Or the invasion of the mushroom people…
The world as you know it no longer exists. 20 years ago a fungus infection jumped species and started infecting the human population, killing people in the millions. What’s left of survivors in the US live in quarantine zones under strict control of the military. Screening for infection is prolific and those contaminated are dealt with viciously. This is The Last of Us…
Coming from the creative team behind Uncharted 2, this PlayStation exclusive title by Naughty Dog has been two years in the making, and they’ve put that time to very good use.
The concept behind the games setting is based upon a real life fungus, the cordyceps variety. If you want to find out what this thing does then check out the ‘Jungle’ episode of the superb ‘Planet Earth’ series from the BBC. In fact, you should check this out regardless as it’s a great program, but I digress. It’s this rooting in reality that gives The Last of Us the edge over your standard horror title. Nothing grips you more than the thought that under the right circumstances this could happen. Freaks you out a bit, doesn’t it? Good, because now that you’re suitably on edge you can truly enjoy what’s waiting for you.
Taking the role of Joel, a survivor of the initial outbreak and now a black-marketeer doing whatever he needs to do to get by within the quarantine zone, you find yourself encountering an old friend and promising to get a teenage girl called Ellie away from the hellish regime to a resistance group known as the Fireflies.
And so begins their journey across the United States, trying to avoid the Infected and the scavengers that live in the wilderness outside the safe zones.
The country outside the quarantine areas has been left for two decades, so as you wander towards your destination the towns and cities that you encounter are being reclaimed by nature. Grass and trees grow in the middle of streets and derelict cars are home to animals. All of this is gloriously detailed and presented in a gritty and realistic style that truly draws you in.
Exploration is both crucial and hazardous to your survival.
Weapons in this game are a very makeshift affair, none of the shiny, well made things you’ll get in Call of Duty. Oh no, we’re talking a trusty 2×4 with a knife taped to the end. Yes you do have guns but ammunition is scarce and not to be used unless absolutely necessary. After all, the sound of a gunshot could bring unwanted trouble rampaging in your direction. These macgyver’d weapons don’t last forever, and after some use they’ll break. Not a problem if you’ve been scavenging like a hungry racoon, you’ll have parts to fix or even upgrade the weapons at your disposal and carry on your journey safe in the knowledge that you can dish out some damage. Don’t take the time to explore and you could find yourself short on armament at a crucial moment and suffer a messy fate. As I said though, exploration is also dangerous. The Infected are everywhere, and they’re more intelligent than their grotesque features would have you believe. Thanks to a custom developed AI system they will try and out think you, from taking cover if they spot you, to taking advantage of a weakness like running out of ammo. You will need to fight for survival.
And that’s the key word running throughout this game, survival.
Your nerves will be tested and you’ll be forced to make some hard choices. For example, the parts you scavenge are not only useful to make weapons, but also helpful items – the same alcohol that can be used to make a Molotov cocktail can be used to make a med kit too. Blades can be used to jimmy locked doors and possibly gain even more goods, but the resources are limited so this is not a choice that should be taken lightly, and also you never know what’s behind that door, it might not be friendly.
Naughty Dog have called this game a Survival Action title instead of Survival Horror. I don’t mind what it’s called, I’m just thankful that we get to play it.
This richly realised dystopian landscape is a fantastic place to play in. I urge all PS3 owners to pick up a copy and savour the experience – just not late at night with headphones on…
The Last Of Us will be coming to PlayStation 3 on June 14th.