The Last of Us Hands On

I initially saw this game 11 months ago at E3, where Sony and Naughty Dog proudly showcased their survival-horror thriller off in front of a mesmerised crowd. I was part of the drooling masses and I’ve been eager to get my clammy meat-digits on it ever since.

This latest ‘sneak peak’ of The Last of Us, exclusive to media, finally gave me this opportunity. Shrouded in secrecy with strict embargoes, I can now reveal it contains two playable missions taking place in Lincoln and Pittsburgh (two of the American locales that appear at an unknown venture in the full game).

 
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Lincoln opens up to a setting I hadn’t seen before in The Last of Us. Here we find our survivors, a bearded Joel and young Ellie, surrounded by nature. This open woodland environment is a stark contrast to the cold urban settings initially showcased; and Naughty Dog have poured in an incredible level of detail to bring it to life.

Birds drink from a nearby stream and wild rabbits scamper between logs. Tree roots emerge from the ground in a naturally awkward manner as they cut between rocks in a fight for survival. It’s a beautiful precursor for the desperate survival themes that permeates The Last of Us continuously.

All of this nature isn’t lost on an adolescent Ellie either. Her sassy charm is in full effect as she investigates the outside world, playing with fireflies and marveling at the wildlife (“ooh – a bunny!”). She’s from a world far from here and her genuine inquisitive nature is relentless. That being said, Ellie’s banter is never an irritation. For instance, her occasionally bursting out into song when bored is an adorable juxtaposition to her grim surroundings.

It’s evident that a strong emotional bond will be formed between the player and Ellie – and in a far more efficient manner than the ‘hero and girl’ dynamics recently seen in Bioshock Infinite. Her witticisms are even quite revealing, often offering insights about this new post-apocalyptic world that she was born into.

Being a survival-horror title, there is a large emphasis on scavenging and Joel will constantly be on the lookout for items to help his cause. Scattered around the environments, you’ll be able to salvage scissors, bandages, bottles, and more before crafting up a storm like a mullet-less MacGyver.

Weapons like a shiv can be made from bandages, scissors and tape – but then you’re faced with the dilemma of whether you use the bandages for first aid, or perhaps the wick in a Molotov cocktail? In true survival-thriller fashion, every decision you make has to be weighed up, often in a split second. Weapons carry a life-span, forcing you to use them sparingly and with ammo being extremely limited, this is a game that requires wits and strategy.

When it comes to the combat, The Last of Us is a real challenge. Your weapons are often slow and the aiming controls in the game are heavy and bordering on clumsy; but in an uniquely realistic way. It has a completely different feel to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and often in The Last of Us, picking up a gun will be secondary to simply just legging it to safety.

Adding to the difficulty, all of the enemies you’ll face in The Last of Us are no walk in the park either. The infected, or zombies if you want to be stereotypical, are difficult to hit with their random, almost manic and jerky movements. They can take multiple shots to take down and often they will attack in packs of varying speed. The fact that a single infected can render you dead instantly gives the combat a true sense of desperation and panic. It works beautifully.

Even against other non-infected humans, the difficulty borders on that perfect blend of challenging / rewarding. Here your foes will patiently take cover, flank your position intelligently and attack with alarming speed. The second part of my hands-on, which took place in Pittsburgh, introduced gangs of hardened survivors who have had to take extreme measures to ensure survival. These survivors will ambush, kill and steal to prevail. A stark contrast to Joel and Ellie’s pursuits. However these ruthless conditions require desperate action, and you know that these moral boundaries will be blurred before this game is through.

The violence in The Last of Us is brutal and explicit. But it never feels excessive or forced. Instead it’s completely appropriate and almost artistic - making a swift, sudden impact when it counts most. They flow in-between moments of terrifying tension and suspense. Even veteran gamers exposed to years of videogame violence will appreciate the ‘jolt to the senses’ that this title delivers. For example, there was one sequence where I spent ten minutes upside down, desperately trying to shoot advancing infected, the blood rushing to my head while a defenceless Ellie is screaming for help. ‘Intense’ would be an understatement.

There are problem-solving elements in The Last of Us, which on the surface might consist of carrying planks of wood around with you. But they’re executed in such a fashion that they never feel repetitive or like a chore. This could be partly because the character animations are exactly what you’d expect from the studio that delivered Uncharted and simply watching Joel cart things around is a joy. The attention to detail in the character models even extends to Joel’s backpack, which accumulates the weapons you pick-up.

The Last of Us demonstrates just how good survival-horror titles should be. Naughty Dog appear to have solved that perfect balance of action, storyline, great controls and horrific suspense. With the weeks counting down to the 14th June, it won’t be long now until we get to see if this game will be worth the wait. But my money is on ‘hell yes’ and we’ll be sure to bring you the full review soon.


The Last of Us
+ Intense action and an immersive story
- Is Joel just a clone of Nathan Drake?
"Demonstrates just how good survival-horror titles should be"
- The Last of Us
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Comments Comments (16)

 
Posted by Coddfish
On Friday 17 May 2013 9:33 PM
4
RRrregrjkehgrkjh a month is too long, I want it now.

That said, the delayed release date means it comes out after this semester is over, so I won't be bogged down by assignments when it comes out :)
 
 
 
Kegz
Posted by Kegz
On Friday 17 May 2013 9:48 PM
5
It does look quite good. I wonder about the comment on running from a battle rather than staying to fight. I could get bored of that.

It'd be nice if you could lure enemies into a place where you hold the advantage or ambush them or something.
 
 
 
Kegz
Posted by Kegz
On Saturday 18 May 2013 9:20 AM
2
17 May 2013, 09:48 PM Reply to Kegz
It does look quite good. I wonder about the comment on running from a battle rather than staying to fight. I could get bored of that.

It'd be nice if you could lure enemies into a place where you hold the advantage or ambush them or something.
Or sneak past.
 
 
 
OrkMischief
Posted by OrkMischief
On Saturday 18 May 2013 10:44 AM
4
Really looking forward to this. Plus it comes out when I finish my uni semester which is even better. I might actually have time to play through a game for once.
 
 
 
sick_wierdo
Posted by sick_wierdo
On Saturday 18 May 2013 12:54 PM
6
Seems like a survival horror version of Uncharted, which would be awesome beyond words. Can't wait
 
 
 
Posted by nimrod76
On Sunday 19 May 2013 8:55 AM
2
Really looking forward to this, I've been on an information black out (haven't read the preview), I have early access to the demo thanks to GOW and I'm torn as to whether I should play it or not.
 
 
 
Spidey
Posted by Spidey
On Sunday 19 May 2013 3:19 PM
2
What is the expected duration of the completion of the game?
 
 
 
sick_wierdo
Posted by sick_wierdo
On Sunday 19 May 2013 4:07 PM
4
19 May 2013, 03:19 PM Reply to Spidey
What is the expected duration of the completion of the game?
I read an article on IGN awhile ago now that had an interview with one of the developers from Naughty Dog, he explained that the campaign would be between 16 and 20 hours in length depending on how you played. So it's definitely a decent length for a game of this genre nowadays.
 
 
 
Posted by SpeediePetey
On Sunday 19 May 2013 8:16 PM
-
I usually get too frustrated with gameplay as intricate as explained here but I honestly don't think it will matter this time. The sheer genius of the game is looking to keep me intrigued enough not to put the controller down.
 
 
 
ssjroneel
Posted by ssjroneel
On Monday 20 May 2013 9:03 PM
2
I need to stop watching previews for this game...so hard though...i want it now!
 
 
 
torib
Posted by torib
On Tuesday 21 May 2013 7:24 PM
1
oh my god im so excited !
 
 
 
KILL-TONE
Posted by KILL-TONE
On Tuesday 21 May 2013 7:24 PM
1
All this hype could have a negative impact on the game upon its release
 
 
 
sick_wierdo
Posted by sick_wierdo
On Tuesday 21 May 2013 9:24 PM
-
21 May 2013, 07:24 PM Reply to KILL-TONE
All this hype could have a negative impact on the game upon its release
Possibly, but i think it's safe to say that it will be one of the best games of the year, the Uncharted team at Naughty Dog don't do bad games. But I see your point, it has been hyped up massively.
 
 
 
Posted by Winger Gee
On Saturday 25 May 2013 5:20 PM
-
Oh Boy !! Is This Real ! Perfect game !
 
 
 
kiwimike87
Posted by kiwimike87
On Friday 31 May 2013 12:45 PM
-
Why. Why did i have to find another game I know I am going to have to buy. shame ;)
 
 
 
Posted by Gonzala
On Monday 10 Jun 2013 1:28 PM
-
Can't wait to get this!