Naughty Dog is finally moving on from the theatrical adventures of Nathan Drake, saving the next treasure hunt for another time. The next chapter in Naughty Dog’s life is about to unfold in post-apocalyptic manner; humanity fighting for its very survival. A virus has mutated the majority of the world’s population and destroyed most of the world as we know it.
The Last of Us is an action title in development by a separate team at Naughty Dog and seems to be character and plot-driven. The story in the game takes place 20 years after this apocalyptic event happens and follows the story of two main characters, Ellie and Joel.
The story picks up inside one of the last remaining quarantine zones, safe zones set up by the military where people can live free from the infected. Martial law rules the day, and any infraction, even minor ones, result in immediate execution. If you scan positive for infection, it’s off with your head.
Joel, one of the two protagonists in the game, is a smuggler, and a “black market” within the quarantine zone is what he calls home. His job usually requires him to transport weapons, illicit drugs and more from one zone to the next.
For some unknown reason, Joel is recruited to sneak Ellie out of the quarantine zone. Things go south very quickly though, and is soon being pursued by the military. It would make sense to ditch Ellie and disappear, but he made a promise to a dying friend that he would escort Ellie to safety.
Ellie is a 14-year-old orphan obsessed with music and books. She has never been outside the quarantine zone she lives in, nor has she seen the world before its collapse. She must rely on Joel to survive; else she is as good as dead.
The two have to work together as a team if they want to live. A long road is ahead of them as they venture west on a post-apocalyptic journey across the United States. One of the many inspirations for the game was the building relationship between Joel and Ellie; Naughty Dog wants the two to gradually become closer as the story progresses.
Not Another Zombie Story
This is a different kind of zombie-apocalypse though. We won’t be seeing any spore-infected humans on a frequent basis like we saw in the game’s first trailer. The real enemy is other humans. Humans will pop in and out of your adventure either offering help or presenting a direct threat. Each faction has their own goals.
The reason the infected were shown off in the first trailer was to present the fact that there are infected in the game. Mystery solved. The game isn’t about this though; the real mystery is about who Joel and Ellie are, what their backstory is and why they left the quarantine zone.
The game itself will be one complete story. The end will mark the end of Joel and Ellie’s journey. “The story stands on its own,” creative director Neil Druckman said. Naughty Dog doesn’t want to end on a cliffhanger. While it is still far too early to be discussing a sequel, this sparks many questions on if or how that would ever even happen.
Staying in the realm of realism, Naughty Dog wants the game’s combat mechanics system to be as real as possible. Health will not automatically regenerate; Ellie, your AI companion, will be intelligent enough to throw bricks and other materials at your enemies, and she won’t break your “stealth” mode; its part strategy and part shooter.
Resources are also limited, meaning Joel and Ellie won’t be running around loaded to teeth with high-tech weaponry as is the case in some other post-apocalyptic games. One bullet in this world can kill.
Specific decisions you make in a combat situation will determine what plays out next. If the enemy sees that you only have a melee weapon, they’ll rush you on sight. If they notice you have a gun, they’ll take a more tactical approach, moving from cover to cover, all the while trying to flank you.
The team has made this possible by balancing out the power between the player and the AI. Enemies naturally adapt to what is happening around them. They even have personalities and emotions. When their friends die, they get angry. If they sense danger, they’ll run. They will even call out to other people with warning calls.
Naughty Dog doesn’t want the game to feel like one, long escort mission. Your AI companion, Ellie, won’t ever become a hassle to you. She is just as dynamic as the other AI characters. She won’t just run off, hide, and come out when it’s safe. If she sees Joel in danger, for instance, she might throw a brick at an enemy to stun him so that Joel can run to cover, reload his weapon, or take any number of other actions.
Sound, Music, and Voice Acting
The Last of Us will also feature an incomparable cast of voice actors. They’ve brought on the best in the industry. Joel’s voice and motions will be captured by Troy Baker who’s appeared in many games, most recently appearing in Batman: Arkham City as Robin and Two-face. Ellie will be acted out by Ashley Johnson, who’s appeared in many TV shows such as The Help, The killing, and Growing Pains.
Naughty Dog also wasn’t afraid to hire a top notch musical composer either; picking up Gustavo Santaolalla. Naughty believes he is the perfect fit for the overall minimalistic sound design, since music in the game will be subtle.
Look for the game to launch on the PlayStation 3 on June 14, 2013.