Hardly anyone is talking about it, but the demo for The Last of Us has finally released for those who have obtained a copy of God of War: Ascension. And while I may've suddenly realized why nobody is talking about it, it doesn't make the fact that nobody is talking about it any less aggravating.
And it's aggravating in more than one respect. On one hand, a demo this good, for a brand new IP, shouldn't be confined to a full-priced game. Especially as Ascension actually already comes with demos for LittleBigPlanet Karting, Journey, Flower, and several more. As if the production of this game was some glorified marketing stunt.
Secondly, the demo is good. Pretty damn good. Great.
As I expected (see also: hoped), the demo began with a scenic venture through a downtown apocalypse. A couple minutes inward and Joel eyes their objective, not too far from their position. But, in order to get there, they can either jump the gorge to their immediate deaths or take a long way around through a couple dark, dilapidated, abandoned buildings. Ready-to-crumble and filled with infected.
Both choices suck butt. Though, sensibly enough, they decide to prolong their lives a little bit for the sake of the mission and take the alternate route.
Keep in mind that the game didn't give me some obtuse objective marker. I actually had to look right, left and behind for a way around. On top of that, it was drizzling rain with dark clouds overhead. Man, I love rainy days. This demo is already starting off very smoothly.
I soon get a hang for the controls. And in playing around with them, I discover there is a quick turn ability ala Resident Evil. Since I was coming straight off of Revelations, and since the movement/aiming felt very very Uncharted-esque, this strap was none too snug. I fit into this game like a wet glove.
As I keep playing, I find that this game is not just a spooky Uncharted. Commendable.
For one thing, the game is far more difficult and tense. Clickers require either a careful sneak or a ballsy melee charge. Yeah... you could use your gun. But, you'd do your best by saving those bullets for the bigger groups. The largest ammo pick-up I found was 6 bullets. And that was for a totally different weapon. I reckon it's even more scarce on the higher difficulties.
Melee combat is also, thankfully, incredibly dynamic. Graphics, story, whatever else this game might have going for it.. I'm looking forward to more of the combat.
Uncharted 3 saw a dramatic improvement in the franchise's grapple/fisty maneuvers, but even that was tame compared to The Last of Us. Here, combat flows as naturally as it does in an actual fight. If you're brave (or stupid) enough to go for a melee kill (which is not the same as an instant "shiv" kill, which you need certain supplies for), be ready. As that kill is likely going to attract any surrounding bad dudes.
Oh, and even common infected take more than a hit or two to bite the dust. I was a little caught off-guard, myself, when that first piece of fodder didn't go down so easily. Before I could tell that he had not yet been vanquished, he grabs me and we rassle! A dozen or more quick taps of the square button and he's off me.
Then two more bashes with my steel pipe and he's finally dead. Or just in a bloody coma. Either way is cool.
No time to shake that one off, sadly. Another infected is rushing me. This time I know what it takes to come out a winner. 1, 2, 3, goodnight.
Holy mother of God! Now there's an infected and a Clicker, both out looking for a painfully good time. I know to deal with the Clicker first, and shoot him straight in the dome. But, that only paralyzes him for a brief moment. Enough to rassle down the other infected. I get him off me and I take a couple shots.
Stupid me, though. I should've taken another shot at the Clicker between all that, because now he's barely dodged my last shot and all up on me! But, I get a small prompt to the right of his thing-face to use a scissor blade I had found before and I shiv him in the neck.
It was all over. Joel gives the okay and the demo fades to black.
You know the gameplay is engaging when you can't even remember if there was music accommodating the experience. There was hardly any time to think.
But, before that, there was even more to appreciate about this potential masterpiece.
The exploration and environmental detail aspects were the next best things to the combat. Giving you plenty of room to move, with just as much extra space used for exploration/looting and nothing more. All of it captivating to look at. I would shine my flashlight on everything I could for a better view.
Acting was about as good as you'd expect from a modern day Naughty Dog title, but without the sarcastic wit of much of the main Uncharted cast. So it was, admittedly, a little dull at first. Not in the acting, but in the dialogue. No hard drama, no humor, just lines of dialogue.
But, as I settled into the game's mindset, I got used to it and came to think of the dialogue as natural rather than "made-for-Hollywood".
Presentation was just as pleasant with Joel waving his hand across objects he brushes up against, smooth transitions between walking/running and climbing/standing, etc. The game definitely felt as if it was built up from ND's Uncharted engine. But, as I've already stated, this is no Uncharted. Not just simply that, anyway.
To think, for as much loot as I gathered, I never felt overstocked. And the game never forced me down a single path, or gave me too many directions. I forged my own experience, and I can't wait to do it for the long haul.