Sony brought a thirty-minute demo of The Last of Us to PAX East. There wasn’t a single moment when the line for this survival horror/action game wasn’t capped, and there was a damn good reason for it. The Last of Us is a damn fine game.
Fallout, Borderlands, Left 4 Dead, Metro, and other post-apocalyptic games have one shared aspect in common: A lack of realism. If the world were to be laid waste by nuclear warfare, there wouldn’t be bullets and food everywhere. That’s where The Last of Us shines.
The demo starts off with Joel (the main character), Ellie, and an unknown woman discussing the risks of entering New York City’s downtown areas which is swarming with the fungal infected. You and your partners are trying to get to the gold domed building on the other side of the city, and it’s going to take getting through a tall, abandoned building to get there.
You see a dead Clicker within minutes of walking through the first building. They’re awful feminine-looking creatures that don’t go down easy — these creatures will stop at nothing, and use echolocation to get around. Their faces are very flower like, and the one you stumble upon has grown into the door, and sealed it shut with plants.
Throughout the demo you have to use strategy to fight and get around enemies. Since the Clickers can’t technically see you, you can pick up bottles and bricks and throw them across rooms. The throwing mechanic is nearly identical to the Uncharted grenade-throwing mechanic. I only say nearly because this one actually seemed to work.
The combat in the game is where I experienced the most fear. Since you have an incredibly limited ammo supply, you need to be observant of your surroundings. I found myself in a compact area with four runners — who do exactly what you think they do — and out of bullets. I had to be quick on my toes, “oh look, a beer bottle I can break over their heads,” or “a brick I can beat them to death with!” I probably died at least five times.
The Last of Us is difficult, yes, but that’s a good thing. It gives you sense of realism, which translates into fear. If you don’t pick up the can of food and grab those batteries, you’ll starve to death and not be able to see! If you don’t fix your shiv, you’re going to break it off in the next person you stab. It’s incredibly realistic.
The game’s audio was easily my favorite part of the demo. You hear feet crunching leaves, moved items echoing loudly throughout the rooms, splashing water, and even heavy rain showers. When the Clickers were within a close range, I heard a Grudge-like noise – a throaty clicking noise that seems to go on forever — come from all angles. I screamed like a little girl when one came through the door to try and kill me.
The demo kept a good balance between survival and horror. Throughout the game, you pick up different items: batteries, tape, scissors, rags, and alcohol to name a few. It’s definitely smart to look around an area to find some, because you’ll need it. When you open your inventory, you’re shown what you’ve picked up in terms of “Collectibles.” They include letters and maps that you find in the environments. Selecting “Crafting” lets you use Collectibles to make weapons and healing products. For example, a rag and alcohol made a first aid kit and Molotov cocktail. Your melee weapons become damaged after use, so make sure you continue procuring items to craft new weapons.
Sony revealed just enough to build buzz. By the end of the demo, I was attached to the characters and wondered what was in store for the survivors. I’m excited to pick this game up on June 14th, but also a little scared. The game is quite difficult and rather horrifying. Somehow I don’t see my cat being a supportive partner.