In an effort to recharge the batteries after an eventful week in LA for the E3 extravaganza, I returned home to unpack, unwind and do my best to digest everything I had seen at the convention. The first order of business was of course to call my Dad, and wish him a happy Father’s Day. It’s in that spirit that I’ve decided to add a new pairing to the Play Responsibly blog.
After scouring GameStop, Best Buy and Target I was unable to get my mitts on a disc copy of The Last of Us, the highly anticipated and latest offering from Naughty Dog. Dejected, I returned home and decided for only the second time in my tenure as a console owner, to purchase and download a game for full price. I briefly considered spending the 60+ dollars on my Dad, but had already sent him a new wallet. Sorry Pop, but the post-apocalyptic adventures of Joel and Ellie were calling. I snagged a four-pack of HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) Organic IPA’s for the beginning of my play-through and loaded that bad-mamma-jamma up. HUB has quickly become one of my favorite breweries here on the West Coast. Based out of Portland, Oregon (incidentally, my parents recently moved to the out-lying area), they are serving up some of the best hopped ales I have had the pleasure of imbibing.
“Whats the connection between Father’s Day and The Last of Us? Or even HUB IPA and The Last of Us?”, you might ask. To which I reply, “Who cares? Just go with it.” Minimal spoilers ahead.
I have yet to finish the game, but from what I’ve played you mainly control Joel, a grizzled, hollow-eyed smuggler in the post-outbreak areas of Boston, Eastern Colorado and Salt Lake City (among others). Think of a super-depressed Han Solo, without the swagger or hairy alien sidekick. Early in the game he suffers a horrific loss (seriously, it’s tragic) and spends his days in the aftermath running contraband in and out of quarantined zones. Ellie, which is predominantly an AI companion, joins you fairly quickly in the initial missions and becomes Joel’s most precious cargo yet. Between blood thirsty bandits, fungal zombie abominations and human soldiers, Joel has his hands full. There are sequences where you play as Ellie, but for the most part you play as Joel in a reluctant father figure role (see what I did there?).
Lets just throw out a few more game related observations here:
–First, this game is brutal on numerous levels. The violence is heavy and arguably necessary as a plot device. You bludgeon, stomp, punch, shoot, and stab your way through encounters (that should definitely be approached with caution), all the while collecting items to craft useful new supplies. Ammo is VERY limited, encounters quickly turn in the enemies favor and evasion via distraction is usually the best policy. On a related note, the HUB IPA cans have the creed “Do what you can.” written on the top. I found this to be sage advice while playing.
–Second, this game will punish you for rushing into anything ( a good rule for life, thanks Dad). Anyone who tries the run-and-gun approach will regret it within seconds. Crucial crafting items will get missed, enemies will swamp you quickly and you WILL waste ammo. This adds to a palpable, weighty feeling of tension as you sweat through sequences avoiding detection. In fact, the tension is one of my favorite aspects of the game.
–Third, this game is a visual and aural gem. As in, lets put it in a laser guarded glass case at a Swarovski outlet. It’s astounding how much graphical power Naughty Dog squeezes out of the PS3. They wring that GPU like a sponge, and your eyes will thank you more than a few times. The mo-cap performances portray emotion and expression on a level that rivals (perhaps even exceeds) L.A. Noire’s tour-de-force in digital acting.
My only caveat to you potential players is the movement control. Its fairly standard in the 3rd person perspective realm, but walking and running around can feel stiff and a bit unnatural. My Producer, Joe Arroyo had a great tidbit on this, positing that Naughty Dog had essentially unraveled the movement mechanics in the Uncharted series and left them de-tuned on purpose. Regardless, moving becomes more comfortable the more you play, and by no means is it a reason to fore-go what is shaping up to be a Game of The Year contender.
THE LAST OF US – A beautiful, bitter, brutal game experience. Amazing cinematics, great story, and game play worthy of the Naughty Dog pedigree (zing!). Not to be approached lightly, be prepared to work for it.
HOPWORKS URBAN BREWERY ORGANIC IPA – A beautiful, bitter, beer experience. A clean hop aroma with standard hop dryness. Crispy and just nutty enough to not be malty. Easily one of the best IPAs on the market for my money. Easy drinking for complex video gaming. Plus, it’s organic. Sort of like the crazy fungus growing all over your terrifying enemies.
Like the dirty, gasoline soaked rag stuffed into a brown bottle of flammable liquid, The Last of Us and HUB IPA make an explosive combo. I look forward to enjoying more of both. Call your Dad, wish him a happy Fathers Day and make sure he never ever sees the opening sequence of The Last of Us.
Cheers and as always, play responsibly.
– J. Erskine, June 2013