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PAX East 2013: The Last of Us Hands-On

A Scary and Fun Demo

By Whitney on 3/26/2013
 The Last of Us was one of the few triple-A playable demos available on the expo show floor during PAX East 2013. Luckily, The Game Effect was able to demo the game for a full 30 minutes, and we came away with many likes (and a few dislikes) about what we saw.

The Last of Us takes place two decades after a fungus infects and kills millions of people, leaving the world to crumble and rot. Joel, a scavenger and former black-marketer, is tasked with safely transporting Ellie, a 14-year-old girl of unknown importance. The game focuses on survival through scavenging and looting alongside elements of horror and suspense.

The demo began with Joel, Ellie, and Tess (another main character who has a personal relationship with Joel) trying to navigate the gorgeously rendered dilapidated version of Boston. The trio descended through a crumbling building filled with growing vines and suffocating spaces. This part of the demo focused on climbing and traversing various objects. It reminded me of  Uncharted, but in a more realistic, practical fashion. Ellie and Tess kept pace with Joel, and never seemed to get in the way. They did hinder my progress a few times when I had to wait for them to trigger a scene or move to a specific spot, but it never intruded on my gameplay experience.

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After navigating through a few more rooms, the characters were alerted to the presence of Clickers and zombies, the game's main enemies (aside from people). Clickers are fungus-infected enemies who are highly sensitive to sound. If Joel moved near them, they would immediately respond and give chase. Since I played the demo with headphones, I was able to hear the incredibly loud and eerie clicking noises made by these monstrosities, which was all the more amplified by a complete lack of music. It made for a very chilling experience, to say the least.
Joel was able to scavenge various items and craft weapons, such as shivs and Molotov cocktails. If weapons weren't available, Joel could pick up a brick or a bottle and throw it across the room to distract enemies. Joel also has a skill similar to eagle-vision that allowed him to move silently and see enemies through walls and barriers. This made navigating rooms easier; but it certainly didn't relax me. If anything, knowing how many enemies were in the room made it even more terrifying.

Since tutorials were not really an option, much of the demo was trial-and-error. I died several times before I developed a good method for dealing with enemies. In order to progress, I had to clear the room of any threat before Ellie and Tess would enter. Once this was completed. the trio moved on to a dark and dank subway station. I was immediately greeted by several cries and clicking noises, and my senses showed over 10 enemies scattered throughout the room. All I could do was move silently through the area and hope I didn't alert any enemies.

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I tossed a few bottles here and there to distract the Clickers, and any zombies that crossed my path were silently shived in the neck or strangled. Clickers could not be strangled (as I learned the hard way), and stabbing them in the neck alerted other nearby Clickers. This made for a challenging dilemma as I crouched through the dark to try and avoid enemies. Just as I finished the area, the demo ended.

The most significant part of the demo was the sound. It was obvious the developers wanted to emphasize the Clicker's distinctive noises and thus excluded any outside music that would distract players. Scavenging is also integral to the game in order to craft weapons and items. My only concern is the seemingly realistic portrayal of the crafting system, such as one-time use shivs. Crafting may interfere with the game as a whole because it could distract from the overarching gameplay elements. But as that is my only complaint from the demo, I'm completely sold on  The Last of Us.

The Last of Us is slated for release on June 14, 2013 on the Playstation 3.
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