Ever since Naughty Dog first emerged onto the gaming scene way back in 1989, fans have had the pleasure of watching the studio grow and evolve from one console generation to the next. With franchises like Jax and Daxter and Uncharted on their plate, there is absolutely no denying that the developers have proven that they have range when it comes to creating compelling content.
With the release of The Last of Us only a mere 3 months away, I had a chance to participate in a 30 minute hands-on demo for the game during last weekend’s PAX East expo in Boston. Did I walk away from this title seeing it as gaming's cure or an infected mess? Keep reading to find out my verdict on one of this year’s most anticipated games.
The demo on display at PAX East followed Joel, Ellie, and Tess as they navigated through the dangerous building corridors, and streets of Boston. By now the infection has spread throughout the farthest regions of the world, leaving very little hope left that things will ever be the same again. Even though this demo only showcases a tiny portion of the game, Naughty Dog deserves props on crafting a stunning atmosphere filled with turmoil and despair. During the cutscenes, both the character performances and narrative remained intense and engaging. It’s easy to tell that these two dynamics will be the driving force behind what will ultimately make this title one of the year's best games.
When starting out this demo, the player assumes the role of Joel and is tasked with collecting items, climbing and crawling through crevices, and taking down enemies. Longtime fans of the Uncharted series can expect some puzzles to be implemented into the final build of the game, but certainly not in this demo. The collectible items include melee weapons, and obscure objects like bricks and beer bottles. These particular items can be used to attack or distract enemies when you’re trying to travel from one place to another. Because the demo takes place later on in the game, there was no tutorial on the importance of certain tactics. Hopefully this aspect will be better explained once the retail release hits stores in June.
When it comes to combat, Joel is able to perform stealth kills by sneaking behind enemies and stabbing them. While this technique may work early on in the demo, the difficulty elevates quickly once variations of infected enemies are present within the same environment. The most dangerous adversaries to defeat are the severely infected creatures that look exactly like the fungus that has been coursing through their bodies. Getting close to these enemies guarantees an automatic death because you are unable to sneak up or use melee weapons on them. This element of gameplay is where strategy will have to come into play if one wants to survive.
After completing my time with the demo, I walked away thinking two things. For one, The Last of Us will be a game with phenomenal storytelling and a diverse cast of characters that we will grow to care about. In many ways, a lot of today’s games are lacking in these two areas and in that sense this will be a refreshing and rewarding experience to behold.
On the other hand, the concept behind this game lacks originality and is far from being groundbreaking. In a gaming market already heavily saturated by zombie games and a weak survival horror genre, The Last of Us feels very similar in context and subject matter. There will no doubt be several hardcore fans that will praise this game just because it's a Naughty Dog developed title. If this ends up being the case and the game doesn't live up to the hype, then it will truly be disappointing in my eyes.
While it’s hard to fully judge how a game will be based off a demo, I do believe its fair to say that the core gameplay mechanics will remain intact unless changed at the last minute. Overall, I still am looking forward to playing The Last of Us, and if you’ve been waiting on this game then you should be too.
The Last of Us demo will be available on PSN on May 30th. The game releases everywhere on June 14th.