Naughty Dog has a history of leading the way with iconic franchises beginning with Crash Bandicoot, developing with Jak and Daxter and culminating with the recent globe-trotting adventures of Uncharted. Still, they managed to surprise us all at the tail end of 2011 by revealing The Last of Us, a game which has been developed for some time by a team tasked with producing something entirely separate to the main blockbuster series.
The game tells the tale of two survivors following a fungal outbreak, which has caused mutation and aggression in those who have been infected. This may sound like just a simple twist on the ‘fast zombie’ enemy type – and there are certainly similarities to what you might see in I Am Legend – but it’s the personal side of things (such as black-market dealer Joel’s protective streak over the teenage Ellie), that could set this story apart from its for-bearers.
From a graphical standpoint, The Last of Us boasts stellar production values which bring it on par with its more light-hearted counterpart. Animations are fluid, character models are detailed and the environments help to build an atmosphere which is foreboding yet beautiful; the modern world is slowly being reclaimed by nature (in similar fashion to Ninja Theory’s Enslaved), with water and foliage creeping through cities while the worst of humanity reveals itself.
Joel and Ellie will have to stay on their toes, as revealed in the latest E3 gameplay trailer not only from the infected hordes, but also from scavengers and hunters. Staples such as ducking for cover, stealthy movement and aiming headshots are the order of the day when dealing with these enemies, but if Naughty Dog has shown anything, it’s that they know how to create a fun outing with a focus on gunplay and an AI partner who can serve as a vocal companion rather than an unwanted burden.
There’s still much we have yet to witness with regards to The Last of Us, including Ellie’s tinkered look as the developer seeks to redesign her as a unique character as opposed to just a rendition of the actress, Ellen Page. Could throwing Molotov cocktails at unsuspecting gang members be as much fun as it looks? We’ll have to wait until the infection begins next year…