The Last of Us
Yesterday, during a pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, California, I played through a newly revealed section of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. The survival-based game is a road trip story starring two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. Joel and Ellie are looking for a man named Bill – a loner out in Lincoln, Pennsylvania that owes Joel a favor. During my hands-on time with the game I got a feel for combat against the infected, nasty traps set by survivors, and improvised navigation past environmental obstacles.
Joel and Ellie find themselves in the woods on their way to the small town of Lincoln. Ellie is taken aback by the beauty of the woods, admiring the serene wildlife. Joel is less concerned with sight-seeing, and seems determined to find Bill before the sun sets. Their progress is halted by a high, barbed-wire fence blocking them from entering town. I climb atop a small building to get a better view. I spot the roof of another nearby building, but my attempt to leap the gap falls short. Upon further investigation I find a long, narrow board – just about the length between the two roofs. I pick up the board, carry it over to the small building, lean it up against the side, climb up the building, and pull the board up. I’m then able to lay the board between across the roofs for Joel and Ellie to cross.
Lincoln is Bill’s stomping grounds, and his mark is apparent. I hear an odd clicking as an infected comes sprinting around a corner, followed by a loud explosion. One of Bill’s tripwire traps blows the thing’s legs clean off. Further exploration of Lincoln reveals a number of rigged devices, some of which must be safely detonated by tossing a brick or bottle into them. You can set up your own homemade traps and lure the wandering infected into them as well.
One of my favorite moments in the demo involves sneaking past a handful of the fungal-infected humanoids. These creatures are in a sort of sleep-state when I come across them. I choose to leave them alone and crouch-walk safely past them. If I had been braver, I could have snuck up to them quietly, dispatched them with a melee weapon, and looted their corpses. These enemies’ senses are based on noise, so stealth is key.
My closest encounter with the crazed monsters involves one of Bill’s more successful traps. Joel is snagged by a snare after opening a door. A refrigerator acts as a counterweight, pulling him into the air by his foot. Both Joel and the camera are tipped upside down as Ellie struggles to cut the line. Infected encroach on the pair, and I have to gun them down from the disorienting angle. The reliable controls allow me to dispatch most of them easily, but one heavily infected mushroom head gets too close and instantly chomps down on me. I have better luck my second attempt. Ellie cuts me down and the duo finally cross paths with Bill.
Joel’s gas-masked contact blasts a few infected and beckons them to follow. A frantic chase through alleyways and building interiors ensues. Bullets and health supplies are limited, so standing my ground isn’t an option. Throughout the demo I had plenty of opportunities to craft melee weapons, like a pipe with scissors taped to it or Molotov cocktail. I also found a few medkits. It’s not enough to endure a full-on infected assault, however.
In addition to item crafting, players can find tools, supplements, and other resources that can permanently upgrade Joel and his equipment. Supplements can steady his aim or increase his health. Tool kits and constituent parts can be used to create extra weapon holsters or improve the damage of weapons. I didn’t have an opportunity to dive deep into these systems, but Naughty Dog says players can carry their upgrades and gear over into a new game-plus.
Bill, Joel, and Ellie eventually reach safety. Without skipping a beat, Bill handcuffs Ellie to a pipe and holds Joel at gunpoint. He begins roughly checking the two for the signs of a sprouting infection. While Joel tries to calm him down, Ellie pulls the pipe loose and whacks Bill. After a brief scuffle the three cool down. Joel calls in his favor with Bill. They need a car, and Bill agrees to help them get one running. My hands-on time with the new demo ends here.
My path through Lincoln was just one route among a variety of options. Depending on your playstyle you could aggressively clear out the infected or sneak past them all. Upgrading Joel and his equipment is also influenced by your tastes. Do you want to invest resources into melee combat or firearms? Naughty Dog has packed The Last of Us with tons of options while delivering an engaging yet bleak story of survival.
Watch the entire 2012 PAX Prime gameplay demo here.