The Last of Us does an impressive job of making each encounter feel unique. Even when you're coming upon your tenth batch of infected, the distinctive environments make each battle seem like a new experience. Combat isn't just a run-and-gun affair, however, as in most circumstances you'll be sorely outclassed and outnumbered, so you'll need to use stealth to silently dispatch as many of the opponents as possible before engaging in a gunfight. The scenarios are so well planned and designed that you'll find yourself holding your breath for what seems forever, listening to bandits conversing or zombies feeding, and waiting for just the right moment to strike. The stealth and combat are both immensely satisfying, even as you're replaying a difficult section several times in a row, and there is a distinct sense of accomplishment for getting a segment right on the first try. In some areas, however, the enemies seem to come in endless waves, which can get tiresome despite the thrill of combat. These areas can feel a little too high intensity for what is otherwise an at-your-own-pace experience.
Crafting in The Last of Us doesn't do anything to further the story or the characters, but it doesn't seem out of place either. Since you're crafting fairly rudimentary items like a shiv or a med kit, it never feels like you're an out of place crazed engineer assembling his latest invention. Instead you just feel like a guy in need of a shiv for a particular situation, like that pesky locked door that needs to be jimmied open, which invariably rewards you for expending the energy and resources to do so. On top of lucratively opening doors, the crafted shiv also allows you to execute Clickers, and even fend them off when they grab you, which is otherwise an immediate checkpoint load. The nail bomb, Molotov cocktail, and other advanced crafting feats leave a bit to be desired as compared to the more utilitarian items, but they at least offer a little more flexibility in how you approach your next combat situation.
The characters in The Last of Us are relatable without being entirely stereotypical, the story is driven by the characters, rather than the reverse, and the adventure sections, while nothing new mechanically, offer a great way to really delve into the world. Given the lack of truly innovative mechanics, and the reliance on well-known types of gameplay, like the all-too-typical "find a ladder to climb to the next section" adventuring bits, The Last of Us isn't perfect, but it's awfully close.
Bottom Line: The Last of Us breathes new life into a vastly overused genre, setting the bar for post-apocalyptic stories to come. It doesn't do anything new mechanically, but you'll be entirely too invested in the progress of the remarkably down-to-earth characters to care.
Recommendation: If you own a PS3 and like to get emotionally invested in the characters you play, go buy The Last of Us. If you fall into the latter category and don't own a PS3, it might be time to reconsider your decision.
Multiplayer was not available at the time of this review.