PS3 Exclusive ‘The Last of Us’ : First Impressions
Naughty Dog’s newest entry is sure to keep players clutching their controllers. In this PS3 exclusive, protagonists Joel and Ellie try to survive a post apocalyptic world where people are almost extinct. The beautifully rendered architecture is being reclaimed by nature through crawling vines, protruding roots and stagnant water filling the streets. Clearly, the catastrophe that wiped the city out did not happen overnight. While the story details are still a secret, some information can be gleamed from the gameplay trailer.
In the footage, Joel and Ellie make their way through a dilapidated hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ellie follows Joel closely, asking questions about their surroundings and destination. Some may groan thinking this will be another dreaded escort mission, but the events in the clip dismiss Ellie’s role as a helpless burden. The teenager grew up in a violent world full of mutants and lowlifes. Her trusty blade drawn, she is ready for a fight.
As they search for loot to collect and a way out, they come across a couple of scavengers. Joel swiftly hides behind an air duct and Ellie is right beside him, suggesting a plan. The heads up display shows the current weapon and remaining ammo. It is enough to take these two down but there may be others. Stealth seems a better option. As Joel creeps up to a door indeed spotting a third foe, Ellie runs and presses her back to the adjacent wall, eyeing the surroundings. After a vicious neck break on the target, Joel retrieves the ammo from the dropped gun. He takes too long doing so and is spotted by another hunter who runs for cover while yelling a warning to his friends.
The enemy AI is no mere cannon fodder. They hide immediately when a gun is pointed at them and will claw at Joel’s face when in choke holds. One particular adversary Joel uses as a shield struggles hard, elbowing Joel’s arm right as he shoots at a second opponent in the room. Resolving the mess uses up all the bullets as a another gunman comes in and, recognizing the tell-tale click of Joel’s empty gun, approaches for the kill. Ellie exits cover and throws a brick at the new threat’s face as Joel rushes him, crushing his throat between forearm and wall and introducing him to a dresser’s sharp corner. Ellie provides some dark comic relief as she congratulates Joel on all the “uh, killing and stuff.”
Naughty Dog are not rookies at designing combat, as shown in their Uncharted series. But where the killing in Uncharted is more cinematic, The Last Of Us is intimate and unsettling as the player sees the pained faces of strangers fighting for their life. Watching the trailer, as one perhaps considers alternate plans of approach, the wait for the game’s release in 2013 only feels more distant. It is clear that The Last Of Us with its raw combat and mysterious protagonists promises a tense and exhilirating experience.
The action concludes in a brutal hand to hand encounter with Joel’s health dwindling as he is being choked. Ellie jumps in, plunging her knife into the attacker’s back and getting thrown off by the injured combatant. Joel rapidly picks up his lost shotgun and pummels his assailant to the ground. The visceral scene closes with a young girl watching a bloodied man fire a shotgun at the face of a man begging for mercy. The viewer is left reeling, wondering if it is not just cities that have been lost but our humanity. Perhaps the instinct to survive will make monsters of even the last of us.