The Last of Us Preview - March 2nd 2012

Have you ever heard of the Cordyceps fungus? It infects insects, and literally takes control of them. The possessed insect is at the mercy of this malicious fungus, and obeys it's every command. Eventually, the infected insect dies, and from its corpse sprouts another fungus that punctures the exoskeleton of the insect. In three weeks time, there lies a dead creature with fungus growing from it like a garden. The intriguing element of the Cordyceps is that it only targets insects that have become overpopulated. In The Last of Us, it has infected the human race.

Society has collapsed, and mankind is no longer at the top of the food chain. Instead, people are confined to quarantine zones set up by the government. Any sign of infection, resistance, or disobedience results in being euthanized. Humanity isn't what it once was, confined to these small pockets of life. Those who have escaped have taken up refuge in the abandoned cities which they used to inhabit, scavenging for scraps; it isn't much, but it's freedom.

I am Legend, the videogame.

The Last of Us is the tale of Joel and Ellie and their journey across the country of what used to be the United States of America, and it comes to us from Naughty Dog. Joel isn't exactly a good guy; he makes his living off of running drugs and contraband around the quarantine zone which he and Ellie live in. Ellie is a fourteen year old girl who is obsessed with the past and what the world used to be like before the Cordyceps fungus, as she was born after the disaster. The only reason that Joel spends time around Ellie is because of a promise that he made to an unspecified friend. These two miscreants have to fight, sneak, and escape through militarized quarantine zones, abandoned buildings, traps set up by the few survivors, and even some Cordyceps zombies.

The gameplay is heavily inspired by a sequence in one of Naughty Dog's previous games Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The sequence in question is where Nathan Drake has to work with Tanzin to traverse through ruins in the Himalayas. Tanzin didn't speak a word of English, but was still able to communicate with Drake through body language and a shared goal. Naughty Dog hopes that through this method of gameplay players will establish a relationship with Ellie through actions and working together, as well as through conversation.

Character models are very detailed.

Naughty Dog are really focusing on the characters of The Last of Us; not just the ones you control, but the ones that you encounter. They want to establish that the people that you come across, even the ones that attack you, are indeed just that, people. Every individual in this environment is trying to survive any way they can. Attackers will react to Joel having a gun, and change their strategy to try and get it away from him. The enemies will get mad if you off one of their friends, and react emotionally, charging you in a fit of rage. Joel isn't alone in fighting these survivors that have been driven mad by the apocalypse. Ellie is more useful in a fight than one might think. Ellie will draw attention away from Joel, and even sometimes help out in a fight. For example, if Joel is being grabbed by a survivor, Ellie can hit them with a heavy object and break the grab. Though Ellie can do all of these things, she's a smart enough kid to know when to stay out of the way. The aim of Naughty Dog is to not make The Last of Us feel like one huge escort mission.

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Naughty Dog
Q4 2012 or Q1 2013