The Grounded Bundle for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, is the third and final major downloadable content package for last year’s game of the year.
It comprises of several new skills and weapons and four new multiplayer maps. For the single player campaign, it also offers a harder skill level to add to the challenge. We’ve spent the week checking everything out and bring you the highs and lows of the final offering.
‘Reclaimed Territories’ Maps
The Wharf level is a fantastic addition, it took a little getting used to at first, with its warehouse on the docks and large ship interior to find your way through, combined with a large outdoor area, complete with the shipping containers seen in the campaign (when Joel and Tess go looking for Robert). The seasoned sniper can take advantage of the two sniper’s nests in the level, but it’s not a great one for learning your sniping craft as ample cover makes a stealthy approach to take down the snipers a viable option.
Best suited to close quarters combat and shorter range weaponry. Take the time to learn the map, but expect to feel a little lost at first!
A great location from the main game that is put to good use in multiplayer. It’s quite an unusual map as it has highs, lows and slopes. The higher areas, within the capitol building, are great for flanking, but offer little cover once you’re spotted. Likewise, the outside areas are on a downhill slope making you easy to spot, but given ample cover for the patient attack.
A good map for Interrogation mode, though it did feel like one of the safes was placed in an easier-to-defend spot than the other on a couple of our games.
Possibly our favourite of the new maps. The Coal Mine level is taken from the snow covered area where Ellie encounters David in the story mode. A bright, day time map with some interesting interiors and some dynamic outdoor areas with a variety of ways to sneak around.
A few choke points in the interior sections led to many explosive confrontations between teams. Indeed, on two rounds of survivors, we saw six of the eight participants taken out within the first minute in one of the larger interiors.
It also has an awesome overhead walkway, similar to the one in the bus depot level from the Abandoned Territories map pack, only with a ladder that leads up to it from the ground below. Many bombs get hidden at the top of this ladder, so beware the ascent!
The Water Tower map is largely an outdoor area, though there are a few buildings strewn about the landscape that you can enter, or climb or both. It’s an unusual level in that it seems quite open, because of the outdoor scenario, but because it’s such a flat map, it has very few long lines of sight and is therefore better suited to melee and close-quarters weapons. We were met with many shotguns and shortys in the games we played. Snipers DO have perches available, but are all too easy to approach unseen, so if you like to snipe, remember to keep moving after your shots!
A great level for playing Survivor mode as the fast paced, close range combat makes for swift and violent rounds, but the tight corners and short sight lines make it possible to survive – even if you are the last man standing!
There are a number of new skills brought into the mix, all of which we tried – only a few of which stood out. The good news is, there really is something for everyone. You are bound to find a new skill that perfectly compliments your play style or strengths. The bad news is, because they have designed the skills in such a nuanced way, there are going to be some new skills that don’t suit you and thus you will hardly ever use.
With this in mind, we’ll highlight a couple that suited our skill set, but remember, your favourites could just as easily be found elsewhere.
The standouts for us were ‘Agility’, which lets you walk, climb and crouch walk much faster – almost reaching running pace at max level; and ‘Executioner’, which grants you extra shiv attacks with a crafted shiv (i.e. not the one you start with if you equip ‘Covert’ skill) and heaps extra parts on you for every shiv kill you rack up.
As avid ‘Interrogation Mode’ players, its no surprise we embraced the stealthier, shiv killing skills. Bomb Expert gets an honourable mention, especially at max level as you can toss a smoke grenade at your opponent and, not only does it explode virtually on impact, but you can chase in after it without the risk of choking yourself on your own smoke!
Similarly, though ‘Fortitude’ (which lets you crawl faster and bleed out slower when downed) is awesome for Survivor or Supply Raid, it has no place in the Interrogation mode as, once downed, you generally hope to bleed out as soon as possible to avoid being interrogated.
‘Scavenger’ is a handy skill too, as it lets you auto-collect dropped ammo and even crafting materials on the top level, but is best suited to those who like to run in guns blazing. Those of us who play a slower, more cautious game are quite happy to retrieve ammo ourselves and spend our skill points elsewhere.
You’ll hear a lot of people bemoaning the new weapons as unbalanced, unfair or overpowered. To be honest, I had fears myself. However, after extended play, we found that most of the weapons actually slot into the mix pretty well. So well that they were soon disregarded for our favourite older weapons. That isn’t meant as a criticism, we were hoping not to be enthralled by the power of new weapons.
The launcher, that we had worried would sit at odds with the game is, in our opinion, not the lethal walking cannon we’d feared. It’s high powered, low ammo’ed and not particularly easy to use. It’s certainly less of a threat than the humble molotov (the internet’s favourite weapon to whine about being over powered…).
The full-auto rifle is very powerful, but eats ammo and is poor at distance. What it DOES have is awesome stopping power. It’s the gun of choice for those of you getting repeatedly planked in the face, as its stopping power will hold off the ensuing attack until the enemy is downed (sadly, I found that out the hard way)!
Our favourite weapon was the double-barreled shotgun. It’s a dirt cheap purchasable weapon that packs a hell of a punch at close range – better than the shorty. We found using this weapon on the Wharf and Water Tower levels to be a lethal combination!
The Grounded Mode difficulty is a tough one to call. If you’re struggling to maintain your sanity, playing through with shredded nerves on the previous hardest mode, ‘Survivor’ – the Grounded difficulty is a challenge of epic proportions that awaits you when you finally get through Survivor. It is NOT for the feint of heart!
However, if you have played through Survivor multiple times, know the best ways to sneak, how to avoid the bigger confrontations and know all the exploits and tricks like the back of your hand – chances are you could be a little disappointed with Grounded difficulty as most of the same tricks will work here too. Should things break down and you get spotted, you WILL get killed even quicker than on Survivor, but it may not be the huge leap in difficulty you were hoping for?
Overall, the Grounded bundle is a superb addition to what is already the best game available on the PS3. Come summer, it may also be the best game available on the PS4. It’s our favourite of all the DLC packs, including the stunning Left Behind single player DLC. However, we are aware that, despite the extra hard difficulty added to the single player game, this is definitely a multiplayer first DLC and as such you should only consider purchasing this if you are going to put the time into Factions. The good news is, if you own the Season Pass, all content is included. Further to that, if all you care about is single player, the Grounded Mode difficulty is also available as a stand alone purchase.
If you haven’t yet purchased the Season Pass for The Last of Us, you have missed the boat. The Season Pass is no longer available on Playstation Network. How this will affect the upcoming PS4 Remastered version of the game remains to be seen.
The Grounded Bundle is available for purchase now on the Playstation Store.
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.