The Last of Us is an upcoming third person action-adventure/survival game by Naughty Dog, makers of universally acclaimed games such as the Crash Bandicoot series, Jak and Daxter and, more recently, the Uncharted series. It is set for release on May 7th 2013 for the Playstation 3 and is my most anticipated game of 2013 (this is subject to change depending on a Metal Gear Solid release date). I would now like to take the time to explain to you why that is.
Reason 1: The Story & Setting
The Last of Us is set in America two decades after a cordyceps-type fungus (more on this later) has killed millions, with nature gradually retaking the abandoned cities and towns. The setting is instantly recognisable to those familiar with I Am Legend and Enslaved (more on this later also). Although these ‘infected’ people are the main backdrop to the game, they are not the main focus, that goes to the two stars of the game; Joel and Ellie.
In the world of TLoU, there are settlements for survivors, however these ‘havens’ are ruled ruthlessly by whats left of the US government and as a result our anti-hero Joel is tasked, by a friend, to get Ellie out of there and to safety. Naughty Dog will be putting the focus on the father-daughter like relationship that will develope between these two rather than the ‘infected’. I’ve no doubt that Naughty Dog will pull this off as few can match them when it comes to making their characters feel real.
Reason 2: Dynamic Stealth, Intelligent AI and Scarce Resources
Game Director Bruce Straley gave an interview where he details the difficult situations that players will find themselves in. Joel will have to be very careful if he wants to get past his enemies alive as resources are scarce and the AI is unrelenting. The game will not pause when Joel wishes to mange his inventory or craft an item or weapon.
“Our inventory system is living, meaning the game is still running. You’re not paused when you’re going into your inventory. So it’s just like you’ve pulled the backpack off of your back and you’re in there creating something live while the enemies are moving around the environment and coming to get you if you’ve engaged with them. So what we want to try to do is make you feel that there is a consequence to it.”
The AI is going to be more advanced and aware of each other, so even stealth kills are not a 100% guarteed safe method of avoiding open conflict.
“There are risks to this because now the group knows. The AI know about each other – they’re searching rooms and they split up but then they’re going to reform and one of them doesn’t show up, he’s going to start asking, ‘Where’d he go?’ They’re going to start looking for their buddy and they’re going to start getting panicked, like ‘Something’s up.’ Suddenly there’s a risk even to taking out somebody stealthily and you still have to move around. That’s part of our dynamic AI system here, our dynamic stealth. We’ve invested a lot of time in our AI and making sure that these humans that you’re facing in this world that we’ve created are realistic in that, there’s a brutality, there’s a violence, but it’s not gratuitous.”
Here is some footage that shows all of this in affect. This scenario could turn out very differently depending on how the player chooses to play.
Reason 3: The Zombies Aren’t Zombies!
Naughty Dog mentioned an episode of BBC documentary Blue Planet as their inspiration for the fungally ‘infected’ enemies. Why is that better than zombies? Well it isn’t really until you realise that this cordyceps sh*t is real!! Granted it only really affects the insect kingdom, but it still adds to the believablity of the plot. Also fungus is gross. Allow David Attenborough to explain…
Reason 4: Ellie
While Ellie is central to the plot and is sure to make an emotional impact on players; many have concerns that as she is AI controlled she will be more of a hinderance than a help. Naughty Dog have stated that they have spent a lot of time working on Ellie’s AI making her actions believable and non-disruptive to gameplay. During stealthy moments Ellie will remain hidden and wont break the line of sight, during combat Ellie will be aware of the NPCs and if Joel is cornered or out of ammo she can pick up an improvised weapon (like the brick that was shown) and create and opening for Joel to attack. You can hear more about it in this gameinformer interview.
Reason 5: The Development Team and Enslaved Influence
After Uncharted 2, for the first time, Naughty Dog created two developement teams. One of those teams went on to create Uncharted 3, the other team (which consisted of some Uncharted 2 developers) went on to create TLoU, in other words…it’s in safe hands. Not only that but according to this article the former lead designer on Enslaved, Mark Richard Davies, is also on that team. If anyone knows how to design a world that nature is reclaiming, its this guy.
Reason 6: Those Gorgeous Visuals
There are times when seeing this game in action that I can’t believe this is a current gen game. Naughty Dog could have stuck with the Uncharted 3 engine (which looks beautiful itself) but they decided to push it further. During an episode of the PlayStation BlogCast creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley went into detail about how they’ll be improving the visuals of the engine.
“Uncharted‘s lighting engine, meanwhile, has advanced in The Last of Us with the developers taking an ambient approach—this is due to the title’s environments featuring a complete lack of electricity…The pair went on to stress that in order to pit players into the shoes of lead characters, Ellie and Joel, they’ll be putting a particular emphasis on the textures, rendering style, lighting engine and art direction.”
Reason 7: Musical Score
Naughty Dog managed to get double Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla to compose the musical score for TLoU. The Argentine composer won back-to-back Academy Awards for Best Score for his work on Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Babel (2006). You may have been expecting a more horror themed composer but because TLoU doesn’t focus on the horror of the cordyceps, a more emotional score was needed as this game is mainly about Joel and Ellie.
So those are the reasons that come to mind, have I left any out? Let me know below.