Reviewed: September 7, 2008
Released: August 28, 2008
Just when you thought that game designers couldn’t come up with an original idea, leave it to three crazy guys tucked away in a cabin in the Himalayas to create one of the most unique PS3 titles of the year. The Last Guy has a story not unlike most survival horror games or zombie movies. An unexplained purple light blasted the Earth and anybody who was caught outdoors got turned into a zombie. Use that excuse the next time your mom tells you to “go outside and play”. Everyone who was indoors survived and now you must travel to 15 cities, find the survivors, and lead them back to designated Escape Zones so they can be evacuated. Simple…right? Not really.
Basically, you are the “last guy” or at least the last guy stupid enough to venture outdoors in a world populated by zombies. You travel up and down the deserted city streets, neighborhoods, and parks of notable cities like Washington D.C., San Francisco, Berlin, Yokohama, Santa Fe, London, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Stockholm. As you get close to survivors hiding inside buildings, in the trees, or even in their cars they will join up with you, forming a long snake-like line as you lead them in search of other survivors and hopefully a safe return to the designated Escape Zone.
Each level requires you to save a certain amount of people in a certain amount of time. You have a thermal vision mode that will allow you to spot green dots or larger clusters of people hiding indoors. This is a useful tool in locating the larger patches of survivors and planning your route through the city, but when using this mode you are unable to see the zombies. There are also some subtle nuances embedded in the gameplay to make things interesting.
First, your line of survivors can extend several blocks behind you and can include thousands of people. Of course, avoiding the patrolling zombies is far more difficult when you have a few hundred people in tow. You might cross a street when it’s all clear for you but what about that poor guy at the end of the line who won’t cross for 5-8 seconds? To help you keep things organized the Last Guy comes equipped with a stamina bar that slowly refills when you aren’t using an ability that drains it.
Stamina draining abilities include “sprinting”, which gives you a sustained burst of speed, but it also stretches out your line of survivors. You can also press the circle button to rally the survivors into a tighter formation that clusters around you – a great tool if you need to get everyone packed into a courtyard or alley until some danger has passed by. Your size of your stamina bar will naturally increase as your line of survivors continues to grow.
The core gameplay concept is quite simple but the execution and your ability to win each level will take lots of practice and memorization, and to mix things up, the game randomly scatters various power-ups around the city, so if you are planning on taking advantage of that rescue teleporter in Chinatown, it might not be there the next time you play the mission. Other power-ups include temporary invisibility, instant stamina restoration, and the ability to temporarily freeze all zombies on the map.
As you make your way through the 15 challenging levels in The Last Guy the designers mix things up by throwing new types of zombies at you as well as making the cities much larger and more complicated, forcing you to really strategize when it comes to plotting the ideal path through the city. Your standard zombie hobbles through the streets and seldom poses a threat, but then you have the bug zombies that scurry quickly down the streets sending people screaming and scrambling back inside – even people already in your line, which forces you to have to stand outside and collect them all over again.
You have mold zombies that slowly travel back and forth across the map and spore zombies that release this sickly yellow cloud that totally obscures your natural view. Your thermal vision will cut through the mist, but remember you can’t see the zombies. There are stampeding buffalo zombies that will charge at you once spotted. Gatekeepers will position themselves to guard certain paths and will follow you relentlessly once spotted, unless you can ditch them in the twisty streets.
Then you have the Chameleon zombies that are invisible in normal mode but you can see them when using thermal vision, and finally, the Big Zombie, which is basically a giant mouth and eyeballs embedded on the surface of the city. Every few minutes this zombie will let out a roar that sends shockwaves across the city. Anybody you have in your line will scramble back inside the nearest building. This makes for some interesting strategy since you have to time your rescues between roars. Naturally, if the Last Guy touches any of these zombies (even when frozen), he dies and it’s game over.
Ideally, your main goal is to get the required number of people back to the Escape Zone, but the scoring system encourages you to balance the risk versus reward of doing this with long lines of people. You are awarded bonus points based on your longest line, and there is a certain personal satisfaction of leading the entire required amount back to the zone in a single line. Of course, attempting these large rescues allows for little margin of error. Later in the game you are actually required to collect 800-1000 people all at once so you can surround an entire city block and collect the people hiding inside interior courtyards. The only way to collect these people is for the Last Guy to actually circle around the block and touch the end of his own line. Sprinting helps.
This might all sound a bit repetitive but believe me; it’s not. Each city introduces new zombies and a new map design. Some maps may have multiple Escape Zones while others may have a large one in the center of the map or perhaps one out to the edge of the city. All of these factors have to be considered as well as the number of people and the time limit required for success. Each city also has four VIP’s that need rescuing. Just finding these guys is hard enough, let alone getting them all back to the Escape Zone.
The Last Guy is extremely complex and also extremely simple in its visual design. Hearkening back to the origins of video games the text menus and funky block design of the human logo might scare next-gen gamers, but once you dive into the amazing high-resolution satellite photography for each of the cities you will be amazed. It would be impossible to create levels this visually complex and photorealistic.
The designers have then placed their own gameplay “walls” over this giant photo of the city, thus creating the maze you and your snaking line of survivors are forced to travel to reach safety. Obviously, playing from a mile above the city can make for some small characters and a loss of detail, and yes, it can be a bit troubles to navigate through some of the tighter alleys and tunnels. Thankfully, the thermal vision cuts through the complex photography and shows you paths through the city, and you have multiple levels of zoom, both in and out, so you can get closer to the streets for precise navigation, or zoom out to the max for a quick thermal check to see where the next big batch of people are hiding.
The zombies are uniquely style and easily identifiable, although there is not much to appreciate at such a small scale. There are subtle effects like fireworks for clearing out an entire city block at once or a dust trail behind your parade, especially when people scatter back into buildings. The yellowish mist is truly sick and looks quite vaporous, and even the shimmering shockwaves of the zombie roar look cool. My personal favorite design in the game is the evacuation ship that swoops in like an armored DustBuster and sucks up all the survivors like crumbs from the floor.
Thankfully, the game runs in 1080p so you can appreciate every last detail but you are still going to want a fairly large TV to play this game on – at least a 37” for true enjoyment, otherwise you will be forced to sit really close to the screen or play at zoomed in levels that don’t always help you stay aware of your surrounding.
The music in The Last Guy is as old school as you can get. It might even pre-date school. It’s annoying when you actually focus on it, but it has this odd ability to slip into the background and remain unnoticeable, at least until the one-minute warning and it picks up the tempo.
The rest of the sound package is various zombie noises unique to each type and some humorous crowd noises, usually screams of terror before they flee into buildings or cheers of delight as they stream into the safety of the Escape Zone. It’s all simple and very effective and surprisingly, it's all offered in Dolby Digital.
If you just added up the time limits for each level and assumed you could win on your first try (not bloody likely), The Last Guy would appear to be a 2-hour game. But when you factor in the VIP’s and a star rating awarded for each level, plus a secret bonus level for each chapter if you earn enough stars, plus the sheer design to keep besting your previous score, there is virtually no end in sight to the enjoyment you can have with this title.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more cities were to be offered at a later date as downloadable content. Meanwhile, you can focus on finding all those VIP’s, unlocking the four secret levels, and rising to the top of the online leaderboards. Play the demo then go spend the $10 for the full game – you won’t be sorry.
The Last Guy is a fun and quirky title that took me by total surprise. It has the look of a next-gen title with all of the gameplay and audio elements of something you might have played on your Atari 2600. You can make the game as strategic as you want and have a great time balancing the risk versus reward of trying to save an entire city while becoming the grand marshal of your very own parade.