I can’t remember the last game that pulled me this much in.. Maybe HALO 2 or -4 (Xbox), or the first Dead Space (PC) (also highly recommended if you haven’t played those..)
The game is amazing, mostly because of the story, but the gameplay is also very immersive and it’s almost taken every single good mechanic and included in the game. Seriously, go check for yourself, I can come up with very little they’re missing.
WARNING: THIS CONTAINS GAMEPLAY SPOILERS.. It’s not “story spoilers”, like “omg that guy dies” but more like.. Weapons and how the game plays out, is it scary?.. how are the levels designed?
Edit: I spent another 2 hours on the game, and finished another 14%.. so I’m 63% through and still loving it! I added the bullets about self-humor and soundtrack.
- I have no clue how far I am in the game, but I’ve “found” a reasonable amount of weapons and “things I can craft” so maybe I’d say 40-70% in.. Yeah. Read bullet 10. That’s how it should be! (the ps3 said 47% progress when I saved the game afterwards..)
- holy f… This game is good. That’s it. Moving on.
- You do not upgrade the damage on your ranged weapons. I like that. You can upgrade reload speed, rate of fire, clip capacity.. stuff like that.. because that makes sense to upgrade; it’s not like “lol, now your bullets do twice the damage!” What!? Why?!..
Your throwables and melees however can be upgraded to do more damage, but it’s either through crafting (obviously attaching scissors to a baseball bat makes it do more damage) or finding survival manuals that “teach” you how to create more efficient molotov-cocktails (which also makes sense.. if you construct it better it’ll work better i.e. blow up in a larger area)
- There’s a tonne of stuff to collect.
- Because the game has its own cute little crafting system where you make stuff like health kits, throwable weapons or create/enhance melee weapons, and you need to find materials for this,
- The game has a weapon upgrade system that you have to find parts to use,
- The game has a physical upgrade system that you need to find pills to use,
- The survival manuals that enhance your throwables or melee weapons in some way; more durable, more damage,
- Collectables that add dialogue to the game, notes that add story to the game or don’t do anything at all.
This all makes it so you have to check every little corner of the game.. and that feels like a tiny waste of time/a simple way to make the player spend more time playing the game, because if you don’t take the time to check for stuff and you later run out of health kits.. you’re simply not paying attention to the fact that you’re trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.. But.. On the other hand, the game is f***king beautiful; most of the time I actually just enjoyed looking around for secret rooms, details and cool things.
- Difficulty. I’m playing on normal and have only been really stuck once, which seems fair. At normal it shouldn’t be more than a small challenge and as long as enemies aren’t attacking you at the same time they’re still a minor nuisance.. I have died, a lot, but not more than a couple of times at most during one encounter.
- This game is Hitman: Zombie Edition. You spend a ton of time crouching behind things and assasinating either military, hunters (lawless vigilantes) or the actual zombie people, and when you’re not doing that, you’re just crouching somewhere to avoid being seen, or you’re throwing bricks or bottles to distract attention, i.e. like in Hitman.. It’s not a bad thing.. It’s a good way of making a game play slower and make it feel like there’s more gametime, and on the other hand.. You are supposed to be playing a lawless-freedom-fighter-smuggler-kinda guy, so crouching and hiding is probably the way to go. You can do an all-out shoot-up with everything around you, but usually you’ll want to avoid that.
- The acting in the game is so freakin’ good. I’ve seen in the documentary that they actually hand-modelled every frame of the faces; it’s only the bodies that are acted out in suits with electrodes on, and after-adjusted on computers (because.. lol.. let’s make the human move more realistically).
- On a PS3 aiming is hard, but there’s a tiny bit of auto-aim to help you out sometimes which I think is fair… I don’t know exactly what triggers it; most of the time you have to aim yourself and when you fuck up, you run out of ammo, and the zombies don’t die; you do.
During the game you’ll also meet other people and have to play alongside them from time to time, they will actually also be killing zombies, which seems nice, they’re not renegade zombie-destroyers, but they’re also not completely useless npc just running around headlessly behind you. This is nice and it makes sense that the people with weapons around you are actually using the weapons to not get killed.
- Some zombie-types will kill you when they get to you, this makes sense. You’re just a freakin’ human, albeit pretty cool, but if you have nothing to defend yourself with, it will start eating you; this infects you and the game, rather than letting you live for another “two hours” before you turn into a zombie and the bonus mission begins where you have to kill everyone… just counts you as dead and restarts the encounter.
- THERE IS NO LOADING DURING THE GAME!? What is up??
It feels like I’ve been watching a movie for the past 7 hrs straight, where I’m the protagonist and the story is happening around me with me in it?!
Seriously “any other game” learn from this.
There are no “levels” or “chapters” or natural point of pausing. The game just goes on! (Of course it’s not just one huge level, it has cutscenes and stuff, but it just flows so naturally!).
The game also isn’t “open world” but plays (very) linearly in more or less open environments; the least linearly is when you have maybe three different ways of moving back and forth between next part of a zone (for improvised sneaky sneaky) but a lot of the time you’ll be going through “one-way”-gates. So if you want to be really picky, you might suggest that rather than having chapters, the game just has a ton of short levels. More on this later.
- There is a couple of safes in the game that you have to find the combinations for. This is another one of those look for stuff things. However, it’s not like you can just type in the digits; you actually need an item/note with the combination written on it.
I think this is cool, people can’t just look on the internet for the code and type this in to unlock it; of course they can check online for the location of the item, but they still have to go there, so they still experience whatever you’ll be experiencing in these locations, and on the other hand, you can find guides online for everything, so they’d have to really include some strong random-location stuff to mitigate that.
The game also has a “Dead Space” kind of, “sacrifice an item to open a door“-thing where you can break open a locked door by expending one of a shiv, which is a melee weapon/tool. But where Dead Space used Power Nodes which felt really expensive and even sometimes punished you, by just unlocking really useless stuff, it doesn’t happen in tLoU. So yeah, spoiler alert. As you’ll figure out after the first couple of times that you’ve expended a shiv to get in one of those rooms. You’ll always want to go into these rooms. Sometimes they even almost give you enough of the materials needed to craft an entirely new shiv, you know, while stocking you up on ammo and health. Too bad if you don’t have a shiv when you meet one of these rooms.
- The game uses the f-word in its dialogue. I like that. It seems apt during a zombie apocalypse. I would probably even use worse myself; the game refrains from this. Mostly.
- The game makes fun of itself. Characters will sometimes exclamate an “urgh, this again”, or “yes, yes, I know what to do” when they have to “cooperate” on recurring gameplay artifacts like opening a heavy door and holding it open or similar things. This is a nice way of spicing up otherwise tedious and “used” gameplay, because they add new dialogue; and you’re really going to enjoy the dialogue.
- When you die, you go back to where the current “encounter” started.
An “encounter” can be everything from 2-10 minutes long, and comprise the “levels” the game is built seemlessly around.
When you however restart the encounter you have to “pick up” everything again that you’ve picked up during that encounter; this makes sense fair, because it has to look like you died and started over. But! where you restart the encounter isn’t necessarily where you thought the encounter started. Which means,
- You might have to actually go a tiny bit back to pick up everything, which can be a minor nuisance when the encounter actually depends on you going in the other direction, and
- Sometimes the locations are not in your favor, which sucks because since you died and restarted you’re obviously struggling so you don’t really need it to be even harder. I personally think this is annoying.
- It’s not a horror game! I mean… It has it’s moments where it’s kinda scary, and I have got my fair amount of scares and uncomfortable moments during the playtime..
But it’s not scary like Amnesia or stuff like that.. most of the time it really is more of a sneaky-assassin kinda game; you know, where the bad guys are monsters that tear your head off if they spot you.
But another thing is, I don’t think the game really wants to scare people (without saying what the game does and doesn’t. If you play a horrorgame, you get used to different mechanics that are used to make you uncomfortable; they barely use any of this), but more the game just don’t want people to rush through it; take your time, immerse into the story and world, and listen to the incredible soundtrack and how beautiful and spooky it can sound in different locations!
- Okay no. This is getting its own point. The soundtrack is amazing. It’s incredibly simple, so not like a big symphonic adventure like Halo or Battlefield. But that’s okay. It fits extremely well into the game and you’re never in doubt about whether you’re supposed to be happy, scared, really alert of enemies or crying. (Yeah, no spoilers, but did you honestly expect a game about a zombie-apocalypse to be a fun experience? so did I.. think again.) In the same area, the sounds in the game are very well crafted. The zombies (there’s a certain type.. that makes a certain sound…) will make you shiver the first numerous times you encounter them, and the guns and explosions just sound really good. A friend of mine actually made this an entire point in his salespitch, “dude, the sound of a gun firing in the game. Actually sounds like a real gun. This is the first game I’ve experienced that takes this seriously!”. I don’t know whether that’s true, but if that’s a thing you can take away from it, they’ve done something special.
- There’s NO annoying autosave icon on the screen every other minute.. The only stuff that’s annoying your immersion is,
- The weapon/health HUD that comes up when you have a weapon equipped and have used it in the last 30 seconds – which seems relevant to the game being played, and
- The stuff you can pick up/interact with – which seems relevant to the game being played.
This is very well done. Thank you Naughty Dog, you seem to have understood the difference between simply playing a videogame and being in a videogame.
That’s a lot of bullets, but I thought it was a nice way of doing it. Maybe I’ll check back when I’ve finished the game with some final thoughts!