Why The Last of Us Makes E3 Worthwhile

A lot goes on at the Electronics Entertainment Exposition. New IP’s are teased, new games are paraded, new hardware is unveiled, latest gameplay is demoed, rumours are quashed, promises are broken. It’s all there, packaged and presented in three jam-packed, whirlwind days.

With so much going on, it’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get caught up in hyperbole surrounding the latest rendition of the top sports title which – in all honestly – hasn’t changed one bit in the past 4 years or so, minus some slight tweaks which annual DLC could satisfy. It’s even easier to get distracted by the forthcoming outing of a well received (yet decidedly tired) war-influenced, yearly updated FPS.

Each year however, amidst the chaos of it all, there are the blockbusters which the gaming public wait anxiously to see, baited breath, for even just a snippet of gameplay or a whisper of a release date: anything at all. Some never appear (Rockstar are notorioulsy reluctant in showcasing the Grand Theft Auto series at E3), and some do, blowing us away in the process. It is these games which make E3 worth all the fuss. Case in point: Naughty Dog’s, The Last of Us.

Aside from Dead Space- which takes a much more hands-on approach in its horror, in the way of enemies that spring out of nowhere, amidst the dimly lit corridors of unfamiliar space stations- the modern era hasn’t delivered the survival horror genre to the same standard as previous console generations. The new-age Resident Evil’s and Silent Hill’s have been rendered all but diluted action-orientated rambles. The latest Silent Hill outing: Downpour, has to be one of the most frustrating survival horror games to date, solely because, although riddled with error, Downpour produced some real stellar survival horror gameplay, but only in short bursts. This particular series has witnessed a horrible fall from grace since the glory days of Silent Hill 2. Part of the terror in Silent Hill 2 was the believability of the protagonist’s situation; that we could actually relate to James Sutherland and his story; that it felt almost real. Enter The Last of Us.

Inspired by the BBC’s (British Broadcasting Corporation) nature documentary Planet Earth, creative director Neil Druckmann has imposed the real life insect manipulating fungus, Cordyceps (and applied some artistic licence regarding its effects on humans) on the city of Pittsburgh, which has essentially mutated the infected into 28 days later-style zombies. Main and playable character Joel is sent to save Ellie from the wasteland the city has become and must fend off the threat from the infected, not to mention the numerous scavengers also fighting for survival.

Probably one of the more severe cases of infection...

The post-apocalyptic scenario is by no means an innovation in video games, or in fact the big screen (see: the Fallout series or I Am Legend), however The Last of Us is certainly one example which feels realistic, hence adding to the terror. The latest in-game footage shows some incredible link-up between Joel and NPC ally Ellie, and the enemy AI is nothing short of superb. Enemies cower for their life as Joel opens fire, however become incredibly daring as they realize he’s out of ammo; his magnum clicking through an empty chamber. Every detail is considered, even down to the short pause whilst preparing a Molotov cocktail, ramping up the tension in an already very compromising situation.

In recent years, there has been much talk of ‘genre defining’ games. It’s a well worn cliché which some reviewers seem too keen to over-use, completely undermining its value; kind of like ‘I Love You’ on Valentine’s Day. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series reinvented the adventure genre, thus was truly genre defining. The Last of Us has the potential to reinvent the much lacking survival horror genre and, judging by what we’ve seen so far, looks to do just that. This of course makes me a complete hypocrite, as I become a writer who can – in just one paragraph- describe not one, but two modern titles as ‘genre defining.’ But that’s just how good it looks! Once again, Naughty Dog appears to have created a classic in The Last of Us.

Like I said, it’s games like this that make E3 what it is. So, before sometime in 2013, when the Last of Us is due for release, be sure to re-upholster your favourite chair, as this game is sure give the edge of your seat plenty of action!

If you’re still not convinced, check it out for yourself:

-Joe