DISCLAIMER; any opinion espressed here is subject to change. Hourly.
Yesterday I was nice enough to explain why I believe The Last of Us does not necessarily signify that we have seen the last of Nathan Drake. Now that we know that, we are now free to get properly pumped and excited for The Last of Us. So far we have not seen much of the game, but clues are there. Again I will embed the trailer for your viewing ease, but more snippets of video can be found at the game’s main website; LastofUs.com
So what do we have? The Last of Us looks like it will be a post-apocalyptic game centred around two characters named Joel and Ellie. Joel looks to be something of a hard-arse; when we first see him he is bashing in the brains of another man with a plank of wood. I’m sure he had his reasons, but it certainly looks like Joel is not a man to piss off. The fact that we see him do this in the very first trailer tells me that this is something that he does fairly often; I highly doubt significant moments would be spoiled this way so early. In fact the narration of the trailer (by Ellie) tells us that this is their routine “day and night”. The way in which she casually runs through a pool of human blood highlights that this is the norm, and that one doesn’t worry about these sorts of things anymore. Once the man has been bludgeoned to the floor, Ellie searches the body for supplies, and is delighted when she comes across a small handful of bullets, some of which already look spent.
At a guess, Joel is in his late 30s or possibly early 40s (and bears more than a passing similarity to one Nathan Drake, although that is probably unintentional.) His face gives him the look of someone whom has witnessed a great deal of pain and suffering, and yet he has managed to come out the other side fighting. His companion, Ellie, is probably less than half his age. She looks about 13, but seems to act older than this; presumably the world in which she lives has forced this upon her. What her relationship to Joel is is as yet undisclosed, but as her narration tell us that “this is our routine” I think we can safely infer that the two stick together.
Ellie also tells us that “he tells me how these streets were crowded with people…” so again a fair inference is that whatever has befallen our world has done so some time ago. This is reiterated as Joel and Ellie burst out of the building and into the street, which is empty save for some burnt out or rusty vehicles and some trees growing where they had not been planted. The world is almost a beautiful one, were it not a tragic look at where we may end up. The idea that the Earth reclaims what humans have taken is a fascinating one for me. But why has the world of The Last of Us become this way? Well, maybe this image will explain;
While we don’t know what caused the figure in the foreground to have a head shaped like a walnut, we have had some clues. IGN posted a video in which they had discovered a supposed Easter Egg in Uncharted 3. In the pub in the very first scene there lies atop the bar a newspaper named The Overseer (which is obviously based on the real life UK newspaper The Guardian) which carries the headline “Scientists are still struggling to understand deadly fungus.” I’m nice; here is a screenshot;
The picture with the article looks uncannily like Josh Scherr, who is Naughty Dog’s cinematic top guy. What he has to do with the fungus I don’t know. It is unconfirmed (as far as I can tell) whether or not this is Josh, but I find it amusing nonetheless. Personally I was skeptical about this being a Last of Us reference, but now it seems that I was wrong. One of the other teaser trailers shows an ant crawling around on a leaf, which has been linked to the footage of a particular type of parasitic fungus (cordyceps) that uses a living organism as a host. So, it looks as though at least the human population has been taken over by a type of fungus, which makes the host run around like crazy and attack other humans, presumably in the hunt for more host bodies to take over.
This parastic fungus image is an interesting one to put against the decaying human world which I have previously described, and that I find quite beautiful. The human species has evolved over millions of years and has come to be the dominant sentient lifeform on Earth. Very few sections of our planet remain untouched by our spread, and yet in Naughty Dog’s vision of the world, it is a non-sentient life form that brings us to the brink of extinction and in turn allows the planet to reclaim what we took. I am not trying to suggest that the human race have been parasitic, but it would be hard to easily argue against the fact that as a species we have done quite well out of this planet. What I am trying to say is that I really enjoy this cyclical nature of life as envisioned by Naughty Dog.
What the trailer doesn’t do is tell us anything at all about gameplay, but that will come. At the risk of sounding like a fool and not for the first time this week, I will state here that I believe this is Ellie’s story and not Joel’s and that she will be the playable character. I have to say that I hope this is the case; I feel it would be nice to have a young female lead. To me at least, she looks to be the one with the most to tell. She either hasn’t been around since the start of the decline of the world, or something has caused her to forget it, so the revelations that she will go through as part of the narrative will be interesting for the audience to experience as well.
This image suggests, though that Joel is the action man, although the trailer shows both Ellie and Joel taking down the mutant that they are waiting for. If Ellie is the protagonist and main playable character as I both suspect and hope, it will be fun to find out how Joel will work, from a gameplay point of view. Some people have suggested that this will be a ‘protect the AI’ game in a simialr vein to Enslaved, but I am not convinced of that myself. We only have to look at Elena Fisher and Chloe Fraser from Uncharted to see that Naughty Dog give their women more credit than merely a ‘damsel in distress’ role. Granted Trip from Enslaved was a well written and rounded character, but her role was not similar to that of Elena, for example. As an aside, I first mentioned the similarity to Enslaved prior to knowing that it shares design personnel with The Last of Us. I liked Enslaved, but felt it came up short. Maybe this will be the game Enslaved should have been.
I have heard mumblings that this may be a first person game, but I don’t believe this will be the case; it looks to me as if the two characters we have so far seen have enough about them to not require us to ‘be’ them. Uncharted would not work as as first person game, because the story is Nathan’s and not ours. And I think the same could be said for The Last of Us; the story is not ours. One of the other rumours is that this will be an open world game well, maybe it will, but it is a little early to tell for sure. If it is open world I will be interested to see how it fits with the narrative; Uncharted is not at all open world, and his story is told in depth. Will Naughty Dog be able to tell such a detailed story if they give the player choice about where to go and what to do? Colour me very interested. Maybe The Last of Us doesn’t use narrative in the same way as Uncharted, but I think the trailer sets us up for a very strong story with interesting characters, much as Uncharted is.
Whatever happens, I will be keeping a close eye. If you have any thoughts or ideas about The Last of Us, plase let me know, and I will try to address them.