Naughty Dog, creator of childhood memories such as Crash Bandicoot has brought gamers around the world colorful characters, terrific level design, and high octane adventures for nearly two decades. The Last of Us looks to incorporate all of these aspects toward a more dramatic and emotional level than any game before it.
A quick cinematic introduces us to Joel, Tess, and Ellie (voiced by Troy Baker, Annie Wersching, and Ashley Johnson, respectively). As short as the scene was, there is a great feeling of desperation; and how they emoted also brought a sense of tension, giving us a sense of how high the stakes were. All from a 20 second scene.
As you begin the 20 minute demo you look toward the desolate city ahead, light rain and thunder further deepening the somber tone. Taking a moment to mess with the controls I was pleased to see that it is very similar to that of Uncharted, so the controls were natural and the actions responsive.
Following Tess into the ravaged city we come across a chasm, but further out into the distance we spot our destination, the capitol building. The atmosphere became unnaturally eerie as I listened to the moans of the building and what sounded like silent whispers echoing throughout. What I noticed suddenly was that no music was playing; only the environment around me was building this uneasy ambience. I took my time to observe my surroundings; one part admiring the amount of detail that was put into it and another part was fear of what may lurk in the darkened halls.
Ascending a flight of stairs, you encounter the corpse of one of the infected, a Clicker. This monstrosity have developed the ability to use echolocation to locate its victims after years of mutation have caused it to lose its vision. After opening one door I inadvertently alerted a live Clicker and it pounced on me. Luckily Tess was quick to dispatch it as she fired a couple of rounds into it’s skull, showing A.I. Interaction.
Scavenging around, you can find various utensils (rags, blades, rubbing alcohol, etc.) to craft useful items, like a first aid kit or a shiv to break locks. Injured from my tussle I had to use one of my med kits, but while searching the adjacent room, your companions can locate and hand you essentials, which allowed me to replace it. Bottles and bricks are also conveniently placed to distract the Clickers. Tossing a brick away from the group caused the Clicker to instigate the noise giving us the opportunity to pass unnoticed.
The combat mechanics were put to a rigorous test in the demo. With the spiked weapon I took out a Runner easily, but the others descended on me quickly. I clearly underestimated the number of enemies as two or three more joined in. Another thing I failed to notice was my weapons durability as it shattered while attempting to cave in a Runner’s head. They surrounded me, but luckily by holding down L2 you can break free, sprinting away. Getting some distance between us I pulled out my 9mm pistol and picked off some of my assailants, but one of them caught up and grabbed me.
A prompt appeared to use my last shiv and in doing so I stab my attacker relentlessly. Going head-to-head with last mutant I used my bare hands. After landing a few punches it gets knocked to the floor against a wall. Before it even had a chance of recuperating I rammed my knee into its face, exploding into a gory spectacle. Standing there in awe of the awesome finishing move I just pulled I hear Tess congratulate me as the screen turns to black, ending the demo.
Naughty Dog is no stranger when it comes to making intense, action-packed games, but horror and drama with no witty dialog to alleviate the situation? This is a new direction for the developer. However, this demo proves that not only can they pull it off, but they can do it extremely well too. The talented voice actors give life and believable emotion to our heroes, the attention to details from the facial expressions to the rain drops on the window draws you into its world, and the magnificent ambience places you in an unsettling environment igniting fear and caution. I was always excited for The Last of Us, but after playing the demo, the remaining weeks will prove to be unbearable!
The Last of Us will launch on June 14th exclusively on the PlayStation® 3.