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Posted 2:30pm

Hands-on with The Last of Us

The Last of Us - Concept Art

I’ve finally played a chapter from Naughty Dog‘s eagerly awaited post-pandemic survival tale, and the first thing I want to say is this: The Last of Us is not a shooter. Well, not exactly.

Though Joel packs a pistol, you’ll count yourself lucky to be holding more than 10 bullets at any one time. Most times you’ll want to avoid fights by sneaking and hiding. In other, more desperate times you’ll pull the trigger with a feeling of great reluctance — all the while praying that you don’t miss.

The ultra-tight ammo supply imbues the game with a primal, high-stakes tension that brings uncertainty to every decision you make. One thing’s for sure: this is one mess you won’t be able to shoot your way out of.

As I guided Joel’s group around the dilapidated fringes of post-pandemic Boston, I saw constant reminders of Naughty Dog‘s legendary attention to detail. Step under a trickle of water and Joel will raise his hand to keep his head dry; knock an enemy near a wall and Joel will pin him there to deliver a staggering punch.

The environments also bristle with detail. Peer through a derelict car’s filthy window and you’ll see an interior modelled down to the steering wheel and gearshift knob. Shine a flashlight in a dark room and you’ll project your companions’ shadows softly and realistically against the wall and floor. Peek around a corner and you might spy a mouldering poster for “Fever Dream,” one of several fictional movie references dotted throughout the world.

The Last of Us on PS3

With Tess and Ellie in tow, I quietly entered a sagging skyscraper, my exploration accompanied by the ominous groans of tortured steel and a series of unsettling chirps. That’s when I spotted my first Clicker, a late-stage infected human with obscene fungal growths sprouting from its eye sockets.

The Clicker is one of the deadliest enemies you’ll face, but it’s functionally blind, relying on a form of echolocation to navigate and hunt its prey. I hurled a glass bottle to distract the monster, then quietly guided Ellie and Tess further into the building, scooping up ammo and supplies along the way.

You’ll quickly learn that crafting is a necessity, not an optional sidequest. As you collect spare parts in order to craft gear and weapons, you’ll face tough choices on where to allocate scarce resources. Use a rag now to make a much-needed medkit, or save it for a molotov cocktail – just in case?

You can also combine blades and bindings with improvised weapons (pipes, two-by-fours) to craft a powerful anti-crowd weapon. Or you can opt to make a short-range shiv that can instantly and silently dispatch one enemy.

Whichever you choose, the game’s crafting interface provides a wealth of information in a lightweight and accessible UI. Despite the range of options I was able to find and craft anything I needed quickly and efficiently.

The Last of Us on PS3The Last of Us on PS3

Based on the chapter I played, Naughty Dog doesn’t seem to be leaning on jump scares, fake-outs, or cheap tricks to gin up fear. Instead, The Last of Us develops a deeper, more oppressive dread by surrounding you with palpable decay and loneliness, turning off the lights and bombarding you with amygdalae-melting audio effects.

Creeping through the filth-streaked corridors scrounging for scissors and tape didn’t make me feel like an all-powerful supersoldier, only a desperate survivor fighting to draw another breath. That bleakness permeates and propels the gameplay – no matter how bad it gets, you’re always worried that it’s about to get much, much worse.

Visually, the game is a knockout. The intensely detailed interior nooks and crannies contrast vividly with the massive scale of the outdoor scenes, such as the vine-choked skyscrapers of an abandoned Boston. The control scheme felt natural and intuitive, and Ellie and Tess felt less like advanced NPCs with great AI and more like companions on a dark, desolate journey.

The Last of Us - Concept Art

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Comments

20 Comments 5 Author replies
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DoYouLikeMyID 6 February, 2013 @ 2:44 pm   1

I can’t wait for the game!

chrisboers 6 February, 2013 @ 2:46 pm   2

So, this is going to be more Metal Gear Solid (Stealth game) than Metal Gear Solid, right? Good!
Love the game art, and thanks for the gameplay update. Interesting read! (You lucky guys, getting to play these games months ahead of us, grunts :-) )

    Sid Shuman 7 February, 2013 @ 7:06 am    

    My pleasure! It’s definitely got a heavy stealth emphasis if that’s the way you want to play, but it also accommodates a more direct approach if you’ve got the nerves for it.

MitchZombie 6 February, 2013 @ 2:47 pm   3

Can not wait for this game ! gonna be epic.

dark_angel69 6 February, 2013 @ 2:53 pm   4

Dying to get my hands on my copy. Which I could get to play it right now. You say the game is not really a shooter, what would multiplayer be like then? Would multiplayer be more of a shooter like Uncharted? Would really love to know if it will have co-op or not as I heard somewhere before that they might do a co-op

    Sid Shuman 7 February, 2013 @ 7:06 am    

    Would love to know more about the multiplayer, but haven’t heard a peep. All eyes on Naughty Dog!

ThreeWallzz 6 February, 2013 @ 2:55 pm   5

The game i have been waiting for!
i really do hope mp is good

CoolRichy008UK 6 February, 2013 @ 2:56 pm   6

BUY BUY BUY

WHERE IS THE STORE UPDATE SONY WAKE UP

solarwind12 6 February, 2013 @ 2:56 pm   7

This short review has strengthened a thought i had a few days ago, i noticed the similarities between a Last of Us kinda theme looking picture, and a actual I Am Alive theme, now reading that ammo is ‘also’ going to be scarce i have to ask, is their any relation with the I Am Alive ‘original’ game ?. as that Was meant to be a all out triple A disc released game, but for some reason got scrapped/downgraded to the psn/xbla version. Did ND take over that original games concept i wonder, as i liked I Am Alive, a lot, and couldn’t understand why such a game got ‘downgraded. obviously theres going to be similarities in lots of games. But seeing the theme/picture of Last of Us just looked exactly like the I’m Alive one.
Anyway, your very lucky to have gotten hands on time with this, was it the same level us GoW buyers are going to see in March, looking forwards to both events.

    Sid Shuman 7 February, 2013 @ 7:08 am    

    No, not that I know of. I do some similarities but TLOU has a bit more action than what I played of IAA.

drewblazer 6 February, 2013 @ 3:09 pm   8

Naughty Dog and Rockstar North are GOAT studios in my book.

Looking good!

Lunastra78 6 February, 2013 @ 3:10 pm   10

I agree the similarities with I am Alive are definitely there. But that’s a good thing, I loved that game too.

I think The Last of Us will be a blockbuster game for Sony, and it was lucky that GTAV was delayed so it didn’t have to compete with that.

kit-tiger 6 February, 2013 @ 3:24 pm   11

“The Last of Us is not a shooter”

I am relieved and even more curious by that statement. I want an adventure game, we already have enough shooters. Looking forward to this one !

Just wondering where I can pre-order The Last of US Joel Edition, I checked Tesco Direct and they seemed to have ran out of stock?

dark_angel69 6 February, 2013 @ 4:46 pm   13

@GABBA11
Shopto.net is selling it also. It’s a bit more expensive than Tesco but can place your order there if you really want it

sterushton 6 February, 2013 @ 4:57 pm   14

Can’t help thinking a massive mistake has been made not having this as campaign co-op with the two main characters, they even have the cheek to be selling different editions for the main characters.

No doubt the uncharted style (boring) multiplayer will be tacked on to appease those who like playing with their mates but its still a missed opportunity.

I’ll only get this when its part of the platinum/essentials range.

    Sid Shuman 7 February, 2013 @ 7:09 am    

    No clue on what’s in store for MP, but you’ll surely hear it here on the Blog first!

oh jesus i hope this game is coming to vita too

MrGamer79 6 February, 2013 @ 6:43 pm   16

Awesome! !
Det här kommer bli helt underbart att spela :)

WHY THE HELL ARE WE NOT GETTING THE PANDEMIC EDITION WITH THE STATUE OF ELLIE AND JOEL IN SCEE NAUGHTY HOUND HMMM?? COME ON, ANSWER US. SICK OF SCEA GETTING PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT ALL THE TIME. FIX IT PLEASE. I WANT TO PREORDER THAT EDITION OF THE GAME :/

Whats in store for mp? Let me guess: death match, team deathmatch, more death match, crapture the deathmatch, domineathmatch, capture the fuh-LAG, a cursory co-op mish for those folk whom hate mp but need to level up for the ‘get to lvl 1000′ trophy. That’s about it usually.

Stonesthrow 7 February, 2013 @ 2:21 pm   19

Awesome! Never liked the survival genre since it’s too slow and everything, but if anyone can reform me.. I’m going with stealth as much as possible :p Not too interested in the multiplayer, but then again, that never really interested me in Uncharted either. I sincerely hope there’s a good co op like in Uncharted, so those non-competitive types have something to play together too. Although with this kind of gameplay, it’s still a complete guess how the multiplayer will turn out.

declan__watson 10 February, 2013 @ 11:52 am   20

Hello Sid
I cannot wait for this game its going to be epic. This game will sell millions when it comes out but I mean you’d expect that for a game coming from Naughty Dog. Maybe if this is such a success they could make it into a film sequel. :)