The Last of Us

The Mona Lisa of the modern gaming generation. It really is an amazing piece of artwork and has one of the most gripping and emotional narrative I have ever come across in a game. Released in 2013 by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by a company we all love, Naughty Dog, they really know how to knock our socks off and they did so with this game. Honestly, I cannot find any faults with this game and you probably wont find many gamers who will. The game is set in a post apocalyptic world where a strain of fungus (Cordyceps) has mutated into controlling human hosts when infected. The fungus itself is based on a real life fungus whose spores infect insects and grow into their brains killing the host but reanimating it for a short period of time to spread more spores into more hosts. In the game the mutated fungus turns its hosts into cannibalistic creatures who will stop at nothing to infect you or kill you, they are referred to as “Clickers” owing to the clicking sound they make after the fungus completely disfigures the hosts head into this:

Concept art of a Clicker 

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They really are indescribable and are quite terrifying once you come across one of them.

The narrative starts during the day one outbreak, you follow Joel and his experience with the outbreak. The opening sequence is extremely emotional so I wont spoil it for you, but lets say it is definitely full of “feels”. You do get to play a part in the opening sequence and you control his daughter and then Joel himself in this part of the game. It really gives you a great depiction on how modern society would deal with a viral/fungal outbreak. Once you have finished the highly emotional opening sequence it fast forwards twenty years and society has barely survived, the world has been reclaimed by nature and humanity has been reduced to small settlements as the fungus has claimed majority of the worlds population. Joel and the rest of the surviving inhabitants of a small settlement he is now part of has to scavenge to survive barely able to keep the growing epidemic at bay. The scavenging becomes a major aspect of game as you make use of the surrounding resources to explore and fight off any enemies. The remaining survivors have retreated into quarantine zones which are heavily policed. Joel becomes a smuggler with Tess in the Boston quarantine zone and eventually comes across the infamous “Fireflies” a rebel militia group who are opposed to policed quarantined zones. Enter Ellie a rebellious teenager who is apparently immune to the infection. She immediately becomes humanity’s only chance at creating a cure and the survival of the human race. The story-line focuses on Joel and Ellie’s relationship and the quest to bring her to a facility where she can be used to develop a cure for the infection. Their relationship becomes a massive focal point of the game as you really grow attached them both, their struggles and the impending feeling that not all is what it seems in regards to this facility. As the player you want nothing more than to help both these deep intriguing characters to live happily ever after in this harsh now unforgiving world that they have been thrown into.

The graphics and audio are exceptional as expected for a top end game and really makes you feel part of their ongoing struggle. Despite the horrifying Clickers and monsters, the overgrown scenery and detail is beautiful, you really feel like you are there. Here is an example of the graphics to expect:

An artistic design of a location in the post-apocalyptic United States:

The_Last_of_Us_visuals

Audio in the game adds to the immersion and gives you a feeling of playing an interactive film with brilliant actors and a quality screenplay/script. It adds to the suspense, terror and even awe in many of the numerous different environments and situations you find yourself in.

The gameplay is really impressive, you play in third person controlling either Joel or Ellie depending on the situation. Just like any survival horror or RPG you rely on scavenging and crafting to make weapons and health kits to help you progress. Depending on the difficulty you chose at the beginning of the game determines how often you come across resources making it a real challenge for the most seasoned of gamer. During the game both Joel and Ellie work together (including some friendly NPCs you come across) to overcome obstacles and combat making their teamwork invaluable to completing the game even indirectly adding to the relationship between the player and the two protagonists as you increasingly understand how hard life is now and the only way forward is to work together. There are a fair selection of weapons both craftable and obtainable giving you many methods to avoid detection and to protect yourself from any enemy. The mostly destructible environment assists in protecting you and even becomes integral in formulating strategies to take on the most hardiest of enemies.

Overall, I give this a 10/10, this game really is deserving of all the accolades and Game of Year awards, its impressive and gripping in every aspect. Once you have played this game you can understand why it is so critically acclaimed and deserving of high ratings. I cant fault it and I am extremely excited for its sequel.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Resident Evil (Bio Hazard)

Another great franchise I am a fan of. Resident Evil released on Playstation on March 22nd 1996, now it is strange that this is one of my favorite games as when this was released I was 6 years old and the prospects of zombies or mutants terrified me. Its story-line and monsters played integral roles in many of my childhood nightmares. It was one of the first games I owned on my Playstation, my father bought the game for himself knowing full well I was not old enough to play it, therefore my first experience of this game was very much a spectator. After watching him play the iconic opening sequence and the introduction of the first zombie I did not sleep for weeks. Needless to say my mother was infuriated with my father for this. To be fair he wasn’t to know it would scare a 6 year old to his inner core. But I digress you didn’t come here to read my backstory, you came here to read a gaming review, but I guess you are now curious how something that scared me as a child is now one of my favorite games.

A first of its kind, Resident Evil set the scene for horror games paving the way for other franchises such as Silent Hill and games such as Nightmare Creatures and Parasite Eve. Capcom really did well with this storyline. It sets the scene in on the outskirts of a fictional city called Raccoon City, a series of bizarre murders have occurred in a town surrounding Spencer Mansion. You follow the protagonists the S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team comprised of Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, Brad Vickers, Jospeh Frost and Albert Wesker the teams captain. Initially Bravo Team was sent to investigate the murders but they had lost contact with them upon their entrance to Spencer Mansion. Alpha Team discovers their crashed helicopter and land hoping to find survivors. Now during the opening scene in the game, before CGI, they had actors filmed in full attire of the Alpha team, it made me laugh as it was extremely cheesy even for a 6 year old and even funnier for the elder version of me replaying the game years later. Again, I digress. They land looking for survivors and very soon afterwards Joseph Frost gets mauled by what appeared to be rabid dogs/wolves tearing his throat out before turning to the rest of the team poised to attack. Their pilot freaks out and takes off in the helicopter to escape leaving Jill, Chris, Barry and Albert Wesker to fend for themselves. They make a break for the mansion as their only point of safety and avoid further contact with the rabid animals.

From there the game is yours to explore, you get a choice of two playable characters; Jill Valentine, she started with a handgun which was ideal but had less space in her backpack for items or Chris Redfield, he started with a knife and more bag space. Essentially, Jill was the most appealing character as the handgun really comes in handy early on and fighting enemies with a knife, considering what enemies you were expecting to come across. In the GameCube remastered version they change the differences slightly aswell as some of the story. Jill has a pick-lock which is very useful and Chris has a lighter which is also helpful. However, they still leave the Jill character more appealing than Chris as you can obtain the lighter later on while you cannot find a pick-lock and have to survive with one-use keys and if they are used incorrectly or sporadically it can leave you in quite the predicament. Needless to say I chose Jill in the original and the remastered version. I will say though depending on the character you chose will determine many story-line differences so it is worth playing as both.

Once you have “ummed and ahhed” at what character you want to pick the game opens up and your placed in the eerie Spencer Mansion foyer. It’s quite impressive. After a small discussion regarding whats happened, the remaining three members of Alpha Team you decide to split up and look for Chris or Barry who has for some reason disappeared or not made it to the mansion with the team. Splitting up to investigate in a horror setting… always a recipe for disaster and a terrible cliche. As Jill you and Barry search the West Wing of the building and Wesker investigates the East Wing by himself. Eventually you come across a pool of blood and a body and back to tell Wesker who has not reappeared so you decide to continue by yourself. You then come to one of the most iconic scenes in the game and the whole of the horror gaming genre, it really is terrifying. The lead up to it and the door mechanics really adds terror to the game. Opening any door goes into a door opening sequence with a blacked out background and the door opening, with a loud cliched creaking sound, adding ridiculous amounts of mystery and tension every time you open a door. You genuinely have no idea what is on the other side before it is too late and you are thrown into horrific situation where everything in that room wants to cannibalize you and will stop at nothing to do so. They don’t even feel any pain, goddamned zombies. This scene introduces you to the enemy. You see a person crouched over what seems like a dying person, who you soon recognize as one of the Bravo Team (Kenneth) and just as his soul escapes his body the person who was crouched over him looks around displaying his/her horribly disfigured face covered in entrails and blood. If your heart doesn’t sink or your core temperature stays normal it has not had its full effect. As a kid I ran from the room I was that scared, these days it sends a shiver down my spine. The game cuts back in and you’re thrown into a situation you are not sure you can handle as this person/monster shuffles towards you with his/her arms outstretched. It’s not a spacious place this mansion and the controls are not forgiving so it is best to avoid contact with these monsters whenever possible and for other reasons I cannot explain without spoilers. So just avoid anything and everything as ammunition and heath kits are not easy to acquire. Before I spoil the rest of the game I will move on because I will end up writing about everything and it will become pointless to play. I have already spoiled the opening so I apologize for that. However, in the grand scheme of the game its but a mere taste of whats to come.

Left: 1996 Original Right: 2002 Remake

resident-evil-zombies

The graphics of the original for 1996 was amazing, polygons had taken over sprites and were now the start of the gaming golden age. As polygon graphics were slowly becoming the norm, it really adds to the horror of the game. Limitations such as most of the zombies looking very similar, mangled face, white blood stained top and black trousers you dont tend to mind considering the era they came from. There are some variations later on but they mostly look the same. Once other monsters such as spiders, dogs and ravens make their arrival you do really get a feel for the complexity of the graphics for the game. Even the blood splatter is rather good for its time. Considering modern games tend to not even add blood splatter.

Overall, an excellent survival horror game, a real ground breaker of its day paving the way for survival horror games to come. The setting, puzzle solving, small enclosed rooms and terrifying enemies make this a difficult but enjoyable game. The only complaint I have is the controls. Inverted controls and awkward camera angles make it extremely difficult to take on enemies and avoid them from time to time you will hear something and not see it, as much as that is fun for suspense and horror trying to target something from a distance  it takes a lot of work and it’s not ideal to take on enemies in close combat considering its their strongest strategy. It is also one of a few games which have multiple endings, pushing you to go for the best ending which comes hand in hand with doing a hell of a lot more to achieve. Definitely a game I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of survival horror games. I would not however recommend the films, so don’t get me started on that.

I hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec