Backlog #3 – CINEPLAY: First Look at The Last of Us
by Danny Kim
(Originally posted on CelebritySC on 2/8/2012)
It’s a concept that most survival-action and survival-horror games and films boil down to, “You don’t wanna die, so here, take this shotgun and shoot shit,” or, “Oh my god, you’re helpless, you better run.” (Amnesia, anyone?) No game has really chosen to explore the human side to survival, the wear it inflicts on a person over time and the stress it puts on those trying to stay alive. But it seems like that’s finally about to change.
In the world of The Last of Us, a deadly fungal infection has spread across the world, wreaking havoc and causing those infected to go insane and become deformed. Not exactly the most original premise in the world, I know – you could probably replace “fungus” with “T-virus” and most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash. But what’s interesting is the more narrative-heavy, emotion-driven approach that Naughty Dog is taking with The Last of Us.
The developer has made it clear that it intends to differentiate its game from the hordes of zombie survival games by making Ellie and Joel real characters that you want to get to know and understand, not just the next faceless figure wielding a gun.
There are only two things I’m even remotely worried about based on what I’ve seen:
1) The choice of Pittsburgh, PA as the setting. Yes, New York’s super overdone at this point, but I can’t see Pittsburgh being too memorable a setting. Perhaps they just needed a generic urban sprawl?
2) The fungus. Depending on how they wrote it in the game, the fungus could either be a really interesting part of the plot or just a lame excuse to have zombies.
But my hope is that in the three years Naughty Dog has been working on this in secret – yes, they started working on The Last of Us right after the release of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in 2009 – they kinda figured all this out.
Speaking of those three years, I imagine they spent a good amount of it improving the visuals. Breaking the common trend of prerendered debut trailers that tell us absolutely nothing about how the actual game might look or feel, the trailer for The Last of Us is all in-engine, which means, as the title slide at the beginning indicates, all footage in the trailer is captured directly from a Playstation 3, running the same code that will power the visuals in the actual game.
There’ll definitely be a hit in visual fidelity once the gameplay is implemented, but hot damn, it looks really good. While it’s the same engine that powered Uncharted 3, it’s clear that Naughty Dog spent some time prettying it up. Right from the start with the leaves and the flowing curtains to the beautifully modeled characters and gorgeous cityscape, if there’s one thing we know for sure about The Last of Us already, it’s that it will look absolutely stunning. The visual style is really well fleshed out, doing a great job of really capturing the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic city.
Of course, all debut/teaser trailers should be taken with a massive grain of salt – just look at what happened with Dead Island. But Naughty Dog have more than proven themselves capable of crafting deeply engaging, cinematic games with the Uncharted series, so there’s little reason to believe that their hot streak won’t continue with The Last of Us.
One can only hope.
Look forward to The Last of Us if you liked:
I Am Legend 28 Days Later The Road
The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: Q4 2012/Q1 2013
About Cineplay: Video games and movies are becoming increasingly symbiotic, and filmmakers who take the time to understand video games futureproof themselves, while adding a highly potent tool to their creative arsenal in the process. Cineplay puts the spotlight on games that push the boundary between video games and film for the filmmakers out there who want to get into video games.
Danny is an Associate News Editor for CelebritySC. His column “Cineplay” runs every Wednesday evening.