“The Last of Us is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing triple A titles to be announced in a long time.” There’s a sentence that, if you were to read to me just after the game’s announcement, would make me laugh and call you names (If you then explained you were quoting me from the future, I’d probably call the authorities and/or ask to use your time machine for some…uh…private matters). That’s because the undead/mutant/alien apocalypse thing is one of the most tired ideas in video games, maybe only drawing a close second to gritty military shooters. Leave it to Naughty Dog, though, to take a concept I couldn’t care less about and infuse it with character, atmosphere and a story that bears delving into.
The Last of Us centers around Joel and Ellie, two survivors making their way through the remains of Pittsburgh after a pandemic has decimated the general population. As far as we can tell from what’s been revealed so far, the plague has mutated or otherwise turned its victims into grotesque, mindless swarms, making the environment fraught with danger at every turn. Resource management is a must, with the city in ruins and survival tools hard to come by.
At E3 Judge’s Week just nine days ago journalists were shown the first demo of the game, and though no footage was provided, Shane Satterfield of Game Trailers transcribed the experience for all to see on Side Mission. The demo apparently coincides with the latest trailer to come out, which appears to be the opening cinematic to the gameplay Satterfield and others were exposed to last week:
“As it begins the pair is driving in a car and they pull up to an overgrown urban area. Joel has second thoughts and decides to keep going. As they drive along the player is shown the decay of a post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh until, eventually, a pair of staggering feet are shown. Joel draws his gun and tells Ellie to put on her seat belt. Ellie begins to panic as Joel barrels towards the injured man. She asks if they should help the injured man and he quickly states, “He’s not injured at all.”…“
And some highlights from what we didn’t see in the trailer:
“…Now the first guy who was feigning injury on the road comes in with a gun. Joel pulls out his own and the game goes into Uncharted’s cover-based gunplay as two more enemies appear. Eventually he runs out of ammo and Ellie tosses a brick, smashing the enemy in the head. Joel then rushes in and finishes him with a melee attack. He then drops another enemy with fisticuffs and finishes him off by bashing his head with a plank he finds on the ground.
…In a panic they climb out a window and begin hiding behind various vehicles. Joel has the plank he used earlier strapped to his back and eventually he creeps up behind one of the enemies and strangles him. He then scavenges his bullets utilizing the same exact interface and icons used in Uncharted.“
Most interesting of all, though, is what Naughty Dog reportedly said before showing off the demo:
“…Representatives from Naughty Dog took the stage to explain that the game is their take on the survival action genre. Set 20 years in the future after an outbreak has taken over the US, The Last of Us chronicles a cross-country journey shared by a middle-aged man named Joel and a young girl named Ellie. Naughty Dog stated that their main goal is to parallel the emotions of the player with Joel and Ellie and create a reality that you can invest in so that you believe that they exist. They want you to feel the same tension and survival instincts that they’re experiencing.
Lighting is paramount because there’s no electricity, so more ambient and soft lighting is used to make the environments feel richer. They also added that the music is not typical video game fodder. It does not parallel the action because they want it to foster some sort of emotional impact. They want the characters to feel real as they experience what Naughty Dog calls the balance of power. They explained that the pair will react differently based upon what resources they have and how many enemies they’re facing.“
The survival horror/action genres are heavily dependant on atmosphere and emotion. Anyone who has played a success like Amnesia: The Dark Descent or a failure like Silent Hill: Downpour can attest to that. Naughty Dog certainly seems to be taking that into account, and considering the Uncharted series is one of the industry’s best in those categories, The Last of Us has potential to be another massive hit.