PAX Prime 2012: The Last Of Us Impressions

The dimming of lights blur off into the offset of the scene. Joel emerges onto the scene with his stalwart companion Ellie, setting off into to the crumbling remains of society to the next path towards survival. Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us has done more than simply impress the public with its dynamic take towards adaptive gameplay. But while we’ve seen the active potential of direct combat and the abundant options available to defend against your attackers with, new footage now treats us to the nuances of towards taking a stealth approach and other mechanics that make up this apocalyptic thriller.

As Joel and Ellie travel towards prospective buildings to loot resources, chemistry from the two delivers this pragmatic sense of connection through their trials of hardship. Hearing Joel recount the experience of his first time watching the movie featured on a theatrical poster they stumble upon to Ellie -- a young girl who was never able to experience such pastimes before the apocalyptic shit-storm of epidemic infection -- really sells that constant struggle with appraising the value of morality, and weighing it against the significance of surviving in the world.

As the duo approach the inside of what appears to be an abandoned hotel, the environment manages to speak to you with its attention to detail of their dystopian land in through subtle nuances that would rival Rapture with the crisp details of crumbling rock and foliage overgrowth laden throughout building. Spotting a vantage point to ascend to, Ellie suggests that she can be boosted up by Joel to a scaffolding harboring, a ladder they can both use. But even by his peak, he’ll need an extra advantage of height, which then begets the demand for some sort of object to aid their climb. The active elements of interaction are so broad, and with initiating the view for Joel to examine his surrounding areas in detail that your assessment of the different options available really resonate with your ability to delegate factors into your survival, and cements the bridge of immersion with you and its premise. Finding a rolling cart within the area, the hardened drifter pushes his makeshift platform against the area, and the physics involved of the object being used convey a grounded perception of weight mechanics, showing just what can be done with the Havok engine in the right hands.

After collecting the ladder, the couple moves to the aforementioned vantage point. Jumping on to the terrace, Joel spots some probable hostiles and takes the initiative to take cover and recon their movements.

The A.I. portrayed by the thugs was ever changing, and their attention to caution within their movements brought about a sincere amount of dread that was palpable. Joel came across an empty bottle while skirting against the wall between his foes, and used a distraction tactic by throwing it against the wall of the room across the one where his enemies were stationed, causing immediate panic in some of their ranks as they scattered to investigate. By eavesdropping on the in-game dialogue, Joel was able to hear one of them write off the other’s suspicion, leaving him alone to move further into the hallway, leaving the other completely vulnerable for Joel to take out. As you approach the deviant who left behind, Joel immediately stuns him just long enough to restrain him and put a gun to the temple of his head, leaving him at the mercy of your lead. The function of contextual awareness to direct actions displays sensitivity more immaculate than other contemporaries before The Last of Us, witnessing Joel direct his captive foe under the threat of lethal force as far away from the hallway, in order to silence his liability permanently. The room ahead yielded some promising loot in the form of bandages that he can use for later, again speaking volumes for the amounts of dynamic contextual element s to interact with and delegate for your benefit. Joel and Ellie close in further to the building. The success for the element of surprise narrows down more and more with the appearance of more hostiles, leaving Joel with the decision of taking the one clear shot he has to eliminate one, but alert the other to his presence in the process. 

Joel then notices another thug walking around the corner with his back to Joel, and cinder brick between them. Impulsively running up behind and snagging within one swooping motion, Joel brutally incarcerates the threat with repeated blows to the cranium. The gore, though intense, was portrayed with such an authentic detail of graphical impact. By its end, it was if I could taste the mineral in the air through the immersion alone. This roll of success poises Joel to return to shooting at his previous target from behind, but his aim was careless and the bullet that whizzed by immediately launched the thug into defense, as he took out arms against Joel.

The shootout continued, and the shaking camera of the aim aliasing correlated with the jukes and stumble of Joel’s retaliation, improving upon all of the moments of combat we’ve seen previously. The camera halts over to the blindside attack of another thug in league with your opponent as he grabs the back of your head and smashes into the cover, followed by a submission hold leaving you open for a lethal gun shot by his partner. The sheer tension from breaking free of his restraint allows a quick flashing option of reversing the submission as opposed to escaping, and the result is his partner rendering nothing more than a reluctant bullet sponge to his impulsive spray of ammunition. The danger was far from over as Joel was now playing a game of cat and mouse with the last remaining thug,

Though the ample opportunity of bandaging his recent wounds soon presented itself, the varying odds between who would surprise who truly captured the sense of vulnerability that’s been missing from the survivor genre for years. At luck’s glance, Joel was approached with the opportunity of a surprise attack, and he ended the remains of clip into the last thug for good. Ellie, finally safe enough to come out of hiding, is taken back by the brutality of what took place while she was out of sight, is curtly solaced by Joel into continuing their trek through the building where they approach the top of an elevator. The troupe descend upon the top of the elevator shaft, in order to boost to the floors elevator entrance above, the attempt end in catastrophe, however, when the shaft finally gives into the weight from their positions, and Joel falls against the bottom of the elevator way with his shoulder taking the brunt of the fall. Scurrying to the surface of the flooded bottom and with a dislocated shoulder, Joel manages to swim along his new surrounding and reassures Ellie that he’s alright, and will find a way back up her, even though he doesn’t believe a word of what he’s saying.

The Last of US is still poised for release in March of 2013, and with that much of a gap in between its release and development time, the engine is one of the most refined example of gameplay design and goes above and beyond the pinnacle of this generation’s apex of quality. Hell, I think we’ve all be spoiled by Naughty Dog as they have managed to deliver a next generation experience earlier that any of us could ever have hoped for.

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