With the debut of a new trailer (which we’ve been kind enough to put at the bottom of this page) and the release date fast approaching, we’ve put together all you need to know ahead of the PS3 exclusive, The Last of Us.
The concept of a post-apocalyptic world with humanity scrambling to survive isn’t anything new in our day and age with the popularity of zombies but it’s this zombie related media that inspired the backdrop for this survival horror. Films such as 28 Days Later through to comic books like the Walking Dead all provided some sort of inspiration. But what makes this version stand out is it’s combination with the rich storytelling and character development that Naughty Dog is famous for.
Though inspired by the zombie ridden planets that came before it, the team at Naughty Dog wanted to make it clear from the very start that the infected are NOT zombies. The initial idea for the infected came from members of the creative team viewing an episode of BBC’s Planet Earth where they were explaining the cordycep fungus. The cordycep fungus burrows its way into the brain of insects, such as ants, and turns them into mindless vessels, controlling them and eventually killing them, releasing deadly spores into the air. Naturally, the creative team wondered what would happen if the fungus were to get a taste for human, The Last of Us was born.
Developed by Naughty Dog, the team behind the Uncharted series, The Last of Us is set two decades after a modern-day fungus, or Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis if you prefer, has plagued the planet. With millions of people either killed or infected, the United States military now ruthlessly screens for any infected under martial law. The story follows Joel, a survivor and black-market dealer within one of the quarantine zones who finds himself making a promise to an old friend that he will get Ellie to a resistance group known as the Fireflies. Ellie is a fourteen year old girl who is both wise and mature beyond her years. Together, the two attempt to travel across America in this post-apocalyptic world to reach the resistance group.
When leaving the quarantine zone Joel and Ellie find themselves in an unprotected city that was bombed in an attempt to stop the infection. It didn’t work. Nature has also started to take over the cities in the 20 years since humanity fell, leaving buildings decayed, covered in greenery and hidden behind foliage.
The Characters & Their Voices
The Good Guys
Voiced and motion captured by Troy Baker, Joel is the primary protagonist and the playable character. Troy Baker is known for providing the voice for both Batman and The Joker in Lego Batman, Jake Muller in Resident Evil 6 and more recently Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite as well as lending his voice to a long list of other video game and animated tv characters.
Voiced and mo-capped by Ashley Johnson. From Gretchen in Recess to a (minor) part in The Avengers, Ashley has worked in many genres of media over the years. Particularly animated cartoons, some of which have had video game spin offs but The Last of Us is her stand-alone video game debut.
Street smart and confident, Tess is a brilliant strategist as well as a former love interest of Joel’s and current survivor of the outbreak. Together they’ve made a name for themselves on the black market for their ruthlessness. Tess is voiced and mo-capped by video game debutant Anne Werching, known for playing Renee Walker in the tv series 24.
Unlike the other characters, Bill lives outside the quarantine zone and has a rather uneasy allegiance with our protagonists. Joel knows Bill from before the outbreak and for reasons unknown at the beginning of the game, owes Joel several favours. W. Earl Brown, who spent three years on the tv show Deadwood and more recently played the obnoxious former motel owner on Bates Motel, will lend his voice and acting talents to Bill.
The infected act differently depending on how long they’ve been exposed to the fungus that caused the plague. This cordyceps-type fungus attacks the eyes first leaving the infected with very poor eyesight.
The newly infected become what are known as Runners and maintain many human instincts, they will try not to attack and will resist the fungus. Failing on most occasions. They tend to hunt in packs and when they do attack you they’ll generally….run.
The phase two infected go by the name of Clickers and are completely blind but move through the environment by using a clicking sound to identify obstacles, similar to the way bats do. No human traits remain, their faces are skewed and scarred and they will grab and kill with a single attack if they sense a survivor.
When close to death, a Clicker will curl up and die in a dark corner. The body will decay but fungus will continue to grow from it to the point where it will release infectious spores into the air.
Supplies are very rare and must be used wisely, remaining survivors are forced to kill and steal to get food, weapons and anything else they need to survive. With governments fallen it truly is survival of the fittest with many survivors taking the law into their own hands. Some even grouping together and taking over whole cities. Primarily, the Survivors are split into two factions – The Hunters and The Fireflies.
Residing in Pittsburgh, Hunters are ruthless killers and hostile towards Joel and Ellie. They will kill any “tourists” (those not part of their faction) without question and often pretend to be injured to lure in other survivors so the rest of the faction can attack. Killing them and stealing their supplies.
Joel and Tess are hired to bring Ellie to the Fireflies. Very little is known about the resistance group at this time.
So you know the story, you know the heroes from the villains and the survivors from the grotesque monsters spewing fungus spores from their corpses but how does the game actually play?
The Last of Us is a third person survival horror. Ammo is very scarce, you’ll need to search bodies for it and even then you’ll only pick up a few bullets here and there. It’s about survival and decision making. Do you take them out quietly and see if they’re holding anything valuable or do you find an alternate route and conserve the supplies you already have?
The emphasis is on sound here, or lack of it. There’s no big music score in the background like Uncharted, it’s mostly silent and chilling. This leads us to one of Joel’s abilities, the cleverly titled “Listen Mode.” Holding down one of the shoulder buttons will outline any enemies that are making noise on the other side of walls to help you get a picture of the environment and plan your next move. The sound of Runners groaning and Clickers clicking, will send a chill down your spine when you enter a new area, especially when you know you have only one bullet left in your pistol.
You will die when playing this game but it’s also part of the fun. Trial and error. When you finally manage to take down a room of 3 Runners and 2 Clickers with your bare hands you’ll feel invincible. Well, until you enter the next room where a single Hunter uses your brains to redecorate the walls at least.
Gamers like myself prefer to explore every little area of the map before following the path ahead and you may be rewarded for doing so here. Going in the opposite direction to your objective can help you find seemingly mundane items such as scissors or bandages. The crafting system is similar to Dead Rising 2 but a bit more complex. When you collect an item it will represent a certain amount in that item category (represented by a pie chart) and when the category is full you can create the item, provided you’ve collected the recipe.
Just had a flashback of Home Alone on the Sega Mega Drive there, picking up items to create the glue bazooka or pepper rifle. Classic. Anyway, similarly to the more recent Crysis 3, you won’t be able to pause the game and magically appear with these items, that would be too easy. Joel needs to stop, rummage around in his pack and make the item, meaning you’ll need a quiet, lonely spot to do so or you’ll get attacked easily. Not so simple now, huh? This adds a further layer to decision making, do you have time to craft this item before the guy with the shotgun finds you? In turn this also adds an additional layer of satisfaction, crafting a small bomb and throwing it at the feet of your enemy just a second before they pull the trigger only raises the suspense and drama.
The interaction between characters is incredible here. If an enemy grabs you from behind and tries to choke you out Ellie will try and help, perhaps by throwing a brick at your attacker. If you’re in a gun fight and run out of ammo, the enemies will hear the gun click and see that as their opening to move up to your position. This leads to further decision making, do you run? Do you move positions and try and take them out one by one? Or do you look through your back pack and assemble a Molotov cocktail to burn some faces? But what if there’s a group of runners down the hall and this is the only weapon you have left? The gameplay and tactics here are constantly changing, you feel just how hard it is to survive in this world and that’s what makes it so exciting.
After months of speculation, Naughty Dog announced that The Last of Us would be released on the PS3 on May 7th 2013. However this was later changed to June 14th 2013 to give the developers more time to finalise and polish up the game.
A demo will be coming to the Playstation Store very soon however. Those who pre-ordered God of War Ascension can get early access to this demo with a code found inside the box.
Here it is! The gameplay trailer that was released earlier this week. Enjoy!