Pros: Fantastic characters and believable story
Cons: Generic gameplay, linear level design
As far as the back-story, this game's is much more believable than you might think. Some of you might be familiar with the fungi genus cordyceps that grows on insects in the tropical regions. It consumes the insect’s mind, driving it insane, before eventually consuming the entire creature and releasing spores. Apparently, this fungus started growing on humans, generating a similar result. Thus, the monsters are not really “Zombies”, but still living and breathing humans driven insane and consumed by the mutation of cordyceps.
A lot of moments in the story were very intense, others touching. This is impacted by the character building, which has been radically improved from other games (or even other forms of media, such as movies and TV shows, i.e. The Walking Dead, etc.). The game spans over 20 years – mostly focusing on year 21 – in about 16 hours.
As far as gameplay goes, the game feels a lot like other action/adventure games. There really were not any improvements, or weak points for that matter. It was standard, no more, no less. However, the game is more story driven than combat driven, so this isn't much of a problem.
The graphics were good, but everything was held back just because of the PS3. The Last of Us doesn't actually support Anti-Aliasing or 1080p, so through the entire game I had to deal with jagged edges. A few hours in, my brain adapted to them, so again this isn't much of a problem. Sometimes it really took away from the general immersion though. Other than that, the world is believable and the art direction is nothing short of fantastic. The animations are also very good – including those in the facial area. Characters move and speak exactly like a person would in real life.
I did have a little bit of a problem with the world though. It was felt very linear, like I was closed in a box. A lot of the time this isn't a problem, but I felt that the developers could have been a little more creative about it. For instance, you might walk into a house that has three stories and a basement. However, there are boards on the stairwell blocking access to the basement, and furniture has somehow walked its way into the hallway and fallen down the stairs, blocking off the third floor. So, you open the door on the second story and BAM – scripted events inside! The Last of Us is always like this. It felt like every single room, alleyway, or car lot had only one very strict path to follow. “Oh look, there’s a fenced off area with two cars conveniently stacked so I can climb over into an alley that leads to more scripted events!” It gets fairly bad sometimes. Puzzles in the game are like this too. Instead of working out a solution, you simply have to find a ladder that’s always hidden nearby.
Overall, despite minor gripes about gameplay, The Last of Us conveys a believable story with great characters, which is all that really counts in the end. I recommend that you buy the game, but please don’t purchase a PS3 just to play this one game. As far as the collector's edition content, I thought it was worth it for the art. The other items aren't that impressive to be honest.