The Last Of Us On PS3: Gameplay Dissected & Release Date
Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us was met with raptuous applause at this year’s E3, rightly hailed as one of the games of the show. But what are the elements that make it stand head and shoulders above all the other post-apocalyptic games that have gone before it and even Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted games? Read on to find out.
It’s really, really violent
But not violent for violent’s sake, there’s a good reason. The Last Of Us’s violence is up close and mostly personal because there isn’t much ammo and because you have no choice. You see the whites of the eyes of your victims as you suffocate the last breath out of them. This really brings home the idea that this is a fight for survival, that it’s you or them. It makes the whole experience more intense.
An NPC that helps you when you’re in trouble
This is an evolution of the whole Nathan Drake/Elena relationship in Uncharted. There are times when Ellie helps Joe – throws a brick to distract an enemy, jumps on the back of an assailant and stabs him in the back as he bears down on Joe… Her role, it seems is part guide, part story device (enabling Joe to explain the situations he’s in by talking to someone other than himself) and part helper when the player gets into trouble.
Smart enemies react to your actions
The Last Of Us’s enemies will react to your situation. For example, in one moment Joe runs out of ammo, the enemy hears the click of his empty gun and remarks, “I know that sound,” and then comes forward confidently, knowing that Joe’s out of bullets. In another moment Joe has an enemy held as a human shield, when he’s just about to fire, the shield struggles, causing Joe’s aim to slip and waste a precious bullet.
Good resource management will see you survive
The Last Of Us is a survival game (survival horror?) so it looks like managing resources will be a key element. It appears that different objects can be used in different ways too. The gameplay video shows how combining a bottle of alcohol with a binding can craft a molotov cocktail but the binding could also be used with a bandage to create a health. Items will take time to craft too, meaning that you’ll need to consider not only what you craft but when you craft it too. It’ll be no use crafting a health pack in the middle of a firefight, for example.
Ammo is in short supply
One of the most effective ways of creating fear and tension in a game is by making the player feel vulnerable. It’s a lesson that Resident Evil first taught us and a lesson that Dead Space 2 forget about three hours in. It looks as if ammunition is very hard to come by in The Last Of Us – running out during a firefight is a real possibility so a decision needs to be taken before each fight – do I have enough ammo to win? ‘Ammo management’ isn’t a USP you’ll likely see advertised on the back of The Last Of Us’s box, but it’s okay by us.
A new level of contextual animation and sound
The contextual in Uncharted is great – see the way that Nathan Drake’s animation changes according to how he’s feeling or where he’s walking. The Last Of Us take this idea even further. See how Joe’s and Ellie’s hands go flat up against surfaces when they’re near, notice how Ellie points things out to Joe (like the Dawn Of The Wolf poster in the walkthrough trailer), or looks around an overgrown hotel lobby. This attention to detail helps create the illusion that you’re existing in a real place, with real people.
Sound also has a big part to play in this regard. For example, a creaking staircase gives you the impression that it’s unsafe in the area you’re walking into or the way that Ellie asks “you okay?” when Joel takes a bullet. Normally bullets just ricochet off videogame heroes but when you’ve got someone pointing out that you just taken a bullet, it seems like it actually has consequence. Even if your health is still represented by a health bar.
Destroyed beauty at its most beautiful
Post-apocalyptic games have been done to death but The Last Of Us does it a little differently. The world of The Last Of Us may be a desolate wasteland framed with dilapidated buildings and inhabited by desperate, feral humans but it’s still a colourful place. Not colourful by Uncharted standards – its palette has been toned down somewhat – but its green trees and blue skies contrast with the usual greys and browns you get in most visions of a destroyed future. It reminiscent of Enslaved albeit with a more grounded setting.
In addition to this, there’s the amazing overall graphical fidelity of The Last Of Us. The density of the world, the richness of textures, water and lighting effects. It’s a whole new level above Uncharted 3 and one of the best-looking games of this generation.
Sony has yet to announce an official release date but it has confirmed The Last Of Us will be out in ‘fiscal year 2012’, so that means it’ll probably out in March next year. We can’t wait.