Oculus Rift “Erotic Adventure” Game Announced (IGN.com)

Good. God. Really? ALREADY? Not that this is completely unexpected, but I guess announcing AT E3 would have been tacky? *cough* This takes my favorite MMORPG genre to new highs (or lows). I’ll refrain from making up new innuendo-laden video game titles and just post the original article. You’ll thank me later!

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We guess it was inevitable: veteran game designers who worked on the likes of Rage, the Call of Duty series, Lost Planet, Madden and Planetside 2 are working on an “Erotic Adventure” game for Oculus Rift.

Called Wicked Paradise, the game is based on the principle that “Instead of watching an erotic movie or reading an erotic book in which the main character has exciting sexual adventures, you become that character!

“Imagine playing Leisure Suit Larry but instead of watching a screen, you are inside the game,” it reads. “Imagine the world and its inhabitants look highly realistic. Imagine walking into a bar in Wicked Paradise, noticing a beautiful lady, talking to her, and seducing her.” You can guess the rest – there’s more info on the official site.

This was always going to happen, we suppose. Wicked Paradise is planned to release in 2014, at the same time as the Oculus Rift itself.

Original IGN.com Article

US Game Sales Drop 25% – May 2013 (IGN.com)

So why the huge drop in gaming sales? I have a suggestion: MMO(RP)Gs.

If you look at the market share of F2P and subscription MMO(RP)Gs for May, you can see a giant spike – particularly by RIFT. Last month, RIFT was by far the most played game on Raptr, jumping over 6% from April. In fact, 6 of the top 20 games on Raptr are MMO(RP)Gs, up from only two in March and three in April. In total, they accounted for a massive jump to 15.4% of all games played (up from under 5% in March). Why buy a new game when the one you’re playing is fun AND free (or at least only $15/month)? Sure beats shelling out another $40-$70 for only 10-20 hours of solo story!

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Injustice Tops US Sales Charts for Second Month

Game sales down 25% overall including hardware, software and accessories.

The NPD Group has revealed the top ten best-selling games in the United States for the month of May.

Total game sales for the month (including hardware, software and accessories) were $386.3 million, down 25% compared to last year. Software sales brought in $187.6 million, down 44% from the same month in 2012.

The best-selling titles in the United States for the period between May 5th and June 1st were the following:

  1. Injustice: Gods Among Us (360, PS3, NWU)**
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (360, PS3, PC, NWU)**
  3. Donkey Kong Country Returns (3DS, WII)
  4. Dead Island Riptide (360, PS3, PC)**
  5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)
  6. Metro: Last Light (360, PS3, PC)
  7. NBA 2K13 (360, PS3, WII, NWU, PSP, PC)**
  8. BioShock Infinite (360, PS3, PC)**
  9. Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)**
  10. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (360, WII, NDS, PS3, 3DS, NWU, PSV, PC)

**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)

NPD analyst Liam Callahan reports that “Nintendo’s 3DS edged out the 360 as the top selling platform across hardware and portables. However, the 360 was the top selling console hardware platform this month for the twenty-ninth consecutive month. The 3DS had the best year-over-year trending for hardware units, with units sales essentially flat from last May.”

On the software side, Callahan notes that “overall entertainment software declines, down forty-four percent, were driven partly by sharp year-over-year declines within PC games due to poor comparisons to last year’s Diablo 3 release. Nintendo 3DS software unit sales were up sixty percent versus May ’12, and when looking at the game ranking based on SKUs” — in other words, individual games sold as opposed to combining sales across all platforms — “there were three 3DS SKUs in the top 10.”

Callahan added that “in May 2013, the top 10 games represented a lower percentage of sales compared to games from the previous few Mays at 18% of overall unit sales and 25% of overall dollars, compared to 30% of units and 45% of dollars in May 2012. This is contrary to trends we’ve been seeing over the last few years with the top ten games generating a larger percentage of overall sales and may be indicative of the weak new launch performance this May.”

On the accessories front, Callahan called 2013 the “best May for point and subscription card sales on record for both unit and dollar sales.” Skylanders accessory sales continue to grow, up nearly 50% in sales compared to last year. Callahan added that “as we often see accessory sales tied to hardware sales, May 2013 3DS Accessories (not including point cards) had the lowest decline across platforms, down only 2 percent.”

According to Microsoft, 114,000 Xbox 360s were sold in the U.S. in May, marking “the 29th consecutive month that Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in the United States.” (Note that Microsoft specifically says console, not including handhelds and accounting for 3DS being the best-selling hardware platform overall.) Consumers spent $149.8 million on Xbox 360 hardware, software and accessories in the U.S. in May.

Nintendo, meanwhile, reports that Nintendo 3DS was “the best-selling video game hardware platform in the United States in May” thanks to the success of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. 3DS software sales were up 60% compared to the same period last year.

Original IGN Article

E3 2013: List of Games Appearing at E3 (IGN.com)

IGN has published and been updating the list of games scheduled/rumored to appear at E3 this year. If there’s a game you’re particularly interested in, take a look at the list below. If you have a favorite game you’d like more information about, just comment below. I’ll see if I can find out when it’s scheduled to be covered by various gamer groups.

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The Best Third-Party Titles Coming to E3 2013

The Big Games of E3 2013 list contains upcoming games likely to appear at E3 in some form (not necessarily in “playable” form).

E3 2013 Games List

Platform exclusive games are color coded in the list below: (NOTE: color coding is on the original website only.)

PS 3 / PS 4 / Vita Wii U / 3DS Xbox 360 / Xbox One

A column in the table below lists whether or not games are confirmed to appear at E3. This status is sure to change as E3 approaches.

Game Developer Platforms Confirmed
1954: Alcatraz Daedalic Entertainment PC No
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Ubisoft PS4, Xbox One, PS3, PC, Wii U Yes [1]
Arma3 Bohemia Interactive PC Yes [n]
Batman: Arkham Origins Warner Bros Games Montreal PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U Yes
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Armature Studio 3DS, Vita No
Barbie Dreamhouse Party Little Orbit Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS Yes [2]
Battlefield 4 EA DICE PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, 360 Yes [3]
Bayonetta 2 Platinum Games Wii U No
Beyond Two Souls Quantic Dream PS3 No
Black Guards Daedalic Entertainment PC No
Black Gold Snail Games PC Yes
Blood Knights Deck 13 PC, 360, PS3 No
Bound By Flame Spiders PC, 360, PS3 No
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy Silicon Studio 3DS No
Broken Age Double Fine PC, iOS No
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Starbreeze PC, 360, PS3 No
Call of Duty: Ghosts Activision PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, 360 Yes [4]
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse HD  SEGA Studios Australia PS3, PC, 360, Vita, Wii U Yes [5]
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Konami 360, PS3, PC No
Civilization 5: Brave New World Firaxis PC No
Command & Conquer Victory Games PC No
Company of Heroes 2 Relic PC Yes [6]
Dark Souls II From Software PC, PS3, 360 No
DayZ Standalone Bohemia Interactive PC Yes
Deadfall Adventures Nordic Games 360, PC No
Deadpool High Moon Studios PS3, 360, PC No
Deep Down Capcom PS4 No
Destiny Bungie PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360 Yes [7]
Deus Ex: The Fall Eidos Montreal iOS Yes [8]
Diablo III Blizzard Entertainment PS4, PS3, 360 No
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness NIS PS3 No
Disney Infinity Avalanche Software (USA) Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, Wii U, 3DS Yes
Divinity: Original Sin Larian Studios PC No
Doki Doki Universe HumaNature Studios PS3, PS4, Vita Yes*
Dragon Age III: Inquisition BioWare 360, PS3, PC Yes [9]
Dragon’s Crown Vanillaware PS3, Vita No
DriveClub Evolution Studios PS4 No
Dying Light Techland PlayStation 4, Xbox One Yes* [10]
Dynasty Warriors 8 Omega Force PS3, 360 No
Elder Scrolls Online ZeniMax PC Yes
Farming Simulator 2013 GIANTS Software PC, PS3, 360, 3DS, Vita No
FIFA 14 EA Xbox One, PS4, PS3, 360, PC Yes [11]
Final Fantasy (PS4) Square Enix PS4 Yes [12]
Final Fantasy X / X2 HD Remaster Square Enix PS3, Vita No
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Square Enix PC, PS3 Yes [13]
Flower (Vita) thatgamecompany Vita Yes [n]
Forza Motorsport 5 Turn 10 Xbox One No
Frozen Synapse: Tactics Double 11 PC, iOS No
Game & Wario Nintendo/Intelligent Systems Wii U No
Goodbye Deponia Daedalic Software PC No
Gran Turismo 6 Polyphony Games PS3 Yes*
Hometown Story Natsume 3DS Yes [14]
Infamous: Second Son Sucker Punch PS4 No
Killer Is Dead Grasshopper Manufacture PS3, 360 No
Killzone: Shadow Fall Guerrilla Games PS4 No
Killzone: Mercenary Guerilla Cambridge Vita Yes*[15]
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX Square Enix PS3 No
Knack Studios Japan PS4 No
LEGO Marvel Superheroes Traveller’s Tales 3DS, DS, PC, PS3, Wii U, Vita No
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Square Enix PS3, 360 Yes[16]
LocoCycle Twisted Pixel Xbox 360, Xbox One No
Lords of the Fallen Deck 13 PC Yes [17]
Lost Planet 3 Spark Unlimited PC, 360, PS3 No
Luftrausers Devolver Digital Mac, PS3, PC, Vita Yes*
Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 Stainless Games PC, 360, PS3 No
Madden 25 EA PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC Yes [18]
Magrunner: Dark Pulse 3AM Games PC, PS3, 360 No
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Nintendo 3DS No
Mario Golf World Tour Nintendo 3DS No
Mario Kart Wii U Nintendo Wii U Yes [19]
Mario Party 3DS 3DS Nintendo No
Memoria Daedalic PC No
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Kojima Productions PS3, 360 No
Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes Kojima Productions PS3, 360 No
Might & Magic X: Legacy Limbic PC No
Mistborn: Birthright Game Machine Studios, Little Orbit 360, PS3, PC No
Monster High 13 Wishes Shadow Secrets Little Orbit Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS Yes[20]
Muramasa Rebirth Aksys Games Vita, PS3, Xbox, Wii No
Murdered: Soul Suspect Square Enix PC, PS3, 360 Yes[21]
NBA Live 14 EA Xbox One, PS4 Yes [22]
Need for Speed: Rivals EA PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One Yes [23]
NHL 14 EA PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 No
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 Konami TBA No
Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff Majesco 360, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS Yes [24]
Pikmin 3 Nintendo Wii U No
Pokemon X/Y Nintendo 3DS Yes [25]
Primal Carnage: Genesis Lukewarm PS4, PC No
Prime World Nival Interactive PC, iPhone, Android No
Project Cars Slightly Mad PC, PS3, 360, Wii U No
Project X Zone Capcom/Namco Bandai 3DS No
Puppeteer SCE Studios Japan PS3 No
Rain Acquire/SCE Japan PS3 No
Quantum Break Remedy Xbox One Yes [26][27]
Rayman Legends Ubisoft Wii U, PS3, 360 Yes [28]
Rise of the Triad Apogee PC No
Rune Factory 4 Neverland Co. 3DS No
Ryse Crytek Xbox One Yes [29]
Sacred 3 Keen Games PS3, PC, 360 No
Saints Row 4 Deep Silver PC, 360, PS3 Yes
Shadowrun Returns Harebrained Schemes PC, Android, iOS No
Scribblenauts Unmasked 5th Cell Wii U, 3DS, PC Yes [30]
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments Frogwares PC, 360, PS3 No
Shin Megami Tensei IV Atlus 3DS No
Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem Intelligent Systems/Atlus Wii U No
Skylanders Swap Force Activision Yes [31]
Sonic: Lost World Sonic Team Wii U, 3DS Yes [32]
South Park: The Stick of Truth Obsidian PS3, PC, 360 Yes [33]
Splinter Cell Blacklist UbiSoft Montreal PC, 360, PS3, Wii U Yes [34]
State of Decay Undead Labs 360, PC No
Super Mario 3D Wii U Nintendo Wii U Yes [35]
Super Smash Bros. 4 Namco Bandai / Nintendo Wii U, 3DS Yes [36]
Super T.I.M.E. Force Capybara Games 360 No
Tales of Xillia Namco Bandai PS3 No
Take On Bohemia Interactive TBA Yes
Tearaway Media Molecule Vita No
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified 2K Marin 360, PS3, PC No
The Dark Eye: Demonicon Noumena Media PC, 360, PS3 No
The Evil Within Tango Gameworks TBA No
The Last of Us Naughty Dog PS3 Yes*[37]
The Legend of Zelda HD (New) Nintendo Wii U No
The Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD Nintendo Wii U No
The Night of the Rabbit Daedelic PC No
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt CD Projekt RED PC, PS4 No
The Witness Thekla, Inc PS4 No
The Wolf Among Us Telltale PC, 360, PS3, iOS No
The Wonderful 101 Platinum Wii U No
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Red Fly PS3, Xbox, PC No
Thief Eidos Studios Montreal PS4, Xbox One, PC Yes[38]
Time and Eternity Image Epoch PS3 No
Titanfall Respawn Entertainment TBA Yes [39]
Total War: Rome 2 Creative Assembly PC Yes [40]
Transistor Supergiant Games TBA No
Until Dawn Supermassive PS3 No
Valhalla Knights 3 K2 Vita No
Wasteland 2 inXile PC No
Watch Dogs Ubisoft Montreal / Reflections 360, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PC Yes [41]
Game from Watch Dogs Developer Reflections TBA Yes [42]
Wii Fit U Nintendo Wii U No
Wii U Party Nintendo Wii U No
Wolfenstein: The New Order MachineGames PC, PS3, 360 Yes
X Monolith Wii U No
Ys: Memories of Celceta Nihon Falcom Corp Vita No
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Comcept PS3, 360 No
Yoshi Wii U Good-Feel Wii U No
Yoshi’s Island 3DS Nintendo 3DS No
Young Justice: Legacy Warner Bros. Interactive PS3, 360, 3DS, Wii U, PC No
Zumba Fitness World Party Majesco Xbox One, 360, Wii U and Wii Yes [43]

*These games have been seen by IGN at E3 Judges Week and will almost certainly appear at the show.

†Note: Elder Scrolls Online and Wolfenstein: The New Order were confirmed by Bethesda to IGN. Disney Infinity was confirmed by Disney Interactive to IGN. Saints Row 4 was confirmed by Deep Silver PR to IGN.

Skyrim: Legendary Edition Available on PC for $45 (IGN.com)

Bethesda has released the Skyrim Legendary Edition, featuring the main game along with all three DLC packs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn). The best part? You can get the PC version for only $44.99!

Not sure whether or not you’re interested? Here’s what makes the Legendary Edition great.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Why We Love It

We’re excited to bring you this action-packed RPG on a monumental day for the Skyrim series. It’s a beautifully designed adventure game that will keep you gaming for hours with a whole new world right at your fingertips. Inside this legendary edition lies legendary players, dozens of spells to use on your opponents, and sweet weapons that will allow you to conquer the game. What’s not to love?

Winner of More Than 200 Game of The Year Awards!

Winner of more than 200 Game of the Year awards, experience the complete Skyrim collection with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition.

The Legendary Edition includes the original critically-acclaimed game, official add-ons – Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn – and added features like combat cameras, mounted combat, Legendary difficulty mode for hardcore players, and Legendary skills – enabling you to master every perk and level up your skills infinitely.

Awesome Gameplay

Live Another Life, In Another World Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of The Elder Scrolls comes to life in one legendary experience complete with added weapons, armor, spells, and shouts from all three official add-ons.

Dawnguard The Vampire Lord Harkon has returned to power. By using the Elder Scrolls, he seeks to do the unthinkable – to end the sun itself. Will you join the ancient order of the Dawnguard and stop him? Or will you become a Vampire Lord? In Dawnguard, the ultimate choice will be yours.

Hearthfire Purchase land and build your own home from the ground up – from a simple one-room cottage to a sprawling compound complete with an armory, alchemy laboratory, and more. Use all-new tools like the drafting table and carpenter’s workbench to turn stone, clay, and sawn logs into structures and furnishings. Even transform your house into a home by adopting children.

Dragonborn Journey off the coast of Morrowind, to the vast island of Solstheim.Traverse the ash wastes and glacial valleys of this new land as you become more powerful with shouts that bend the will of your enemies and even tame dragons. Your fate, and the fate of Solstheim, hangs in the balance as you face off against your deadliest adversary – the first Dragonborn.

System Requirements

Minimum PC Specs:

  • Operating System: Win XP/7/Vista (32 or 64 bit)
  • CPU: Dual Core 2GHz
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video Card: DirectX9c video card w/ 512MB RAM

Recommended PC Specs:

  • Operating System: Win XP/7
  • CPU: Quad-Core Intel/AMD CPU
  • Memory: 4GB RAM, 6GB Hard Drive Space
  • Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
  • Video Card: DirectX9 video card with 1GB memory. GTX 260/Radeon 4890 or higher

Also requires free Steam Account to activate.

The Skyrim Legendary Edition is available now, but keep in mind the information below before you download:

Important Reminders

  • Upon purchase you’ll need to follow the redemption instructions in your account to be able to download and activate your game.
  • Please note: after purchase you’re going to need to enter in your CC information during the redemption process but you WILL NOT be charged because your total will come to $0.00. This process will occur on OnePlay’s website.
  • During redemption If a verification window comes up from your bank and says it’s going to charge you a $1.00 please note that this is just a security measure and that the charge will fall off your account in one to two weeks.
  • Rated mature
  • PC compatible only
  • Requires a FREE Steam account to redeem, download, and activate your game

http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/06/06/skyrim-legendary-edition-now-available

New Xbox One Controller Features Detailed (IGN.com)

More details regarding the Xbox One’s new controller have arrived, courtesy of Major Nelson. In his blog post, Nelson highlights a number of new features that you can expect to see during E3 and when the console launches later this year.

The controller will utilize both invisible reflective technology and LEDs to communicate with the console and Kinect, which will make syncing the devices a simple task. The technology can also be used so that Kinect can pair the controller with the person holding it, so that if a couple of friends were enjoying a multi-player game, the console can configure the split-screen positions based on where each is sitting.

The new controller will also feature a low power state to help conserve battery life when it is not in use, so you can rest assured knowing that it won’t be needlessly draining energy while watching a movie or when away from the console.

Audio delivery through the headset will be a higher quality than what Xbox 360 users have become accustomed to, thanks to an improved data transfer rate between the controller and console. The team claims that communication can even be clearer than when speaking on a telephone.

Check out our Xbox One Controller Hands-On.

The Xbox One controller also features a number of additional improvements, including haptic feedback-enabled triggers, re-designed thumbsticks, a (much needed) new d-pad, and a pair of new buttons.

If you’d like to try out the new controller for yourself, Microsoft will be hosting a public meet-up during E3 on Monday, June 10th at the Microsoft Store in Century City from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/06/06/new-xbox-one-controller-features-detailed

The Last of Us: IGN Review

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.

The Last of Us is a near-perfect analog for The Road, a literary masterpiece written by Cormac McCarthy. Both present a hopeless, post-apocalyptic situation navigated by two characters – an adult and a child – with nothing but absolute despair surrounding them. Like The Road, The Last of Us is perpetually dangerous and unpredictable, and like The Road, what happened to get society to a point of rapid decay isn’t the focus. It’s the story of the characters at hand, and those characters alone, at the center of both plots. The beauty of The Last of Us when compared to The Road, however, is that it’s fully interactive, complete with all of the vulnerability, uncertainty and perpetual insecurity such a situation inherently provides.

The Last of Us seamlessly intertwines satisfying, choice-based gameplay with a stellar narrative. It never slows down, it never lets up, and frankly, it never disappoints. It’s PlayStation 3’s best exclusive, and the entire experience, from start to finish, is remarkable. I lost myself in Naughty Dog’s vision of a pandemic-ridden United States, in the characters that populate this unfortunate wasteland, and in their individual stories. The 17 hours I spent playing through the campaign are among the most memorable I’ve ever spent with a game.

Joel remembers the world before the pandemic.

Players are cast in the role of Joel, a grizzled and tired survivor stuck in a cycle any person could imagine finding oneself in two decades after the collapse of society. He takes odd jobs, acquires food, clothing, and shelter, and repeats the process endlessly, a process that only gets more arduous and desperate as time goes on. Joel does what’s necessary to stay alive, and in the ruined United States he travels around, his survival often means someone else’s untimely death.

Occasionally haunted by his past but living in his dystopian present, Joel is surprisingly easy to root for. In many ways, he’s strangely relatable. He retains shreds of his humanity as best he can, considering the extraordinary circumstances he finds himself in. He has a sharpness to him, but a tenderness, too, which he occasionally displays to his partner, a woman named Tess. In the time it took me to beat The Last of Us, I came to care about Joel, and I became invested in his story, and the stories of those he meets along the way.

The Last of Us takes place in 2033, so the regular world Joel harkens back to on occasion is one you and I understand. It’s fascinating to think about how he’s evolved since the world crumbled around him, and even if he does what’s necessary to stay alive – including stealing and murdering – it’s hard to fault him for it. In fact, one of the great ironies of The Last of Us is that you’ll be pulling for him no matter how dark things get, or how violent his actions are. He does what’s required. Joel knows it’s either him or them. There’s no gray area. Joel can be cold and ruthless, but those around him have the propensity to be far worse.

As riveting as Joel is, he isn’t the only character of consequence in The Last of Us. Indeed, calling him the main character is true only to an extent, because it’s his companion, a young girl named Ellie, who truly steals the show. Joel makes a business arrangement early in the adventure to help transport Ellie across what remains of the United States, a wasteland marked with boundless wildlife alongside cities and towns ruthlessly reclaimed by nature. From there on out, the two are virtually inseparable, even if they are at first skeptical of one another, forced together by circumstances in a world where trust and faith are in extremely short supply.

Joel and Ellie develop a sort of dysfunctional father-daughter relationship as their collective experiences bind them, and rooting for Ellie in particular is commonplace in The Last of Us. Her success means the player is successful, and her hardened exterior is the perfect complement to her complete ignorance of the world before it was destroyed. Ellie was born after the collapse, and as such, she’s full of questions and wonder, often communicated through the many contextual conversations she and Joel share. She’ll pick through records at a music store, become fascinated with wildlife she’s never seen before, and ask a million questions about the past. You watch her learn, grow, and gain meaning. It’s impossible not to become attached to her.

The interplay between Joel and Ellie, as well as the other characters you meet on your adventure, is one of the great highlights in The Last of Us. Voice acting is not only consistently superb, but the game’s graphical beauty makes the events of The Last of Us overflow with realism. Everything that happens is immediately more memorable, more powerful, and more poignant because your surroundings are so believable. Forests, fields and wooded trails are overgrown, dense, and lush. Abandoned villages and metropolises alike are eerie, silent, and crumbling. Each environment is unique, thoughtfully created, and bursting with little details, including notes, letters, voice recorders and more that tell ancillary stories of survivors you rarely ever meet in person. The game took me so long to beat because I was obsessed with seeing every inch of it. The Last of Us demands exploration, not only to scour for needed supplies, but to satisfy your curiosity.

Joel and Ellie’s endless chatter is one of The Last of Us’ highlights.

The Last of Us is undoubtedly pretty to look at, but that beauty is often overshadowed by imminent peril. Joel and Ellie will confront enemies in all of the various locations they visit, and these battles represent the other side of what makes The Last of Us shine. Combat is tense and nerve-racking. Fighting is as emotionally taxing as it is physically dangerous, because the people Joel fights are, like him, just normal folks trying to survive. In a world where everyone has a singular motivation to keep breathing for one more day, it’s hard to judge even the harshest remnants of humanity you encounter.

Stealthily killing entire rooms of enemies is incredibly satisfying, so much so that when you blow your cover, it’s hard not to feel a sense of disappointment (especially when one of your companions occasionally fires a gun or walks in front of an enemy, which you can’t control). Holding down R2 while crouching lets Joel listen carefully to his surroundings, giving him a glimpse of enemy locations in his direct vicinity and an edge in staying away from danger. Some players may consider this a bit cheap, but I’d merely call it gamey. Just like the L3 prompts that tell you where to look and hints that appear if the game determines you’ve been stuck in an area too long (all of which can be turned off), Joel’s listening skill can simply be ignored if you feel like it doesn’t fit. But rest assured, it’s very helpful, especially later in your quest.

The beauty of stealth in The Last of Us is the incredible, uncomfortable realism you’re forced to witness each and every time you execute a silent kill. Watching a survivor fruitlessly swat at Joel’s arms as he strangles him to death is disturbing, as is quickly shiving a man in his neck and listening to him gurgle some parting breaths as he collapses to the ground. The Last of Us does a phenomenal job of making each and every enemy feel human. Every life taken has weight and each target feels unique and alive. It’s hard not to think about some of the older folks in particular, ones that remember the real world, lived in it, and were once normal. There’s an emotional pang when you’re taking out thugs that look a whole lot like you and your allies.

Of course, there are enemies that are decidedly inhuman in The Last of Us, too. The collapse of society was instigated by the sudden prevalence of a fungus that wreaks havoc on the human mind, and those humans – known not-so-lovingly as The Infected – are alive, but not well. No matter which faction of humanity a person falls on, whether he’s with the remnants of the federal government, or rogue groups known as Hunters, or even the mysterious resistance organization known as The Fireflies, everyone is united against The Infected. This is simply because The Infected can in turn infect others, further eroding humanity’s already dwindling numbers. They are a perpetual threat to even the slightest hope that humanity can one day step back from the precipice of extinction, and running into them is always frightening.

Unlike your human adversaries, who often work together, audibly communicate, plan their actions, and practice self-preservation, The Infected attack with reckless abandon, with absolutely no regard for their safety and with every intention of killing you. Fighting them is terrifying, especially during your first few encounters, and feels completely different than your engagements with pockets of humanity. The lesser versions of The Infected, colloquially known as Runners, can be taken out with firearms and melee strikes alike, but it’s the Clickers – characters so infected by the Cordyceps fungus that they can’t even see – that will haunt your dreams. They can only be killed with silent shiv strikes or via firearm – silence is more often than not your best weapon against them — but if they so much as get their hands on you, it’s game over. In this world, they are the true threat. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get comfortable dealing with them, of being mere feet away from them, crouching, hoping they don’t somehow sense you.

Another brilliant aspect of The Last of Us is its crafting options, all of which happen in real-time. With the exception of actually going to a pause menu, there’s no way to stop the action, so you need to find lulls in order to scavenge for items, put them together and create new goods that can be used both curatively and offensively. The system is extra tense considering you can use, say, alcohol and rags to create either a healing pack or a Molotov Cocktail, but not both with the same goods. Thoroughly exploring environments nets you the components necessary for item creation, giving you yet another reason to inspect surroundings already begging to be rummaged. And item scarcity, a perpetual issue in the world of The Last of Us, means that everything you find is precious in its own way. There aren’t any factories making more of anything you find, and that includes the greatest prize of all: bullets.

Ellie is undeniably the star of the show.

This perpetuates real consequences based on your decisions. Will you use those scissors and some tape to create a shiv? Or will you attach them to the end of a pole to create a makeshift weapon of war? Will you create a smoke bomb only because you found sugar in the environment and can only carry more if you use what you already have? Or do you bypass the sugar and hope you don’t need it – or what you can make from it – later on? Will you opt for melee strikes to save ammo for another day? Or will you walk in guns-blazing and hope you find shells on the bodies you leave in your wake? How you choose to navigate these forks in the road have considerable effects on how you approach future enemy encounters, adding a special dynamic to The Last of Us not found in very many games.

Joel can also upgrade himself with pills and other supplements hidden throughout the adventure, though here you’ll also have to make careful choices, as there isn’t enough medicine in one playthrough to fully upgrade him. Likewise, all of your weapons, from pistols to shotguns and rifles, can also be upgraded using parts and tools found on your journey. Similarly, you won’t be able to max-out everything, so you’ll need to make thoughtful decisions. This adds an analytical, tactical slant to The Last of Us not found in the likes of Uncharted, though if you really want to upgrade Joel and his goods fully, you could always take advantage of The Last of Us’ very welcome New Game+ feature.

While the campaign is absolutely worth playing through multiple times, The Last of Us also comes packing a robust, rich multiplayer mode that isn’t simply a retread of Uncharted’s. In fact, The Last of Us’ multiplayer seems decidedly scaled back in order to fit it into the context of the post-civilization United States, with small player counts and only two modes that pay exceptional detail to the greater context of the single-player campaign.

The Last of Us’ online functionality exists within a mode called Factions. Once you begin, you choose one of two sides and then jump into one of two sub-modes: Supply Raid and Survivors. Both are atypical in their approach, especially Survivors, which presents players with a best-of-seven series in a four-on-four match where death is brutally permanent. Survivors forces meticulous play virtually ripped right out of the campaign, except instead of fighting AI-controlled partners, you’ll be dealing with even smarter humans. It’s a truly fun mode, one where every player on the map is overflowing with nerves and afraid to make a mistake.

Supply Raid, on the other hand, is about whittling down your team by eroding their overall life count. It’s more generic than its counterpart, but the idea of having a shared number of lives forces you to strive for better play. It makes you not want to be the reason your team loses, it makes you not want to make silly blunders. Like Survivors, Supply Raid also allows you to craft items on the fly using components found on the map and feels a whole lot like the single-player game. By scaling back the modes and the player counts from the likes of Uncharted, Naughty Dog has removed the tall barrier between single player and multiplayer and has made the two feel interconnected, even ancillarily.

Playing The Last of Us online is exceptionally fun.

What’s especially neat about The Last of Us’ online functionality is the metagame that transcends everything you do. When playing online, your character – who is fully customizable in both appearance and loadout – is the leader of a band of survivors. Successfully navigating online matches, collecting items and engaging in one-off challenges called Missions helps grow your band. Of course, if you fail, your band decreases in size. It’s a simple system in premise, but it’s undeniably addicting when you start getting into it. It creates another, higher level, a different way to gauge your overall success by something other than wins or losses and your kill-to-death ratio. Like the single-player campaign, which judges your actions based on future consequences, so too does multiplayer in The Last of Us reward or detract based upon performances that, at the time, may not seem entirely consequential.

Then again, The Last of Us is still all about its single player campaign. Many players will never jump online, and frankly, they won’t be missing out on what truly makes the overall package so incredibly special, so exceptionally noteworthy, such a must-play experience.

THE VERDICT

PlayStation 3 isn’t only well-known for its number of exclusive games, but for the sheer number of quality exclusives. That’s what makes The Last of Us even more impressive, because not only does it join the ranks of Uncharted, Killzone, God of War, Infamous and more, but it bests them all. In short, Naughty Dog has crafted a game that impresses in virtually every way. The Last of Us is a true feat.

Its unrivaled presentation in particular sets the bar even higher than the Uncharted trilogy already did, and its writing, voice acting and layered gameplay combine to create what is very easily the game to beat for Game of the Year 2013.

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