It probably comes as a surprise to no-one that a game from Naughty Dog is ranked so highly on our list. Even if that was the only fact we knew the game probably would still have done well; a new game from the studio behind Uncharted was always going to be a pretty easy sell.[drop]However, don’t let it be said that Naughty Dog take the easy route, as The Last of Us seems to stand quite some distance from the Uncharted series. Sure, it may still have a semi-realistic setting and style, and the male protagonist, Joel, may look an awful lot like an aged Nathan Drake, but that’s where the similarities stop.
No, The Last of Us is a very different style of game, with the most prominent difference being the setting. The game’s world is probably best described as post-apocalyptic, being set twenty years after a fungus takes over, killing millions in the process. When the fungus infects someone it turns them into a carrier, their only purpose in their undead state being to spread the infection further. It’s you general zombie story, although with the fungal infection adding a different spin to things.
With the origins of the fungal outbreak twenty years in the past and leaving so many dead in its wake it’s obvious that the world will have changed, and from what we’ve seen so far it looks like nature has reclaimed many cities. Some human settlements remain though, in the form of quarantine zones that are under apparently brutal martial law. It’s clear to see why’d you want to escape such a regime, even if it meant having to take your chances in a land infected by a fungal plague.
This escape scenario is the game’s central plot, with Joel, who’s been making a living via the black market, promising a friend that he’ll help a young girl called Ellie. It’s Joel who you’ll be playing as though, with Ellie remaining AI controlled throughout the game.[videoyoutube]Given that Ellie is such a core character, and one of the driving forces in the narrative, it’s surprising that she underwent a variety of changes between the game’s announcement at last year’s VGAs and May this year. However, Naughty Dog did have good reason for these changes, saying that they wanted Ellie to better reflect the personality of the actress playing her, Ashley Johnson, as well as making her a little younger to fit in with the game’s plot more.
One of the other big announcements about the game this year was the news that it’s set to feature multiplayer, although there won’t be any campaign co-op. This lack of co-op may frustrate some, particularly as it seems like a relatively obvious inclusion. However, I feel that Naughty Dog are right to keep Ellie computer controlled, making her a co-op partner would completely change the game’s dynamic and probably have a significant effect on the narrative.
In terms of gameplay, The Last of Us is set to be a third-person shooter, and will feature dynamic gameplay which will allow you to take different approaches to situations. While the game’s going to feature shooting mechanics and a cover system, presumably using lessons learned from the Uncharted series, it’ll also feature deeper stealth than Nathan Drake’s adventures. In particular Naughty Dog have been talking about the game’s dynamic stealth AI, which should mean that the AI reacts more naturally if, for example, you take out one of them.
The game’s certainly looking interesting so far, and with Naughty Dog’s expertise behind it it may well be a hit. If you can’t wait to get your hands on the game then it’s set for a worldwide release on the 7th of May.