The Last of Us isn’t your regular ‘run of the mill’ mindless survival horror game. It is a genre which we have progressively seen more of this generation with titles such as Dead Space, Silent Hill, Resident Evil and F.E.A.R keeping gamers on the edge of their seats and perilously clutching their controllers. Naughty Dog, developers of the critically-acclaimed Playstation exclusive Uncharted, has been the team behind The Last of Us. With the current generation of consoles coming close to being yesterday’s news, I was given the opportunity over the weekend to sample what could be the last great PS3 exclusive title at my local GAME store in a special lock-in event.
I had an opportunity to play through a specific part of The Last of Us for two hours and the section which was available to play was around 30-40 minutes long. Within that time, I was able to complete the section twice and speak with fellow gamers about how highly they are anticipating the game. One of the first points the Sony representative was keen to point out was that the game which I was playing was the pre-alpha version. This means that it wasn’t a fair reflection on the final version of the game. This version will not be the demo which is released later in the month with God of War: Ascension.
As most gamers who have had some experience of the Playstation 3, one of their first reactions to the look of The Last of Us will be that it is reminiscent of Uncharted, which certainly is not a bad thing. From the beginning to the end of the section which I played, everything was very dull as buildings were destroyed, the sky was grey and there wasn’t much light to be had. However, from gameplay trailers that have been released since the game was revealed, we can see that there is more to The Last of Us environment than just different scales of grey. Even in the pre-alpha version, the game looked beautiful.
Many who have been anticipating the game have been looking forward to the relationship between Joel and Ellie and see what part she plays in the outcome of the story. From the preview, there wasn’t anything in terms of the storyline and Ellie didn’t add much to the experience. Tess was an additional character which I didn’t expect to see. It turns out that Tess was in a relationship with Joel at one point but this in no longer the case. As I found she becomes a very useful ally as your ammunition runs low, she can also shoot the enemies too and this buys you some time to decide what to do next.
The enemies in the Last of Us, which I experienced, came in two types. First of all there is the infected. These former humans have suffered from a cordyceps-type virus and can end Joel’s life in one bite, which adds to the aspect of realism in the game. These enemies are easy to spot as they have large fungal growths sprouting from their heads and their senses mean that you either have to shoot their heads off or distract them and make your way around them. The other enemy which I encountered were the Runners. Runners aren’t as dangerous as the infected as you can fend them off with melee weapons and hand-to-hand combat which is satisfying when you finally send one to the floor after several punches. If the Runners gather in a group to attack you, it becomes difficult as they all look to beat you to death. You can escape these groups by holding in L2 and running for space in which to make your next move.
Joel’s movement feels very natural and there are some great features which you can use to your advantage. If you are unsure of what is up ahead, you can hold in R2 and this will show a shadow of all the enemies in the direction which you are looking so you can safely plan your next action. As well as this, you often find bricks and bottles to use to your advantage and for me, this is an excellent feature. There was one section which seen you, Tess and Ellie spotting an infected enemy and trying to get past it without being spotted. You can then pick up a bottle, throw it to the other end of the room to distract the infected while keeping your ammunition and avoid being killed. One section which I experienced had 4 runners and one infected vying for my life and I used the bricks and bottles to distract them. Once I had snuck past them, I had to open a door on a ledge which made a huge noise. This resulted in them all hearing me but I had managed to buy myself some time to react to this problem.
The main thing which hits home with The Last of Us is that you cannot mindlessly shoot the infected like in so many other survival horror games. Instead, you need to be reserved with your ammunition and conserve each bullet until you have no other option because you do not find supplies in vast amounts. The one game which I could compare the survival aspect of The Last of Us would be I Am Alive as supplies are so hard to come across and you need to make the most of everything which you find whether it’s scissors, tape and cloths. You are allowed to create medi-kits, melee weapons and Molotov cocktails anywhere by pressing select and R1. Enemies do drop some ammo but is usually 1 or 2 bullets at a time. Another way to take out the runners, if they are standing still with their heads down, is to sneak up behind them and press triangle followed by square to choke them to death. With so many ways to take on these monsters, there is always an aspect of excitement when confronted with these dangers and some of the features were impressive.
The Last of Us has left a great impression with me. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the preview twice as the second was just as exciting as the first. The game looks great and although there wasn’t much to be had in terms of the story, I’m sure the game will have an exceptional storyline. Naughty Dog has had major success in the past with Uncharted and from what I have seen so far, this will be up there for game of the year. The only thing which could potentially hold it back would be the multiplayer aspect of the game, which I couldn’t play but I feel after playing a part of the campaign it isn’t needed. With a potential great storyline and excellent gameplay features, The Last of Us is certainly one to look forward to next month.