Posted by John on December 13, 2011

The Last Of Us Preview

The Last Of Us is, on paper even better than we expected: the combined talents of Naughty Dog’s developers, a couple of the top bods from Uncharted 2 (Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley) and the extra, rogue element in the shape of ex-Ninja Theory and Enslaved lead designer Mark Richard Davies, all working together.

But on what? Why, a post-apocalyptic, character-driven and storyline-heavy action-survival game, of course. Details are still thin on the ground, but it’s clear to see that the world of The Last Of Us has gone done a wrong ’un.

Nature has had its way with the urban centres built by man, reclaiming the planet and leaving a scene not too dissimilar from the aforementioned Enslaved.

Could The Last of Us make zombie games original again?

It seems that most people in the world are not doing too well on the whole ‘living’ thing, with many humans now dead and those who are technically alive being controlled by, or driven feral by something growing inside them.

Earlier teaser trailers pointed to the Cordyceps genus of fungi, which avid BBC nature documentary viewers will know as ‘the fungus that turns ants into mind-controlled zombies’.

Apply this thinking to a fungus that attacks humans and you’ve got yourself the recipe for some decent, rather utterly terrifying horror. And this fact has been evidenced in what we’ve seen so far, with the two main characters forced to escape the screeching, bulbous-faced human presumably infected with the fungal offspring of whatever created this global pandemic.

But it won’t just be players facing off against these zombie-ish types – after all, what would a post-apocalyptic quest for survival be without having to battle others as desperate as you for supplies, shelter and safety?

Nothing, that’s what. Though admittedly that would likely raise some rather furious reportage from the tabloids if The Last Of Us sees a teenage girl killing non-fungal people (note to tabloids: this is conjecture, it is not confirmed as of yet).

Speculation erupted in the wake of the trailer to try to nail down just who it was playing the two non-freakish zombie things (‘humans’). Early guesses stabbed at the obvious – Nolan North – and the ‘she looks a bit like her’ – Ellen Page.

THIS IS NOT ELLEN PAGE. OK, at least we’re clear.

Both wrong. The teenage Ellie is played by Ashley Johnson of Ben 10, The Killing and King Of The Hill fame. The gruff-o mcbeardy Joel has the talents of Troy Baker behind him – probably less of a household name than his compatriot, but one you’re far more likely to have heard in videogames.

His credits stretch to titles such as Alec Mason in Red Faction Guerrilla, Snow of Final Fantasy XIII, Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite and Two-Face in Batman: Arkham City – certainly not a bad resume by any stretch, though it would appear Mr Baker is entering Nolan North levels of ubiquity already.

We can rest easy in the knowledge the voice acting – and we’d assume performance capture, what with this being Naughty Dog’s ‘thing’ – will be of a high calibre. What remains to be seen is what The Last Of Us will do with the genre it is, according to Naughty Dog, set to ‘define’.

Will this be a beautiful, wonderfully produced and technically skilful jaunt into a world of in-game mechanics we’ve seen a thousand times before? Or will it be, as we hope, something genuinely worth getting excited about?

At the time of writing details are thin on the ground, but that can’t stop us from speculating. Will The Last Of Us involve co-operative play, with one player taking the role of each of the characters? Will it be pure single-player?

There’s clearly still an audience for a well-crafted, offline experience as both Uncharted and Enslaved proved (admittedly ignoring UC2 and 3’s multiplayer). And just who is the main, player character?

Will we see the ability to switch who is under control, or will we see the rather interesting decision to make a teenage girl the lead character in a major western release? We shall see.

Or will it be the sort of thing we always hoped Dead Island would be? Time will tell, of course, but right now we’re going to remain quietly excited about this one – Naughty Dog’s pedigree won’t let us be anything else. 


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