The Last of Us Demo Preview
By Max Roberts
One word describes The Last of Us demo: Atmosphere. Naughty Dog’s games excel at immersing their players in vibrant, living worlds. From Crash Bandicoot with its colorful, cartoon levels to the cinematic adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake, Naughty Dog always makes a world that you want to be in. The Last of Us seems to be the pinnacle of 19 years of creating worlds with an immersive atmosphere.
The demo released on May 31, 2013, to my knowledge, is an entirely new demo, that not even the press has played until today. It is titled “The Outskirts”. The level seems to take place shortly after Joel, Tess, and Ellie escape the quarantine zone. The mood is set immediately. Rain is pouring down, the city is destroyed, and the tension is thick between Joel and Tess. Their goal? To cross downtown area and get to the capital building. As far as story goes, that is all you get from this demo, which is fantastic for players interested in the games’s plot, but want to try the game out. As soon as I had control over Joel, I wanted to explore. I wanted to see what had happened and what was left in this new world. The rain and thunder drew me in, making the game seem alive. As we walked toward a skyscraper, Ellie made comments, asking questions about the world before the infection. She had never seen a skyscraper up close before. Her comments really made the stark difference between our world and theirs profound. Just adding more layers to the atmosphere.
Controlling Joel is a familiar feeling for those who have played Uncharted. Where the two part ways is in the inventory and health mechanics. Naughty Dog wanted to make this experience as realistic as possible. Rather than a regenerating health system like in Uncharted, Joel has a set health bar. To heal, you have to stop, create a med kit out of your collected supplies, and then wrap yourself up. While the process may sound long, it is not too long, it simply prevents healing on the fly and adds a layer to your combat strategy.
The inventory system is a crucial part of both the game’s combat and the immersive experience Naughty Dog is trying to achieve. As you explore the world, you’ll find supplies. Tape, bottles, and cloth, among other things are all scattered about. Once enough items are gathered, supplies, like health kits or shivs, can be made. Other than crafting tools for survival, pre-made health kits and ammo may be found in dark corners or on corpses. Ammo is scarce. Naughty Dog wasn’t kidding when they claimed that in previous press statements. With every enemy encountered, you must weigh the choices and consequences. Is this shot worth it? Will the noise be too loud? Can I sneak around for a stealth attack? These are the questions you will be asking yourself in combat scenarios.
Speaking of combat scenarios, they only type you’ll encounter in this demo is one with The Infected. Only the two types previously announced, Clickers and Runners, make an appearance here. Clickers have been infected with the fungus for years and it has grown fully out of their eyes. To make up for their blindness, the creatures use echolocation to hunt prey. As long as your still, they can’t see you. Runners, on the other hand, are newly infected and charge when they spot you. When both are present, you have to think of how to attack. A headshot to the closest Runner may eliminate that threat, but the noise will attract the Clicker and other Runners. Using your environment and silent kills is crucial for survival. If you happen to get caught up in a open fight, melee attacks with pipes and homemade shivs end up saving your life. The combat definitely is strategy intensive. You won’t be able to go guns blazing in this game, not if you plan on surviving.
Atmosphere. That is the word I want you to walk away with from this preview. Atmosphere. Naughty Dog seems to have done it again, creating a world that needs to be explored and experienced over and over again. With a strategic look on third-person shooters and a gripping tale to tell, The Last Of Us is shaping up to be one of the year’s best titles.