Game studio Naughty Dog got plenty of attention with its "Uncharted" adventure trilogy for the PlayStation 3. But the developer's latest effort, "The Last of Us," could shake up the video gaming landscape far more.
"The Last of Us" doesn't follow the usual action gaming setup. Instead of a dashing hero, you play Joel, a black market dealer who's simply trying to survive in postapocalyptic Boston. A plague has ravaged the population, with a few, known as the Infected, coming back in mutated form. The city is under martial law and quarantine, so the Infected don't spread.
Joel has promised a friend to look after a young girl named Ellie and finds himself escorting her across the city — including through the quarantined areas — to reach a resistance group known as the Firefly. In the process, they'll have to avoid not only the military and Infected, but also well-armed scavengers who will take whatever they can get. [See also: E3 preview: "The Last of Us" Apocalyptic Survival Adventure ]
With "The Last of Us," Naughty Dog is shooting for survival and realism. You won't have a fully loaded gun at times, as ammunition is quite scarce. As a result, you can either avoid confrontations completely, sneaking around enemies to work your way further into a level, or go for the physical approach of attacking. On occasion, Joel will also have access to certain projectiles, such as a brick or a cinder block, which can either be used as a weapon or a distraction tool.
You can also introduce handmade weapons into the mix, like an axe or a Molotov cocktail, but you'll need to make sure you hit an enemy the first time before they have a chance to counterattack.
It also helps to keep an ear open, as enemies will communicate with one another (except the Infected, who can't speak). Hearing where they'll be going next is vital for setting up your next move, whether it's sneaking away unnoticed or getting the jump on someone from behind. It also allows you to retrieve their weapons, ranging from a simple 9 mm pistol to a powerful long-barreled shotgun, which can easily decimate an enemy at close range.
The decision on how you approach each situation is yours, but you'll need to keep two things in mind. First, Ellie, your young charge, will be with you. And though you don't control her, you could put her in harm's way if you choose to fight all the time. Secondly, any health you lose in the game doesn't regenerate — you'll have to use a health pack to build it back up. And those are hard to come by.
Though "The Last of Us" is a difficult game, it's quite a compelling experience, and one that'll keep you playing till the very end, just to see if Joel and Ellie can survive.
"The Last of Us" arrives in stores and on the PlayStation Network (as a digital download) on June 14 for $59.99.
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