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The Last of Us First Impressions: Is Naughty Dog’s Newest Venture A Shoo-In For Game of The Year?

For those of you who have been keeping up with Geek Binge throughout the last few months, you know what my most anticipated game of 2013 was.  For those of you who can accurately connect the dots and are good with topic association, you can also probably say what my most anticipated game of 2013 was.  Yes, it’s The Last of Us, the next game from perhaps the best studio in the business, Naughty Dog.  I was passionately interested in this game before I even knew Naughty Dog was involved, and remember being incredibly stoked for what was (and still is) a pretty incredible teaser trailer. Well now the game has arrived, and I’ve had a lot of time to delve into it.  And though our full review won’t hit for a couple more days, I figured I might as well give you guys some first impressions on what’s sure to be one of the biggest games of 2013.  And just in case you had any worries, rest assured—it seems Naughty Dog has delivered fully with this one.

I think I’ll be brief with this first impression, since I fully expect to have this game beat in the next few days and we’ll probably have a full review up early next week.  But I figured that The Last of Us is the talk of the town right about now, and I had to provide something for its launch week.  So thus here are my rapid fire, not very well thought out first impressions.  I will keep things spoiler free throughout these impressions too, since I know spoilers for this game are absolutely terrifying.  More than most games, in fact.

And that’s simply because this game truly wears its story on its sleeves.  Don’t get me wrong—the gameplay is great, and there’s certain factors about it that are pretty stellar (more on that in a bit though).  But ultimately the gameplay can be boiled down to a more hardcore, more realistic, and less action-adventure-y Uncharted.  But considering that those controls are pretty great in and of themselves, I’m not going to complain with Naughty Dog’s choice to keep things relatively the same.

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And the stuff they added does benefit the game greatly.  One of the small things I greatly appreciated was the ability to switch shoulders in combat with the simple tap of a button.  I can’t remember that feature ever being used in a third person shooter before, but it’s such a genius and simple one that I’m surprised more games haven’t included it.  The stealth elements of the game are also neat, even if it does share a lot of similarities with the aforementioned Uncharted.  The stealth kills especially are practically the same—but for some reason, the one’s featured in The Last of Us feel 100% more brutal.

In fact, the entire game does.  So far that’s one of my favorite aspects of The Last of Us—it’s so damn brutal in the most realistic way possible.  Too many games now make it easy for you to run into a crowd of enemies and just annihilate everyone.  And well there’s a certain level of delight associated with that which I can’t deny, I still love the way combat is handled in The Last of Us.  Every skirmish feels desperate, every fight scene feels manic.  When Nathan Drake engages in a fist fight, it feels badass and cool.  And well the fights are equally cinematic for Joel, the level of coolness is traded out for pure desperation.  It will take like half a minute to take down one of these infected bastards, and they almost always end with Joel a heaping, tired mess of a person covered with blood.  Fighting is hardcore, and this commitment to reality is one of The Last of Us’ best aspects.

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But all in all this game is about the story, and so far it’s a very well told one.  I haven’t quite encountered the brilliance of the game yet, but I can certainly feel it bubbling on the surface.  The first 15 minutes especially are pretty heartbreaking, and might be one of the saddest starts to a video game I’ve ever played.  That segways perfectly into the opening credits for the game, which may in fact be some of my favorite video game credits in recent memory.  It’s a fairly popular and super simple idea, but it’s used well, and combined with Gustavo Santaolalla brilliant score, makes for a hell of a way to start this game.

According to my saved file I’ve played about 5 and a half hours of the game, but don’t confuse that time for me actually getting far in The Last of Us.  I just suck at stealth and, because it’s very difficult to play the game without it, am finding myself dying quite a bit.  But like I said, I’ll probably blaze through it in the next few days and have my full review out to you guys swiftly.  There’s a lot more I still want to talk about with this game, but I figure I’ll save all the good stuff for then.  Just go away knowing this: The Last of Us is just as great as you would hope it to be and, though I haven’t encountered the brilliance of the game quite yet, I can feel it within my grasp.  Bioshock Infinite will be a tough game to beat when it comes to game of the year, which is one of the reasons I would argue that the game isn’t quite a shoo-in just yet.  But hey, I still haven’t gotten to the apparently amazing parts yet.  And if any studio is up to the task of beating Irrational, it would be Naughty Dog.  I guess we’ll see what happens, won’t we?

-Matthew

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About Matthew Legarreta

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor-in-Chief of Geek Binge. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew started up Geek Binge in the Fall of 2012 to convince himself that he's doing something with his life. He isn't. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important or something.

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