|Dev: Naughty Dog|
|Release: June 14, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Bruce
Staying at the top is a hard thing to do in the gaming industry. Despite this, Naughty Dog has delivered time and time again, creating some of the most beloved characters and series in the medium. Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted have all been runaway hits for the developer, and their newest creation, The Last of Us, looks poised to continue the trend. Needless to say, when I found out I was going to spend some quality time in Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic, fungus-zombie-infested world, I was more than a little excited.
For those of you not in the know, The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic third-person adventure game. The premise is that there’s an aggressive fungus that uses humans as hosts, evolving them into creatures that have one sole purpose: to spread the virus they carry. You take on the role of Joel, a black-market veteran whose morals were compromised long ago, and are roped into escorting a young girl named Ellie across the U.S., dodging the infected and scavengers along the way.
The first thing I noticed about The Last of Us, even in its pre-alpha state, was the level of detail in the environment. The game takes place twenty years after the fall of civilization, a fact that shows brilliantly. The landscape and crumbling buildings are littered with debris and plant life, and what you get is a living, breathing world, full of minutia that is so complete you can actually feel the age in the environment. Buildings have slowly collapsed into one another, and portions of streets have caved in, creating an ever-evolving puzzle to solve as you find your way across it.
One of my major concerns prior to playing was the control scheme. What I didn’t want to see was a rehashed Nathan Drake that could jump and climb around the world with ease. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Joel’s controls are completely organic to the experience and nothing like the acrobatics of the Uncharted series. The control scheme from The Last of Us feels decidedly slower and more direct, which would be a problem if it weren’t completely intentional. Joel isn’t exactly a spring chicken, so ridiculous long-distance jumps and the ability to hang from a ledge indefinitely are pretty much out of the question. He is perfectly capable of traversing the environment competently, but he does so carefully, which is necessary in this dangerous environment.
An excellent addition to the control scheme is the integration of the gyroscopic capability of the DualShock controller. When your flashlight begins to die out you can actually tap your controller against your hand as you would with a real flashlight to squeeze those last few minutes of battery life from the light source. While it’s a fairly minor addition, I found that this added an extra layer of immersion to an already engrossing experience.
During the course of play, I was treated to some horrifying depictions of the cordyceps infection. A multi-stage evolutionary process, the fungus takes over a human host and begins to grow from within. The newly infected still look mostly human, but the late stages of the infection turn them into what is known as a “Clicker.” Clickers can be likened to the Elites from Halo, much tougher to kill than their counterparts. They are completely blind; the fungus has grown through their eye sockets, so they rely on using echolocation to locate their prey. Alerting a Clicker is a pretty terrifying experience, especially the first time. They are extremely sensitive to sound, so plan your movement wisely, because if these guys get ahold of you it’s most likely game over.