Critical Consensus: The Last Of Us

Naughty Dog's apocalyptic adventure slays the critics

It doesn't happen often, but occasionally something comes along that is so brilliant that critics have no choice but to swallow their cynicism, choke back their snark and write about why something is just so goddamned awesome. The Last Of Us, Naughty Dog's newest IP that focuses on human relationships through the prism of a deadly fungal infection, seems to be one of those times.

Official PlayStation Magazine UK's David Meikleham was certainly not shy in declaring his love for the game, suggested readers sell their kidneys to get a copy of the ten out of ten, "peerlessly tense hide-and-seek sim crafted around thoughtful stealth and devastating gunplay."


Of course until now Naughty Dog's flagship franchise has been the macho, Indiana Jones style adventures of Nathan Drake in Uncharted, but Meikleham reported that The Last Of Us is a Drake beater, and a new high for the studio.

"A better game than any of the Uncharted titles," he wrote, but added later that "it doesn't handle like Uncharted, it doesn't pace itself like Uncharted, and it's certainly a damn sight scarier than your favourite fortune-hunter's feral yetis."

While he praises strong combat, well balanced AI and ability to use different tactics, enemy design and behaviour, it's the emotions that are the star here. Reducing your reviewer to tears is usually a sign you've missed a game breaking bug in hour 17 of your game, here it's a testament to "a tender maturity that boils the apocalypse down to the touching cross-country journey of a surrogate father/daughter pairing."

The more cynical among you might dismiss this as a PlayStation publication cheering for the home team, but it should only take a glance at the rest of the scores to see that's not the case. Veteran reviewer Oli Welsh at Eurogamer handed out the same score, and made a lot the same points to back up the double digits, clearly in love with the death of a nation theme he saw in The Last Of Us' narrative.

"This melancholy twist is just one of several things that lifts The Last of Us far above its clichéd basis. The others are the outstanding engineering and art and sound design, the fine direction and performances, the touching relationship of the two leads and the tough, tense action gameplay."

"Empire went as far as to call it 'gaming's Citizen Kane moment'"

Pacing was praised, with the puzzle sections offering the player a chance to drink in the "peaceful desolation" punctuated sparingly by a score from Brokeback Mountain composer Gustavo Santaolalla.

And it's not just the industry sites that have gone giddy over The Last Of Us. One of the most complimentary reviews (and one that broke the embargo earlier this week for a few awkward hours) was from film site Empire, which went as far as to call it "gaming's Citizen Kane moment."

Reviewer Matt Kamen gave the game five out of five and the sort of quotes a PR can only usually dream of, "a masterpiece that will be looked back on favourably for decades."

"The gameplay itself could easily have been a disappointment - broadly a mix of stealth and action, with innumerable sections of waist-high cover shooting, it doesn't immediately offer anything new. Played with a shooter mindset, it doesn't, in fact. However, it's in avoiding combat when possible, incapacitating foes and only killing when absolutely, unavoidably necessary that the game stands apart."

Of course even Citizen Kane had its haters, and here it's Polygon that drags the metascore down, with Phil Kollar bestowing a lacklustre 7.5 on the game. For comparison, that's the same score he recently gave to Resident Evil: Revelations, and a full point lower than his score for Metro: Last Light.

While others saw the game's emotional storytelling and at times depressing world as signs of greatness, Kollar was clearly hoping the apocalypse would be a bit more, well, fun.


"It's not a fun place to be, and likewise, the game isn't really a fun thing to play."

He still praised the characterisation of Ellie, something other reviewers had mentioned, and the relationship she has with the other lead character, Joel, but was less happy when the AI of other characters failed.

"AI partners often attempt to follow you and stay behind cover nearby, but sometimes they screw up and get stuck out in the open. These moments don't result in detection by enemy AI, which is a wise concession to the stealth gameplay. But it looks ridiculous and shatters the atmosphere Naughty Dog works so hard to build."

And while others had praised the deliberately difficult gunplay as a clever design move, Kollar finds it's "messy" and "frustrating" at first, and then finds killing the game's non-zombie foes morally uncomfortable. Ultimately, the storytelling and design that dazzled other reviewers seems to have left Kollar unmoved.

But the low score is, in these post-embargo hours, in the minority. Overall it seems that not only is The Last Of Us proof that the PlayStation 3 is still a force to be reckoned with, even as its little brother steps into the limelight, but that Sony still knows how to work with a AAA studio to make sure it can produce top quality titles that make its console shine.

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Latest comments (11)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
Havent played it, but everything about it sounds sweet. im particularly interested in bothe Ellie and enemy AI. I think tapping those qualities in a game is what will push gaming foward. Great looking games are often brought down by poor AI, such as the case with Fuse. I was really looking foward to fuse until I learned about the inefective AI. I in particular enjoy RPG's, Squad based 3rd person shooters and fighting games, all which can benefit buy better AI. So if The Last of Us is anything like the reviews and critics claim it to be, it goes to show you dont need a high powered system or the latest hardware to make a great game. And game slike this make the future of gaming look bright.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 5th June 2013 5:57pm

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John Karageorgiou consultant 4 years ago
A victory for gamers and gaming across the globe. Naughty Dog deserve all the accolades - they are both a team of humble developers and incredibly talented too. Besides the brilliance that is "The Last of Us", imagine for a moment what this team can build on the PS4? Sony you have a real asset here and you know it.
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Time to lock myself in a cupboard over the weekend in the dark :)
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Show all comments (11)
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
I was crazy hyped for this game after watching Sony's full private demo at E3 last year, but the addition of wall hacking, multiplayer, and faster combat are huge hits for me.
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Rey Samonte Sr. Technical Game Designer, Trion Worlds4 years ago
Oh gosh! Like I needed one more reason to pick this up?! Now I know I need to pick it up! :)
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
I'm certainly NOT buying this for the MP mode at all, so I'm glad it's not necessary to enjoy the game (nor the tacked-on nightmare my brain automatically thought it was when I saw that reveal trailer). Off note: I think Phil Kollar needs a better thesaurus or something... TLoS was never supposed to be "fun" (at least in the way he expected or wanted it to be).
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Last of Us vs Movie blockbuster....Last of Us wins out
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Christopher Thigpen Lead Producer, Kiz Studios4 years ago
Great, now I need to buy a PS3...

But, at least that lets me get Fire Pro!
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Rickard Olsson Editor, Spelbloggen.se4 years ago
Great game, but definitely not perfect! Story and atmosphere make up for it, though.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rickard Olsson on 6th June 2013 4:32pm

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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online4 years ago
"Of course even Citizen Kane had its haters, and here it's Polygon that drags the metascore down, with Phil Kollar bestowing a lacklustre 7.5 on the game."

Haters?! 75/100 is 25 above average. Seems that even Rachel has bought into the publisher's cool-aid that everything under 85 is rubbish, factually leaving only 15 degrees of finer granularity between 85 and 100.

Also, this comment from the Polygon review:

"Reviews are meant to be object analysis of how fun a game can be, with a little bit of voice. Not A personal look into what the reviewer believes games should be."

Shows how much is wrong these days. An "object analysis" of "how fun" a game can be? Contradiction much? I can objectively review a car or a dishwasher. A piece of entertainment such as a movie, book or game? Not so much.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Roland Austinat on 7th June 2013 8:59pm

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Ben Campbell Graphic Designer / Freelance Games Journalist 4 years ago
To be honest while I agree with how the setting does ooze with it's depressing atmosphere, some elements do take me out of it. Ellie as a character for the most part, I found really, really likeable, but sometimes when Naughty Dog tries to make her dialogue funny, it doesn't come off quite as well as it might have done. I'll admit I can't quite put my finger on what it is that at times puts me off Ellie's character, but it is there.

As for Gameplay, I found it was balanced, for the most part, except sometimes the AI can do unpredictable or immersion breaking things. Three particular sections I found annoying come to mind because the AI acted completely irrationally, all of them involving clickers.

For those of you who don't know, clickers are enemies that WILL instantly kill you if don't have at least 1 upgrade to "Shiv Master" or [supposedly] use a melee weapon on them in combat [they will kill you if you punch them or attempt to melee them with a brick unless you snuck up on them].

• The Museum with the Three Clickers - For some reason, I managed to kill 2 of the 3 clickers in there, but when I went to brick the click from behind it instantly killed me, having given no indication it had heard me or no warning. This bug repeated about 20 times (in the end I had to shoot it [and you REALLY don't want to waste ammo if you can melee / takedown something]
• Graveyard with 5 clickers - Basically the first clicker can insta turn and kill you without warning or provocation, also if you kill one and are noisy about it, the others come (which they are supposed to do). What I don't expect to happen is for them to run up to a point, and then mill about, after supposedly calming down, you head back to that same point and Irregardless of where they were before, they detect you and run up unless you use the invisible barrier again to calm them down.
• The Sewers - This whole section, the melee weapons seem tot get you killed if you use them against clickers, even though you are supposed to be able to melee them with weapons.

Other than those 3 parts in the game I have found the game extremely enjoyable.
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