The Last of Us marks a fresh start for Naughty Dog, and the creation of a dark, unimaginable world.
Published on Mar 8, 2012
The Last Of Us picks up 20 years after society has, well, let's just say it's not a society anymore. The Cordyceps fungal infection has made the jump to humans and the world has collapsed in on itself.
Living in one of the only remaining quarantine zones, player character Joel is tasked with a mission to deliver 14-year-old Ellie to a destination outside of the safe zone. Unsurprisingly, it goes to hell and the two end up trapped in the outside world.
More than that, we do not know, but it’s certainly an interesting setup, and is a shift away from the globetrotting, relic-hunting escapades of Nathan Drake and his pals.
However, we do know Naughty Dog is aiming to make the lead characters in The Last Of Us a bit more interesting than your usual gaming fare.
We’ve heard cries of this sort before, though, so we’re keeping a healthy level of scepticism for the time being. But that’s not to say what we’ve heard isn’t interesting.
It's clear that Joel isn’t a nice man. His morality has eroded to the point he’s willing to torture and murder to get his way – interesting, no doubt. Ellie, though, we know less about. But we want to find out how they fit into the games wider, volatile world.
After one look at screens of The Last of Us, and you’re likely to feel the same way we do and, in fact, the way Naughty Dog wants you to feel. The setting is beautiful, but it’s eerie. Odd, and definitely more than a bit wrong.
The Last of Us takes into account all of the ‘ruin porn’ flicks Naughty Dog has been watching, the way in which nature is constantly being batted back from encroaching on our towns and cities, and what happens when we let our guard down for two decades.
Naughty Dog taken influences from the usual areas you might expect and in some rather obvious ways, if you know what to look for. But unlike many other games where influences are ignored or denied, Naughty Dog is embracing those that give The Last Of Us direction.
Films such as No Country For Old Men, The Road, The Walking Dead and Children Of Men have all been touted by the devs - among others - as colouring and inspiring development. Though admittedly we’re yet to be told what gaming mechanics have guided their choices.
The in-game systems of The Last Of Us are based around a few central themes, one of which being dynamic stealth. Rather than the game flat-out telling you that ‘THIS IS A STEALTH SECTION’, players will be free to mix it up as they see fit.
This will involve ducking in and out of an enemy's line of sight, luring individual enemies away from groups and so on. When you consider the persistent health system – which means there is no ducking behind a wall to heal here – means the ability to change strategy on the fly will be essential.
Seeing as The Last Of Us has players escorting Ellie as an NPC, it’s fair for our brains to fear the worst. Naughty Dog knows this and has gone to great pains to make sure the AI in the game is not ruinous to the experience.
Ellie will not break your stealth, she will not get in the way or get stuck in a corner, but she will help out sometimes. Similarly, enemy AI has been made with more emphasis on realism – ‘lethality’, ‘reality’ and ‘unpredictability’ all words thrown around by Naughty Dog.
With the dust only just settling on Naughty Dog's impeccable Uncharted trilogy, it's easy to get carried away with the notion that the Last of Us will simply follow the Uncharted formula of action and high-flying set pieces.
But that does the creativity of the developer a great disservice, so we're willing to hold out for something new and special from The Last of Us in the coming months. Go on Naughty Dog, surprise us all.