Looting, Crafting and Stealth-Kills: Hands on with The Last of Us
Making What You Need
All those bits of scrap you pick up around the game, things like blades and duct tape, alcohol and rags, boards and lead pipes, can be turned into other stuff with The Last of Us’ fairly robust crafting mechanic. For example, I can use the duct tape to add blades to melee weapons, making them much more effective, or turn those blades into shivs that are good for single-use stealth kills.
“The top-level is that you will be learning a lot of different upgrades over the course of the game,” said Lead Game Designer Jacob Minkoff in an interview with Game Front. “You’ll be learning different, what we’re calling ‘recipes’, that you can use to make different items with these ingredients. …What you see there is with the binding and blades, there’s a choice — a strategic choice. Do you go stealth or do you go loud? With the health kit versus molotov, do you go offensive versus defensive. Limited supplies, so you’re not going to be able to make a lot of them, you’re not going to be able to fill out your inventory. How do you choose to use these supplies based on the situation that you’re in, based on the combat that you’re in?”
Upgrades will also be a big part of the game, with items you find along the way factoring into a system that allows you to better the items you make and the items you’re already carrying, and expand on things like inventory size. Those options were not included in the demo, but Minkoff said that there would be a number of additional systems for thinks like item upgrades, equipment upgrades, and skill progression.
“So let’s say you find an improvised munitions training manual in a military depot. It might teach you how to improve the efficiency of your molotovs — so off of the same ingredients, you might get double the radius, or something like that,” Minkoff said. “And you can also upgrade your equipment. As you scavenge around the environment, you can find pieces that you can use to build extra holsters onto your backpack, or to expand your inventory, to upgrade your guns — like maybe when you get a rifle you want to add a scope to it so you find the pieces to a scope, and now you put that on. And additionally, you’ll be able to upgrade Joel’s skills — it’s a cross-country journey. He and Ellie are going across the whole continent, so over the course of that journey, he becomes more skilled himself, so you’ll be able to upgrade his skills as well.”
Fighting (and Sneaking) For Your Life
Finally, not much later, we encounter more infected — first, a “clicker,” or later-stage infected. These have fungus sprouting out from their eyes to the point of blindness, but they’ve developed an echolocation ability to deal with it. That means they can detect you if they’re facing you while making their clicking sounds; they’re also unstoppable up close.
The Splinter Cell element mentioned above makes its appearance here, as you’ll need to sneak around enemies in order to dispatch them. No infected are particularly good at seeing: The newly infected “runners,” more agile and human than clickers and still capable of some sight, can really only see motion; clickers can’t see at all. Therefore, you can sneak around enemies by staying low and moving fast, which allows you to execute stealth kills with shivs or strangulation.
The first clicker we face is tooling around a room alone. Tess and Ellie move to one side while I pick up a brick and heave it (again, like Splinter Cell) to distract the clicker. That lets me get around behind it, and when the moment is right, I leap out and bury a shiv in its neck with a quick pair of button presses to initiate the contextual attack.
There are bottles, bricks and other junk all over the game world that can be handy in a pinch, and Minkoff mentioned that the stealth elements of The Last of Us leave players with many options for dealing with a number of situations. For example, the next time I run across a group of enemies — several runners flanked by a clicker — I choose a louder approach. I sneaked up first on a runner and took it out without alerting its friends; Joel has a “listen” ability, executed with a shoulder button, that allows him to focus his hearing so he can get an idea of where enemies are through walls. It’s a little like Hitman: Absolution’s “Instinct” mechanic, and works like radar to help you function in the world.
Next, from cover, I took aim at the nearby clicker with my pistol and put two rounds in its skull, dropping it, figuring I could handle the lesser enemies with the tougher one out of the way. This, as it turned out, was a mistake — runners flanked me from all sides. Jamming the sprint button allowed me to escape, and then I was desperately dashing around the room. I put some distance between me and the enemies, turned, and fired a few rounds. One fell, four more pursued. I ran again, scooping up a brick as I passed it, and turned back, smashing the blunt object into the face of another attacker with the melee attack button. Swarmed again, I broke free, injured, and scrambled to a two-by-four on the ground. Grabbing that, I smashed the infected repeatedly until they were all dead and the board was splintered at my feet. I very nearly died in the attempt.