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The Last of Us is early contender for best video game of 2013

In "The Last of Us," players guide survivors

In "The Last of Us," players guide survivors Joel and Ellie across a post-apocalyptic version of the United States. (Credit: Naughty Dog)

Joel, a ragged survivor in a post-apocalyptic version of Boston, hugs the wall as a horribly mutated human growls and snarls just feet away from him. Carefully, he tosses a brick to distract the creature and sneaks around it, clambering away as the monster’s pained screams fade off into the distance. This is a typical encounter in “The Last of Us,” a game that makes the player feel vulnerable and scared in all the right ways.

“The Last of Us” is the best video game so far this year. Developer Naughty Dog, which made headlines with its blockbuster “Uncharted” series, has created a game that is so powerful and so tense that you might not be able to put it down.

The game, released June 14 for Playstation 3, starts off with Joel, the main character, trying to save his daughter from a world gone mad with humans infected by a terrible fungal virus. But it quickly jumps ahead 20 years into the future, where the world as we know it is no more.

Buildings lie in ruin, cities reside under martial law, and those who remain have learned to do anything it takes to survive. As Joel, the player is tasked with transporting Ellie, a young girl, across the country to safety. Along the way, Joel encounters infected humans, enemy soldiers and groups of survivors whose only wish is to take what you have for themselves. And while this may sound like typical video game fare, “The Last of Us” challenges players with minimal ammunition and supplies, forcing them to sneak through enemy groups and improvise constantly.

While there’s plenty of combat in “The Last of Us,” the most memorable aspects of the game are the characters introduced – and developed – along the way. Joel and Ellie feel like real people, and endear themselves, emotionally, to gamers in a way that few other game characters ever have. In fact, the last game to feature such poignant connections between character and player was probably last year’s spectacular “The Walking Dead.” And the ending to “The Last of Us” is so affecting that you’ll be reliving it for days after you finish.

“The Last of Us” also features a tense multiplayer mode called Factions, where teams have to work together to scavenge supplies and defeat the enemy team, adding an extra layer to an already thrilling campaign. You can believe the hype – “The Last of Us” is a game you’ll surely enjoy.

Bottom Line: “The Last of Us” is gorgeous, engrossing, and tells an amazing story that you won’t forget anytime soon. Pick this one up as soon as you can.

5 out of 5 stars

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