I was excited as I arrived home from work today.  Two weeks from now a large number of us will be roaring through Naughty Dog's latest project The Last of Us, and today I could finally access the beta granted by owning God of War: Ascension.  Unfortunately I hadn't played God of War in some time and four updates were pending so I sat down and discussed things with some of my Twitter friends while waiting.  An hour later and the demo was installed on my PS3 and ready to go.

Gotta love this sweet black and white image!

So, what to do first.  Check out the game controls?  Nah, I'm a gaming expert according to myself so who needs that?  Watch the trailer?  Sure, I've seen it before but it's pretty sweet and I might as well build the anticipation a bit.  As expected it wasn't any different from the ones I've already seen on GIO and even television, but it did get my blood boiling for some action so there's that.  All right, the silly things being out of the way it was time to actually dig into the gameplay itself.

Duck and cover!  No really, duck and cover!

Most of the demo (which is only about ten minutes long) takes place in and around a single derelict building with six or eight enemies spread throughout.  A few nifty ideas take place during this short experience though and I'd like to discuss them a bit.  The first is the sneaking mechanic.  It's done pretty well with the circle button dropping you into a crouch and Joel automatically pressing up against walls/tables/etc. when near them.  For the most part the sneaking seems to work well with two enemies getting choked out by sneak attacks and another getting shiv-ed when too close to me with a quick button press.

Molotov, distraction, or improv hand-to-hand weapon?  You decide!

Some of the infected enemies react not to light or motion, but to sound.  This makes for a tense few moments as you distract them with thrown objects and sneak around the group to get to higher ground.  Don't feel like throwing that brick you just picked up?  That's ok.  Any tossable weapon is automatically used in place of your hands with the attack button (square) during melee so a brick or a bottle can drastically increase your hand-to-hand damage.  There's even a crowbar complete with it's own little health bar you can pick up during the final scrap of the demo but be careful because you drop it automatically when it gets too beat up!

The way the flashlight handles makes things just a bit creepier!

Some of the rooms in the derelict building you're exploring are dark.  And not just video game dark, but truly black until you turn on your trusty flashlight by clicking R3.  While I'm on the subject, L1 readies your crosshairs and R1 fires your weapon while R2 switches shoulders quickly.  L2 happens to be the run button and X acts as a climb button while triangle picks up items.  Back to the flashlight and you'll see it sways around as you pan the camera with the right analog stick, never quite staying steady but quivering a bit as Joel moves around.  This is a very cool idea they've ran with and it really increased the tension of the area as I moved around collecting items and listening for the infected enemies that I knew were around but just couldn't quite see.

Crafting in a Naughty Dog game?  This I like!

While I didn't get a chance to see the effects in action the crafting and upgrading aspects of the game are at least touched upon during the demo.  At one point I found an item by going off the beaten path early on that promised to increase my 'survival skill' and at another point I was prompted to make my own medkits (with the requisite salvage of course).  This doesn't even touch upon the weapon upgrades which are obvious as you pick up items like shears while rummaging through desks and lockers in the rapidly destabilizing building.  At one point the entire level shifts a bit to the side as the building settles causing an office chair to roll across the room and prompting a bit of dialogue from the characters!  

The demo for The Last of Us is a fun little way to kill some time while waiting for the full release.  While it's unlikely to blow any minds as it's far too short, it does give some feel for what the game's going to be about.  It's one part Uncharted, one part Resident Evil, and maybe just a tad of Fallout 3 as exploring the building felt a little like the quest where you had to rescue the Big-town hostages from the police headquarters.  While easy to compare to others that have come before, none truly seem to do it justice as The Last of Us has it's own unique feel as well.  Whether it's the weighty feel of the melee combat, the brutality of the finishers (which Naughty Dog isn't exactly known for), or the fact that there is no jump button for main character Joel, The Last of Us feels fresh, fun, and very uniquely it's own game.

I for one can't hardly wait for the full release in two weeks!

Who else has tried this out? (Besides Mojo, we've discussed it already!)

It may end up being the last game I buy until September unless South Park ever releases!

Thanks for reading ladies and gents!

And of course I'm just kidding Mojo, your input is always welcome!