Note: The gameplay is fairly brutal, and definitely will be earning an “M” rating, so watch as desired.
“BUT I SEE NO ZOMBIES,” you say.
Alright, so the developers are calling this, “Not a zombie game.” And it’s true, in this gameplay trailer there are no ‘infected,’ only humans. But bear with me here. As shown in the first trailer, zombies are a part of the game. However, the developers don’t want them to be the focus; they don’t want people to think of this as just another zombie game, because they are aiming to be much more than that.
Ever since playing Resident Evil 2 at a birthday party as a kid, zombies and their fiction have held a special place in my heart. Dead Rising claimed my, “favorite video game of all time,” title for a number of years, and since then I have thoroughly enjoyed blasting through hordes of ‘infected’ in Left 4 Dead (another game that says DON’T CALL THEM ZOMBIES), or surviving wave after inevitable wave of attacks in Call of Duty’s zombies mode. Hell, I even had a blast with Dead Island, despite its horrible story, voice acting, and dialog that had no chance of living up to its incredibly emotional and promising CG trailer.
And that’s the the thing; most zombie games have taken an approach to the zombie genre that has been either overtly tongue-in-cheek and humorous (Dead Rising and CoD’s zombie mode), or has taken itself way too serious, without the chops to back that up (Dead Island and probably most of the Resident Evil games, if we’re being honest). Now, as most zombie games have been incredibly entertaining regardless of their B-movie presentation (and sometimes more so), it hasn’t kept me from enjoying them. But it also means that there is a lot of room for ‘serious’ zombie games to make their entrance and be good.
Now, as mentioned before, developer Naughty Dog isn’t calling this a zombie game. But I don’t look at the best zombie films as zombie films. 28 Days Later? Sure, there’s zombies (or ‘infected’ - whatever, they’re zombies - infected is just the highbrow term), but the story is about the people - it’s about survival, and hovering over the line that separates humans from mindless blood lust. The best zombie fiction often transcends the ‘zombie’ tag, delving into weighty thematic material, and there’s no reason that video games can’t do the same. Where Dead Island tried (and despite its best efforts, failed) - The Last of Us seems poised to succeed.
The fact that it’s Naughty Dog heading the title means it’s already off to a promising start. The Uncharted series has only become more impressive with each entry, and The Last of Us seems to be taking all of that developer experience, pairing it with their stunning game engine, and putting it into an experience that’s more The Road than it is Resident Evil.
If the game lives up to the hype it’s building and takes its place as the first truly emotionally impacting high-profile zombie game, well - I guess we’ll have to wait and see. The title is currently TBA, likely due for release on the Playstation 3 sometime next year.