The Last of Us
During the Development of Uncharted 2, “Neil Druckmann” Naughty Dog’s Creative Director watched Planet Earth. The docu was showing a Parasitic fungus snibbing onto an Ant, infecting them and taking control of their brains. These ants lost control over their tiny bodies and shoved off somewhere to die, their bodies ended up becoming the carrier of these horrific fungal sprouts.
When matured they send off spores to infect other creatures close by, with thousands of types of these fungi each specialized in one species he wondered, what would happen if it would be able to infect us? Both “Druckmann” and his game Director “Bruce Straley” agreed that a game based on truth would make a more compelling game and so the Idea for The Last of Us was Born.
To prepare for the development of The Last of Us they spend time to do some homework on the Cordyceps fungus and other real living parasites. Their study found that the Cordyceps is not the only creepy parasitic predator out there.
VISUALS & SOUND:
They didn’t just want to create the usual survival horror game, they wanted to add more color and natural beauty to the mixture. The Clickers are a good example of that, these transformed humans ended up being infected by cordyceps for such a long time that their heads are nothing more than heaps of colorful fungal. These details really show throughout the entirety of the game. The Last of Us was already a fantastic Game on the PlayStation 3, but with the extra power of the PlayStation 4, it allowed them to use the models from the game’s cutscenes and use them directly into the Gameplay segments, which resulted in more detail.
I am personally not really a stickler for things like Graphics but looking back to this game I always believed that it was not just about the pixels but also about the art direction and the attention to detail which is in my opinion top notch. I agree that some parts may look better than others, but, it suffers less from the muddy textures pop-ins and jaggies it had in its original release.
And with that, I genuinely think that the foliage, and surrounding buildings, its interiors, and character designs for this released version do not only look and feel fantastic but, it also offers a believable world where both protagonists need to move through.
This leads me to the sound design which really compliments and strengthens all those visuals by a mile’s length. In its purest form, the lack of sound in any given situation will create a strong feeling of paranoia that cannot be matched!
I really think that “Naughty Dog” nailed their sound design in such a way that it accommodates all the other three pillars of the game which makes it a lot stronger. Some may even argue that the sound outshines the Gameplay but I honestly beg to differ. If any, it has complimented the Gameplay as a whole and without all these facets the Game wouldn’t have become what it is now.
The Last of Us does not only shine through its graphics and the game sound design but also through its minimalistic game scores created by Gustavo Santaolalla who composed the music for the game early in its development stage. With only a few directions given by the devs on the tone intended, they aimed for an emotional direction as they were clearly opposed to creepy.
The game music was nominated for a few rewards, several tracks even became so popular that they were covered by YouTube artists all over the world who were inspired by Gustavo Santaolalla’s work and brought their personal interpretation of the music.
The Game delivers strong believable characters from start to finish, and even those that do not stick around or are written out of the storyline are memorable in some way. The Games opening scene starts with “Joel” coming home, his daughter “Sarah” lying on the couch sleeping and waiting for him to come home to give him his birthday present. This scenery really felt natural to me, a father and a daugther jokingly interacting with each other. This is something that I can relate to since me and my daughter are in many ways the same. Looking at the entire story I do feel that this game is in touch with a lot of real live highs and lows.
Joel is a middle-aged man whose family was stripped away from him by the virus outbreak which puts him far away from “Ellie” who is a teenager born and grown used in the world she lives in. You are set on a pad to keep this girl that you barely know safe, you try to survive and tackle obstacles in this post-apocalyptical world where the narrative strength lies within its cut scenes.
I think what made their relationship very relatable was how real it was, they didn’t like each other and they had to build a relationship from the ground up, they struggled through their journey and they only had each other to rely on!
You will live into the moments of a heartbroken father who tries to keep his distance to protect his emotional state and of a girl who is considerably foul-mouthed and impulsive by nature. She is not easily scared and she uses profanity to express herself, she clearly mentions several times that she does not need any babysitter! The relationship between Joel and Ellie starts off a bit hostile, neither of the two seems to like each other but you feel that they grow more attached the more you progress through the game and story. By the end of the game “when Joel needs to make a choice” those that are intimately immersed with these two well-developed characters will realize that when you look back to your journey, you eventually would have done the same thing.
The voice acting delivered by the actors are from the highest level. From Tess “Annie Wersching” who is a hardened survivor of the outbreak to David a wicked hebephile “Nolan North” who is the same actor that voiced Mr. Drake in the Uncharted series. They all performed first class acting to the point that it felt like the real thing. Looking back to the making off I understand why!
The tip of the spear, however, is the connection that grows between Joel “Troy Baker” and Ellie “Ashley Johnson“. you surely can not ignore the mistrust and the initial annoyance that Ellie feels for Joel’s surliness towards her at the beginning of the game. the way they portrayed their characters through their voice is unique and rarely seen in games. The chemistry and bond you feel between them can in my opinion only be adored and appreciated if you let yourself grow with these two phenomenal characters.
The Game makes use of a third-person perspective with gunplay, melee and a cover system similar to “The Uncharted” series, however, they have a different feel to them. Mechanically they lean close to one and another, but, the pace, atmosphere, and tone make both IP’s stand out from each other. With better anti-aliasing and 60 frames per second released on the remastered version of the Game, the overal Gameplay feels a lot more responsive, detailed and more to the point that it had ever before.
While The Last of Us is admittingly linear, the level designs are done so cleverly that the world feels open with multiple options to pick from to complete the levels in the game. This immediately opens possibilities for some replayability if you do so desire!
You can approach certain levels of the game with blazing guns and melee if you mess up, but, you are mostly encouraged to use stealth. Especially on higher difficulties it is adviced not to break stealth at all! In some situations creating a noise will end up in you being swarmed. Sound is therefore purposely designed to halt a player’s motion, to route them to act a lot more cautiously.
Most of us will do almost anything to kill the silence in creepy cituations, we either talk, sing or whistle a tune to ourselves, or, turn the TV or the Radio on. We do this to break the silence and to fabricate an indirect feeling of safety.
That feeling of safety is often shortlived when you hear the sound of the infected roaming around. The devs really brought the silence in this Game to a new height and whenever you think that you are safe a “Clicker” can be heard in the distance waiting to tear your party apart. While Clickers have a huge handicap “lost eyesight” they are one of the most dangerous enemies roaming around in the Game. These enemies are based on a prime time story where a 14-year old blind boy learned to use echolocation.
The use of the more natural cover system implemented in this game may help you to move around these type of enemies more freely, Scattered debris lying around like stones and bottles can be used to create a slight advantage. The game also offers an intuitive crafting system to create all kinds of items, you will need ingredients to craft them which you will scavenge on the way.
Supplies are often scarce, especially on Survivor difficulty you will need to micro-manage your limited resources for when they are really necessary. The Last of Us has been in my personal experience not to complex nor too super hard even on the highest difficulty. However, I really think the devs did a very, very good job to keep me on my guard, with a few surprises here and there!