Find out what it's like to play The Last of Us, the universally acclaimed smash-hit game from Naughty Dog.
Could you be The Last of Us?
Of all the dangers facing mankind, it wasn't war or natural disasters that virtually wiped us out. The tiny, almost invisible threat of airborne fungal spores eventually did more damage than any bomb or earthquake ever could, ripping through humanity as a deadly virus and decimating the population.
Twenty years on, what remains of civilisation is confined to Quarantine Zones – harsh, oppressive military compounds with strict controls over who is allowed in and out of these supposedly safe areas. With infection outside of these walls still rife, anyone showing signs of carrying the virus is dealt with swiftly, with no exceptions. Amongst this desperate, violent population is Joel, a black market smuggler whose only concern is looking out for number one and doing whatever he can to carve a life for himself in the post-pandemic world. That is, until an unpaid debt and a deal with underground rebel group the Fireflies leads him to an unexpected cargo that must be smuggled out of the city.
Fourteen year old Ellie has never known anything but life inside the Quarantine Zone. Brave, outspoken and tough beyond her years, Ellie is put in the care of Joel as his most precious consignment yet, and together, they begin a journey into the ravaged world beyond the walls that will push their will to survive to the limit.
A beautiful wasteland
The Last of Us may take place in a ravaged post-pandemic world, but the landscapes and environments are presented in an eerily beautiful way that often makes you simply stop and stare at your surroundings. In the 20 years since the infection broke out and the human population either died off or retreated into the safety of the Quarantine Zones, nature has reclaimed the urban landscape. Amongst the decaying streets and buildings, vibrant greenery covers many walls and grows from the cracked concrete, adding to the ever-present feeling that Joel and Ellie are virtually alone in the world outside of the safe areas.
You'll share Ellie's child-like wonder as she takes her first steps beyond the protective walls and into the seemingly green, tranquil terrain. It's this beauty that gives the game world such a stark contrast to the terrifying action sequences however – particularly when encountering one of the Infected. The fungal growths that have consumed their bodies and turned them into relentless killers are a chilling reminder that not everything that has been overtaken by nature is peaceful.
Underpinning the gameplay is an original music score composed by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla. The haunting soundscape provides a perfect emotional link between the player, characters and the game's unique setting and is a poignant reminder of how Joel and Ellie perceive the world around them.
An unlikely pairing
Central to The Last of Us are Joel and Ellie, an unlikely pairing of a tough black market smuggler and a brave, feisty teenage girl who was born within the confines of the Quarantine Zone and has never set foot outside of its oppressive walls. You play as Joel, a hardened survivor willing to do whatever he needs to do to stay alive in the bleak new world, who remembers the days before the outbreak – and everything that has been lost since. It's thanks to Joel's survival instincts that he's charged with protecting Ellie on their journey into what's left of the outside world; scavenging for supplies and crafting new weapons are essential to keeping the pair alive in the hostile environment.
Although Ellie is Joel's "cargo", but she's no dead weight and is more than capable of holding her own, her sassy, opinionated attitude even providing occasional moments of light relief – and reminders that she's still a teenager.
Joel and Ellie aren't alone in the post-pandemic world. Lurking in the shadows are ruthless human survivors, hunting for anyone or anything that could provide them with food, weapons or supplies. But it's the grotesque Infected that pose the greatest threat to survival outside of the safe zones. They come in three types; Infected still retain some of their humanity, whereas Runners are in the throes of the virus and will charge Joel and Ellie as soon as they see them. Most deadly of all are the Clickers – fully infected enemies who have succumbed completely to the virus. They're totally blind, instead locating their prey with a series of clicks; if you hear them, it's time to hide – a single bite from a Clicker, and you'll become one of them.
What will you do to survive?
Joel's ability to scavenge for supplies and craft useful items from whatever he finds are the key to his and Ellie's survival. With guns and ammo scarce, items such as metal bars, duct tape and scissors can be crafted into deadly melee weapons, and bottles, rags and alcohol can produce Molotov cocktails to take out enemies from a distance. There are choices to make here though; the same ingredients that produce Molotovs could also be used to make a health kit, so choose wisely. Remember to search for supplies wherever you go – you never know what you'll find.
Every encounter with both human and infected enemies poses a choice; with bullets so scarce, how you tackle your adversaries can mean the difference between continuing your journey and being stuck in an even more deadly situation around the next corner. Rushing into battle is a sure way to get Joel killed, so it pays to listen to where your enemies are, assess the threat and work out the best strategy for defeating them – or escaping unscathed. Pressing the L2 button focuses Joel's hearing, allowing you to build up a picture of the situation you're facing and how many enemies are lurking ahead. Staying low and sneaking around the danger area – perhaps by distracting enemies with a thrown bottle or brick – can be essential, and could also mean missing out on useful items that may be dropped in the fight.
Multiplayer games come in two modes. Supply Raid is a four versus four team match where survival relies on you and your teammates finding supply caches, crafting weapons quickly and eliminating the enemy. Meanwhile, Survivors is every man for himself with no re-spawns, so the person who can craft the most effective weapons and take out the enemy will be crowned The Last of Us...