(Denne anmeldelsen har jeg alt skrevet om på egen blogg, derfor den er på engelsk)
I've already talked a bit about this game, but this time around I've had the chance to delve deeper into the story and get my hands even more dirty, if at all possible, with this awesome title.
The gripping start of the game aside, the main story plays out twenty years after the initial outbreak and we are thrown into the shoes of a weathered, beaten shell of the man we were introduced to only minutes ago. As thrilling and chaotic the start may have been, the ensuing scenes don't seem to dampen the mood, although so much time has past, and we are quickly introduced to a new character, Tess. Very little is revealed about her in the beginning, and you are left wondering how, what or why made these two people cross paths. She seems the exact opposite of Joel, and when push comes to shove, you'll quickly learn which one of you two is the most damaged by their surroundings. From here you're unleashed unto the desolate, exploratory story that is The Last of Us.
The first mission is right off the bat, and you are tasked with hunting down a fellow smuggler that has double crossed you and sold your shipment to someone else. Retrieving the merchandise on the other hand will prove more difficult than you assume, and the story starts to unfold into what little information has been released yet. By now, most of the games key mechanics have been revealed to you, among the most useful are sneaky take downs, unless you're not the strategic type, then the melee combat style will most likely tickle your fancy. Also, being creative in the way of movement is nothing new to the creators of Uncharted, thus the sneaky parts have been made especially pleasing with the "listening" mechanic that will allow Joel to pinpoint the location of enemies and see them through walls, thus allowing for a more cunning solution to an otherwise crowded scene. In addition to this, the world is strewn with all kinds of litter, be it shivs, guns, bats or brick. Most worth mentioning in the heat of battle would be either bricks or bottles which serve to give you either an offensive pre-emptive strike, or a more stealthy diversion for sneaking past the enemies.
Not much further out into the game, we are introduced to yet another character, Ellie, the 14 year old child, that teamed up with Joel, are the main characters in this game. Of course, several other characters will be introduced, all with excellent voice acting and AI, but none of which can match the wit and charisma that infects Ellie and her presence throughout the game. Depending on the area, Ellie will continuously point out events and the "strange" lifestyle of "the good old days" to Joels constant annoyance. Though not for long as a fatherly bond, unavoidable, will start to unfold on this duo. You might have just escaped the clutches of an infected herd or just managed to flee a band of hunters. In any case, Ellie will be the first one in most cases the break the silence, either by a joyous outburst over her sudden success in managing to whistle for the first time, or at her looking at her first sticky magazine - by men, for men.
The controls take a while to get used to in this game. If you are at all acquainted with the Uncharted series, you'll notice a lot carried over into this game, but the controls over the characters feel way heavier this time around. Movement is often slow, and Naughty Dog seem to really like ripping the fast paced movement, like a rug, right from under your feet. Though the punishment never really succeeds in pissing you off as you are more often than not rewarded with spectacular scenery to explore while walking no the next checkpoint. Running in and out of stealth however really works great in this game, and the more annoying things, like passing an ally in crouched mode to peek out at the other end of cover never seems forced or difficult. Seeing as Ellie is a lot smaller than Joel, his movement past her often leads to her passing right underneath his arm, as if he was protecting her from harm, rather than wanting to bash her scull inn, like most other NPCs in other games. Maybe I'm just to easily amazed, but this one little fact made all the difference in a game where you really spend a lot of time behind obstacles! Mostly plotting a plan of attack or a stealthy route through the enemy territory, but also partly due to the fact that the enemies are freaking scary!
It doesn't take long till you are introduced to the first three stages of the infected, not all at once, but one is enough in the beginning...
The runners are the ones that are in the earliest stages and still have most of their "looks" and humanly function still intact. Often characterized by their moans of agony, you'll most likely hear them before you see them. And don't be surprised, but if you see one, chances are high that at least one or more are close by.
Stalkers are in the next stage of infection. The fungal infection has started a physical mutation in their body. Both human and "zombie" traits are visible as their most basic motor-function still are of use. Though they definitely have no mind of their own.
In short, you'll know one when you see it. The fungal infection has spread so far as to completely blind the host. Its reliant on the use of sound to lace its pray, like bats, and are the most ferocious of the stages. This are not killed as easily as the others, and you will be reliant of either firearms or melee weapons to take them down.
Scary huh? Well, this ain't all folks. The infected are bad enough, but in most cases it's not the infected that will put up the worst fights. It's the survivors. Think about it, the world has gone sideways. There is little to nothing to keep the peace, so of course raiders will pop up here and there. The desperate rats that get by in the deserted cities. Violent, if not more than any clicker out there! And guess what, they've got guns, bats, molotovs and good old fashioned booby traps that'll make you restart from the last checkpoint at least one or more times. But wait, there's more! But I won't spoil anything else. Rest assured, when you think you've seen it all, Naughty Dog will throw you a curve ball. Now go fetch!
Arts & Crafts:
Furthermore, the cut scenes, though not many or long, really serve as welcome breaks in between heavy periods of enemy battle. The voice acting, though already great, coupled with excellent camera movement and well timed events immerse you even more in a story already bursting with content and questions. Questions that are rarely answered right away, but serve as great cliffhangers building up for a larger reveal later on in the game. More often than I would like to admit, my jaw has dropped due to the events that unfold. Maybe I lack a certain clairvoyance in these matters, or maybe it's the immersion. I'm not certain, but when you get there, you'll see for yourselves.
The theme of this title is obviously survival, and as such you are going to be scouring every nook and cranny for any salvageable material. Anything from rags to alcohol is going to make all the difference in this game, as Naughy Dog has steered their hard worked efforts into a well built crafting mechanic that will let you craft anything from shivs and medical kits, to nail bombs and smoke grenades. Though be careful, crafting a molotov cocktail for instance require the same ingredients as a medical kit, and as such you'll be spending a lot of time pondering your actions. In addition to this, you'll also be picking up things like nuts and bolts, and even vitamin pills. The last of which will be serving towards ability upgrades for Joel, like increased radius for the listening mechanic, and the latter of which are used to make upgrades for weapons, holsters and other scavenging goodness! Seeing as these items are already hard to come by, checking out the "Survivor"-mode at a later time I imagine will be both grueling and horrendous!
Even though the game is amazing in all its glory and is already a strong contender as GOTY, there are some things that will stick out rather harshly and divert your attention from the immersion like a punch to the face. Often, when scurrying from one place of cover to the next, the allied NPCs will often stick their head out, or even flat out walk up to the enemy without even being noticed, as if they were ghost. Although this doesn't happen to often, you, the panicked player, will most likely already have jumped up to "save" the person only to find yourself surrounded and beaten to death, unless it's a clicker, in which case you'll have the pleasure of seeing the tendons of your neck being ripped out by the damn thing. Or even worse, the game glitched at one point during a battle in an old hotel. I pulled out the a shotgun to shoot an enemy that came a little to close to comfort, only to find that the kick of the barrel sent me rocketing through the floor into a pile of rubble in the floor beneath me which I was unable to walk out from. Resulting in me making a molotov coctail-weiner of myself trying to escape.
Of course, glitches like these don't happen to often, and this one was more likely a freak accident than anything else, as I tried to recreate it seconds later without any success. A couple of more things stuck out though, like the lack of reflection on highly reflective surfaces or the misplacement of a mesh or two, resulting in me having a glance at the underworld below made me chuckle rather than rage. These seemed like small problems, and when looking at the bigger picture shouldn't have any say in you overall opinion of the game.
If you thought that was all, then brace yourself. There's even a multiplayer! As we are nearing release, I'm shocked to find that the ones of us that were lucky enough to receive review-copies of the game, didn't really do too much to populate the servers. As a result of which, I haven't really had enough time with the multiplayer to give it a fair enough review, so I'll leave this part for a later date, most likely within the week.
But of what little I've had tested, I must say that the content is both fun and stressful! You choose between two factions, either Hunters of Fireflies, and remain playing as either of the two until your twelve week campaign has been played out. Each multiplayer match results in one day passing, and the goal is to make your clan grow and evolve during this period. If you connect to Facebook, the game will automatically populate the clan with real life friends, which can in some cases make for hilarious situatuons! There's even a status bar in the menus telling you what the different clan members are doing. In one case, I had my old boss "polishing his gun"!
All in all, the fact that this is a GOTY-contender, if not already obvious, will make it clear for you once you try it out. I'll most likely be populating the multiplayer servers and hope that many of you will join in! And if you're lucky enough to already have a copy of the game, leave a comment and tell me what you think of it, if not, ask me questions and I'll try and answer them as spoiler-free as possible!