May 11, 2013 by Pete_XXVII
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a contender.
The end of a console’s life often brings about some of the best games of the generation. This year we’ve already had Bioshock Infinite (read the review if you haven’t already) and soon we’ll have The Last of Us. And it’s shaping up pretty well. In fact it’s pretty apt to compare the two games.
Having played about 45 minutes of a Pre-Alpha version I’ve managed to get a good feel for the game. The first thing to notice is, of course, the visuals and it looks beautiful. The city looks lovely, a really rich environment despite the fact that it’s another ‘city become a jungle’. Each of the buildings feel like they have degraded in a unique way but leaving behind some tantalising clues of the function they once had.
Similarly the characters seem well rounded and believable, something to be expected from Naughty Dog. Joel is definitely not the happy-go-lucky Nathan Drake type. Rather he is a gruff survivor, taking on one more job. It’s somewhat unnerving at first to hear him speak, sounding almost identical to Booker DeWitt (unsurprising as both characters are voiced by Troy Baker). Ellie and Tess are much more of ciphers. With such a short time in the game it’s difficult to get to grips with any of them properly but it’s hard to imagine that as you progress you won’t find them engaging and well written.
Only two of the games enemies were visible – the runners and the clickers. The runners are those that are infected but still physically intact. The clickers are more advanced with their heads mainly fungi. They are blind but have exceptionally good hearing. This makes for some tense hide and seek sessions where you try to throw items to lead them away from the way you want to go.
The items are actually more common than you might have thought with not much distance needed before you find some more. Bullets though are rare, so any that you find you really want to collect – leading you to work out whether it’s worth trying to reach that ammo that’s just out of reach before taking out any stragglers.
All the items that you collect are for more than just looking at though. By going into the crafting menu you can improve your melee weapon or creating medical kits or molotov cocktails – the latter particularly useful when you find a group of clickers.
The combat, as shown in the videos, is pretty brutal. Taking out the runners is a simple task of sneaking up behind them and following the button prompts. If you’re spotted by them, however, they very quickly outnumber you. Once that happens, it’s probably game over. The clickers are even more deadly. When they get up close and personal it really is all over which means that every fight must be thought through and those who just rush in will find death around every corner.
Actually the combat is the big difference between this and Bioshock. In Bioshock all battles felt roughly similar and somewhat lightweight compared to the heft of the story. Here it is much more intense. The ease with which you die makes every battle become a real fight for survival. It adds a lovely feeling of suspense and unease as you move around the levels.
The obligatory ‘focus’ mode also appears. Here it’s called ‘hearing mode’ and actually makes more sense than its apparitions in games such as Hitman and Tomb Raider. Engage the mode and the colour drains out of the world as Joel focuses on the sounds around him, highlighting the outlines of the infected as they move around him.
Overall the game truly looks very impressive. It is no doubt that come the end of the year we will be seeing this appear in many Game of the Year lists. Will we also see it in any Game of the Generation lists? We’ll find out soon enough.