‘THE LAST OF US’ (M)
Sony Computer Entertainment
There are few video game settings as ubiquitous as the post-apocalyptic world, so gamers inundated with fallen civilizations rarely lower their guns long enough to mourn the millions who lost their lives or ponder the moral implications of indiscriminately slaughtering the vicious few who remain. Equally jaded is Joel, the protagonist of “The Last of Us” and a man that’s gotten used to doing whatever is necessary to survive 20 years after a pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. His fourteen year-old companion, Ellie, on the other hand, maintains enough childlike innocence to ask the tough questions, and her conversations with Joel throughout the game’s bleak narrative bring heart to a genre we didn’t realize was missing it. Their relationship recalls that of the father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel, “The Road,” and remarkably, the game doesn’t suffer from that comparison.
“The Last of Us” contains many of the familiar tropes of third-person shooters. Enemies include an evil military, bloodthirsty scavengers and zombie-like infected, and in typical survival horror fashion, weapons are scarce and supplies must be fabricated. But through his interactions with Ellie, Joel’s detached world-weariness gradually gives way to long dormant emotions and heart-wrenching conflict, lending even the most clichéd aspects of the game a weightiness that feels fresh. There’s a pervasive feeling of tension, whether you’re engaged in an inevitable confrontation or desperately trying to sneak past an avoidable one, and the game’s occasional quieter moments — when you’re exploring the abandoned cities that nature has begun to reclaim, answering Ellie’s questions about the former world she’s never seen — are mesmerizing. The PlayStation 3 may be nearing the end of its lifespan, but it just managed to secure another entry on the list of the best games of this console generation.
“Fuse” is about as generic as third-person shooters get, with one exception: the titular alien technology that augments your firearm with character-specific superpowers. One weapon can project a protective force field, while another can turn enemies into brittle crystal, while yet another can fire crossbow darts that function as remote incendiary mines. Combining these handy abilities makes you a mercenary team to be reckoned with, assuming your teammates are controlled by flesh-and-blood friends. In the hands of the A.I., your comrades are far less enamored with their distinctive firepower, and you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time reviving them.
‘GRID 2’ (E)
“GRID 2” is a gorgeous racing game that strikes a nice balance between the unforgiving physics of a strict simulation and the straightforward simplicity of an arcade racer. Vehicles are uncomplicated and responsive, but accelerate too fast around a sharp corner, and a fishtailing spin into destruction will promptly remind you that you aren’t playing a kart racer. Of course, even these occasional miscalculations needn’t end your race, since the game handily allows you to shift time itself into reverse and back up to a point moments before you overestimated the adhesive power of your tires. CV