Following The Last of Us announcement at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards, many gamers quickly assumed that the post-apocalyptic title was just a PS3 exclusive answer to Microsoft's stranglehold on the Left 4 Dead franchise - given "undead" enemies and rumored co-op gameplay.
However, new details from fan-favorite developer, Naughty Dog, indicate that not only is The Last of Us not a zombie genre title, it also features deeper gameplay elements (i.e. stealth) than simply shooting anything that moves.
Speaking with Eurogamer, creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley clarified a few prominent pieces of internet speculation that had been gaining traction - following the release of the teaser trailer.
Stanley quickly dispelled rumors that, despite mutated humanoid creatures, the studio was simply trying to cash-in on the zombie genre - as Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and Dead Island have all managed to become some of the most high-profile titles in the industry:
"[The Last of Us is] "not a zombie game."
Druckmann clarified the point - asserting that the game is, much like the Uncharted series, about the relationship between the characters:
"If the game was about the monsters, we would have not showed them. The story's not about them, so [we thought] let's get it out of the way."
"We approached this genre because we felt no-one is getting to the heart of it. [The Last of Us] tells you something about the human condition - that's what you want to do as a storyteller."
Straley also teased other hints about their intentions in the teaser:
"It's story-driven, [but] the whole triangle is story, gameplay and art. As a gamer it's all about strategy and giving the player enough tools in their toolkit so that they can come upon something and choose and have the consequences play out within their choices."
"If you break down the trailer, all the action there is meaningful. It's teasing the different kind of mechanics you're going to be playing with in the gameplay set-ups. There's some melee and a gun - where that goes as a strategy is kind of intriguing."
As a result, if you break down the featured elements of the trailer, it's safe to assume that The Last of Us will, among others, likely feature:
- Co-op gameplay - as both Joel and Ellie are capable combatants and contribute to dispatching enemies.
- Scavenging for supplies - we see Ellie not just looting the downed enemy, she has to search through spent casings.
- Melee combat - since the player will be scavenging, melee attacks will be necessary, so that ammo can be saved for more dangerous encounters.
- Stealth gameplay - with limited resources, choosing when to fight will be just as important as how well you fight.
The stealth gameplay feature was also teased in recent concept art images (check out the full spread at Official PlayStation Magazine UK), showing Joel and Ellie crouched behind a counter as a larger enemy type passed through the room.
Until we see some actual gameplay footage, it's hard to know exactly what to expect from The Last of Us. While Nathan Drake fans may be hoping for an Uncharted-like experience in a different story scenario, the title appears to be shaping up as a departure for the studio - given the more mature tone, among other details.
Naughty Dog has become a go-to studio for great characters and exciting storytelling, so it'll be especially interesting to see what the team intends to deliver with The Last of Us, now that they've got two years worth of development behind them, particularly since Druckmann promises that, when it comes to story and choices/consequences, "We're evolving it, but I can't say anymore."
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The Last of Us is currently in development for the PS3.