Naughty Dog: The Last of Us ‘squeezes every last drop of power’ from PS3

The Last of Us is sure giving the PlayStation 3 a run for its money. There's no denying, Naughty Dog's latest survival adventure game looks damn good. As noted in my preview, the game features not only thrilling gameplay, but a stunning environment as well. Obviously, we're used to this type of work from Naughty Dog, who also developed the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed series Uncharted. Still, with as impressive as Uncharted 3 was, I feel Naughty Dog has topped themselves with The Last of Us. And that's because the studio has mastered the PS3.

Being six years old, Naughty Dog has had plenty of time to do so and it looks it it has paid off with The Last of Us. But just how much has the PlayStation 3's lengthy lifecycle benefited Naughty Dog in development?

"Hardware cycles are always really interesting because at the beginning of a hardware cycle, you don't really know how to use the hardware yet," explained TLoU Lead Designer Jacob Minkoff. "I think Uncharted 1 used maybe 30 percent efficiency. Uncharted 2 we were finally using 100 percent, but it wasn't as efficient as it could be. Then, Uncharted 3 we got way more efficient." 

"With The Last of Us, we are as efficient as we can possibly be," he revealed. "It's just squeezing every last drop of power out of the system. And it's a system we know really, really well. We know it's constraints, so we can push it to the edges and play it really fast and loose because we know what the system can handle."

Minkoff added, "When you switch to new hardware, again, it's got more power, but you don't know how to use it again. So there's no ideal point."

The Last of Us flashlight

"For us, it's nice to really have mastered the PS3 at this point and be able to push things where we haven't been able to push before," he said, noting the game's use of real-time radiosity on the flashlight. That is, when the flashlight hits a surface, the light bounces around the environment. So if you shine it at an orange wall, it will bounce orange light around the environment. 

"It's only because we learned the PS3 so well that we can finally push graphics that are this complex," he explained. Minkoff wouldn't go so far as to say Naughty Dog is ready and waiting for the PlayStation 4 (which is expected to be officially announced a PlayStation event this month).

"I don't think anyone's really ready for a new system. There's excitement, right. Whenever a new console comes out, if it comes out, you're like 'Ok, cool, more power,' but we gotta learn this now. Whereas the beast you know, you get used to it. You get how it's going to work."

"So, new hardware, old hardware. It's just part of the cycle of life. So each stage is fun," Minkoff concluded. Judging from what I saw with The Last of Us, it seems as though Naughty Dog is more than prepared for the next PlayStation console, whether they want to admit it or not. If they can accomplish these kind of visuals on the PlayStation 3, I'd love to see what the future has in store for us.