The Last of Us a step in a new direction for Naughty Dog

The Last of Us a step in a new direction for Naughty Dog

Even though it was already evident from the trailer’s and promotional images released so far for Naughty Dog’s upcoming The Last of Us, it became very clear in my time playing that this game is not Uncharted. The game may play similarly at a basic mechanical level, but the tone is a near 180° from what was found in the adventures of Drake.

In the demo I played Joel and Ellie (voiced by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson) are making their way through a devastated city alongside a colleague named Tess. The city’s buildings have been worn down by years of not being inhabited, grass and other plant life has taken over the streets. You truly get the feeling while walking the broken streets that this is a city that’s been effectively abandoned for a long time.

The destruction is beautiful, I had to take a few minutes to look around the city admiring the look of collapsed buildings before actually continuing on.

One of the first thing that jumped out at me (I had the benefit of playing with a headset) was the high quality of the voice acting. The discussion the three aforementioned characters have before deciding to enter the city felt organic, like these were real characters talking to each other rather than actors recording lines in a studio.

After getting as far as they can through the city streets, the trio decide it’s necessary for them to make their way through a building that looks like it’s on the brink of collapsing. Getting to their destination is far more easier said than done though, as it’s here that players will encounter the reason for society’s breakdown.

The infected show up in two forms. Runners are still in the early stages of infection, retaining some of their vision and mobility. Combat isn’t the standard run and gun fare you’re used to from Naughty Dog, it’s something you’d much rather avoid. Bullets are scarce and firing shots will attract other infected. The less attention you can bring to yourself when dispatching these enemies the better. Thankfully, Runners can be taken down with straight melee combat, which feels much more satisfying than in other third person games.

The other type of infected, the Clickers (named so for the clicking sound they make) are far more difficult to deal with. Clickers are further along in the infected stage than runners, and so have lost most their eyesight and aren’t able to move as quickly as others. They are more dangerous though. I tried taking a single Clicker down with my handgun and failed miserably. They also can’t be defeated with your bare hands. The only way to kill a Clicker (in this demo anyway) was using a shiv, either one you’ve found as Joel or crafted. Shiv’s break after a couple uses, and if you don’t have the resources to craft a new one you can sometimes find yourself facing Clickers with no way of defeating them.

Splitting infected up is the best way to go. Both Runners and Clickers respond to sound, so drawing them away from a group of even a few by throwing a bottle can make things much easier. And that was the most impressive part of the demo. The Last of Us requires you to actually think about how you want to approach combat, strategize exactly how you plan to take down each enemy, lest you meet a quick end. I tried completely opposite approaches, first running and gunning with each enemy (and failing quite quickly) but also isolating each enemy and dispatching them silently. A critical error (broken shiv) resulted in that falling apart towards the end.

Your AI partners will occasionally join in and help, but in the demo I played Joel decided to keep Ellie and Tess out of harm’s way.

This seems like it’ll be a different game from what you’re used to with Naughty Dog, both in tone and difficulty. The Last of Us releases on Jun. 14 for the PlayStation 3. You can watch the latest trailer for the game here.

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