Surviving in a devastated world in The Last of Us


by TRACY-MARK GORGAS / Special contributor to

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 17 at 3:26 PM

Zombies have become quite the thing in the last few years.  Movies, video games, pop culture; it’s all been slowly infected by zombies.  Developer Naughty Dog decided to build The Last of Us based a world after the zombie apocalypse. With zombies everywhere can Naughty Dog make a game to stand out from the horde?  Aim for the head as we take a closer look.


I don’t want to give away major spoilers so I’ll try to keep this brief.

An infection of a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus has devastated the world.  The Cordyceps fungus turns its host into a zombie-like creature that goes through multiple stages before they are fully consumed by it.  Pockets of human survivors dot the landscape.  Some are controlled by the remnants of the military; some are run by the rebel group known as the Fireflies, while the rest are made up of bandits or cannibals.
In The Last of Us the story follows two major characters, Joel and Ellie.  Joel is a 40-50 something year old who remembers the world before the devastation.  Ellie is a 14 year old who is wise beyond her years since she grew up only experiencing the need for survival.  She also may be the key to the survival of humanity.
Joel runs a black market operation, but when one of his deals falls apart, he is given an opportunity to recover his goods plus more.  All he has to do is escort Ellie to a group of Fireflies in the quarantine zone outside the walls of Boston.  After fighting their way through the military and infected creatures to the meeting point they find the group had been killed.  Joel is then tasked to take Ellie on the long journey west to the main Fireflies encampment in Colorado.  What started out as a simple job turns into dangerous quest.

Controls and Gameplay

The Last of Us is a third person action-adventure game.  It is unique in that it gives the player multiple ways of playing through areas.  You have the option of going in guns blazing, being stealthy, or some combination of the two.  You have to really think about your approach because supplies are scarce.  You will not be finding bullets and health packs around every corner and melee weapons have limited uses.  The A.I. will react differently to every time to how choose to proceed.

With the lack of supplies you have to scavenge and craft many of your staples such as first aid bandages, shivs, Molotov cocktails, and more.  Items you find for crafting can be used for multiple creations, so you have to be wise about what you create.  Once something is made you cannot undo it.   Generic parts can be found and use to improve weapons.

The Last of Us also has a multiplayer portion.  As of this writing I have not had a chance to play it yet.  The single player portion has kept me enraptured.

Graphics and Sound

The devastated and decaying world of The Last of Us is done as realistically as possible on the PlayStation 3.  Naughty Dog really paid attention to detail.  There have been a couple points where the graphics crack, but they are few and far between.

The realism is extended into the audio.  A majority of the game has no music; the only sound is the characters feet walking on the ground.  Music is used very sparingly giving it even more of an empty world feeling and raising the tension of when something jumps out at you.


When I first set down to play The Last of Us I expected it to be a typical action zombie game.  Because Naughty Dog has made some excellent games in the past I knew it would be good, but still it was going to be a zombie game.  I did not expect to be emotionally drawn into a story of survival.  The Last of Us grabs your heartstrings early; even before the prologue was over I was almost on the verge of tears.  The story is tight and the acting spot on.  It’s almost an interactive movie.

While there are certainly areas of action, it is a little surprising much of the game is made up of long sections of just wandering.  In most games this would be boring, but in the premise of a devastated world it fits and helps keep the tension edge of never really knowing what is around the next corner.

Naughty Dog keeps a great balance of story and gameplay throughout The Last of Us.  It’s a masterpiece on all levels and certainly earns a 5 out of 5.

The Last of Us is rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

The Last of Us is available exclusively for the PlayStation 3.  For more information please check The Last of Us web site

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