One of the more interesting features in The Last of Us is Listening Mode, which essentially acts like an x-ray vision of sorts. While you’re exploring, if you press and hold the R2 button Joel will kneel down and listen to his surroundings. This causes everything to go black and white, and you can make out where enemies are in the environment, even if they’re hiding behind a wall. Before we go any further, for you die-hard fans out there, this mode can be toggled off if you want to prove your manliness.
In a game like this where so much of your success depends on how you take out enemies while keeping as many supplies as possible, being able to locate them is a big help, but it doesn’t make you godly either. That’s because you can only hear enemies that are extremely close by. This ability, like others such as crafting speed, healing rate, etc. can be increased by finding special pills scattered around the world. Each upgrade costs 20 pills and up, so you never feel too powerful. When I finished the game I had only managed to max out my health, and listening distance. There are another four I barely touched at all.
Even with max listening, enemies were still able to sneak up on me. Using the Listening Mode certainly makes the game more manageable, but it doesn’t make it too easy either. When you happen to be exploring a large open area and you use this mode and clearly see three Runners, and two Clickers, you still have to figure out the best way to dispatch these enemies. Do you try and stealth kill the Runners, and then use a Shiv or two on the Clickers? Do you set yourself up so you can group all the enemies together and take them all down with a well placed Molotov Cocktail?
Outside of the Listening Mode, the audio design in general is spectacular. There’s virtually no soundtrack in the entire game, instead you have the sensational dialogue between Joel and Ellie, and the incredible sound effects. These effects have already been mentioned before like the creaking of wood in an old building, to the clicking sound emanating from a group of Clickers just around the corner. The dialogue is unique though, in that Ellie will sometimes stop to look at something and ask Joel a question. During these moments if players are paying attention they can press the triangle button to further progress her train of thought. Maybe she sees something she’s never seen before, and Joel can explain what it used to be used for. Things like that.
When music is used, it is extremely powerful and effective. This is one game Ahmed would be very proud of. During key sequences music is used to uplift players, or do the exact opposite. The mood dramatically changes as new music pieces are introduced. It may sound silly here, but once you experience it for yourself you’ll know exactly what I mean.
We’re now coming down to the wire folks. Only a few more days until my review goes live on June 5th at 10AM Eastern. Tomorrow we will take a look at crafting and exactly how that works, as well as healing, and equipping new weapons and items. There’s much more to it than you think, I assure you. Check back tomorrow for full details.