In Pictures: The Last Of Us - Naughty Dog's Survival-Horror Game For The PlayStation 3

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Posted: 14 June 2013
Category: Features
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An infection has wiped out most of the population, quarantine zones keep the few remaining healthy people confined, factions emerge to claim territories, and a lone man tries to escort a teenage girl through the madness to safety in this survival-horror game by Naughty Dog.

Please note that some of the images are graphic and depict simulated violence and injury.

With news of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 dominating headlines in the past few weeks you'd be excused for thinking that, in the minds of developers and manufacturers, "old" consoles, such as the PlayStation 3, no longer had anything to offer gamers. Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us, a post-apocalyptic survival-horror game that launches today in most gaming markets worldwide, disproves this quite spectacularly.


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Naughty Dog is the developer behind the classic Jak And Daxter action/platform/adventure (and racing) series, which features the stoic Jak and his comedic sidekick Daxter. Each of those games pushed boundaries for what the PlayStation 2 could do in terms of graphics and visual effects, as well as how skilled developers could create areas that have to be replayed in ways that aren't grinding and come up with stories that are rich and engaging.

Naughty Dog is also responsible for the Uncharted action-adventure third-person-shooter series, which has been well received by both critics and gamers.

With those impressive credentials in the company's history the possibilities, and expectations, for The Last Of Us have been high. Early review buzz is giving the game excellent overall marks but what I particularly want to highlight is the graphics. I have been quite fascinated by the teaser screenshots and cinematic renderings that Naughty Dog has been posting over the past 18 months as the quality of the art is astounding. Here, therefore, is a selection of some of the most interesting. Take a moment to admire the work that's gone into this as, while playing the game, you might miss many of the subtle details.

Is there still life in the PlayStation 3? Absolutely!

Click on any of the images to find its home page and see it in full resolution on Flickr.



Character Design
In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie The Last Of Us is an escort-mission game in which you, as Joel, are tasked with protecting Ellie, a teenager he has smuggled out of a quarantine zone in Boston who he needs to escort safely to a resistance group, the Fireflies, to fulfill a promise he made to a friend.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Ellie Ellie is an NPC (non-playing character) that is controlled by the game's artificial intelligence. Note the texture of the collar and the hole in her T-shirt.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Bill With A Lamp Bill is a scavenger who has access to parts and equipment that Joel and Ellie need to continue their journey.



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In Pictures: The Last Of Us
In Conversation The broken, dirty windows and notes tacked to the cabinet are subtle inclusions that make the world feel more real - and abandoned.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Ellie And Marlene Marlene is the leader of the Fireflies.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Sam And Ellie Sam and his brother Henry are nomadic survivors that Joel and Ellie encounter on their journey.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Multiplayer Fireflies The Last Of Us features a multiplayer mode, called Factions, in which you play team-based tactical missions as either a Firefly or a Hunter. (In the single-player game Hunters are ruthless survivors in Pittsburgh who kill anyone who isn't one of their own.)


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
A Firefly Pins A Marauder Marauders appear in the multiplayer modes as enemies who aren't infected by Cordyceps (more on that later).


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Stomps A Hunter Graphic quality is one thing but it's only part of what's necessary to present engaging visuals in this sort of game. Another is animation, which requires attention paid to everything from lighting to realistic character movement (usually accomplished using motion capture and actors).

The developers created a few thousand animations just for Joel to ensure that he moves as realistically as possible.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Uses A Hunter As A Human Shield Note Joel's sinewy arm and the folds in his shirt, as well as the bullet hole and chips in the concrete.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Chokes An Infected Human Much of the population has been wiped out by Cordyceps, which is based on a real parasite, a type of fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) that infects ants, kills them, and then inhabits their bodies (forming "zombie ants"), growing out of their heads to release spores. In The last Of Us infected humans slowly go through fives stages, characterised by changes in their physical appearance, and begin to attack the living as they become increasingly aggressive and dangerous due to how the progression of the infection affects their minds. It's not quite a zombie game but the experience is similar.

Note all the bullet holes in the wall.



Combat And Enemies
In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Aims At Runners And A Clicker During the first stage of the infection the Infected are known as Runners. In the third stage, which takes about a year to develop, the infected have very noticeable mutated protrusions on their heads and are called Clickers due to the sound they make as they use echolocation to navigate, having lost their eyesight due to the fungus protruding through their eye sockets.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Fights A Group Of Runners Bad eyesight and glowing eyes are the markers of this class and also the best way to distinguish them from the uninfected human population as they still retain human traits as their bodies try to fight the infection that begins to make their behaviour more feral and zombie like.

Much of the artificial intelligence in the game was written by programmer Max Dyckhoff, which includes Ellie's behaviours during combat and how the enemies react. The game has been praised for its enemy AI, whose behaviour will change depending on whether or not they outnumber you and which includes responses such as hiding, waiting for you to make a move, or attacking you in a coordinated effort.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Fights A Hunter In the background you can see Ellie crouching as the game's artificial intelligence tries to keep her away from the action, although she can also assist Joel to warn him of the location of enemies and by throwing objects or distracting attackers.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Chokes A Hunter Although there is a lot of combat in the game, one of the key gameplay aspects is stealth. One of Joel's combat moves is the ability to sneak up on certain types of enemy from behind and strangle them.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Throws A Brick Joel uses a variety of weapons, including objects that can be thrown, such as bricks and bottles.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Ellie Throws A Brick In certain situations the artificial intelligence will assist Joel by having Ellie throw objects at enemies.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Is Hit By A Plank One of the melee weapons available to players and enemies is a plank. The game allows players to upgrade the plank through the crafting system.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Hard Knocks Another plank attack, this time taking place in a multiplayer game.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
In Flames Here you can see a flamethrower being used against an enemy in a multiplayer game.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Fiery Arc The Molotov cocktail is a weapon that can be crafted by players in both the single-player game (as Joel) and in multiplayer games. It requires an empty bottle, a rag, and a match or a lighter.



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The User Interface
In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Bombs Away An aiming system aids players trying to throw explosive weapons, such as a bomb, here in a multiplayer game.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Sharp Shooter This is a screenshot from an elimination-based multiplayer game in which once you're dead, you're dead until the round is over - there's no respawning and the winner of the round is the last person standing. The indicators are minimalistic, which makes it easier to focus on the action without loosing access to any crucial information.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Stealthy Attack Stealth is important in both the single-player game and the multiplayer mode. Listen Mode allows the character you're controlling to use a heightened sense of hearing and it's depicted by showing the silhouettes of enemies that can be found behind visual barriers. While in Listen Mode you can only move by crouching. It's a limited special ability in multiplayer games but one of Joel's important skills in the single-player game.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Be Very Quiet Listen Mode will indicate nearby Clickers, which, in turn, are using their echolocation abilities to try and find you. You can see Joel crouching here as he moves closer very slowly.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Crafting Crafting is a very important part of the game. Objects you pick up are kept in your inventory until you are ready to use them or craft them with other objects to create something new - in this case a health kit. Many objects have multiple uses. The health kit, for example, requires a rag and a bottle of alcohol. The Molotov cocktail, seen further up, also requires a rag and a bottle. How you decide to use your limited resources is up to you.



Environments
In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Damp Spot At one point in the game Ellie, a character named Tess who is a friend of Joel, and Joel make their way to the outskirts of town in driving rain. What's especially interesting to note here are the subtle reflections of light in the pools of water on the ground.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Repairing The Turbine Rust and discolouration on the turbine and the roof beams, as well as the combination of dirty and missing window panes, the damaged flag, and the encroaching vegetation, all contribute to a sense of abandonment.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie In Rivers Cafe Coffee Shop This is an early image of Joel and Ellie in an abandoned coffee shop that has been trashed and looted. (You can see more of it in the E3 2012 gameplay trailer embedded earlier in this article.) Note the coloured-chalk writing on the blackboards and the rusting machinery.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
A Clogged Hallway The plastic crates in this image from early in the development of the game are a well considered touch. This is also a good opportunity to take a closer look at Joel's backpack and the back of his shirt, as well as the texture of Ellie's hair.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Dead Bodies The decay is well depicted without being as disturbing as it could have been, had this been a Hollywood movie instead of a console game. Note, also, the mould growing in the bathroom, the cracked and broken tiles, and the smashed panel lying on the floor.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie Walking And Talking The plastic-crate object is used here again in a few places to good effect. There is also a bottle lying on the floor.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie On The Run A razor-wire-and-salvaged-wood barricade, filtered light and lens flare, an abandoned drinks fridge, and a smashed up, rusting car all add to the sense of abandonment and decay. The foliage in the foreground and background is a wonderful touch.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Looks Down The Trashed Street At A Distant Bridge Nature is slowly absorbing the man-made environment.

(This is also another good chance to look at the detail on Joel's backpack.)


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie In A Well Lit Street This is another view of the environment depicted earlier with the razor-wire-topped wooden fence. The graffiti, weeds, and broken windows all add to its decayed charm.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel In The Lobby Civilisations rise and fall but Mother Nature is always waiting in the wings to reclaim what was taken from her. This is a beautiful depiction of it, in a hotel lobby, with a great contrast of light and shadow. (You can see more of the hotel in the E3 gameplay trailer embedded further up.)


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Ellie Checks A Dead Body This is another early image. The foliage has totally overtaken every spot it can find. The quarantine warning notice, tattered and peeling off the highway sign, is a lovely inclusion.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Roads To Nowhere This is a screenshot taken from a cutscene so the rendering is a little more impressive. The detail to be found here is incredible and every single item is there because someone made the decision to include it.

Note, also, the shadow cast by the street light onto the road.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel Points Out The Bridge This is another opportunity to marvel at the architectural design of the game's buildings, the lighting effects (such as the sunlight glinting off the skyscrapers), and the beautiful encroaching vegetation. You can see the peeling quarantine banner in the distance.



In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Joel And Ellie Arrive At The University Of Eastern Colorado Fuel and working cars are scarce resources, and traversing trashed suburban areas is difficult, so horses come in handy. The cloudy sky and trees resplendent in autumn colours add an immense amount of beauty to this environment.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Riding Through The Woods Although it's very obvious in this screenshot that the ground usually comprises a flat-textured, somewhat angular object (you can also see this in some of the interior screenshots above) the design of the trees is still magical, as is the light filtering through the leaves, and once again we have spots of sunlight illuminating small sections of the environment.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Ellie Waiting This is just a magnificent environment (though note the flat-textured ground again) and a fitting depiction to lead us out of the environment showcase and into the final section, which highlights some more lighting effects.



Lighting And Visual Effects
In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Church Light Rays Light filters through a church's stained-glass windows, casting beautiful reflections in the interior and onto the opposite wall. What appears to be dust particles are caught momentarily in the sun beams.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
Burning Body This rather graphic screenshot from a multiplayer game shows a character who has been attacked with a flamethrower.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
In Pieces This is a screenshot taken from one of the trailers (it's embedded at the start of this article if you want to watch it) that shows the Infected being blown up. As a frozen image it's quite disturbing but the full action sequence and its visual effects wouldn't be out of place in a Hollywood movie.

According to visual-effects artist Doug holder, the development team put concerted effort into blood effects for the game, which required much animation work and having to keep track of a lot of elements.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
This is another screenshot from the trailer but it's included here to demonstrate two lighting effects: the setting sun in a cloudy sky and floodlights illuminating a settlement.


In Pictures: The Last Of Us
The Sun Sets In Bill's Town You may remember Bill, who was mentioned right at the beginning of this article. He usually gets these sunsets all to himself.


The Last Of Us, by US development team Naughty Dog, is out today in numerous markets worldwide, exclusive to the PlayStation 3 console.


Find More: #games, #horror, #speculative_fiction





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