Joel is hanging upside down; tied from the ceiling, as he desperately tries to save Ellie from the infected while she is cutting the rope to free him. One of the infected approaches Ellie as Joel takes a shot but unfortunately misses. The infected then rush towards Joel and in the nick of time finds its head blown off in to smithereens.
Joel finds it extremely difficult to take aim and shoot as more infected pour in. But fortune favors the brave as one by one he takes down all of them, giving Eilie enough time to free him.
You may be thinking that this all happens in a cut scene but this is what actual gameplay is like in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. This is just one of the many humdinger situations I came across while previewing the game.
In these past few months I had my doubts over The Last of Us. I was wondering how Naughty Dog would adapt from the gung-ho scripted events in Uncharted to a more subtle and slow approach in The Last of Us. There is no doubt that the impatient gamer will have a hard time in The Last of Us. The game simply punishes the player if you are not of the exploring type.
Unlike Uncharted, the world of The Last of Us is fairly non-linear. The player can take multiple paths and the world is represented in such a manner that it feels wide open. In order to survive you need to explore every place possible and collect items for crafting. The Last of Us involves a lot of exploring and each item you collect during the adventure can be a life saver in the long run.
Items are scattered across the road, in plain sight and sometimes you have to go searching inside vacant offices and homes. Once you have enough items you will be able to craft smoke and fire bombs. These little babies are ideal when you plan to take out a bunch of enemies together, and can be invaluable in some situations. You can also craft health items.
During the course of the game you will come across gears which can be used to upgrade your main and melee weapons. You can upgrade them by finding crafting benches which are situated in different locations. Overall, crafting is one of the pivotal features of the game and you need to master it should you wish to survive for long.
One of most talked points about The Last of Us is Ellie’s AI. After the infamous E3 2012 trailer that showed Ellie throwing a brick at an enemy when Joel ran out of bullets, it was assumed that her behavior was primarily scripted. Let me assure you that this is not the case. Each time I had an encounter with an enemy Ellie would react dynamically according to the scenario.
Ellie can jump on the back of an enemy or throw bricks to distract them. Even the enemy AI is something that hasn’t been seen in previous Naughty Dog games. As mentioned before there are multiple paths for the player to progress but that also means there are multiple paths for your enemies too. This means that if you die once, the same enemies may take a different approach/path once you re-spawn.
The combat in the game is pretty gory. Especially the melee attacks (with the help of Ellie) which can be quite satisfying. You can twist your enemy’s neck or blast them in to pieces or simply avoid combat by going the stealthy route. The choice is yours.
In the preview build I had access to a bow, pistol and a shotgun and each of them sounded and functioned the way it should. For some reason, aiming in the game is difficult. The aiming reticule was unstable whenever taking a shot at an enemy. This adds an extra bit of tension since your enemies are smart movers and you have to eliminate them before they get too close to you.
It’s no secret that Naughty Dog creates some of the best visual experiences on the PlayStation 3. The Last of Us is stunning and several levels above Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. You can literally see rays of sun light penetrating through Joel’s hair. The level of detail in each of the levels (Lincoln and Pittsburgh) is imp eccable.The voice acting is serious and avoids the cheesy Uncharted-like dialogues; which actually makes sense since you are stuck in a post-apocalyptic world and things are pretty screwed up.
The Last of Us is shaping up to be solid survival-action-horror game. Will Naughty Dog get fourth time lucky? That remains to be seen.
The game is due on June 14th worldwide exclusively for the PlayStation 3