Reviews & Articles

The Last of Us: 50 Changes and Improvements – Part 2

Part 1 – The Story, Survival
Part 2 – Consequences, Clickers in the Fancy Hotel
Part 3 – Improving On The Uncharted Formula: Animation, Camera, Graphical Detail
Part 4 – Improving On The Uncharted Formula: Lighting, HUD, AI
Part 5 – Improving On The Uncharted Formula: Audio, Craftwork, Gameplay, Story

Consequences

In the E3 demo Joel started with about 85% health, a health kit, a bandage, a bundle of string or rope, a bottle of alcohol, two containers of sugar, an empty canister and a revolver with 4 bullets. Not 4 clips or magazines, just 4 bullets. He later obtains another two bullets from one hunter and a shotgun with three shells from another, and we’re not sure how many bullets, if any, the other armed hunter was carrying.

The eight hunters encountered in the demo were disposed of by using a choker hold, all six bullets from the revolver (three miss, three hit, killing two), two blows to the head from the butt of the revolver and shotgun, slamming one into a wall and desk, a Molotov cocktail crafted from the bandage and bottle of alcohol, and one shell from the shotgun. Oh, and Ellie helped in a couple of tight spots with a brick to the face and a knife to the back.

Bullets and supplies are certainly not abundant and with the hunters also looking for the very same items, you are going to have to decide when and where to search, hide and fight, looting both the environment and the dead.

By the end of the 3 minute and 20 second encounter Joel is left with just 30% health, an empty revolver, a shotgun with two shells, the health kit and some of the other miscellaneous items. The first bullet Joel took only grazed him but the blow to the back from the pipe wielding hunter and the plank across the face and the choking from the last hunter each caused roughly the same amount of damage as the second bullet Joel took. Violent encounters of any kind are clearly to be avoided where possible.

The Gamescom and PAX trailers showed us alternative and additional gameplay from that of the E3 demo, highlighting some more violent encounters when you’re on the receiving end of choker holds, Molotov cocktails, head slams and the threat of being impaled on a shard of glass from a broken window. The violence goes both ways.

The gameplay highlights that an aggressive approach jeopardises your future survival, much more so than in games with abundant bullets and regenerating health, as your decisions will carry forward with greater impact. What if you had started the hotel scene with no bullets? Clearly you’d have taken a different approach and it’s this element of gameplay that Naughty Dog is pushing – however you play you’ll be taking a calculated risk.

Infected “Clickers” In the Fancy Hotel?

Based on the hallways, rooms, objects and signage, it is evident that the E3 and PAX gameplay demo’s are set in the very same “fancy” hotel shown in the debut trailer where Joel and Ellie fought off infected clickers. With Ellie and Joel starting on separate floors it appears to fit shortly after the PAX demo which ends with Joel being separated from Ellie.

The gameplay videos started in a cafe across the road from the hotel then through the lobby and past the Mezzanine level to floor 2 via a ladder and staircase. If you look carefully on the walls in the staircase you see bullet holes and smeared bloody handprints that appear to be the evidence of a confrontation between a previous visitor and an unknown attacker – hunter or clicker. Someone was wounded and dragged up the stairs to the window.

Joel and Ellie’s confrontation with the hunters in the E3 demo takes place between rooms 212 and 207. In the PAX demo they confront hunters on floors 2 and 3 ending near room 314 and then take a flight of stairs to a lift well on floor 4 before Joel falls several levels into water in darkness as the demo ends. In the debut trailer Ellie starts on floor 3 outside room 322 and progresses up a different flight of stairs and into room 424 where Joel disposes of the third hunter shown in that opening sequence. The infected arrive and a wordless exchange between Joel and Ellie mentally prepares them for the inevitable encounter. A click as Joel readies the hammer of his revolver draws the clickers in and the trailer ends with Joel and Ellie desperately racing to escape the hotel via an emergency exit back on the ground floor.

Few players may notice the consistent room numbering across floors in the heat of play but it’s the combination of small details like this that helps keep you immersed in the game; it would stick out like a sore thumb if they were inconsistent and even the absence of numbering wouldn’t feel right.

A Convenient Location?

The first trailer for a game such as The Last of Us is usually created mid way through development just after the first suitable location has been completed, once the character models, location and object models, lighting, textures, effects, audio, animation and other assets are production ready. Some game trailers are designed simply to show the look and feel of the game or provide a glimpse into the back-story and are not representative of the events in the final game and sometimes the scene may even be cut or changed later in development. With Uncharted 3 for example, Naughty Dog admitted in a post release interview that they were unsure if everything shown in the early trailers would make it into the final game. Most all of it did.

Since the first trailer for The Last of Us we’ve already seen Ellie’s look change to a slightly younger girl, with a smaller frame and more rounded features; a move that Naughty Dog said was necessary to better represent the essence of her character and her partnership with Joel, a clear demonstration by Naughty Dog of their willingness to improve the game throughout their iterative development process.

It’s possible then that the first trailer is not part of the finished game at all; that the location and assets of the first trailer were chosen to debut the game simply because they were the most complete at the time. But then again perhaps it is and we’ll be encountering clickers in the hotel, though it won’t be the first time. It’s easy to see that the section from the cafe to the lift well represents a near complete 20-odd minute chapter (assuming you stop to scavenge for supplies at times) with the escape from the lift through to the escape from the hotel perhaps representing the next.

Part 3 – Improving On The Uncharted Formula: Animation, Camera, Graphical Detail

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