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Published on May 31st, 2013 | by IceCube

GLiTCH plays: The Last of Us

Hi guys, GLiTCH here again!

I was lucky enough to get a hands-on preview of the upcoming third-person survival horror game, The Last of Us! Please remember that these are early impressions based on an unfinished product.

Made by development studio, Naughty Dog (the legends behind the Uncharted trilogy), I walked into this game expecting “Uncharted 4.0″ – you know; wall-scaling, jumping, wisecracks and action? It turns out this game has none of that and it took me a while to fully appreciate it for the sake of practical realism.

The story focuses on two post-apocalypse survivors, Joel and the young Ellie, trekking across the USA where an infectious fungal virus has long spread and thinned the population. Over time the country has become an urban jungle with barren resources, and the two desolate areas I played was Lincoln and Pittsburgh for about 30 minutes each.

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The first and main rule of this game is that survival smarts wins the day, so scavenging materials is a necessity. You’ll always have “needs” to keep an eye out for, but there’s a logical limit to how much you can load into your backpack. Crafting makeshift items, like shivs for breaking into doors, are done on the fly just by rummaging through your bag and selecting it. You can also upgrade your main weapons (guns and melee) when you find a working bench, stuff like ammo capacity and damage can all be improved.

The second rule of survival is that there’s simply no point in picking a fight unless absolutely necessary, because resources are thin and enemies are ridiculously tough. We encountered several types of enemies: Hunters are groups of looting survivors who will kill you for your possessions. The Infected are fast, flesh-hungry humans who have turned into a zombie-like state from the virus, and Clickers, named after the horrid clicking sound they make, are fungus-faced foes who have evolved to the later stages of the virus. Picking fights with any of these guys will usually end in disaster.

Starting in Lincoln, my task was to score a working car from an old pal named Bill, who owed me a favor. The first thing I noticed in the game world was the high attention to environment detail. The scenery was lush, as was the shading and sunlight. Each new area we walked into was surprisingly open and felt far less linear than I expected. Do I go march down the seemingly-abandoned street? Do I check the alleyway? Do I enter that vacated store? Or maybe climb the fire escape stairwell to the open window on the balcony? Your choice can lead to salvage, story or danger.

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The attention to detail expands in never-seen-before ways, like the character motion capture, which shows-off smooth, natural walking and unscripted, humanistic actions like nose scratches and arm-rubs. Joel will actively remove his backpack when rummaging, and grab for multiple scrap items off the floor if bunched. He also lifts objects of different size and weight logically, from hand placement to body and weight distribution. Pitch black rooms come into focus as Joel’s eyes adjust, even blocking the sun when stepping into the light.

A bit of puzzle-solving was required to figure-out how to get through blockades and highrises. If you spend too long in one area, the L3 button will pop up for a clue, or Ellie will chime-in with a helpful suggestion.

Speaking of Ellie, she has multiple roles as your sidekick in this game and despite being a small kid, getting raised in this lifestyle has taught her how to hold her own. As Joel, you are her guardian in this tale, but she will certainly save your arse sometimes! Between danger she’ll strike random conversations with Joel, sometimes relevant, sometimes uninteresting, but all mood-setting. Joel? He’s a bit of a mumbler, so I had to put the subtitles on!

Combat is the most intriguing part of the game and is intentionally very tough. Sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes it’s downright brilliant.

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Enemies are simply too hard to kill with bullets. The Infected sprint fast, are extremely agile and are on top of you before you can even line-up your aim. If The Infetected get at you, you can throw them off with some frantic square-button taps, but if it happens to be a Clicker who bites you, it’s instant death! Even scoring a hit doesn’t slow them down unless you nail them between the eyes, which is near-impossible. You’ll need at least three torso bullet wounds to take down one Infected (on medium difficulty), which is probably all the ammo you have anyway! For the sake of effect and challenge, we’re okay with this, but in terms of realism I felt like it could use a Red Dead Redemption-style quick aim, so you’re not missing shots so frequently, particularly at point-blank range (and with such limited ammo)!

In Pittsburgh we had a run in with Hunters who tried to ambush us and steal our goods… It lead to a punch-up.

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Fighting human Survivors and Hunters hand-to-hand is where combat turns from frustrating to fantastic! Every bit of environment you come in contact with affects the combat strike the way the body moves against it. You can throw guys into walls, slam them on to tables, smash them through windows or wield any nearby object. How? Simply hit the strike button and these actions automatically engage with the things around you, smoothly from move-to-move, from brilliant camera angles. Enemy AI is logical and clever too.

That just about about covers our The Last of Us experience. We can’t wait to put together the complete storyline from start to finish when the game comes out on June 14.

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