Posts tagged #zombies

The Last of Us - Review (PS3) *Finally!*

(Note: Sorry about the extreme lateness of this review. I’ve been meaning to post it since I finished the game during release week.)

The Last of Us is one of the hardest games I’ve had to review yet. Based on the glowing reviews since its release, that probably sounds kind of strange. Have all the 9s and 10s the game has received been warranted? Perhaps.

Naughty Dog, developers of the Uncharted franchise, have created a game which is an odd mix of horror, humanity, post-apocalyptic fiction, and thought provoking themes, all while relying heavily on several tropes that permeate a lot of current, popular fiction. This is both a good and bad thing. From a story standpoint, you can see most things coming from a mile away. From a gameplay standpoint, you’ve probably played this game a million times before. The difference here is that Naughty Dog executes these fiction and gaming tropes in a way that’s never really been done in a videogame before. Probably the only thing that comes close is Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.


Story: 10/10
The Last of Us, at first glance, falls into the zombie-fiction genre. The thing is, it’s not really a zombie game. Like the premise for most stories in this genre, an unknown virus is unleashed on the world’s population, turning people into flesh-hungry monsters that feed on other humans. The bitten are then transformed into zombie-like creatures which continue the cycle for every person that they bite. This eventually spreads to the point that the entire world turns into a creature-filled wasteland with a few people left doing whatever is necessary to survive. Yes, that sounds like a zombie game, but it’s really more about a man and a girl who form an extremely strong father/daughter bond and the choices they make to survive.
The story centers on Joel, a man who loses his daughter (Sarah) during the initial outbreak. In the beginning, Joel is presented as a good man and father to Sarah, but by the time the actual story begins (20 years after Sarah’s death), he has become like the rest of the world: A man who will do what he must to stay alive.
Now a somewhat cold mercenary, Joel is tasked with escorting a 14 year-old girl named Ellie across the country since it is said that she may contain within her a cure for the infected.
What may seem like a simple premise actually turns into a harrowing adventure much like Stephen King’s The Stand. That story also dealt with people trying to make their way through the country and the new dangers a post-virus world might present. Joel and Ellie must traverse abandoned cities and towns to make it to their various destinations, all the while battling other survivors, cannibals, and the infected.
The things I like most about any story, whether it is a novel, comic, movie, TV show, or game, are well-developed characters that you can identify with and care about. Joel, Ellie, and the relationship they develop, are extremely well thought out here, surpassing the clichés that rear their ugly heads at every turn. But even then, the trope of the “father / daughter” relationship is thrown at them and it still works. This is due in part to the game’s fantastic writing. The story flows naturally (though it’s a bit slow in the beginning) and by the time it’s over, you feel as though you’ve been on just as much of an adventure as Ellie and Joel.

Visuals: 8/10
For a console game, The Last of Us is gorgeous, though I’ll admit that I’ve been quite spoiled with the capabilities of the PC. Some “jaggies” are present due to the limits of 720p and occasionally the framerate stutters, though that’s virtually non-existent.
The character models in-game can be a little hit-or-miss at times, but the environments are what makes the visuals shine. Even dilapidated, moss-covered buildings look beautiful in combination with excellent lighting effects. Everything looks as though it actually exists in the real world, giving an authentic look to a game which is trying to look as realistic as possible.

Sound: 8/10
Since this is an action/survival-horror title, music is not really that prominent. During character moments and cutscenes, the music fits quite well, but is nothing to write home about. One thing that I found interesting is that the closer Joel and Ellie get to an enemy, the music ramps up and intensifies. For gameplay purposes, this adds a lot of tension as you sneak around while being down to your last few bullets.
The voice acting is perfection. There have been a lot of games recently that have had superb voice acting, but The Last of Us hits it out of the park. Honestly, the voice work in this game (coupled with the writing) puts most Hollywood actors and writers to shame.   
As far as the environmental and overall sound design, it’s ok. I’ve heard better from games like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed III. I just felt as though the sound could have been a lot better for the sake of immersion, especially since the game does this so well in other areas, but it’s just really generic.

Gameplay: 8/10
The gameplay is nothing necessarily innovative, but at the same time, it’s solid. If you’ve ever played Rockstar Games’ Manhunt (PS2/Xbox/PC), you’ve played this game. The stealth aspects and gunplay are nearly identical to that title. The only difference here is that you’re up against zombie-like creatures and other survivors, rather than demented gang members. Limited ammo and resources always leave you feeling like you may not make it through the next section of the game, making you resort to other paths (like stealth) to get through. You’ll have to be smart if you run out of ammo, and because of that, the game really does have a feeling of true survival-horror. It’s actually possible to avoid combat altogether 90% of the time if you want, but doing so is much harder and more time consuming.
Speaking of time consuming, this game is loooooooooooong. Or at least, it feels that way. I kind of took my time with it, searching everything and taking part in any nuances I found, but my final play time was around 16 hours. That’s pretty long for a 3rd person action/survival-horror game and it makes you feel as though you’ve been across the entire country on foot, just as a game of this magnitude should.
One minor complaint I had was, by the time I finished the game, I felt as though using “zombies” as enemies was not really needed since you spend most of your time fighting survivors. I guess the developers felt like they needed something a little creepier to fill up the empty space between obstacles that a virus-ridden world would present.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Last of Us. Again, it does nothing new or innovative with any of its aspects, but Naughty Dog’s execution of things that have been done before is excellent. Just give it some time, as it takes about 3 or 4 hours before the game starts ramping up and getting good. Honestly, I was bored out of my skull for the first 20%, but when the characters started growing on me, I really started to settle in and enjoy it.
But that’s what makes this game extremely hard to review: For every one bad or questionable aspect I found in the game, I found 2 awesome aspects. The story, writing, acting, solid gameplay, and realistic environments, more than make up for any shortcoming that The Last of Us might have.
The big question: Is it worth $60? Yes. If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, this is definitely one of the best games out there.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Image taken from Google Images.
Posted on September 28, 2013 .

Josh's Inner Dorkdom Journal - Episode 3 (UPDATES)

Not much to talk about this week. Finally got through finals, so I’m out of school (but not work) for about 4 weeks. Having to deal with that, I haven’t had much time for dorkly-type things.
There is something I would like to address, though:
The War Z.

Haven’t heard of it? Let me fill you in.

Around this time last year, Bohemia Interactive released a PC exclusive game called Arma II. Supposedly the most realistic military shooter ever created (albeit with an extremely complicated control scheme), everybody nowadays recognizes it for its extremely popular mod: Day Z. Created by New Zealand game designer and former soldier Dean Hall, Day Z is a game of absolute survival. Set in a zombified Russian town/countryside, Day Z pits players against one another online in probably the most realistic post-apocalyptic environment ever created for a game. The player is forced to do things even as ordinary as eating and drinking just to stay alive, all while dodging bullets from other players who want to take these items of sustenance for themselves. Oh yeah, you’ve got to deal with zombies and you only get one life.

Because of the Day Z mod, Arma II and its expansion pack (Operation: Arrowhead) became one of the Steam service’s top selling games and remains so even now. Presently, Dean Hall and his team of developers are working on a standalone version of Day Z that will incorporate new features, better controls and all around improvements to what many consider to be an already outstanding expansion. That being said, it’s no wonder that there would be developers who would want a piece of the zombie survival action.

About 6 months ago, I heard about a game being developed for the PC entitled, The War Z. Well, the title was kind of familiar, but the article I was reading in Game Informer magazine assured me that this was, indeed, a different game. The screenshots in the magazine looked vastly superior to Day Z’s graphics and the promises of certain features sounded as though they might be superior as well. The article culminated with the claim by the developer (Hammerpoint Interactive) that the game would be released before the standalone version of Dean Hall’s Day Z mod. To a certain extent, they were right.

Last week, I received the newest issue of Game Informer which had yet another article about The War Z. After reading it, I decided to look up the game and see what its development progress was. I was led to the game’s official website which stated that one could access the alpha version of the game for around $20.

Before spending money on the game, I thought it best to see how the game was being reviewed by other players. What I found was not very encouraging. According to The War Z users, the game was basically a Call of Duty-style free-for-all with zombies scattered around the map and that most of the features which the developers had claimed would be included were not yet implemented. I decided to wait until the full release to give the game a try.

Fast forward to about 2 days later. I log into my Steam account and what do I see in the featured games list? The War Z for $14. The game was done?! I was just about to click the “add to cart” button when my brain, suspecting possible foul play, got the better of me. I headed over to The War Z forums and checked if Hammerpoint had, in fact, finished the game. The truth was, they had not. Page after page in the forum warned people of buying this supposed “Foundation Release.”
What was a “Foundation Release?”

The “Foundation Release” would be a basis for Hammerpoint to build onto the game over the coming months via patches as users played the game. According to The War Z users, the developers had released the alpha version (a version which 2 days ago cost $20 from their official website) on Steam with nothing on Steam’s site indicating that this was not a full release. The term “Foundation Release” is, even now, nowhere to be seen on Steam’s page for the game.

Remember when I mentioned the “superior to Day Z screenshots” above? Turns out that, according to several users, and even one of the developers, these screens were actually “mock-ups” in an attempt to show what the game will look like once it’s finished. I can understand doing this, but with the way The War Z looks at this stage and having been released in full on Steam, it would be extremely hard for the developers to simply “patch in” vastly superior graphics. The missing features (i.e. rentable servers, world building, etc) could be easily patched in, but even then, using screenshots and listing these features on Steam’s page for the game is nothing but false advertisement.

Is this Steam’s fault? I would say, no. I believe, like many others, that this is a scam by the developers to cash in on the popularity of Day Z and, on false pretenses, take the gaming public’s money. I think that Steam believes that this is an actual, finished product rather than an alpha build. The thing that most The War Z users are afraid of is the fact that this means the game is less likely to be updated and developed into the title that was promised.

In my opinion, the game should be removed from Steam until the developers make good on the promises of these missing features and updated graphics. I think that the game could have enormous potential and be a worthy competitor for Day Z, but with these kinds of shenanigans, Hammerpoint Interactive may have shot themselves in the proverbial foot.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but if you want more information on The War Z, go to But be warned, you won’t be getting what is advertised. The developers may promise that the game will eventually get to the point of what you see on their website, but with a supposed full release already on Steam, the chances are pretty slim.

UPDATE: It seems as though Hammerpoint has done some damage control. Just a little while ago, the Steam page was edited to more accurately reflect what a user will get after downloading the game. If I get a chance, I will post some before and after screenshots of the Steam page later tonight.
UPDATE 2: The War Z has been removed from Steam. Gaming justice prevailed!