Tag Archives: Naughty Dog

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Review

Uncharted ReviewUncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Release Date: October 7th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates the Uncharted Collection T for teen because of blood, language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco, and violence. While there are certainly mature themes throughout the series, it’s not ultra-violent. Think of it like going to see a PG-13 action movie and you know more or less what to expect.

Plays Like: Let’s see here, there’s stealth, cover mechanics, gunplay, platforming, and puzzle solving to be had. The action takes place in third person, and personally I’ve called the Uncharted series the franchise that Tomb Raider should have been since the beginning. It’s kind of ironic that now the Tomb Raider series is a derivative of the Uncharted series, but that’s a topic for another day. This is as close as you will likely ever get to playing an Indiana Jones movie.

Review Basis: The Uncharted franchise is my favorite franchise established during the PlayStation 3 generation, so I know these games well. I played enough of each game in this collection to compare the remasters to their original counterparts and report back.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a remarkable collection of games. People tend to forget but the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune shipped back in 2007 from a developer mostly known for their mascot characters such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. To see them branch out into a more realistic action adventure was shocking. Nathan Drake had to prove himself, and prove himself he did. Today the Uncharted series is the jewel in Sony’s first party developed crown. With the forth entry in the series gearing up for release early next year, having a set like this hit now is fitting. Not only does it remind us of how far the series has come, but also where things are going.

Uncharted2The Great:

The fact this collection exists gives me an excuse to go back and play through all three of these games back-to-back-to-back one more time before the next installment is released. I consider that the very best feature of the game, giving me one more chance to experience these absolutely incredible games.

Uncharted3The Good:

  • Evolving gameplay. The cover mechanics of the first game get better and better as the series evolved, and that’s highlighted in this collection. The gunplay also got tighter the further the series went. Regardless of the improvements made, the series was fun from the very beginning. The mix of action and puzzle solving, and phenomenal storytelling make this a series you will want to play through again and the gameplay evolves at a natural pace, meaning you don’t ever feel completely restricted.
  • The incredible action set pieces are just as memorable today as they were when you first played through these games. If you never experienced these games from the previous generation, then you’re in for a real treat. From the dilapidated train wreck in Uncharted 2 to the incredible desert in Uncharted 3, it’s just amazing to behold in 1080p.
  • The amazing story flows from one game to the next in such a way that you really have to play the games one after another in order to tie the themes together and get the most out of the trilogy. This marks the first time I’ve ever played the games one after another, and I enjoyed the story more now than I did when the games were new. The first game is by far the weakest of the bunch in terms of the narrative, but it sets the stage for things to come.
  • The advances in motion capture technology came a long way from Drake’s Fortune to Drake’s Deception, and so too did the Naughty Dog’s cinematography skills. I find it interesting how a game based so much on the past, has itself a little history lesson in technological advancements. Naughty Dog became more and more comfortable in their newfound skills as the games progressed, and that’s evident as you play through them.
  • The 1080p resolution and smooth 60 fps gameplay are the way these games were meant to be played. I actually had to connect my PS3 because I never remembered these games looking this good, but to my surprise they were quite impressive even on the PlayStation 3.

+The soundtrack is also just as incredible as I remembered. The game also supports 7.1 surround sound, and it sounds superb. These games have never sounded better than they do here. The voice acting is also a highlight.

  • New features and modes make these games better than ever. For beginners there’s a new super easy mode called Explorer Mode, and then there’s the Brutal difficulty which makes Crushing look like child’s play. There’s also a Speed Run mode which keeps track of your progression versus your friend’s times, which is nice. There’s even a photo mode, and all new trophies. Finally there’s a render mode, which unlocks new skins allowing you to play as some of your favorite characters from the series.

Uncharted5The So-So:

+/- One element this series has always struggled with is the disconnect between the protagonists that are so rich and lively, and the mass murdering they perform throughout the three adventures. These games are filled with deep storylines and complex characters that are emotionally charged, yet none of them have any problems killing thousands of people.

Uncharted4The Bad:

  • Sadly all multiplayer modes have not been carried over from the original games, which will surely disappoint some fans of the series.

Uncharted1The Lowdown:

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection proves Drake’s motto is true, Sic Parvus Magna or, Greatness from small Beginnings. This set is an absolute must buy.

Final Score: 8.5/10

 

The Last of Us: Left Behind Review

Left BehindThe Last of Us: Left Behind (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: February 14th, 2014

Parent Talk: This is an M game if there ever was one.  You cut people’s throats open, crazed lunatics race after you looking for blood, and all other sorts of mature themes are present.  This isn’t a game for children, period.

Plays Like: While the core gameplay remains largely unchanged from The Last of Us, playing as Ellie feels different here.  She’s inexperienced, and virtually everything poses a major threat.  While not in combat Ellie and her friend explore a vast mall.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review code, and I completed the story DLC within two hours.

One of the best, if not the best game from last generation returns with story-focused DLC that almost everyone needs to play.  Left Behind focuses on Ellie, and the events leading up to the beginning of The Last of Us.  The tale is split in two portions, one being the prologue, and the other when Ellie was protecting Joel when he was injured during The Last of Us.  This heartbreaking tale may be over within two or three hours, but it’s well worth embarking on because of just how incredible this universe is.  Do yourself a favor and read through my review of the full game to get a better understanding of the core gameplay mechanics (http://www.projectcoe.com/2013/06/05/the-last-of-us-review/).

LB1The Great:

Facing off against infected and normal humans at the same time was a breath of fresh air.  It dynamically changes the core combat you’re used to from the main game.  Now it’s possible to throw a bottle, make some noise, and then attract the infected to the humans who are trying to hunt you down.  Wait a few minutes, and watch as the two kill each other off.  Then you can go and finish off whoever’s left, or slowly help one side attack the other.  It’s fantastic fun, and I sort of wish more elements like this were in the original game.

LB3The Good:

+ The story between Ellie and Riley is amazing.  You really come to understand why Ellie acts the way she does at the beginning of The Last of Us.  Even though the story is only a few hours long, it’s pretty shocking.

+ The bulk of the DLC takes place within a mall, and nothing could be more normal than two girls hanging out at the mall, right?  I loved how Naughty Dog played on this simple idea, and yet this is set in a post-apocalyptic world, so it’s an entirely new experience for both Ellie and Riley.

+ Playing as Ellie is nothing new, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  The sense of danger is far greater because she doesn’t have all the skills that Joel learned throughout the years.  As such you really have to keep your distance and play smart.  Stealth kills are important because it’s very easy to get overrun by the infected.

LB2The So-So:

– I can’t help but say that $15 is a bit too expensive for this DLC.  Yes it’s incredible, but $15 is a lot of money for literally two hours.  I’m being generous too.  I finished the entire add-on in under two hours.

LB4The Lowdown:

Being able to play The Last of Us for even two more hours is a true joy.  It was one of the best games I’ve ever played, and this new prologue is spectacular.  Sure it’s over in a flash, but it tells a story that needed to be told.  You’ll look at Ellie in an entirely new way when you revisit The Last of Us at some point in the future, and that’s about the biggest compliment I can give this DLC.  Go download it right away.

Final Score: 9/10

The Last of Us: The Resident Evil 4 of this Generation

For some strange reason, Resident Evil 4 kept coming up in my head as I advanced through The Last of Us. Both seem like completely different games at first glance. However, the more I thought about it, the more similarities kept popping up. Not necessarily in a gaming sense, but more on a personal level. Resident Evil 4 was released in January of 2005, and completely revolutionized action games. It set the new standard and every great series from God of War to Uncharted has seen some inspiration from it. I didn’t realize early on, but The Last of Us is the next revolution. You might have noticed all the crazy scores on the web, the game got perfect 10’s from a record number of media outlets (Jarrod’s just a douche). These scores are not just over excitement. The Last of Us is simply a masterpiece.

Joel sit down

Jarrod has covered the game tremendously over the past week, having detailed articles on almost every aspect of the game as well as a complete written and video review already available on the site. Having just completed the game on Thursday, I wanted to solidify the fact that all the hype is completely justified. This is a game that instantly lands in my top 10 favorite videogames of all time (to give you an idea, Resident Evil 4 would get the number 3 spot). One that I completed in only two intense sessions (same happened in 2005 with RE4). Naughty Dog have perfected the Uncharted gameplay with The Last of Us. Adding survival elements really draws you into the game. My favorite addition however is the fact that every action you take has to be done in real-time. This means that if you need to heal yourself, you can’t pause the game and do so, or press a button and be instantly cured. You need to kneel down and take care of your wounds. While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that you could heal gunshot wounds with bandages, you need to remember that this is a videogame. It’s the perfect blend of reality mixed into a virtual world. Even switching guns can only be done by dropping your backpack and switching out your old gun for a new one. I can only imagine how hard the game must be on survival mode because of these effects. It’s something I know I’ll want to experience one day simply because the stress level and intensity cannot be matched elsewhere. The closest I can think of is again, Resident Evil 4’s pro mode.

Gasmask punch

Living in The Last of Us‘ world is nothing short of a nightmare. I found that the infected themselves are far from being the biggest threat here. While they are freaky and hideous, they are predictable. They run on instinct, if they see you they don everything in your power to kill you without care for their own survival. The humans however, they’re the real monsters in this game. They’ll trick you into thinking they’re friendly, but will pull a gun on you while you have your back turned. They’ll ambush you, they’ll hide and everything they do is designed to survive. They’re totally unpredictable and in world like this, it makes perfect sense. Another thing I need to mention about the world is that it’s absolutely stunning. It’s the prettiest game of the generation by far. There’s a scene in here heavily influenced by Jurassic Park where Ellie yells at Joel to come see the view. What Joel finds are a specific exotic animal that have adapted to the environment.  That kind of emotion is rarely found in a videogame.

Riding through woods

The characters themselves take center role. Joel is a truly troubled man. He’s done some atrocities to survive, things that most men couldn’t retain their sanity as a result, but in The Last of Us, only the strong survive. While Ellie is only 14 years old, she has the maturity of a young adult. You can see that the inner child in her takes over from time to time, but it shows that she’s no normal teenager. The best thing about The Last of Us is the relationship between these two and the way the game showcases their evolution. You will see it for yourself when you play the game, it doesn’t necessarily start pretty between these two, but it blossoms into something special.

It’s safe to say that you absolutely must purchase this game on June 14th. Even if you don’t own the system, get one or borrow one from a friend. You need to experience this gem at least once in your lifetime. You won’t find a better videogame this generation.

The Last of Us – Dealing With A.I.

Now that the major media outlets out there have started releasing their reviews, and we just did the same, it’s clear this is an amazing game. One of the very impressive features, and also one of the most complex, is the game’s AI system. Today’s feature looks at exactly what works and what doesn’t quite work with the AI.

First let’s talk about the great. The way Ellie and other characters interact with their surroundings is extremely impressive. One time Joel may be pinned down behind a counter when Ellie will start shooting bottles to try and distract the guys away from Joel. If there are a lot of bottles and bricks lying around, you can count on your partner to make very good use of them.  It’s interesting but if the AI feels it’s not safe, Ellie will sit by and do nothing to assist.  The most impressive aspect is how the AI evolves over time.  Ellie becomes smarter as she eases into the role of Joel’s back-up.  It’s during these times when players can actually count on the AI to assist in their time of need.

The AI isn’t perfect though. There are issues where your AI characters don’t have to follow the same rules you do. Not only for combat, whereby they can shoot at enemies like crazy without the new to reload, but also with the Infected. Typically if a Clicker is near, you have to be extremely quiet, but your partner doesn’t. They can even run by them, and yet they don’t get discovered. Occasionally you’ll take down a Runner very close to another one, or to a Clicker, only to have everyone ignore you. That doesn’t happen very often though.

For the most part the AI is extremely smart in combat, but as I mentioned in the review, and via my YouTube commentary videos, it’s possible to gather Infected together and lure them to your partner and have them shoot the Infected for you. This cheats the system because you can defeat them without using your ammo. If you try this with larger groups though, your partner will be overpowered and die.

In the greater context of the game, I didn’t find the issues to be too problematic, but they do take some getting used to. As I’ve mentioned before, the story and setting are so absolutely outstanding that issues become almost invisible thanks to everything else the game does so spectacularly well. That said, it would be ideal to have some of these issues addressed in the inevitable follow-up.

The Last of Us Review

The-Last-of-Us_Box-Art-2The Last of Us (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: June 14th, 2013

ESRB Rating: The ESRB rates The Last of Us M for mature because of strong language, sexual themes, intense violence, and blood and gore. This is a brutal game, no mistake about it. Imagine if our world had been infected with a pathogen so strong that it wiped out virtually all life on Earth. Now imagine what the rest of the people would do just to survive. That’s what this game asks of players. How far would you be willing to go to protect the ones you care about? This is a world where it’s kill or be killed, by any means necessary.

Plays Like: A lot of comparisons will be made to the Uncharted series and rightly so. This is an action game by the same developer, and yes there are light puzzles and exploration elements mixed in with third person action. The core difference is that you you have a finite amount of supplies to see you through to your next objective. Progression is linear, but combat encounters are anything but. Towards the later portions of the game, more and more action set pieces make their way into the mix, but at no point can you just blast everything in your path. You constantly have to juggle your supplies to ensure you can survive what may lie just around the next corner.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a retail copy of the game far in advance so we could get you this very review before the madness of E3 begins. We were unable to test the multiplayer portion of the game, so this review is based on the single-player only.  The review will be edited, and the score adjusted after the game officially launches to include the multiplayer portion.

Naughty Dog has been one of my favorite developers since the PlayStation 2 days. These guys know how to make excellent videogames. With the launch of this generation’s Uncharted, they made my single favorite new franchise. I always wanted to experience an Indiana Jones videogame that had the humor and adventure of the movies, but with sensational gameplay. Naughty Dog did exactly that. All three Uncharted games have been fantastic, and when word broke that the developer would be ending their PS3 cycle with a brand new IP, I was ecstatic. When the debut trailer was released which showcased a survival horror-type game, I was floored. While I wouldn’t call it a survival horror, The Last of Us, is one of the best videogames I’ve ever played. While there are a few hiccups along the way, the narrative, setting, and core gameplay are absolutely outstanding. Play this one and you will see why Naughty Dog is currently the best developer out there. Prepare to be blown away!

Leaving ranch

The Great:

I cannot possibly say enough good things about the story and overall narrative. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, or Children of Men, you’re going to absolutely love this game. What begins as a tragic tale eventually blossoms into a story about hope. Along the way there’s heartache, betrayal and everything else you can imagine. Much like Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s The Walking Dead, no one is safe. Characters you deeply care for may be at risk, and that’s part of the game’s charm. Which other developer out there would have the courage to make players feel so attached to characters, only to rip them away later on.

The story is told through cutscenes, dialogue between characters, and my personal favorite, through journal entries that people have left behind. There are also newspaper clippings and other sources of information that players can find, which help explain exactly what has transpired in this world on the brink of madness. Regardless of where you get your information, the story is always interesting, and always powerful. In fact while some aspects may feel cliché, the overall story is likely my favorite mature storyline of all time. By the time the credits rolled, I had to sit back just to take a moment and let it all sink it. It has been a very long time since I’ve had that feeling from a game. Very well done Naughty Dog.

Another aspect that can’t get enough praise is the setting. The game takes place twenty years after a horrendous plague has ravaged the entire world. You are free to explore this world at your leisure. Sure you can move along from point A to B quickly, but doing so would be a grave injustice. Familiar surroundings suddenly look mysterious, as nature has slowly started to take over. Homes that have been abandoned or raided are now free to explore. The inner explorer in you will have a field day when you reach certain areas with literally a half dozen different homes to venture into. Eventually the scale increases and you traverse crumbled apartments, underground sewers, metro stations, and much, much more. Naughty Dog has created a living breathing world that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It’s spectacular.

Runner punch

The Good:

+ Graphically this is one of, if not the most impressive game of the generation. From ridiculously detailed environments, fantastic motion captured cutscenes, great animations, excellent special effects, to the living, breathing world itself, The Last of Us will amaze you more often than not.

+ Audio is equally impressive. From actually being part of the core gameplay with the Listening Mode (which allows Joel to pinpoint enemy targets even if they’re hiding behind walls), to enhancing the setting, the audio is fantastic. Sound effects in particular are used perfectly to help bring this crumbling world to life.

+ Music is only used during key scenes, but some of those will stick with you forever, because of how powerful they are.

+ Crafting, and upgrade help keep you alive. They also encourage players to explore. The more you look around, the more scraps you will find, which in turn will allow you to craft shivs, Molotov cocktails, smoke bombs, med-kits, and more. Special pills allow you to upgrade Joel’s ability to heal himself faster, switch weapons quicker, etc.

+ Real-time weapon swapping adds a new element of realism to the game. Players have to actually remove Joel’s backpack and switch out weapons, or remove a health kit in order to heal themselves. That means doing these things require time, and a quiet corner out of harm’s way. No longer can you just press a button and heal yourself.

+ Core gameplay is split between exploration, combat and a mix of the two. The overall goal is to survive by any means necessary. While moving from point A to point B is linear, combat isn’t. Players decide if they’re going to try and bypass all enemies, or if they’re going to use stealth kills, or go in Rambo style. Whatever you decide to do, you only have a certain amount of supplies. Finish those off and you’re forced to use stealth.

+ Exploration is encouraged not only because of the crafting system, but also as a means to progress the storyline. Ellie may see something she has never seen before and if the player interacts with her Joel will inform her of what such, and such is. Scenes like these personalize the characters in such a way that wouldn’t seem possible.

+ Transition scenes, basically areas where you’re moving from point A to point B and where there’s no action, feel a lot like the exploration scenes in Uncharted. That’s a good thing, especially since puzzles here always revolve around trying to figure out how to gain access to areas that are just out of reach. Some of these moments are breath-taking.

+ Fantastic use of enemies. There are three main types of enemies, human scavengers, infected Runners, and Clickers. Each has their own strength and weakness. If you’re in an area with more than one type, a great amount of variety in gameplay opens up. By utilizing your gear appropriately you can make short work of all those that oppose you.

Ellie by the window

+ Normal difficulty may be a little on the easy side for those experienced with third person action games, but crank the difficulty up a bit and you’ll quickly run out of supplies. That’s a huge part of the charm though. If you’re trying to survive a harsh world like this, you want to be low on supplies at all times to make the experience that much more believable.

+ Fantastic AI. Enemy AI will try and flank you if you stay in one spot for too long, and partner AI is just awesome. You can count on your friends to assist whenever possible. Sometimes you’ll be taken by surprise, only to have Ellie jump on the enemy’s back and stab him in the neck. The further you progress, more advanced options are available, which you’ll want to take full advantage of.

+ Partner characters are not immune to enemy attacks. If an enemy manages to grab hold of one of your pals, you only have a limited amount of time to save them before it’s game over. This is important because of one of the issues mentioned below.

+ New Game + allows players to replay the game on the same or lower difficulty setting with all the upgrades from their first play-through.

+ Almost every trophy in the game requires multiple play-throughs, which means hardcore players are going to be coming back for lots more.

+ Designed for the hardcore. Don’t want to use Listen Mode, you can turn it off. Don’t want the game to give you hints after a short period of time, no problem, that can be turned off as well. It’s nice of Naughty Dog to think of the hardcore crowd. If you want, you can make this an extremely difficult game.

Repairing turbine

The So-So:

+/- Later portions of the game start to feel a bit too Uncharted-like, whereby players’ options on how to proceed with combat encounters go more or less out the window. Thankfully there aren’t many areas like this.

+/- Since there’s no lock-on cover mechanic, sometimes enemies will see you even though you’re 99% sure you were in the shadows. This issue pops up now and then, but doesn’t hinder gameplay.

+/- Some overused puzzle elements where you need to find a make-shift raft for Ellie to use. It’s neat the first time, but by the forth it gets a little old.

+/- Is Tess Elena’s long lost sister? Their character models look extremely similar.

Ellie and Marlene

The Bad:

– Everyone in the entire game you come across has infinite ammo, but you. Even your partner has infinite ammo. Eventually you’ll learn that you can pit your partner against the enemies and just let them go to town on each other. Thankfully partner characters can be killed if you’re not careful, so there is a slight trade-off.

– How is it that when I kill an enemy who has infinite ammo they don’t drop a single bullet when they die? Later on in the game they do, but every enemy should drop at least one bullet if they’re carrying a gun that shoots infinite ammo.

Ellie rifle

The Ugly:

Letting a Bloater get up close and personal. Trust me, don’t let it happen, it’s painful.

Museum melee

The Lowdown:

Is The Last of Us the greatest game of the generation? That’s a question only you can answer. What I can tell you is that this is a game that deserves to be played. It’s setting, and story will absolutely impress. There were more than a few moments where I nearly had a tear in my eye. That’s the first time a videogame has ever done that to me. The new “play a cutscene” areas were likely the most powerful I’ve ever experienced, and certainly change the way future games will be developed. The combat is fantastic, exploration a joy, and the design is impeccable. Is this the best game of the generation? I don’t know, but it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.

Final Score: 9.8/10

The Last of Us – Believe the Hype

This is it, the final countdown before my review hits tomorrow at 10AM. I’ve been waiting to write this article since the first day I started these teaser articles. The message I want to leave you all with is this, The Last of Us is my new favorite game of the generation. The main reason is because of the incredible storyline, the fact no one is safe, and the brilliant world in which Naughty Dog has so masterfully created. I can’t say this enough, if you’re old enough to appreciate mature storylines, are a fan of The Walking Dead comic series, or loved Children of Men, don’t even bother reading my review tomorrow and go buy the game on the 14th instead.

I’ve talked about so many different aspects of the game now, but I can’t convey everything the game has to offer because of how well all the individual parts come together. Sure there are some gameplay issues here and there, but I am a huge sucker for a great story, and how it’s told. This game could have been alright, or just good, but what blasts it into the stratosphere is the dynamic duo mentioned above (story and setting). I didn’t want the game to end because I knew each new chapter would bring a new place for me to explore, or introduce new characters for me to feel their pain, only to have them leave when I needed them the most.

The Last of Us also challenges you to think about how you would react in a world where it’s kill or be killed, where an act of kindness could mean your death. Would you really allow someone to live, who could potentially come back at a later point and kill you and the ones you love? It sounds barbaric and brutal, and it is, it really is. That’s the world though, and that’s pretty much exactly what would happen here if the world was thrown into chaos. A dead man can’t come back to stab you in the back. Harsh, I know, but fact.

The Last of Us will most likely go down as the last incredible PlayStation 3 videogame released, although Beyond: Two Souls is getting released later this year, along with Gran Turismo 6. The truth is though, while those games surely look great, and I’m sure they will be, The Last of Us is a true game-changer. It is our Citizen Kane moment, where a game’s story is so powerful and unexpected that it changes the way people look at videogames. I know that my significant other almost cried twice. I mean there were actual tears in her eyes, and she was only watching me play the game a bit here and there. That’s how powerful the story can get. I know people like to say games are becoming interactive movies, and there are times where you’ll feel that way here too, but if the story’s this bloody good, I’ll gladly take it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this daily series on The Last of Us, and I hope you stick around for all of our E3 coverage and beyond. This is only the beginning! Remember to tune in tomorrow at 10AM for my video review/written review. I go into far more detail why I believe this is not only the best game of 2013, but of the entire generation. Enjoy!

The Last of Us – Time Progression

We’re coming down to the wire now folks, with only one more teaser article left before the big review hits. Today we’ll be looking at how Naughty Dog solved an interesting problem. First let’s look at what that problem was. How do you evolve character relationships when players typically only play these characters for a few days? How does one keep a city from becoming boring when players are playing through very similar areas?

LoU2

The answer, time progression. The game is actually broken down into seasons. After players progress through certain chapters, the story will advance a few months. This not only helps with character progression, and making the bond Joel and Ellie share that much stronger, but it also helps solidify other relationships with other characters they meet. It makes it that much more powerful when something happens to said characters.

The setting is also affected by the passage of time, but in two distinct ways. The first is rather obvious, with changes in weather, the environments will look and behave differently. The second is a little more complex. Given players are exploring a world gone mad, some twenty years after the world went to hell, certain areas will look vastly different than others depending on how long people stayed in said location. Take the sewers as an example. A large group of people lived in the sewers for a number of years before leaving the area. Because of this, you can still see traces of humanity all over the place, whereas other areas that were abandoned twenty years ago, look completely barren and lifeless. The passage of time has many meanings in The Last of Us, but all are important and all have a direct impact on the game.

LoU1

When you finally finish the game, sit back and let everything soak in. It’s then when you realize just how perfectly intertwined all these various elements are. From the graphics, to the audio, to the gameplay, and the time progression, The Last of Us is a masterpiece that comes along once a generation. If you weren’t hyped before, I’ve got one more article to try and convince you before the big review. Let’s hope I’ve done my job correctly, and all of you reading this pick the game up on June 14th.

The Last of Us – Crafting Your Way To Victory

One of the more unique features in The Last of Us is the ability to craft different gear. Need to make a make-shift bomb, a med-kit, maybe a shiv, well all of that is possible within the crafting system. Not only is it possible, it’s completely necessary in order to survive. There are six different items you can create once you’ve learned all the recipes, a shiv, melee blade attachment, med kit, Molotov cocktail, nail bomb, and smoke grenade. Each has their purpose in the greater context of the game. Smoke bombs can hide you from enemy fire, which is extremely useful once you start having to take down human opponents. Molotov cocktails are great against large groups of infected, and so on.

TLoU2

In order to make it so players couldn’t just created an unlimited supply of goodies, Naughty Dog limits you to three of each kind. After that your backpack is full. Everything in this game is done in real time, so when you decide it’s time to craft, you have to make sure there are no enemies around you. The same is true for when you need to take a med kit. It’s not as simple as just hitting a button and seeing your health increase. No, you actually have to bandage yourself up, and that takes some time.

To make things even more interesting, of the six crafting items, two share the same ingredients. A shiv is made with duct tape and a blade, but so is the blade attachment you can add on your melee weapon. The same is true for the med kit and the Molotov cocktail, they share the same ingredients. So the bottom line is, you really have to pick and choose which supplies to arm yourself with before a large-scale encounter begins.

TLoU3

It’s also possible to upgrade your weapons. Doing so requires special gears you’ll find scattered in the debris everywhere. In order to upgrade your weapons though you have to find a work bench. There are only a handful in the entire game, and you can’t backtrack once you’ve gone too far ahead. This means you have to make smart choices on what you will upgrade. Is it going to be an increase to your clip size on your 9mm pistol, or lessen the recoil in your shotgun? Each decision you make will dramatically change the way you play, much like the rest of the game. Smart choices will keep you alive, dumb ones will cost you dearly.

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As mentioned in a previous article, but just for completion’s sake, special pills can also be used to upgrade some of Joel’s core abilities like the distance of Listening Mode, crafting speed, and more. These abilities can be upgraded at any time, although they do require Joel to open his bag, which means you’ll only want to do this when you’re in a safe spot.

That’s it for today’s article. Only two more articles left before the review hits. You’ll just have to tune in tomorrow to see what it’ll be about, because as of writing this I honestly have no clue.

The Last of Us – Surviving Madness

It has been twenty years since humanity ruled the world. Now, no one rules it. A plague has destroyed all life as we know it. Nature has started to take over, the infected run rampant all over, and those of us that haven’t been infected will do whatever it takes to survive. In this world, it’s kill or be killed. How will you survive?

That’s the world you’re about to enter when you play The Last of Us. It’s a good thing you’ve got me here to explain just what you can do to survive this harsh world. To begin with, never travel alone. Do whatever you can to stay with others because the more people you’re with, the more protected you are. Should you have to venture off on your own, stay in the shadows and listen to your surroundings. Sound plays a key roll in the game, by utilizing it properly you’ll stay alive. Joel has adapted quite well to his surroundings and can easily make out where certain sounds are coming from. This is good because it allows you to plan your best course of action.

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If you know there are three or four infected near you, you can sort of see which type of infected they are by the way they move. You’ve got your Runners, which are basically infected that have just recently turned, then you’ve got your Clickers which have been turned some time ago, and then there are other more ferocious baddies out there. If you’re going up against a Clicker you know they’re blind, so they’ll only attack if they hear you. That’s simple enough, don’t make a sound, and for Pete’s sake don’t fire your gun. The Runners are just like normal people though, so those guys are a little trickier to take out. Do you go in for a stealth kill, or lace into them with a few rounds from your pistol? Remember, if you’ve got a clicker near you, that would give away your position.

This is what makes combat so interesting, this sort of game of cat and mouse, or give and take. You’re always making decisions on how best to proceed. Given items are in short supply, stealth is your best bet, but also the most dangerous. Getting health back isn’t as easy as in other games. Here you need a first-aid, or med kit. You can craft those, but they require supplies. There are a nice assortment of items you can craft, but each takes a certain number of ingredients to put together.

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Once you get good at lurking in the shadows, the game mixes things up by introducing regular human enemies into the mix. Let’s be honest here, if the world has gone this much to hell, you can be sure it’s going to be everyone for themselves. So people shoot first, ask questions later. You have to do the same. There’s no such thing as moral choices when the world’s gone to madness.

So how will you survive? Will you waste all your supplies, or try and find a nice balance? If you find the normal mode to be a little too videogame-like for you, up the difficulty and I assure you, these choices become all the more important.

Tomorrow I’ll be looking at the audio in further detail, and explaining just how that works and why it’s so important. Don’t miss it!

The Last of Us vs. Uncharted – Gameplay Differences (Spoiler Free)

A lot of you guys are likely curious about how The Last of Us differs from the Uncharted series, so I threw together this video talking about the main differences.  There are no spoilers here, and details are all based on previous previews so fear not.

Our coverage continues until June 5th at 10AM when our review goes live. Now I’ve got to get back to the game. 10 hours in and counting!

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-12
Genre: Action adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: November 1, 2011
PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Uncharted 3 is rated T for teen because of violence, alcohol use and mild blood effects.  Given you spend most of the game blowing away hundreds of enemies with realistic weapons, but there’s no gore, the rating fits perfectly.

Plays Like: The previous Uncharted games. Many other action adventures have since copied this formula.

Review Basis: Finished the campaign on Hard. Played several co-op games and a lot of online multiplayer.

Nathan Drake returns in one of 2011’s best games. While not as dramatic a jump from Drake’s Fortune to Among Thieves, Uncharted 3 is every bit as entertaining.  If you’re a PS3 owner, we hope you’ve been paying attention to Uncharted, the system’s flagship series. Uncharted 3 is the must-play 2011 PS3-exclusive.

The Great:

You don’t just play the characters, you live them.  The motion capture technology Naughty Dog employs is what makes this series so incredible.  It’s also the little details.  While walking, Nathan might notice something off in the distance that isn’t obvious, yet move his head accordingly to clue you in for a better look. Sometimes he’ll trip, despite the player not provoking it, or touch a nearby ledge to balance himself.  These elements make the characters more human-like than in any other game I’ve played.  It’s astonishing.

The Good:

+ Fantastic story. By now you should know the drill.  Drake is looking for treasure in some far away land which somehow ties in to his past.  All the twists and turns the series is known for return for an incredibly rich plot.

+ Joyful interactions.  How the characters relate is a delight. The banter that occurs throughout the game will have you chuckling.

+ Animations.  It’s not just when you see Drake holding onto something for dear life, but the way he walks around, grabs enemies, etc.  I’ve never seen a game look this good.

+ Superb soundtrack with old favorites and new tracks. The orchestrated music is nothing short of breathtaking.  I actually purchased the songs online; they’re that good.  Emotional, exhilarating, and thrilling best describe Uncharted 3’s music.

+ Refined CQC. Nathan can now auto-interact with the environment for melee combat. If you’re fighting near a window and lock up with an enemy, you might be able to toss them through it. Or perhaps a locker, which Drake can open and smash the enemy’s face into it. These moments happen so fast and are so responsive that you can’t help but be impressed each time.

+ Integral stealth on the higher difficulties. One reason I play Uncharted on Hard is because it forces you to think. There’s little more exciting than slowly creeping towards an enemy with a powerful shotgun, popping out behind them and breaking their neck.

+ Mostly untouched gunplay.  That’s not bad since the pop-and-cover mechanics work just as well as Drake’s last outing.  The weapon variety offers different degrees of firepower.

+ Challenging puzzles.  A few times the game stumped me, and I needed to wait for it to hold my hand for a solution. That’s because I’m a moron though; most of the puzzles are ingenious.

+ Limited, but excellent platforming.  Some of Uncharted 3’s best moments deal with the wonderful platforming. As Drake leaps from a ladder to an outcropping, the ladder might give way or the rock will potentially crumble under his hands.  Moments like these inject so much excitement into the experience that you’ll wish there was more platforming.

+ Sensational co-op.  There are three modes. One has teammates working together to stop a relentless onslaught of enemies. Another is two-versus-two where one team tries to steal treasure as the opposition is charged to stop them. The best is the adventure mode, which has you tackle combat-centric campaign-inspired levels.  Sometimes one player must lay down suppressing fire, as the other goes in for silent kills. Whatever the case, there’s no shortage of players online.

+ Competitive online multiplayer.  U3 builds upon Uncharted 2’s already-excellent online multiplayer with a much tighter experience.  The expected modes are here, but the run and gun over cover emphasis makes the experience unique and enjoyable.

The So-So:

+/- Tried-and-true formula, but it’s at times a little too familiar.  Don’t mistake me, the gameplay is sensational, but it’s more or less Uncharted 2 in terms of puzzle-solving, be surrounded by enemies, watch a cutscene, repeat. Is this bad? No. But it is starting to get a little repetitious.

The Bad:

– AI.  Sometimes enemy behavior is spot-on, but on the higher difficulties they somehow spot you even when Drake is in cover. X-ray goggles perhaps? Other times your partner(s) sit around, waiting for you to kill everyone. Wasn’t that my strategy?  These instances are few and far, but do happen.

The Ugly:

Witnessing someone’s face be smashed into a wall in slow motion, then pitched over a cliff to their death.  Ouch!

The Lowdown:

Sure U3 is a lot of the same: excellent gameplay, tight combat, great cover, superb storyline…you get the idea. Nonetheless, these elements make Drake’s Deception the best PS3 exclusive of 2011.  I can’t recommend it enough for fans. This is another GOTY contender, and one you should already own.

Average Score Scale: 9.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Do you like the Indiana Jones films? This is as close as you’ll get to playing them.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you’re tired of Uncharted’s solving puzzles, being attacked by swarms of enemies and cutscenes.

Uncharted Dual Pack Review

Uncharted Dual Pack (Available only on PS3)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-10
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: September 6th, 2011

Parent Talk: Uncharted is the ideal T-rated series.  It features non-gratuitous violence, suggestive themes and strong language.  Anyone 13 years of age and older should have no problem playing either of these two phenomenal games.

Plays Like: A much better Tomb Raider.  There is lots of action, platforming and a great deal of puzzles. I always think of Uncharted as the perfect match for the Indiana Jones franchise.

Review Basis: Played through and mastered Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

Unlike most of our reviews in which I would list the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there’s little point in doing so for this compilation, as we already have reviews published.  You can find both below.

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune Review: http://www.projectcoe.com/sony/games/uncharted.html?var1=sc3

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review: http://www.projectcoe.com/2009/10/22/uncharted-2-among-thieves-review/

 

The original Uncharted is a modern classic

For only $39.99 USD/CDN, you get two of the best videogames ever created.  Uncharted provided that next-gen action adventure experience fans wanted, then Uncharted 2 cranked it up about twenty notches.  The Dual Pack includes the Game of the Year Edition for Uncharted 2, meaning you receive all the DLC at no additional cost.  That’s a steal for $40.

 

Don't let the excellence of Uncharted 2 pass you by

The Lowdown:

If you never had the opportunity to play either of these wonderful games, take advantage of this dual pack. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will likely be waiting once you’re finished. Leave these games behind and you would miss out on what is arguably the best new IP introduced this generation.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 1) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +1 Inflation: Incredible games for an incredible price

Reason for -1 Deflation: Nothing added for those who already played the originals

 

E3 2011 – Uncharted 3 Co-Op Trailer

Joystiq has a great co-op trailer for Uncharted 3, and I simply had to share it with all of you.  Check it out below.

What do you think? Pretty bad ass no? I’m super excited for this game and every little ounce of news that gets released only makes me that much more excited. Tell me you’re just as into Uncharted as I am?

Update: Naughty Dog Announces Uncharted 3!!!

In what is the single best piece of news to hit all year, Naughty Dog, via Entertainment Weekly has officially announced Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.  The game will take place in the Rub’ al Khali desert on the Arabian Peninsula.  Drake will be searching for the lost city of Iram of the Pillars, AKA “Atlantis of the Sands”.  The storyline will also involve Drake’s mother and father somehow.  Apparently the game’s title is supposed to be a clue about how what Drake believes about his past isn’t exactly true.

Update #1:

Well that didn’t take very long did it?  I’ve got a massive update for all of you including the official announcement trailer.  So let’s jump right into the details.

I already mentioned the game’s location, but I didn’t touch on anything else.  Naughty Dog says they’re putting just as much effort into the online multiplayer as they’re putting into the single player.  They specifically said they want to compete with the big boys in terms of multiplayer.  They didn’t offer any other details than that.

Returning characters include Nathan Drake, of course, and his good buddy and mentor Victor Sullivan.  Will any of the female leads make it in, I’m almost positive they will.  Naughty Dog isn’t talking though.

Finally the latest bit of news we have for you is the projected release date “TBA 2011”.  Naughty Dog says one way or another Uncharted 3 will be ready for retail at some point next year.

Now sit back and enjoy the official teaser trailer for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Oh there is just one other small detail.  U3 will fully support high-resolution stereoscopic 3D.  This will likely be the game that convinces me to go buy a 3D TV.  Uncharted plus Avatar, count me in!

It’s now time to check out all the new media, including a placeholder box art.  Enjoy and leave a comment already!

I can’t begin to tell you how exciting this announcement has made me.  I’m literally giddy at the moment.