|Dev: Naughty Dog|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
The Last of Us is something of an enigma at this point. Three teaser trailers, a mere four minutes in length combined, is all we've unwrapped, but the game, the developer, and the resulting speculation are enough to make any gamer salivate profusely. The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic survival adventure that's being sculpted by Uncharted developer Naughty Dog. With only shreds of initial information, there's still a whole heap of goodness waiting to surface. However, the bread crumbs we've been given are enough for us to get a flavor, and even guess at what's baking in the oven.
What we know about the game's backdrop is that this apocalypse was not brought about by a zombie uprising, global war, or alien invasion. (Well, it doesn't seem like an alien invasion so far.) Instead, it starts with the unfortunate discovery of a parasitic fungus that attaches and breeds through humans, giving them enhanced strength and speed but mutating them (rather grotesquely in the head), and reducing their intelligence to a primal and instinctive level. One trailer starts with a clip of an ant on a leaf, which then climbs a branch. Many have taken this as a clue that the fungus could be an altered form of Cordyceps unilateralis, a parasite that attacks ants, using them as hosts and quickly killing them after a few days.
This epidemic seems to have affected the entire globe, with riots and complete anarchy ensuing as the infected rate continually rises. Quarantine areas have been formed, but seem to have had little effect in stopping the spread of the fungus.
The most recent trailer introduces us to the protagonists of the story, Joel, a brutal survivor, and Ellie, a teenage girl with a wisdom beyond her age. They are struggling to stay alive against both the infected and uninfected in a metropolis long since fallen and now overgrown by the florae. Ellie doesn't seem to remember life before the epidemic, suggesting the game's timeline is most likely a dozen years or so after the turmoil began. Scrounging for any useful supplies, the two seem to simply live one day at a time, working to help each other survive.
There's no gameplay footage yet to give us any clues as to how Joel and Ellie control or how players will navigate the environment, or even how combat functions. However, the cinematics are similar in quality to that of Naughty Dog's Uncharted series, so it's plausible for us to believe that many of the gameplay elements will mirror Nathan Drake's treasure hunting exploits.
I've formulated my own speculations about future revelations on the story, which may or may not come to fruition when the final product arrives. My guess is that the parasite is actually a mutated form of Cordyceps unilateralis, but weaponized for warfare. However the strain was somehow not contained properly, and a small outside exposure caused the global calamity. It has been suggested that Joel and Ellie are somehow related, but my guess is that Joel was a lone wolf from the outset, discovering Ellie as an infant. Yet it could be that Joel and Ellie are but a fraction of the population immune to the parasite. Maybe Joel raised her for his own scrupulous purposes, as a decoy or distraction to give him the advantage in combat, and perhaps she has won him over by showing her own growing tenacity with each passing year.
Even the story's conclusion is turning the wheels of our imaginations. Will the morose atmosphere permeate from start to finish, with Joel and Ellie only managing to continue surviving, and maybe even failing at that? Perhaps scientists were on the brink of a cure using the antibodies of those few humans immune to the disease, which Joel and Ellie will discover and somehow cure civilization.
I'm even thinking beyond the game at Sony taking this one all the way to the big screen. Movies of this genre typically have a strong showing, and I've already speculated about casting. Ellen Page is a shoe-in for Ellie; not only do they share derivations of the same name, but the character model is strikingly similar in physical features. As for Joel, I envision Jim Caviezel taking the role, looking as disheveled as he did during his prison stay in The Count of Monte Cristo. Whether I'm looking too far ahead or not, the duo could do a great job with the game's voice acting and give another boost to the production quality.
With so many possibilities, The Last of Us has several paths open to it. But under the capable hands of Naughty Dog, there seems to be a general sense of comfort among the masses that this will evolve into something truly special. Of course, it will only be special for those owning a PS3, as this is a Sony-exclusive title.
CCC Contributing Writer