In 1996, a game developer called Naughty Dog released a game starring a bright orange bandicoot that spun, wore talking tiki masks, had a super-hot girlfriend, and loved “wumpa fruit.” Crash would soon become synonymous with the PlayStation brand, and that mascot-level connection would only grow across the next two generations with Jak & Daxter on the PS2, and Uncharted’s Nathan Drake on the PS3.
As such, it is fitting that in the twilight before the PlayStation 4 launches in November, Naughty Dog is releasing a game entitled The Last of Us. While this is not actually the absolute final big exclusive for the PS3 (Beyond: Two Souls isn’t until October), it is almost certainly the most anticipated one. Feel free to disagree with that statement in the comments, but only after you’ve read my thoughts below.
In all my years of gaming, few things have ever left me as slacked-jawed as The Last of Us. The character models are incredible, the voice-acting sounds phenomenal, the lighting effects are a sight to behold, the details on the Infected makes me what to throw up, etc. Take note, because I almost never say this: Here is a PS3 exclusive that might not be graphically possible on the 360.
Graphical prowess aside, the world that Naughty Dog has crafted feels like a very real, very terrifying place. The Infected are horrifying to behold, but the other survivors are arguably more threatening; you have to wonder how far you would go to survive in a similar situation. I’ll also give kudos for the fact that this world doesn’t look empty or dead just because the people are gone; other life would just have more room to roam.
3. Character Stories
The Resident Evil series started losing fans when it became clear that Capcom was more interested in storytelling about their various viruses and conspiracies than their characters. Thankfully, The Last of Us appears to be much more focused on Joel and Ellie’s personal struggles and triumphs; of course, I am interested to know what makes Ellie so important to everyone involved. The best sci-fi has always been more about people than anything else, and I’ve got my fingers crossed on this one.
4. New Mechanics
Most big games have this-or-that new cover feature, AI system, or shell casing shininess engine that marketing loves to hype. The Last of Us is no different, but videos have shown both the “Dynamic Stealth” and “Balance of Power” systems to be more than just hot air. The former refers to the countless different ways players can approach any given situation or obstacle; the latter is the system that governs how enemies react not just to the player, but to the world around them.
5. The Infected
Holy *@&^ these things are terrifying to behold, and the noises they make in the trailers almost make me rethink picking up the game. If you’ve never looked up Cordyceps fungus, hit this link and then get back to me. The concept of these things evolving to infect humans is bone-chilling, and the way the physical changes to the hosts have been conceptualized for The Last of Us is exceptional. It won’t be easy to dethrone Necromorphs in terms of terror, but the Infected have the best shot I’ve seen yet.
I’m not saying The Last of Us is the last great video game ever, or the last great Naughty Dog game ever, or even the last great PS3 game ever (again, Beyond in October, and it looks amazing). But I do genuinely feel like it represents the end of an era, and a culmination of things born on the original Playstation and refined for the last seventeen (!) years of development. I’ll leave you with the trailer below until June 14: