When The Last of Us was first revealed, many were excited to see what Naughty Dog would be working on after a trilogy of Uncharted games. The more skeptical gamers however, worried that the title would turn out to be just "another zombie game." While that still remains to be seen, it the game's combat system promises to be a departure from what players are used to.
The Last of Us looks to break the mold of what gamers typically see from action-adventure games by grounding the combat in realism. Naughty Dog's Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann spoke to Game Informer, where Straley gave the example that if he were to pull out a gun on someone, they wouldn't just pull out their weapon and fire back, they'd probably run away panicking. However, if said person is with a group of people, one person in the group may shoot and others may run. Naughty Dog took this sense of realistic reaction into consideration when creating the AI in The Last of Us, meaning that players will have to coordinate and strategize in combat, as opposed to simply relying on the same stop-and-pop shooting mechanics.
This element of strategy leads into Naughty Dog's idea of "balance of power" - the simple idea that players will find that if they are outnumbered or outgunned, they will have to start thinking differently about what to do. The level design has also been crafted to offer players different ways to overcome enemies.
"We started thinking about this and it created the concept of the balance of power; if I have a gun [and] they don't that's a shift in the balance of power. If I'm against somebody with a gun and I don't have any bullets left then I'm going to start strategizing differently, move around this world, try to get the drop on him, take his gun and now I've shifted the balance of power again, I'm at the top."
If it hasn't already been demonstrated that combat should not be taken lightly, Naughty Dog hammers the point home when they say that The Last of Us will not contain a regenerative health system like its Uncharted brethren. Once again, this also stems from the idea of strategy - those who want a cover-based shooter can still play The Last of Us in that way, they just need to be wary of large groups of enemies.
"The tension kind of let us to make the decision of persistent health, so that there's are consequences to getting shot, or getting hit, or getting attacked and even how I heal myself has consequences. That takes time."
Unlike Uncharted, The Last of Us features a dynamic stealth system. What this means is that once main protagonist Joel is spotted he is no longer forced to enter a combat situation and players can try to break the line of sight and go back to sneaking. It's not clear yet if players will be able to use the dynamic stealth system to avoid combat altogether, or if it can only be used to delay the inevitable firefights, but we'll learn more about it once we get to see The Last of Us' level design.
Naughty Dog is also taking the time to craft the AI to alleviate fans' concerns over escort duties, meaning that players won't constantly feel like they're babysitting Ellie, the girl from the reveal trailer. Ellie will be totally capable, much like the AI characters in Uncharted, but she will also be able to manipulate the environment in ways that have not been seen in Naughty Dog's past titles. For example, if Joel is in danger, Ellie may pick up a brick and throw it at the player's attackers, as opposed to simply taking cover and shooting.
"How do we incorporate Ellie into the gameplay space? For one is just this incredible iteration on AI, what we've done in the past where Ellie's constantly looking and listening and she knows the state of the other NPCs, so when she moves for cover and you're in stealth mode she's not gonna break stealth for you, she can kinda make decisions on her own through this gameplay space. When Joel is cornered or out of ammo she can pick up an improvised weapon like a brick and throw it at the enemy, hitting him, stunning him for a second, giving you an opportunity to either rush the guy and hit him and take his weapon, or kind of try to run away and break back into stealth."
The Last of Us certainly sounds like an ambitious project, even by Naughty Dog's standards.
The Last of Us is in development exclusively for the PS3.
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Source: Game Informer