Naughty Dog was once well known for the creation of the Jak and Daxter franchise and although long-time fans still await a J&D reunion, they’ve been more than satisfied with this generation’s Uncharted series. The award-winning franchise is arguably the best of the past six years or so and that’s quite the accomplishment. But the talented studio isn’t done yet; they seem hell-bent on going down in history as the greatest developer of the PlayStation 3 era. Next year’s The Last Of Us could very well cement such an enviable legacy.
It exploded onto the scene about a year ago, when gamers everywhere caught sight of that amazing teaser video, which remains one of the more technically polished trailers in gaming history. Since that time, Naughty Dog and Sony haven’t been shy about dishing on the game’s characters, story, setting, style, and combat. What you see here is an adventure with distinct elements of survival/horror along with an intriguing co-op mechanic that could be groundbreaking. From what we’ve seen and heard of the duo that traverses a post-apocalyptic landscape, it’s obvious that both have to work together in order to survive. Joel is the dude with the gun, but Ellie appears invaluable. She might just save your life…
Beyond the amazing detail exhibited in the character designs of the two protagonists, and besides the fantastic voice performances, we see a partnership fueled by instinct and only a dash of human emotion. We get the feeling that Joel could’ve – and perhaps should’ve, strictly from a survival standpoint – left Ellie behind immediately upon meeting her, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. For her part, Ellie can help in a variety of ways; she can distract enemies by throwing something at them, and she may be able to assist in the actual fighting. We’ve only seen her do so in the cut-scenes, but we’ve seen screenshots of her holding a rifle, so…
Most of the time, you will have a choice when facing any given situation. If there are enemies in the area, you can either opt to face them head on, or find a stealthy way around them. So in addition to survival and straight-up third-person action, there are also stealth and strategy aspects as well. We’ve already seen contrasting pieces of gameplay, in which a player tackles the same segment of the game in two different ways: 1. Going through the enemies and 2. Going around the enemies. What you have at your disposal will likely play a large role in determining your course of action. If you’ve only got two bullets and your health is low, it’s probably time to sneak. Going on the defensive could be Plan A.
The urgency and tension associated with the core concept is what gives this quest a unique sensation. For me, this is very similar to Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Price-winning “The Road,” where a father and son travel through a post-apocalyptic earth, torn and destroyed, almost devoid of life. In this case, we’ll be closer to experiencing that constant level of apprehension. With so little in our inventories, with the obvious frailty of mankind on continuous display (Joel is no superhero) and with mortal danger possibly lurking around every turn, this adventure should keep us riveted. All bets are off when locked in a battle for survival.
The game will also boast multiplayer feature, although Naughty Dog hasn’t been too forthcoming with the details yet. All they’ve said is that we shouldn’t worry that it’ll feel “tacked on,” and single-player fans shouldn’t be concerned that the developers are gimping the campaign to work on the multiplayer stuff. No, we should get a full, complete, and totally masterful production. Personally, I’m actually most interested in the story because after they unveiled some of the new characters, like Bill and Tess, it has become clear to me that the script could be extremely dramatic and memorable. Add this into a tried-and-true third-person action system, and I’d say this is a pretty strong Game of the Year contender for next year.
The Last Of Us is scheduled to launch on May 7, 2013.