Can “The Last Of Us” Save Us From Generation Fatigue?

Let’s face it, we’re all just a tiny bit bored with this generation.

Sure, there’re some interesting titles still to come on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but we’re now at the stage were publishers are taking fewer risks than normal, preferring to play it safe with masses of homogenised shooters and rehashes of old ‘classics’ designed to entertain late buyers rather than those who have stuck it out for the last seven years.


Even titles like Overstrike, which at least threatened to try something a little bit different with its visual style, have been boiled down and reprocessed into fitting into categories and pigeon holes that represent a much lesser chance of failing. Good business sense? Sure. Boring as hell and hardly going to make a dent on this year’s Call of Battlefield: Super Soldier Ops? Quite probably, sadly.

[drop]And yet, as delicate glimpses of next-generation tease with their fluid animation and rich landscapes (I’m looking at you two, Watch Dogs and Ground Zeroes) it’s almost certain that we’ve reached the zenith of what these current machines can do with just the ubiquitous Halo 4 left to really test Microsoft’s machine and a handful of sequels for PS3.

But in amongst all the fluffy subtitles and Zerox-style wholesale duplication of themes and ideas, is The Last Of Us, SCEA’s final champion, its segue into PlayStation 4. Naughty Dog’s second team, able to keep development quiet for far too long, have managed to wow and surpass expectations at every showing, the game constantly looking better.

Why? Well, technically it looks incredible – the animation is ridiculously slick and tactile, more so than stablemate Drake’s last outing and up there with the very best; the textures sharp, the framerate solid. But it’s in the enemy AI (and that of your partner, of course) that seems to shine above everything else: it’s reactive, complex, believable.

I don’t have a problem with dumb enemies, as long as they’re not dressed as anything but. A blast through Doom, setting Cacodemons off against an arch-vile is simplistic fun, but since Halo I’ve craved games that challenge the player not through ridiculous difficulty spikes or covering the bad guys in bullet sponges, but through intelligence.

Make the foe play like a human, and the game’s instantly better to play.

Bungie’s ability to stack a hierarchy with grunts and elites was (and still is) a joy to play with, a deadly sandbox of needler spikes and plasma balls that dissipate and reform depending on your actions and targets. They didn’t really push beyond the basics (and there’s little need to) but since then most first person shooters have just felt rather basic, unless heavy scripting covered up the holes.

The best games allow you to tackle challenges in any way you saw fit. That’s what I’m liking the most about The Last Of us – a sense of freeform, tactical choice is present in everything we’ve seen so far, even if the outcomes and certain segments will play out the same each run. Facing off against humans with a handful of bullets and a child to protect is one thing, but make the enemy smart and it’s a whole new ball game.

[drop2]And of course Ellie, Joel’s companion, reacts intelligently, communicating in response to what’s happening and what’s around her. It’s often surprisingly well done.

Next generation is certain to bring vastly improved visuals (where budgets allow) but the area that excites me the most is AI – increased RAM and quicker processors are likely to allow developers the chance to really demonstrate what videogames can do in an area that previously many have simple ticked the most basic checkboxes rather than really pushing the envelope any further.

In a shooter, a bad guy ducking behind a box isn’t smart AI. Co-ordinating with fellow teammates to create covering fire, find space and then devise a fresh approach to attack the player safely is. It’s this that The Last Of Us is striving to at least portray, even if there’s a hint that there are elements of smoke and mirrors at work.

I’ve got huge amounts of faith in Naughty Dog, and currently their latest is the game I’m most looking forward to before the inevitable rollover to PS4 and 720 starts to grind into life.



  1. Having studied AI at uni I am, perhaps, a little more forgiving than many gamers. I honestly don’t believe humans will ever create true artificial life due to the infinite complexity of the human brain.
    Making a computer react realistically to the, near infinite, possible variables in any given situation takes a huge amount of work and to do it in real time requires exceptional processing power and memory.
    With that in mind, it blows me away how much can be achieved already and with each new gen we see more power so better AI. I remember how impressed I was when, in the first Uncharted, I was flanked and taken out cos I took too long in one spot.
    But as you say, someone makes a good engine and it gets reused and stagnates until a developer with initiative and drive to do something different decides to push it.

    AI is fascinating and I’d love to see it being developed even further

  2. I’m looking forward to Last of Us but does this mean that there’ll be no Uncharted in 2013?

    • No there won’t be one and thank god for that. It would suffer greatly from fatigue if they kept churning them out every other year.

      • Agreed. I’m hoping for a PS4 launch title because ND definitely know what they’re doing with their games.

      • Me too, I think I’d rather see another Uncharted Vita game than a ps3 one and then a ps4 game at launch.

        Another new IP from ND would be great as well.

      • …and hopefully not a Crash Bandicoot reboot!

      • Very unlikely as neither they nor Sony own the IP. Jak and Daxter is a possibility though.

        Naughty Dog haven’t done a racing game for a while.

  3. It looks great but, no, a third person adventure game cannot save this generation from fatigue.

  4. Exactly my thoughts, this game is so important for the industry (and for me).

  5. Cant say im suffering from this generation fatigue. Plenty of top titles still being released and ive been playing some older classics again thanks to PS+. RDR has kept me occupied for the best part of a fortnight.

  6. I am still enjoying this Gen with my PS3 :P Maybe the ‘other’ games consoles have run out of ideas tho LoL:D

    • okay, you’re still enjoying it. That’s okay then.
      HEY, SONY, Call off your A-class studios from their PS4 projects, JBoo says he’s alright for the moment.

      • Haha!

      • He was only voicing his opinion, which he’s entitled to. Was there really any need for the sarcasm, especially from the editor?

      • I’m fairly sure Peter was just being silly. :)

      • I thought the respond was funny, people should chill out, we’re just having fun, and a silly reply from the editor every once in a while is welcomed.

      • We were not saying dont work on a PS4 though, just the we are still happy with what the ps3 was producing.

  7. In a way I don’t feel the last of us is changing anything but improving what’s already out there & redefining the combat & the ability to play survival game from an actual perspective rather than a game if that makes any sense.

    Anyway just nothing to do with the last of us, is the game called AMY that horror game similar to the last if us any good?

    • No, unfortunately Amy ended up being a terrible, terrible game, one which is littered with bugs and poor design choices. Its been patched to fix a lot of these issues but its still a pretty bad game :(

      • ah really what a Shame, recommend a game for to get on psn please lol I have £20 psn points but dunno what to get I was going wait till Tokyo jungle comes out or K1 but that’s far

  8. Naughty Dog are amazing, but I can’t say I’m at all interested in this at the moment. It just looks like a re-skinned UC with zombies. Been there, done that.

    • Same, looks alright but I honestly went “Uncharted 4!” when seeing the E3 trailer. So similar its barely any different.

  9. Can’t believe Beyond didn’t get a mention, possibly even more interesting than the last of us. The fatigue of the endless sequels won’t end with new consoles. The only hope is a few more publishers will push out some original IP games and not more re-skinned FPS.

    I don’t think the way genre lines are becoming more and more blurred is helping fatigue either as each game becomes more like the rest.

    There’s no exactly be a mass of new IP on the vita so far so I can’t see a load of new IP emerging early in the next console cycle either. It’s only now we’re starting to see glimpses of games like Tearaway but third party new IP seems to be very lacking. i haven’t noticed much on the 3DS either.

    • Beyond isn’t really showing anything new AI-wise that I’ve noticed, though.

      • No but probably distances itself more from most other games out than the last of us.

  10. “Let’s face it, we’re all just a tiny bit bored with this generation.”

    Nice to open with a strong comment/statement but I promise you, you’re speaking on behalf of a small minority. We’ve seen what the majority buy/tolerate. Really, we’re living in a generation of hardware where games look lovely. Not realistic, but lovely. That will do for most people.

    Other than open-world games becoming bigger (this generation), the current hardware hasn’t really given us scope to come up with new game-types, as such. With that in mind, it’s now lovely to see developers finally pushing things in different ways. After all, eye-candy is all well and good but the real evolution in gaming is what goes on in the background. Seeing how we interact with that world… with those characters. That’s where I often feel let down (and sometimes truly staggered).

    It’s just a shame that these elements are not often visual so receive a lot less love than they should do. After all, we’re still seeing variations of a handful themes from generations ago.

    • I agree. The sad thing is it seems that once the “big” publishers can’t release there standard games with improved visuals they have no idea what to release and seem very short of ideas.

      This should be the best time for creativity as developers are at their most comfortable with the hardware and new games won’t get overshadowed by the same old games with big graphically improvements. It’s great to see Sony bringing games like Puppeteer and Rain but why aren’t other publishers doing it?

      If “everyone” has fatigue with this generation of consoles then surely there’s a large number desperate for something new. That should be game innovations rather than new and expensive hardware.

    • Little Big Planet and Mirror’s Edge were the only big on-disc releases which really felt like something new to me.

      Journey, Braid, Limbo et. al on the PSN is where the real innovation seemed to be happening though.

    • Top comment Mike and agree 100%

    • I miss the days when I was filled with joy when I first got my hands on a new console every time the next generation came out. Maybe it’s not that I’m bored with the current generation, but I want to feel the rush again. :D

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