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Published on March 25th, 2013 | by Scott


The Last of Us brings back Survival Horror through Ominous Sound Design (PS3)

Under the bright lights of the PAX East floor, I had the opportunity to get some hands-on playtime with a pre-alpha version of Sony and Naughty Dog’s upcoming game, The Last of Us.

Naughty Dog’s dystopian zombie world isn’t bred from your typical amorphous disease. Rather a unique fungus leaps from possessing ants to possessing humans and driving them to behave, well, like zombies. The fungus destroys a people’s minds, compelling them to kill. Those either immune or uninfected are left to scavenge this post-apocalyptic, Walking Dead future.

The demo began with a surprisingly well-colored view of the now bombed and decimated city of Boston. The world is lit in greens and reds, in addition to the standard post-apocalyptic shades of brown to give the world an extensive, though not inappropriately vibrant color pallet. The city of Boston in the demo was actually more vibrant than the city of PAX East’s Boston (at least it was if one ignored the zombies and destroyed landscape), which was pretty grey at times. The characters begin to make their way towards Boston’s capitol building, but quickly run into a rift they cannot safely climb down. The player takes over and it is time to cautiously begin to move.

The Last of Us is instantly clear that it is not Uncharted. It is rather more linear and simplistic in its path finding. There are broken down cars and low walls to climb over and paths to follow. While navigating through the dilapidated office buildings feels typical to your average game, there is an overarching sense of dread permeating through the atmosphere, overriding deja-vu to past post-apocalyptic designs. Don’t let this scare you, I don’t see any other way they could have crafted the levels; it frees up the enemies to really stand out in their unique and terrifying design.

The Last of Us Trailer

This tension is built through some of the best use of sound in recent memory. The creaking of the buildings, the excellent voice acting, the perfect pop of gunshots and most of all the distinct sound of the enemies all combine to craft a brilliant post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Deus Ex: Human Revolution accomplished this through its unique use of color; The Last of Us does this through its intense use of sound. It’s a distant reminder of when Dead Space was focused on survival horror.

Ambience aside, the sound stands out in two unique ways. The first is through the listen mode, which I was not aware of before settling in with the demo. Through holding down the R2 button, your character goes into a low crouch and moves slower. The world transforms into shades of grey, and you can see the outlines of enemies through walls. It is not game breaking, but instead has the effect of heightening the tension of stealthy sequences due to its limited range and the tunnel vision that occurs. It is extremely useful, but one still has to be careful as while I was focused on one enemy, I was spotted by a separate enemy outside the scope of the vision. The listen mode was very eerie and heightened by the intense and well defined enemy sounds.

The second way that sound really makes this game stand out is via a specific enemy, the Clicker. Clickers are named as such because they are so infected that the fungus has destroyed their pre-frontal cortex and grown out of the front of their face. This has the effect of destroying their eyes, so the Clickers “see” through echolocation. The unique clicks infect the atmosphere with instant tension.

The Last of Us is a true survival horror game. Ammo is extremely limited, and melee weapons can be rendered broken very quickly. The reason the clicks add so much tension is because the Clickers cannot be killed by standard melee. While you can kill them through stealth attacks and bullets, if the Clickers detect you, you either need to be a very quick shot with good aim, or you need to be lucky enough to run away. If not, you get treated to an extremely gruesome death animation. This means simple encounters can become very deadly, very fast as one Clicker can easily overwhelm you if you’re not careful, especially when a Clicker is mixed in with a group of more normal enemies.

The Last of Us Hands-on — Page 2

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  • Alberto Sánchez

    Can’t wait until June -_-

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