Surviving Pittsburgh, PA.
The next part of my hands-on demo with The Last of Us took place with what I assume was shortly after Lincoln. Now with a car at our disposal (I'm assuming we had to do some sort of mission for Bill prior to this), Joel and Ellie are heading through Pittsburgh. Remember the trailer we saw where the two of them are driving and get ambushed? This portion of the game was where that happened. The cutscene played out just exactly as the trailer, and following the brief sequence, I was tasked with taking on a whole new type of enemy — other human survivors.
You'd think that an end-of-the-world type scenario would help man unite and band together. That's not the case as Pittsburgh has been occupied by Hunters, a "savage and unpredictable faction of humans" that kill any survivors. This portion of my demo was considerably shorter, but far more action-packed. After the wreck, Joel must survive a wave of attacking Hunters.
I must warn you, do not underestimate the intelligence of enemy AI in The Last of Us. Whether its infected or human, they are smart and will find ways to sneak around to you. And unlike the infected, the humans don't care if you make a sound — they know you are there and can shoot from long distance. Not having to worry about keeping quiet, this scene played more like your typical third-person shooter. Ducking under the cover of a convenience store, the shootout probably lasted a little longer than it should have due to my inability to be effective with free-aim. I ended up baiting them in and smashing their skulls with a wooden plank. Again, satisfying.
This portion of the demo was considerably shorter, meant just to show us the difference in encounters between the infected and other survivors.
Both demo sequences gave a great feel for the overall shape of the game. There seems to be a nice balance between character development and action, exploration and linearity. Combat, while extremely difficult, does a nice job of capturing that true survival element. One wrong move and it's all over. Though, I once again survived The Last of Us, it wasn't without numerous deaths.
My biggest takeaway is how different the various sequences in The Last of Us feel. While the game has an overall tone of survival and character development, the way in which it is delivered changes dramatically. I've now played three separate portions of the The Last of Us, and all three have an incredibly different feel and pace; yet, somehow, they all seem to work.
Those of you looking to play The Last of Us, a demo of the game is included with God of War: Ascension and will be unlocked on May 31.
I last played The Last of Us at a Sony-hosted event back in February. Prior to the event I had seen plenty of trailers, developer walkthroughs, and guided previews of it, but at the event I finally went hands-on with it for myself. What I experienced was the nasty, brutality of a survival game set in a post apocalyptic world ravaged by a pandemic. Last night, I was sent another preview build of the game, this time consisting of two separate chapters of the game. Armed with the gameplay knowledge from my past experience, I once again attempted to brave the post apocalyptic world and survive The Last of Us.
Surviving Lincoln, PA.
Though given the option for multiple settings this time around, I again attempted the traditional "Normal" setting. The first chapter took place in the town of Lincoln, Pennsylvania. This portion took place after my prior playthrough and though Joel and Ellie are now familiar with each other, Joel still seems rather cold. The duo's back and forth is an interesting dynamic and one that Naughty Dog has emphasized as the driving point of the game — a love story between a father-figure and daughter.
You have Ellie who has grown up in this world and only knows the pandemic; she has never set foot outside of the quarantined zone so everything is new to her — the plants, the greenery, the butterflies, the empty record store, the powerless gaming machine. The newness of this whole new world is evident as she stops to take in the surrounding nature. Then you have Joel, a man with a dark past that has yet to be revealed to us. He's strictly business — cold, quiet, skeptical, and doing what he needs to do to survive and deliver Ellie safely. Ellie's innocence and curiosity is a perfect counter to Joel's emptiness and hardness. Seeing the two of them go back and forth as I made my way through the lush vegetation prior to Lincoln was just a taste of the story-driven nature of The Last of Us.
In terms of gameplay, the first portion of this area was mostly exploration and puzzle solving. Naughty Dog has created a magnificently beautiful world filled with vibrant colors and extreme detail. It's a chilling experience seeing this beautiful world now decimated by this pandemic. As I explored the outskirts of Lincoln, I was tasked with a brief puzzle in which I had to move a plank to cross two building tops. It was a bit tricky, but a helpful hint system aided in my exploration.
Upon entering the city, I was confronted with two infected. Thanks to my prior experience with the game, I knew not to take them both head on. To survive The Last of Us, you must think cautiously. This isn't some run and gun game. You use your environment and the materials at hand. Distracting them with a broken bottle, I snuck up and brutally smashed their heads in with a lead pipe. Satisfying.
I further explored Lincoln, a small town with an Americana feel to it. The goal was to locate Bill, an old business associate who owes Joel a favor. In this case, we needed a car. Proving to get to Bill was quite difficult as he littered the city with explosive traps and trip wires. Upon entering a building I was snagged by a rope and flipped upside down. While hanging upside down I had to defend from waves of infected as Ellie worked to cut me down.
From there, I was engaged in a chase sequence in which I met up with Bill and the three of us ran (again, sometimes to survive you must run instead of fight) from the onslaught of infected. After this intense sequence we were brought into Bill's safe house where, again, you get a real feel for character dynamics and relationships. Bill is another man hardened by the events that took place 20 years ago and not trusting of strangers, which explains why he handcuffs Ellie upon first meeting. The innocent Ellie, once curious of her new surroundings, had transformed into a defensive veteran, not willing to take shit from anyone. At one point, she pulled down the pipe she was cuffed to and swung it at Bill. It became clear that despite Ellie's perceived naivety, she will do whatever it takes to survive.
Continue to part two of my hands-on with The Last of Us.