How do you elevate storytelling to a new level after giants like Bioshock, Heavy Rain or Metal Gear Solid? Well Naughty Dog has raised the bar, and then some. From the start you're instantly sucked into the atmosphere, story, and character only to face a tearful turn of events only minutes later.
Simply the attention to detail in this game shows how much love, time and appreciation went into this game, sitting in the backseat of a moving car and panning the camera around while your character moves around following the field of view, or quip remarks after reading collectibles.
The story takes place 20-21 years after the initial outbreak of a Cordyceps virus (this is a real thing by the way) epidemic, where the infection starts growing rapidly on the anger-inducing part of the brain, making them feral and highly agitated, after some time the fungus grows out of the skull taking over most of the face and upper part of the head.
These advanced mutations render the unfortunate infected blind and are referred to as clickers because they use a growling clicking sound to see around them using sonar waves. But when these creatures are at the end of their life, they sit down against a wall and sort of becomes one with their environment.
These 'dead' clickers produce and release spores around them, infecting anyone who inhales them. The not-so-far-gone infected still sees, and depending on their visually represented stage of infection some have already started clicking, these are fast and vicious, referred to as 'Runners'. Still easier to handle than the clickers themselves.
To talk about the main characters themselves it's hard not to go into spoiler territory, but their archetypes are easier defined, but harder to emote until you actually play the game. Joel is gruff, a hard ass and pretty averagely normal guy, making the best out of a bad situation for him, and to some extent his partner, Tess.
Ellie is a typical teenager, testing limits, rebellious and foul mouthed, and clearly the star of the show, she is completely capable and never seem out of place in combat, so even though this whole game is basically one huge escort mission, Ellie seems more like a willing participant, rather than a helpless girl who 'needs' anyone.
The third honorary main character, would be mother nature herself, every room and every object in whatever area you may be in is somehow connected to the earth, anywhere you look, you will either see something green or brown, and completely jaw dropping beautiful, several instances will have you just stopping whatever you are doing, just looking around.
Far into the game there are still areas that surprise and beautifully represent the time of year you're currently playing. During winter you might find yourself just looking at the prints you made walking backwards or in circles. For the keen of eye, you will even notice that the snow glitters, it glitters!
Naughty Dog, yet again proves how much care and thought are put into even the smallest segments. The meat and potatoes in the game here is all about story, and what a story it is, this is one of those games that are not about reaching the ending, but rather absorbing and enjoying the journey to get there.
The writing, directing, voice and motion capture acting are amazing all on their own terms, earning their own score and we give them 5/5. there's not much to talk about here, anything you ask if they do right, the answer is 'yes' or 'better than you have ever seen before'. and Gustavo Santaolalla completely captures the energy and atmosphere of every scene with his score, someone throw this guy another Oscar right now!
Every character is cast perfectly as well, with the fantastic actress Ashley Johnson playing the likeness of Ellen Page, Ellie. And veteran voice actor Troy Baker, recently known for voicing Booker Dewitt and soon to be known for voicing The Joker in Batman Origins, seriously, talk about acting range! And it wouldn't be a Naughty Dog game without the big guy himself, Nolan North.
And although those are just the main characters, absolutely everyone in the game just sound and act brilliantly, putting in a performance few can match and even fewer still can top. Thanks to a creepy old fortune teller and a magic eight ball, we now know the next soon-to-be announced release coming out of Naughty Dog; it'll be a book, its title: "how it's done!".
During our time with the game, we only ever managed to get into one multiplayer game, so we are forced to release this review without a thorough knowledge of the multiplayer, but we will release a part two of the review, we can however score the game, because even if you never touch the multiplayer you get a hundred times worth your money with the single player alone, so naturally;
Game Score : 5/5
The combat never becomes monotonous because the strategy, stealth and possibility to avoid combat altogether makes every encounter so tense and involving. The story is masterfully paced, the visuals, animations, acting, simply perfect. Giving this game any less than 100% would be a disservice to both you and us. Buy it!