'Last of Us' preview

2013-05-07 13:10
Ellie and Joel will face hideous mutants in the post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us. (El33tonline)

Ellie and Joel will face hideous mutants in the post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us. (El33tonline)

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Cape Town - The mood of The Last of Us is immediately set by the surroundings you find yourself in. The world has been ravaged by a mysterious plague, infecting most of Earth's population with a fungus-based virus that eventually takes hold of person’s nervous system, transforming victims into hideously deformed and vicious creatures. As the plague spread, society began to crumble and it’s been many years since humanity as we know it has existed.

Earth, but not as we know it.

Once great cities have long since fallen into ruin as buildings crumbled, pavements and streets were split by giant fissures and highways fell into collapsed heaps of rubble.

Personalities

As the years have gone by, nature has reintroduced itself to this world once dominated by bricks and tar and concrete and metal, with grasses and shrubs sprouting from cracks, flowing vines climbing up and down sheer building faces and resentful roots taking hold of the husks of cars, abandoned long ago.

Playing as protagonist Joel while on a cross-country journey to deliver a young girl, Ellie, to safety, it is through this post-apocalyptic world that you must travel, and it is against these mutated creatures that you must survive.

Thanks to its work on the Uncharted series, developer Naughty Dog has been able to imbue the characters of The Last of Us with deceptively believable personalities. The voice actors’ speech is so natural and effortless that it puts other games’ exaggerated, over-the-top voice acting into stark relief.

Every word is measured and every sentence is economical, spoken in the moment, while taking into account the virtual actors’ actions at the time, be it moving a heavy object, vaulting over a wall or catching their breath after an intense moment.

To progress in the game, The Last of Us employs some simple environment puzzles and requires you to actively search for ways forward. Scouting ahead in times of danger is also necessary, and there are no times more dangerous than when a "Clicker" is nearby.

These creatures’ eyes have been covered and removed by rampant fungus growth, leaving them to rely on the sounds around them to navigate their way around the world, to become aware of danger, and to find prey. One false step around a Clicker and it’ll be on you, tearing into your flesh and gnawing at your skin before ripping a bloody string of sinew from your neck. A quick cut to black and a checkpoint reload was enough for me to learn my lesson – don’t push your luck with a Clicker.

Fight for survival

Joel will eventually pick up a range of weaponry, too, with a variety of pistols and a shotgun being added to my arsenal in the preview, but because ammunition is very scarce you’ll need to fall back on melee attacks as a brutal last line of defence either by throwing punches, or gripping a brick or bottle in hand and crashing the item into an enemy’s skull.

Make no mistake, The Last of Us depicts a very desperate struggle for survival against ferocious creatures, and in order to stay alive Joel will use every dirty fighting trick in the book.

Psychologically speaking, The Last of Us isn't a walk in the park and In addition to the violent melee attacks and scuffles which can see Joel repeatedly beating an enemy’s head against a wall, the sound work in the game is terrific and terrifying. The screams, groans and grunts of creatures lurching towards you are horrifying, too, and the muffled and bassy footsteps ahead of you, above you and all around increase the tension exponentially.

Naughty Dog's next game is an intimate, intense action adventure set against the sombre backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world dotted with survivors desperately struggling to make it from day to day, but at the heart of the story is Joel and his relationship with Ellie as they make their way across the US to a promised safe haven.

The world and themes of The Last of Us may be incredibly harsh and difficult to witness, but Joel and Ellie’s journey will be fascinating to watch, supported by best-in-class writing and voice acting, as well as set-piece action moments that only Naughty Dog can deliver.

The Last of Us is out on 14 June, exclusive to PlayStation 3.

For more cool gaming news and reviews, check out El33tonline.
 
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