The Last of Us (2013)

People Always Talk About the Apocalypse Like It’s the End of the World.

The Last of Us (2013)I had a vague interest in today’s game for a while.  It looked interesting enough, but did not strike me as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  In its defense, I fucking love sliced bread.  Just think of how useful that stuff is!  Anyway, when the game came out, I was mildly interested, but more because I lacked anything much better to play at the time.  But then the world got involved.  The game received such massive praise around the time of its release that I knew what the world really needed: my opinion of it.  I finished this game a while ago, but was busy with my sister’s wedding and unable to finally let you all know how you should be feeling about this game.  Well the time has come for me to review The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann, developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Merle Dandridge, Annie Wersching, Robin Atkin Downes, Hana Hayes, W. Earl Brown, Brandon Scott, Nadji Jeter, Jeffrey Pierce, Ashley Scott, and Nolan North.

We play primarily as Joel (Troy Baker), a single father living in Texas with his 12-year-old daughter Sarah (Hana Hayes).  Things are fairly normal for them until an outbreak of a mutated cordyceps infection breaks out around the United States, turning people all over the country into violent creatures bent on spreading their infection through bites and spores.  Let’s just call them “zombies” for short.  In the rush to escape the infection, Sarah is shot by a soldier trying to contain the infection and she dies in Joel’s arms.  20 years later, small pockets of humanity survive in contained quarantine zones.  Joel makes a living as a smuggler with his friend Tess (Annie Wersching).  A cache of weapons is stolen from them by an arms dealer named Robert (Robin Atkin Downes) and, in the process of hunting him down, they meet a leader of the Fireflies rebels named Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who promises them double their weapons for smuggling a teenage girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) outside the quarantine zone.    Joel reluctantly agrees at the behest of Tess.  They later find out that what makes Ellie so important is that she was once bitten by the cordyceps, but was found to be immune to the infection, making her the last hope that humanity has for destroying the infection once and for all.

My feelings about this game were pretty conflicted, and for pretty much the same reason that I have disliked quality games in the past.  My expectations were set too high.  I feel like, had I gone into this game completely ignorant to it, I would have loved it much more than I did.  As it was, I thought the game was really good, but it did not quite manage to live up to the hype.  The story was definitely the game’s primary selling point.  It was definitely solid.  Though I still have not gotten around to watching it, it felt to me like what I expect watching an episode of The Walking Dead would be like, especially around the times when Henry and Sam were around.  There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of dealing with surviving the threat at hand, and a lot of surviving the different sections of fallen humanity, such as soldiers, rebels, cannibals, bandits, etc.  The emotional part of the story starts off right away.  I was not expecting Sarah to die.  I thought this was the girl I had seen in the commercials or gameplay footage.  I was confused because I thought I heard her called Ellie, but they could’ve rewritten the name for all I know.  I didn’t get very attached to the daughter at first because, though they seemed to have a sweet relationship, she did throw “even though you’re never around” into a birthday letter to my character.  That’s not cool.  He probably feels horrible about it but doesn’t have a choice because he was a single dad that has to provide for his daughter.  I never threw that shit in my mom’s face because she was at work a lot.  Hell, I relished it because it meant more time to sit at home playing video games instead of doing my homework.  That woman cramped my style.  I don’t really consider it a spoiler to say that stuff about Sarah because it happens in the first few minutes of the game, but plenty of other people die in emotional ways.  I felt myself predicting a lot of them because these characters that the game acts like might be here forever were never seen in any of the trailers, but it was still done well and pulled a lot of emotion from the audience.  There were a lot of emotional moments between Joel and Ellie too, especially since Ellie seemed so desperate to be able to connect with Joel but he was intentionally closing that door because he didn’t want to get too attached.  The conversation between the two of them where Joel said, “You’re right: you are NOT my daughter,” was brutal.  It hurt MY feelings even though he wasn’t talking to me because I REALLY wanted these two to get into that father/daughter relationship that Joel so desperately wanted to squash.  Maybe my biological clock is ticking…  Also, at the very end of the game, how did Joel not clock the dude that hit him with the rifle butt because he was trying to save Ellie’s life?  I understand they turned out to be “friendlies,” but clock me AFTER I’ve saved the girl’s life, douchebag!

The visuals of the game are well realized, but not always pleasant to look at.  I guess you should expect that from dystopian settings.  But it did have a good amount of beautiful visuals as well.  Most of the rural areas are pretty grey and ugly (as they were intended to be), but the stuff in the wilderness was generally very pretty.  And since they went all the way across the United States and travelled through an entire year, the developers got to stretch their legs and show what they could do with all the changing seasons and environments.  Rural, sewers, streets, wilderness, forests, icy landscapes, they span a plethora of environments that are all well realized.  I guess the only problem I had with the look was the “secret tunnel” that we enter at one point.  You could see the edges of it behind the entertainment system shelf that was supposed to be concealing it.  I guess the education system suffers in the apocalypse.

I had very few problems with the controls, but they didn’t really take any chances here.  It was like Uncharted with less climbing and more stealth.  It’s safe, but it’s functional.  Stealth in this game (as stealth in most games as far as I’m concerned) can get a little frustrating for the less patient audiences (such as myself) but it’s not too painful, and it’s pretty necessary since the game decided that a few of the enemies you face can instantly kill you if they get too close.  That’s a little irritating as well, especially since it can sometimes be hard to tell which ones are the instant killing ones and which are the regular ones.  The thing I felt was most irritating was that this game was still trying to push Sixaxis on us.  It’s dead, Sony!  Let it go!  It does not immerse me more in the game to have to shake my controller as if it was my flashlight and we all know that gets your batteries working right.  Another problem I had was with ammo availability.  I’ve felt this about other games in the past, but if I kill someone that was just shooting at me, I want their ammo.  I know they have it; they were just throwing it at me.  Give it to me!

This does not seem like it’s a great game for trophies.  I’ve not come anywhere near getting them all yet, but just reading through them makes them seem daunting.  I’ve beaten the game, and I was trying to collect stuff and finish trophies, but I’m still at a meager 5%.  A lot of them are for collecting and beating the game 8 different ways (the difficulties do stack though) and crafting different items, but that is an awful amount to have beaten the game with.  I doubt I’ll ever get anywhere near finishing them.  I did like collecting the comic books because it made Ellie happy, but I didn’t find a single comic book while exploring the dorms in the Colorado college level.  Are you shitting me?  No one in a Colorado college reads comics?  Those kids don’t know how to party!

My enjoyment of The Last of Us was hindered by the overhyping it received, but not so much that I couldn’t still say it was a really good game.  The story was well written and actually able to illicit emotional responses from me, and the graphics were pretty outstanding when they got out of the bland cities.  I could have perhaps asked for a little more innovation out of the controls since they seemed to mainly stick with what was safe, and the trophies are way too much work for me, but I would say that this is a quality game.  I don’t know if I’d be prepared to say it was worth the full $60 for it, but if it drops even $10 on sale, I’d say that would be enough reason for you to pick it up for yourself.  The Last of Us gets “No matter what you have to find something to fight for” out of “It doesn’t matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.”

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)

Did He Save You From Your Life, or Damn You to This One?

It’s time for the review of my most anticipated release of this year. It took me a long time to stop saying that Final Fantasy VII was my favorite game of all time, and when I did, I switched it for Uncharted 2. So, obviously, the release to the third part in the Uncharted series was very exciting to me. Could it live up to my expectations? Bet you wanna know, don’t you? Well too bad! REVIEW OVER! Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is brought to us by Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment.

Our hero, Nathan Drake (Nolan North), and our hero’s old dude, Victor Sullivan (Richard McGonagle), are meeting a pretty obviously evil dude named Talbot (Robin Atkin Downes) in a pub. They are in the middle of a negotiation to trade cash money for Nate’s precious ring from his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. Nate and Sully decide that the money is counterfeit and refuse the trade, which starts a fight they must face-punch their way out of. In the alley outside the bar, Nate and Sully are surrounded by Talbot and Charlie Cutter (Graham McTavish) and Talbot’s client, Katherine Marlowe (Rosalind Ayres). She steals Nate’s ring and Charlie shoots Nate and Sully in the chest. The series has ended … if you’re dumb enough to believe the two main characters die in the first 5 minutes. We flashback 20 years to when Nate met Sully and when Nate stole the ring he wears. Back in the present and SURPRISE! Nate and Sully weren’t really dead. They were in cahoots with Charlie. The three meet up with Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) and trail Marlowe. In her secret hideout, they find out she’s after the lost city of Ubar, which is apparently a super sweet city lost in the Rub ‘al Khali desert. As per usual, Nate must get to the special place before the random bad guy gets there and takes something that he will not use in a nice way. Also, they meet up with Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) in Yemen.

I believe this game would be much higher rated if it were Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 2 were Uncharted 3. It feels more like a midpoint than a successor. As with the other two games in the series, this is an action-adventure game with a good deal of platforming, some face-punching, and a good deal of shooting. The platforming works very well with no complaints. In Uncharted 2, the climbing areas would change as you made your way through them to keep them lively and keep you on your toes, and they brought this into Uncharted 3. At one point you find yourself trapped in a burning building. You shimmy up beams until they crack in half and you need to improvise. You run up stairs and they crumble beneath you, but they become less helpful grips on the wall. All very fluid and fun. The melee system takes a big leap forward in this game. It’s getting dangerously close to Arkham City quality. It handles roughly the same: punch faces with square, counter with triangle, tap the left stick twice to throw a Nate-arang. It’s a welcome upgrade because the melee system in Uncharted 2 wasn’t bad but didn’t impress. Of course, in Uncharted 2 you didn’t have to use it all that often. In Uncharted 3, there are entire parts where you’re just surrounded by multiple enemies and you have to fight your way out. And it’s not bothersome because they improved the melee so much. They also made it possible to do an instant finisher if you were in the right place. If you were standing next to them, you could finish the enemy with a bottle, a wrench, a pan, or even a fish. Not a joke. It’s funny, but it’s not technically a joke. But the greater majority of the gameplay here is going to be shooting … and therein lies the problem. I don’t know how it happened, but Naughty Dog done fucked up the aiming mechanics. I recently decided that it would be easier to run an HDMI cable through my wall so I could leave my PS3 in the living room and not have to move it back and forth into my room when I wanted to play it. The shooting mechanics were messed up to the point where I really thought the thin wall separating my PS3 from me was messing up the responsiveness of my controller. Turns out they just fucked it up. This is very strange since there were no problems whatsoever with the shooting mechanics of Uncharted 2, so you would assume they could just copy and paste the same code and at least leave it the same quality as their previous super awesome game. Instead, they messed with it and now it can be extremely annoying to try to shoot an enemy because the slightest touch of the analog stick would either not be registered or it would jump past the enemy’s head and you would just miss. Naughty Dog has promised a patch to fix their sloppy shooting mechanics, but I’ve already got the Platinum trophy for the game, so who knows whether or not I’ll be playing it when they fix it. But, to be fair, the shooting is not so sloppy that it will ruin the game, it will just hurt more than it should because of the game that preceded it. The last boss was also much easier than Uncharted 2’s boss and was slightly underwhelming.

The story, as usual, is well delivered. I think it may be getting to a point where it’s dangerous for Uncharted because all 3 games follow the same basic routine. Nate’s looking for something (mainly out of a sense of adventure), someone evil is also looking for it (mainly out of a desire to rule the world), and Nate takes it upon himself to stop them (mainly out of the fact that he’s the hero of the game). But one couldn’t say they retread the same path since they always go to completely new landscapes each time. The first Uncharted was mainly jungle, the second mainly snow, and the third mainly desert. I don’t remember the first one super well, but I know that Uncharted 2 and 3 do share some pretty epic set pieces. You explore and fight through a burning chateau, a sinking boat, a scorching desert, and a gorgeous city hidden inside a sandstorm. All of them are beautiful. Except for the desert. That sumbitch almost kills us. Douche bag desert. There was also a section that was VERY reminiscent of the scene in Last Crusade when Indiana Jones was trying to take out the tank. I think that even happened around Yemen, but I haven’t seen that movie in some time. But the characters have been well developed over three games and that makes you care for them. You never expected Nate and Sully to be dead in the first scene because why would they show that in the trailer, but there is a pretty surprising scene near the end that was shocking. I did find myself a bit bummed at the end that they didn’t really go that supernatural in this one as they did in the previous two. They had a hallucinogenic water thing going on that had a myth surrounding it about genie’s and some junk, but it’s not nearly as supernatural as the other games. And the water does set up a big fuck you thing like TV shows and movies like to do when something big and game changing happens but FOOLED YOU, it was a dream. That’s kind of cheap, but I saw it coming and don’t want to give it away if you don’t. There was also a part where Nate trips balls because of the water and that made me kind of nauseous. One thing I didn’t like about the story was that there was some backstory between Nate and Elena that was never really explained. They’re kind of awkward around each other in this one and they mention how she’s wearing a ring he gave her, so it’s kind of implied that they may have been engaged, or at least serious, in a relationship together and then it ended but she wasn’t super angry about it for some reason. I wanted to know what the backstory was but it was never explained.

They bring back the same voice crew from the previous games and they still knock it out of the park. Nolan North plays Nate as the cocky, Indiana Jones type character that he’s always played, but he’s still very charming. Sully is the father figure that I never had … just kidding. But he is a great father figure for Nate. Talbot is an asshole that really makes me want to kill him, and then make me happy when I do. Marlowe is more of a hands-off evil person that looks almost exactly like Helen Mirren, and I was a little bummed that they didn’t actually get Helen Mirren to do the voice. But the person they got did fine. She was a manipulative bitch as a good evil person should be. She tries to make Nate blame Sully for getting him stuck in the pattern of always being about to get killed. Chloe’s sexiness was potted down a bunch for this game and she wasn’t in the game that much, but she did have a good couple of funny lines. Elena was Elena, but I love her so it’s good. Charlie Cutter was an odd character. I felt it was strange that he was this brand new character that everybody in the game knew except for us. Just ’cause the crew has signed off on you doesn’t mean we’ll like you, buddy. You gotta earn it. All of the character’s interactions with each other were very natural and real, and usually had a good funny touch to them. I especially liked the conversation about cell phones that they had when Nate had been trying to contact Chloe and Charlie and he said he ran out of minutes on his phone and Chloe’s was broken. I’m not going to transcribe it or anything; you’re supposed to play this thing.

I admit I was bummed out, but when I look back, it’s still not a bad game. The only reason it seems bad is that it followed a game that was so amazing. The platforming is great, the melee is greatly improved, but they messed up the shooting. The characters and story is great and set in some of the most epic settings to date. It treads similar ground to Uncharted 2, but stands out as a great game on it’s own. Once they release the patch, this game will be amazing, but still a step down from Uncharted 2. If you own a PS3, I still think you should own this game, or at least play it. It’s a pretty easy Platinum too. The hardest thing about getting Platinum is beating it on Crushing, which isn’t that bad. So get this game already. …DO IT! I’ll give this game “Uncharted 3” out of “Uncharted 2”. Get it? ‘Cause it’s slightly worse than Uncharted 2? Eh, go fuck yourself.

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

I didn’t have time to catch a movie today so I decided I should review a game. I haven’t played this particular game in some time now so I hope I can remember it well enough to say something about it. The game I’m referring to, as you’ve probably seen in the title and picture to the right, is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, from developer Naughty Dog.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the story of Nathan “Nate” Drake, a sarcastic but loveable treasure hunter and descendant of explorer Sir Francis Drake (like if Indiana Jones and Lara Croft got buck nasty and had a kid). The game begins in the middle, finding Nate waking up on a train covered in blood. When a bag flies past him, he realizes the train is also perpendicular to the ground and hanging off a cliff. While making his way back to more sturdy footing, we catch glimpses (through flashbacks) of how he got into his current predicament. An old friend of his, Harry Flynn, and an ex girlfriend/femme fetale Chloe Frazer come to Nate and talk him into stealing a Mongolian lamp from a museum, which Nate only agrees to because it may lead to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. By stealthily making their way through the museum, they find the lamp with a map and some blue rocks in them whose light allows the map to be seen. Then Flynn betrays Nate and he gets arrested.

Chloe and Drake’s friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan pay his bail and get him released. Nate is then informed that Flynn is working for a crazy war criminal name Zoran Lazarevic, and are currently looking for a tomb in order to find a mythical rock called the Cintamani Stone, said to reside in Shambhala. They reach the tomb first, find a Tibetan phurba (like the dagger from The Shadow) and beat cheeks to escape Zoran, but Sully gets captured. Now in Nepal, they are all looking for a temple that shows the location for Shambhala and Nate and Chloe come across Nate’s previous girlfriend and costar of Uncharted 1, reporter Elena Fisher, and her cameraman. AWKWARD! The rest of the game has Nate, Chloe, and Elana racing against Zoran and Flynn to be the first to reach Shambhala and the Cintamani Stone.

If I could review this game in only one word, it would be “yes”. Oh wait, that doesn’t really make sense. This game is freakin’ fantastico to the mucho. The game is a mixture of third-person shooter with platforming action-adventure and a little bit of hand-to-hand fighting game mixed in there. There is no part of this game that isn’t awesome as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I have been overheard calling this game quite possibly my favorite game of all time, but hands down the best game of 2009. The story is gripping and involving, the controls are well executed (though on occasion the wall crawling could get frustrating, if memory serves), the characters are all rich with personality and back story as well as being spectacularly performed in both voice and animation, and the way the CGI movies flow right in to the player-controlled action is seamless and refuses to take the player out of the action for long. I love this game so much, I actually beat it 4 times and was never bored. If not for the fact that the 3rd one comes out in a matter of months, I would say it is likely I would beat it again.

I would say (if for nothing more than the back story of Nate and Elena) the first Uncharted should be played before hopping into this one, though it’s probably not necessary. Uncharted 2 is leaps and bounds from Uncharted 1, and Uncharted 1 was a solid outing in itself. And since both of these games are Greatest Hits titles on the PS3, I don’t feel like you really have any reason NOT to get them both beyond “I already have/had them” and “I don’t own a PS3”.

There is multiplayer in this game as well, but I can’t talk much about it as I only played it for about an hour, and that was about a year ago. My roommate, however, loves it and still plays it to this day. From what I can tell, it’s mainly just a third-person, team based deathmatch for the most part, with a couple of mission-based co-op options to it as well. I’ve also seen a good deal of great character skins in the multiplayer, the only ones coming to mind are Cole and Zeke from Infamous. So I’ve been informed by a reliable source that it’s worth playing the multiplayer, but I’m more of a single player person myself. And who cares about the multiplayer? The single player is worth it by itself.

I can only hope that, by this point in the review, I wouldn’t really need to give a number rating or something for this game. I give Uncharted 2 a “Why the hell haven’t you played this yet?” out of 126,633, which is 120% if you don’t know how to turn words and unrelated numbers into a percentage.