Review: “The Last of Us”

Developer Naughty Dog has generated a well-earned reputation for being one of the most critically acclaimed studios thanks to its stellar Uncharted series. But as genre-defining as that trilogy has become, the studio’s latest title — “The Last of Us” — has superseded all of Naughty Dog’s previous efforts, making this post-apocalyptic tale one of this console generation’s defining experiences.

Set in a world ravaged by a pandemic that is slowly morphing humanity into mindless, soulless creatures, “The Last of Us” strives to weave a narrative of desperation, sacrifice and survival — and does so with rousing success. You play as Joel, a survivor of the outbreak who has experienced unthinkable atrocities that have left him ruthless. He accepts a paid mission to escort Ellie, a precocious 14-year-old girl, across the U.S. Along the way, the pair’s relationship morphs from a sterile business-only rapport into a more of a father-daughter bond.

The connection between the two is conveyed by startling voice acting and immersive cutscenes but also Naughty Dog’s implementation of dialogue between Joel and Ellie during regular gameplay. These sequences reveal their diverging perspectives of the world’s state of decay. Joel knew the world before it was consumed by this fungal virus. Ellie was born into this apocalypse and knows nothing else but the tattered and torn remnants of what used to be. This dichotomy is at the core of the narrative and provides a compelling look at this crumbling world.

At the heart of this chaos is a mysterious, highly contagious infection, which has left human beings in various states of insanity. The three stages you will most commonly encounter are Runners, Stalkers, Clickers. Runners and Stalkers are freshly infected humans who still have human qualities but are becoming driven by the outbreak. Their painful groans reveal the painful state they’re in as the infection is coursing through their veins. They can see and hear…

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