Monday, April 1, 2013

PAX East 2013 Day 3 - Last of Us Impressions

Last of Us Impressions – This may have been the hardest game to find time to play over the weekend. The Elder Scrolls Online line was LONGER, but since Sony set up shop in the middle of the showroom, the Enforcers were obligated to cap the line so it didn’t spill into the showroom lanes. 30 minutes of gameplay was a nice surprise. Everyone who plays gets a shirt (see swag photo - bottom left) and if you complete the demo, you get a "special prize" (a stress ball in the shape of a brick).

The beginning of the demo opens in a rundown city. Vegetation has taken over and buildings are crumbling. Right away players will get the sense of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the first time Drake jogs through the jungle in search of El Dorado. The Last of Us also incorporates the same little treasure sound effect when the game wants you to look at something. As you play as Joel, a rugged Mad Max type, you are accompanied by the unplayable 14 year old Ellie and an unnamed older woman.  It is clear right away you and your group are heading for the State Capital (which in the distance resembles a lot like the Boston State Capital). There are rumors a lot of the game takes place in Boston as well as other cities on the eastern seaboard.

The first 5 minutes of the demo gets players in tune with the controls and exploring the map which consists of condemned building and a run down city. Players need to scour the area for supplies such as bandages, ammo, guns, and melee weapons such as pipes and wooden bats. The group stumbles across a dead “clicker” which is a person who has been infected by an outbreak of fungus that has apparently spread across the United States. The fungus turns people into flesh eating zombies; splits open a person’s head, disabling their vision and forces the monsters to make noises with their mouth... The enemies emit a “clicking” sound to use a sonar type navigation for hunting. Clickers are the most dangerous enemy in the game and kill players in 1 hit. The object is to avoid them at all costs. There are a second type of enemy in the demo which act the same way as clickers do, only they are in the early stages of the infection, can still see, and will not kill players in 1 hit.

This is Naughty Dog’s first M rated game and it appears they are pulling out all the stops when it comes to the gore. Watching my friends play the game when a Clicker gets a hold of you, it immediately bites your neck, pulling back strands of flesh off your body. (PS- I didn’t die during the demo :) )

The demo showcases two large areas of the game where players must strategically decide how to take out the enemies. Aggroing them all at the same time is a recipe for disaster. The first area contains 1 clicker and 4 infected enemies. Taking out the first infected was easy. Naughty Dog incorporated a sneaking tactic which allows you suffocate and/or break the neck of enemies to stay silent. Players must then must turn to their backpack and use a combination of supplies they have been collecting and create distractions by throwing objects such as bricks and bottles to lure enemies away and take out stragglers. There are options such as bashing infected enemies skulls in with bricks, shooting them in the head with a pistol/magnum (which will most likely gain the attention of the other enemies) or taking them out silently one by one. When things get rough for Joel, he will go into an all-out fist fight (much like Nathan does in Uncharted) to beat enemies to death. If you are close to walls and other obstacles in the room, Joel will use that to his advantage and throw enemies into walls/objects.

The second area Joel must pass through is what looks to be a subway station. There are quite a few enemies in this area but the game introduces you to molotov cocktails, which if you have not been gathering supplies as you advance through the demo, you might not have enough material to make them. Molotov cocktails are good ways to take out multiple enemies; throw a brick at the corner of an area, watch the enemies stagger over to the noise, throw a cocktail and watch them burn. This area also gives you a shotgun with 3 or 4 shells. Ammo is very scarce cross the game which resembles a lot like the Condemned series. (Speaking of which, why have we not seen a Condemned 3??)

You finally make it back outside which felt like an eternity after exploring the abandoned building and subway station, and there’s a nice little cut scene that will hold players over until the game’s release.

Fans of Naught Dog and new players will love the tone, art direction and action compressed in the tight little package of Last of Us. I don’t think there’s any doubt this game will be a hit. It’s a thrilling breath of fresh air in the zombie craze (if that makes any sense). It’s not going to be an all-out shooter, although it’s possible some stages may incorporate that, the real fun is giving players the option on how to approach situation. Do I attack or do I avoid? Ammo and health kits are scarce. Choose wisely. I for one will definitely be support this game on launch. 
Last of Us is due out June 14, 2013 only on PS3.