During Sony's press event at New York Comic Con yesterday, I thought I was going to finally get some hands-on time with The Last of Us, Naughty Dog's next big IP exclusively for the PS3. So you can imagine my disappointment when it was just another hands-off demo where I was teased by watching a developer run me through the level. At the very least I thought I'd see some new gameplay footage, but unfortunately it was a demo we'd already seen before at PAX Prime.
Basically, The Last of Us at New York Comic Con is just the same thing we've already seen. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however. Up until now, everything we've seen about the game has been pretty impressive and having the chance to look at it up close was actually quite a treat.
Seeing the game up close, I was able to get a more intimate experience with it. I was able to fully appreciate the level of detail Naughty Dog has put into the post-apocalyptic world. Set 20 years after a deadly fungal outbreak plagued the world, much of the land is now overgrown with vegetation. This allows for a more vibrant, colorful environment despite the post-apocalyptic setting.
Now it's hard to judge gameplay based on a hands-off demo because we all know the developers and community managers know the game like the back of the hand. For anyone who has seen a developer walkthrough, you probably already know it's very scripted. They already know the surprises and tricks, so you really don't get a good idea for how the game would play if a random person picked up the controller. Whereas someone like me might be more apt to simply run through the level bashing in the skull of whatever they see, the developers take more of a cinematic approach.
Our walkthrough guide did just that; it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just not very helpful in terms of giving me idea of gameplay. It looks fun, but I can't say with certainty how smooth it plays. It sure did look fluid, but without any hands-on time it's hard to give an accurate assessment. We all know they make everything look easy. Our guide seamlessly weaved behind debris, sneaking up on the enemies and gracefully subduing them.
Don't let the term "gracefully" fool you. The Last of Us is quite violent and I didn't get a full grasp of the violence until seeing it up close. The Last of Us takes more of a realistic approach taking into account real-life physics. Each move is weighted as if it were a real object, from the weight of the gun to the swinging of a lead pipe. And the game definitely doesn't lack gore. There's plenty of blood splattered when shooting enemies or bashing their heads in with a lead pipe.
Just because there is some impressive violence doesn't mean the game lacks substance. We already know narrative is very important to Naughty Dog and although I couldn't really hear much of the story, I got a good idea for how intelligent the computer AI is. Obviously for a game that relies on a computer follower, Naughty Dog had to put in a tremendous amount of work on Ellie's AI. From what I saw, she is quite intelligent and was always on the same page as Joel in terms of what to do next.
While I'm disappointed that I didn't get any hands-on time with The Last of Us at Comic Con, I am glad I finally got to see the game up close. Up close it is just as impressive looking as the trailers make it out to be; once again, without any hands-on time — and just more of the same footage — it's really hard to give an accurate assessment. I will add, before I conclude, that our guide did allow us to push one button — it just didn't do anything.
There's still plenty of time left for Naughty Dog and Sony to unveil some new material for The Last of Us here at Comic Con, but for now we'll have to settle for more of the same.