Survive The Last Of Us By Smashing People's Faces In With Bricks

In the world of The Last of Us, where power grids are down and vine-covered, broken buildings are all that remind us of a once thriving civilisation, ruthlessness is what prevails.

But as nature spills over cement, you can see beauty in the world. "It all looked lovely and managed to be gentle and brutal at the same time."

My behind-closed-doors demonstration at E3 kicked the level off with Joel and Ellie looking for a way to climb up the hotel they'd just slipped into. Ellie is helpful, or as Naughty Dog creators describe her: "capable". She didn't start out that way, though. It was because of actor Ashley Johnson's impulses to fight off her attackers during mocap sessions that led the team to change her behaviour. Now she not only points out ladders and finds resources around each map, but she'll struggle against enemies and help Joel out of tight encounters with her butterfly knife.

While the duo are scavenging for supplies and searching for a way up, soft, ambient light spills in through the windows casting subtle shadows. Birds chirp in the distance. Looking out at nature's leafy green decorations and listening to all this is peaceful. It's beautiful, really.

And then suddenly Joel hears men talking. Tension builds, music like thunder sounds, and Joel and Ellie hurriedly rush behind an AC unit on the roof of the building they're now on. Joel is breathing heavier, and the pitch in Ellie's voice heightens. The Last of Us is all at once beautiful and frightful, and it's my favourite part about the world.

We've seen this part of the game before, but with a more direct, head-on approach. This time our gameplay guides take a sneakier route, manoeuvring around the men to have Joel choke one out in an empty room. The camera closes in on Joel's face as he's gritting his teeth and his victim is desperately clutching at the arm around his throat. It takes effort and tact to kill someone in The Last of Us, and the game forces you to play these brutal struggles out in close-camera views, really driving the experience in. Killing someone in The Last of Us carries weight more than most games.

Joel and Ellie move on and hide behind a corner when they see three people approaching, one with a gun and one with a lead pipe. Joel sees a brick on the floor. I'm wondering if he's going to throw it for distraction like he did earlier with an empty bottle, but I know it's only going to end covered in blood. As the man with the lead pipe approaches, Joel cracks the brick on his head. He smashes it in a few times for good measure. Every hit resonates with the sound of his skull crushing inward.

The now-dead man's companion shoots out at Joel. It's realistically loud, and Ellie covers her ears while crouching behind a corner. His shot misses, but Joel gets his in. Two down, one to go. You can hear panicked foot steps in the distance. Sounds are important in The Last of Us, both alerting you to where your enemies are and creating tension that you can feel, even just while watching all this play out.

The last man crafts a molotov (which Joel can also do) and throws, but misses. With nothing left in his hands, you can see his desperation as he charges at Joel. Joel shoots his leg. The man struggles to get up. Joel shoots his head. A pool of blood forms and Ellie is taken aback. "I know," says Joel. And they move on.

Not all encounters will be this hostile. But the group of hunters that derailed Joel and Ellie from their journey in a car are only interested in what supplies they can scavenge off of them. The life of a 14-year-old girl is of little value to this clan.

Joel and Ellie can take a breath now. They scoot towards an elevator shaft and climb on top. Ellie slams the hatch shut, and you can hear the cables reverberating in the shaft. Every sound effect in this game is deliberate. It adds to both the tension and atmosphere. I'm sitting on the metaphorical edge of my seat and wondering if this is strictly an environmental add-on or if there's danger ahead. Joel boosts Ellie up to a landing above. The cables continue their vibrations. Just as he's about to climb up to join her, the cables give way and both Joel and the elevator fall to a watery drop.

"Are you okay?" Joel calls out to Ellie. "No! You scared the shit out of me!" It's obvious that parts of The Last of Us will find you separated from Ellie, making your way back to her. Our demo ends here.

The Last of Us was the best game I saw personally at E3. Naughty Dog looks to be taking great lengths to create compelling characters -- a post-apocalyptic-born brave girl, and a damaged father figure -- with strong companionship. It looks beautiful and it sounds frightful. And I haven't even met the parasitic enemies yet.


    I think what this game needs the most are choices. Choice in terms of combat and choice in terms of traversal. I'm OK with it being largely linear, so long as there are a number of different paths through the areas. Linearity is excellent for creating tension and pacing out the story, but by the end of Uncharted 3, for example, I was sick of running in all-guns-blazing and the straightforward, unfailable platforming.
    With such limited resources at Joel's hands I want to be able to approach combat intelligently - like I used to in Metal Gear Solid, for example. Not necessarily stealthily, but intelligently.

      Amen to this. This will make or break the game in my mind.

        I would also advocate non-violent solutions to some situations.

      Everything you just said can't be said enough. Linearity is often fine but it needs to be done in a way that makes you feel like you're navigating a world, rather than a passageway. Even if the levels are very linear having choices in how to approach situations helps a lot to make it all seem more realistic.

      Every bit of news about this game makes me more excited for it so hopefully it won't disappoint.

        It's just the one thing which was missing from Uncharted - there were different ways to approach the enemies, but only one real "approach" - stealth kill until you're seen, then shoot-shoot-shoot. Naughty Dog don't have a lot of interaction with their environments but I want to be able to set traps, for example, or avoid combat entirely. With such a focus on immersive sound design, I want to be able to use that to avoid enemies, or to trigger traps, or to ... etc.

          Say what you want about BF3, but the sound design for that game is unparalleled, I wish more games went to that level of effort for sound! I have virtual surround sound headphones and it's easy to not only distinguish where the noise is coming from (all actions have audio cues, you can tell when an unseen enemy is doing anything from a revive to pulling a knife) but you can even guess the range. So immersive.

          +1 to Stu and the others

            Yeah, BF3 has incredible sounds, and I use stereo speakers.

      Deus Ex: Human Revolution was an excellent example of this. I liked the way it blended MGS style stealth with action (and it did it better than MGS4). An amazing story with lots of choices that were a little deeper than good/bad, and always several options for approaching an objective. For example I remember I failed the speech check in the first Detroit police station level and deciding that Jensen wasn't a cop killer led me on one of the most intense 2+ hours of stealth in the game, crawling through vents and avoiding all contact with the cops. Yet on another playthrough I aced the speech check and it was a 5 minute fetch quest. I really hope we get to see some real depth in our choices over and above paragon/renegade black/white. And a compelling story that makes you think is going to be a must to immerse you in the world.

    I look at that picture and all I think of is the Hunger Games

    Seriously, please, there are so many other games presented at E3 and all gaimz journos here are talking about are these two games... and some Mario >(

      maybe because they were the two best games at E3?

      i want to learn more about them, they both look great

    " have Joel choke one out in an empty room"

    Is that a euphemism for something?

      Yeah, it's what you do when you can't do this:

      "His shot misses, but Joel gets his in."

        Oh, it didn't just end there. He did this too:
        "He smashes it in a few times for good measure."

    I hope there's an option to play through avoiding killing people. Violence in games never usually bothers me but this seems kind of unpleasant. Maybe that's the point, but if it's all like this, I think I'll pass.

      See for me that really adds to it. Watching the gameplay trailer made me feel kind of uncomfortable and that's how I wanna feel playing a survival game like this. Sure you'll have to face the zombie-like creatures at times, but at times you'll have to decide how to deal with other survivors and it's not always gonna be pleasant.

      If this gameplay video is indicative of the rest of the game then it should feel like a real fight to just survive in this world, and that's how it should feel ImO. It gives a reason to try and be stealthy when possible (and I do hope stealth is an option through a lot of the game) and it differentiates it from other games where you've got plenty of ammo for cover-based shooting.

        Pretty much. I've seen a few people adverse to the violence shown but as a post-apocalyptic survival game that just means it's hit the nail on the head. Or the brick.

        Realistically speaking, there's good potential for far more grim tidings for a 14-year-old girl in a world where society has crumbled and rules don't exist. I think Naughty Dog has done a brilliant job of creating the 'uncomfortable' feeling that really matches this genre and type. As Corteks said, if this gameplay video is in any way indicative of the final product, they've created the perfect mood for the setting.

    Time to dust off my PS3. It'll go back to the basement after I finish playing this though

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