The Last Of Us : Media Event Coverage
Sony and Naughty Dog held a press conference last week in order to get the word out about The Last Of Us, and give us smaller publications a hands-on with the game.
Held in Shoreditch, London, the event took place in a converted store/warehouse, though it was difficult to tell with the facelift they’d given the place: ivy and vines covered the walls, destroyed vending machines and rusty barrels littered the area and low lighting & ambient smoke gave the place an eerie atmosphere. All this effort was to give the event a post-apocalyptic feel, and in that respect they definitely succeeded. I did have one gripe with the event though;sound system. Throughout my time there, sinister music, inter-mixed with screams and yelling, taken I assume from the ‘infected’ featured in The Last Of Us, could be heard in the background. This in itself wasn’t a problem, in fact the first time I heard the yelling I was given a shock, a reaction I’m sure Sony were hoping for. However, the volume must have been stuck on its maximum level, as even when playing the game with a headset on (and a good one at that) I could still hear these infrequent screams, never really allowing me to become immersed in the demo. It became rather annoying after the first hour.
Snacks and booze were available upon arrival (Sony definitely knows how to butter up the press), and after a brief wait, we were seated in a viewing room, on less than comfortable benches I might add. The first presentation we were given was by Dr. David Hughes, a consultant on the game (and also the upcoming World War Z film). He ran us through the science the game is based on, namely the Cordyceps Unilaterus fungus that afflicts ants, and how, in theory, a similar fungi/virus could infect humans. His presentation also included many disgusting photos and videos detailing different parasitic fungi that affect both animals and humans. What he had to say was interesting, but it contained very little game-relevant information.
Even the stage was in a state of decay
Next up was Dr Tomas Chamorro, a psychologist, who I believe was another consultant on the game. I say this because he never said anything about The Last Of Us, instead focusing on several Psychometric tests that were on offer at the event, but unfortunately I didn’t get to partake in any of these. In my opinion, they could have done without this guy.
Finally we had the presentation by Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director, and Bruce Straley, the Game Director. They explained how work began on The Last Of Us after Uncharted 2, and was inspired by the relationship the player builds with the character Tenzin in that game. For those readers who are unaware, Tenzin is a Sherpa who assists the player in the later stages of the Uncharted 2, and although he speaks no English, most players ended up growing very attached to the character. Neil & Bruce explained how they wanted to create a game where they built a relationship through gameplay and mechanics, and that this was the foundation of the design for The Last Of Us.
The presentation contained several videos, all of which are now available online, which detailed aspects such as the AI, and how it has been crafted to react dynamically to the players actions, for example becoming more defensive if the player is seen brandishing a firearm (I can confirm this is true), and the crafting system, where compromises between offensive and defensive items must be made (again I can confirm this, as items are few and far between). The presentation was very informative, yet it did not appear to contain any spoilers, which I appreciated as I want to go into The Last Of Us knowing very little about the plot.
One of the many demo stations (booze not included)
After the presentation there was a (very) brief Q&A session, which unfortunately didn’t give any useful information, but did introduce the actress Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie in the game. As you can imagine for a semi-famous actress (I recognised her from somewhere) in a room filled with nerdy guys, she looked suitably uncomfortable, and didn’t have much to add. The Naughty Dog guys did commend her work in the game as ‘one of the best in-game performances the medium has seen to date’, which I think helped put her at ease.
After this it was time to play the game, and you can find my coverage of the levels here and here. All in all it was a solid event, but you can never really go wrong offering free food, booze and snacks along with the chance to try out a highly anticipated game.
I’ll give Naughty Dog top marks for this one.
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Hailing from 'The Grim North'; Joshua is about to graduate and enter the real world - and so has decided to throw himself into talking about the one thing he knows best: video games! As money is tight, he's ploughing through the plethora of retro games present in his student house. Just as soon as they pay the electricity bill.