Naughty Dog talks me through it
I love to play some videogames in a single sitting. Some call that "marathoning." Survival horror games are especially satisfying when played this way. I've done this with all of the Fatal Frame and Silent Hill titles, as well as some of the Resident Evil titles.
I'd love to do the same with upcoming Naughty Dog title The Last of Us. While it's a bit more than just survival horror, I still want that maximum thrill from a single sitting play-through. But I don't know if I can do it.
The first concern is length. Naughty Dog game designer Ricky Cambier told me that playing all of The Last of Us in a single play-through will be tough.
"It's long," he told me at a pre-E3 press event last week. "It's our most ambitious project ever. It'll be tough to do in a day session."
So there's still a possibility. But my main concern is with the tone of the game. We're excited by how tense and brutal Joel and Ellie's journey seemed in recent preview sessions -- this is a mature game that is not scared at getting its point across. But for as thrilling as it is in small bouts, would it be too much to take in one sitting?
"The ultimate goal is to keep you thinking about it," Cambier explained. "To keep you thinking about the character, to keep you thinking about the story. It might depend on how you handle some of the situations. Like, how you get through some of them. Which moments really spike in tension and what level of challenge do you want to get from it."
But then he gave it to me straight: "I mean, there's scenes, there's moments or sections still that I kind of feel like I need to take a break after. I kind of am shocked and have to step away."
He assures me that the tension escalates far beyond the three segments I've seen of the game. But The Last of Us is tense and brutal for a reason -- its story. Cambier says that it's the most mature content Naughty Dog has dealt with yet.
"Because of the world and because of the goals we had with storytelling, and because of the goals with the arc of the characters, we knew we had to go to these places; we knew we had to have an M-rated game."
Cambier admits that some might think the brutality and tension might be too much.
"There are some people that will not agree with the story or not agree with some of the content. I think we spent a lot of time and effort to really create that type of grounded world where I think the violence is not gratuitous. The violence is about survival and is about doing what is necessary to survive."
He continued, "It kind of makes you ask yourself if you could do that in this situation. Is Joel still likable after this? Does that make him a hero or anti-hero? You get to explore some of those interesting questions, all under the hopes of respecting the violence and respecting that brutality, not treating it lightly at all."
When I asked him about the reaction so far, Cambier lit up: "The amount of reaction we're getting from this game just makes me very proud of it. That speaks to success. I think that when you see how it aligns with some of the goals of the story I think it'll make sense."
We joked about how I might have to take breaks to hold my dog for some relief. Cambier suggested that I might want to cover my dog's eyes in sections, jokingly adding that I might complain that Naughty Dog ruined my dog after playing.