February has been a month flush with new information about The Last of Us trickling out from a variety of websites, magazines and more that have visited the Naughty Dog studio over the past three months. One of the more in-depth looks at The Last of Us came from the US publication Game Informer, who put together a cover story hub for all the OTHER information they managed to squeeze out of us from a very, very short visit.
The most important part of their visit, for me, was that we were able to show a well-polished, nearly fifteen minute game demo of The Last of Us.
The gameplay demo starts with Joel and Ellie driving down a highway congested with abandoned vehicles, eventually encountering another survivor who looks hurt and is limping towards their pickup truck. Surprisingly, Joel hits the accelerator and just before he barrels into the survivor, he pulls out a gun and shoots at Joel – missing Joel and only breaking the windshield. With this immediate threat behind them, Joel doesn’t have time to react as another survivor in the group rolls a bus downhill towards Joel and Ellie, broad-siding them and sending the truck careering into a long-abandoned convenience store.
This is where the gameplay begins – a very tense, deliberate overview of the unique AI for The Last of Us; how the balance of power between weapons creates an atmosphere of extreme tension in combat, exploring the environment and scavenging; and the relationship between Joel and Ellie – both in combat and out of combat.
Joel and Ellie are immediately besieged by the group of survivors, leading to a brutal melee sequence with Joel, before other survivors reveal that they have a gun and start shooting. This tips the balance of power until Joel can draw his own gun and then both sides are taking cover and moving around to try to get a good shot off. When Joel’s pistol clicks, revealing he has no ammunition, the remaining survivor thinks he’s got the upper hand and moves much more aggressively since he still has a gun with ammo. Just when he thinks he’s got Joel, Ellie whips a brick at him, stunning him long enough for Joel to take him out via melee attacks.
But this was only the first wave of this group of survivors coming after Joel and Ellie. A new pack arrive in the convenience store, carrying a variety of weapons and Joel and Ellie duck out through a broken window to reassess the situation and figure out how they can get out of there alive. What ensues is several minutes of cat and mouse, and Joel and Ellie diligently work to take out each of the survivors one-by-one until none remain.
With the combat behind them, Joel and Ellie banter back and forth while they explore the environment for anything that they can scavenge that may be useful to them. The exploration takes them through an abandoned building where the survivors apparently were camped out (and killing innocent people) to another roadway choked with abandoned vehicles – strangely beautiful as nature has overgrown everything – as they head towards the bridge that is their only way out of this city, away from any other survivors with less than noble intentions.
ALL of the screenshots were taken directly from our gameplay demo – yes, actual gameplay. I think they do a great job of representing a decent slice of the beauty and destruction present in the environments, and of the exploration and brutal nature of conflict in the world of The Last of Us.
The team has been cranking away at building more to the game and story of The Last of Us since we last hosted visitors – we can’t wait to pull back the curtain just a little more when the time comes.