spacial awareness, the audio cues are a bonus not a necessity. I actually preferred not having these cues during the times I played without any sound as the game feels a lot more realistic without auditory help that isn’t actually needed.
There are subtitles for all dialogue in standard size white text, but it does not indicate who is speaking. The menu is text-based and tutorials are provided in text with diagrams.
Input and Touch
The Last of Us is reasonably accessible to anyone with a tremor, reduced accuracy or slower reflexes, but it would be very hard to play with one hand or limited mobility without an adapted controller or if accuracy is a problem.
Precision and accuracy is required during combat and when moving around in the world. Less accuracy is required as the game progress and more weapon choices are added that are easier to use without needing to be precise. Aiming sensitivity can be adjusted with a slider and there is an aim assist target lock-on feature that can be enabled. The option for stealth, to sneak past enemies and avoiding combat does negate the need for accuracy somewhat, however moving quietly requires gentle maintained pressure on the left analog stick. Difficulty level can also be lowered to make accuracy less of a requirement.
There are many prompted button mashing moments throughout the game. It is not possible to play The Last of Us if you are unable to hit one button repeatedly. They are not quick time events, usually a prompt for a single button flashes up, there is some time to respond, but then it is necessary to mash for a good few seconds. There are also a handful of instances where starting generators is done by pressing one button just at the right time three times in a row.
The controls are standard for this type of game with usually at most two simultaneous button presses required, usually L2 and R2 or left and right analog sticks. Button remapping is limited to switching left and right stick and moving aim and fire from triggers to bumpers (to match the PS3 version’s controls). I found the PS4 controller easy to use with both hands and the controls are laid out well with the most used buttons at my finger tips. The triggers on the PS4 are great and easy to use.
The game can be paused at any time and has both manual as well as autosave. Gameplay thumbnails are next to save files in the saved game menu.
Ease of Use
The Last of Us is easy to pick up and play with tutorials and a world that slowly opens up with more and more options over time. The menu system is easy to navigate and the game is linear with an easy to grasp story that has emotional depth.
Tutorials can be accessed throughout the game in the menu and with five difficulty settings, there is a pace and speed for everyone. There is no controller map in the menu, so if you can’t remember the buttons, it’s time to experiment to see what they do. Game hints, strategic tips and tutorial hints can be enabled/disabled in the menu. For those looking for a challenge, listen mode and melee prompts can be disabled in the menu. The reticule and HUD can also be disabled/enabled.
It is a reasonably complex game with multiple choices left up to the player. There is a variety of weapons with weapon upgrades, the character’s health and abilities can be upgraded, there is a crafting section as well and ammo as well as supplies are limited and hard to come by. The easier settings of the game provide players with more consumables, but even on the easy settings, it is still necessary to think about what is in the inventory and how to make best strategic use of it.
Strategy and planning is important during combat scenes, but again on easier settings it is possible to simply eliminate enemies one by one without much thought required. Game play is linear and difficult parts cannot be bypassed.
Language and Math
The Last of Us is accessible for anyone with dyslexia or other language or learning disabilities. A reasonable understanding of every day language is required, but vital information is not presented as written text alone. There is some requirement for reading, the tutorials and menu system is written, but there are icons and diagrams to help and dialogue audio with the option to turn off subtitles as well as UI elements if they are distracting.
A basic understanding and interpretation of numbers is useful, mostly to keep track of ammo. As ammo is often very limited, the counts are usually single digits and displayed well in a minimalist UI. There is no requirement for complicated math or calculations.
Trigger warnings & age ratings
The Last of Us contains scenes of extreme, but not gratuitous violence, including violence against defenceless people. Gore can be enabled or disabled in the menu. It also contains strong language and has an audience rating of mature and 18+. There is mention of suicide in conversation. It has emotional depth in a violent world that some players may find upsetting.
Predictability: There are moments of surprise and combat and narrative scenes are based around sudden unexpected movement and events.
It is the plot and characters that makes The Last of Us such a memorable experience. There are moments, particularly in the latter half of the game, where it is possible to forget that it is a game and a simulated world. The sensational sights, incredibly clever use of audio combined with the emotive undertones dragged me wholly into the game. It is extremely rare for a game to pull me in like a good novel does, wholeheartedly, unconstricted and timeless. It is slow to start, but persist through the clichés, they soon fall by the way. It is a story not to be missed. Highly recommended.
Product: The Last of Us | Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: Sony | Platform: PS3, PS4 (remastered) | Genre: Survival/Action-Adventure | Players: 1 & multiplayer | Version: Europe | Release Date/Last Update: August 2014 (PS4), June 2013 (PS3) |Content Rating: PEGI 18, ESRB M(mature)