I’m slightly behind the rest of the gaming world in writing my review for Last of Us and I spent a while deciding whether it was worth reviewing as so much has already been said about it. But as I work through my second play through of the campaign I don’t how I couldn’t write something up about this game and why it completely deserves all the praise that it’s had. Set in a post-apocalyptic environment you play as Joel, whose own daughter was killed in the initial chaos, the main story begins 20 years on from this and Joel and his partner Tess are asked to smuggle a young girl, Ellie, across the state and get here to the elusive Firefly group as she is believed to be immune to the zombie infection and could therefore be the key to finding a cure.
The Last of Us marks the biggest step up in game story-telling since the likes of Heavy Rain, its plot unfolds like a film and the fact that you play through only adds to emotional impact. Where in the past games have failed to find a healthy balance between story and gameplay The Last of Us gets it pitch perfect. While the aforementioned Heavy Rain delivered an immersive, well-told story I would argue that it was more an interactive motion picture whereas TLOU is without doubt a video game. It takes well-known elements and conventions from games and does them better than ever before, with innovative level types which require a range of different methods to work your way through and offer a difficult challenge without being painfully hard. It perfectly brings you a familiar feel of gaming that you will have been used to for a long time, meaning it’s easy to pick up, great fun to play, and doesn’t take anything away from the games excellent story. The graphics are absolutely stunning as well, with vibrant colours bursting out when you walk through deserted cities, ridiculously detailed human features and smooth well-designed action animations that really prove how good the PS3 can be while leaving you wondering how the hell the PS4 is going to top this! The multiplayer mode is fairly basic but offers an additional way to play the game and explore the expertly designed environments with enough challenges and unlocks to keep you entertained enough to play through its own campaign-type quests.
What TLOU marks is the beginning of gaming on a large scale being an art form. It shows the world how video games can tell a story effectively and emotively in the same way films and tv shows do and still contains the features that got you into gaming in the first place. When the critics say this is the best game of all time they’re not wrong and with the PS4 and Xbox One Just around the corner this a fine way to say farewell to a fantastic console. (With GTA V yet to come as well the farewell celebrations to this generation of consoles is only going to get bigger).
If you go back quite a long way in gaming history one series that will pop out is Tomb Raider, it provided gamers with not only challenging puzzles, exciting action and fun story-lines but also a lead character that you could drool over. Despite having once been one of the most powerful franchises in video games the series took a dive in both quality and sales particularly since the 360 and PS3 came out with no releases that stood up against the competition. So it really was high time that if Tomb Raider was going to continue it needed to be completely rebooted. And with this new release that’s exactly what developers Crystal Dynamics have done. But the question is does Lara Croft still hold the cultural significance she once did? And with a new market leader, Naughty Dog with the acclaimed Uncharted series, what could Tomb Raider give us anything that sets it apart from the competition?
First of all the graphics are absolutely stunning, as you can see from the screenshot above the look of the game is one of the most attractive out this year, far surpassing the visuals games like Dishonored and Metal Gear Rising boasted and that’s no mean feat. Lara is more attractive than ever too, and the casting of Camilla Luddington as her voice was a great move bringing back the sexiest video game character of all time. The gameplay’s fun and fluid too incorporating a number of different elements making no two levels the same, with well designed gunplay, enjoyable QTE’s and gripping platform sections. It’s clear that the developing team really have worked to make this game stand out as good as can be. It’s a shame really then that so many elements of its gameplay is nothing but a straight copy from Uncharted, especially the climbing/platform aspects of Tomb Raider seem to use the exact same features from the Uncharted games. It’s obviously become more action orientated much like Naughty Dog’s equivalent. On top of this Tomb Raider’s story is much shorter than any of the Uncharted campaigns and it lacks the tongue-in-cheek vibe that makes Uncharted so much more enjoyable. It also falls short on the puzzles, in old Tomb Raider games the puzzles used to take me hours and were infuriating but very cleverly made, in this new incarnation there are only a handful of puzzles to be figured out and all of them take a maximum of about five minutes, I think they missed a trick here as the Uncharted puzzles are fun enough but if this reboot could have captured some of the old puzzle elements it could well have outdone the franchise on this aspect at least.
While I had a great time playing through Tomb Raider it ultimately fell short of the new top franchise in adventure gaming. There very little replay value here either and you just wish they ditched the pointless multiplayer mode and instead extended the story because there is a lot of potential here despite the fact it spends most of it’s time copying Uncharted. Worth a play but in the end its a hollow experience, a sequel could bring about an improvement though and the graphics deserve merit on their own.