The Last Of Us: Emotional Evolution of the Survival Horror Genre


Taking a page from the Walking Dead comic series (and the smash hit television adaptation – and especially the Telltale Games adaptation), E3’s latest survival horror offering, The Last of Us, will focus more on the threat posed by ordinary human beings than of the infected monstrosities roaming the game’s post-apocalyptic surroundings.

“At least they’re predictable,” says one character, during the game’s E3 trailer yesterday. “It’s the normal people that scare me.”

In a sea of zombie and turns-people-into-monsters outbreak-themed games like the latest Resident Evil, Dead Rising, and  Dead Island, The Last of Us hopes to set itself apart by focusing on moral decision-making more than simply running and gunning.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The Last of Us isn't full of choices that are merely black or white – like real life itself, its world is very, very gray,” writes the International Business Times.

The game’s plot will revolve around two central characters: Joel and Ellie. Joel is a middle aged smuggler who has been hired to protect the 14-year-old Ellie and ensure her safe passage out of the infection zone. They must sneak – and of course, occasionally fight – their way across a nearly deserted city that nature has attempted to reclaim, with buildings crumbling and plants breaking through cracks in the pavement.

The outbreak scenario is clearly outlined and even has scientific precedent – the Cordyceps fungus – which can literally take control of an insect’s brain. From start to finish, The Last of Us will log about 20 hours of gameplay, the bulk of which will have gamers controlling Joel.

Amid the search for safety, Joel and Ellie will be forced to do a lot of soul-searching of their own. Set 20 years after the initial epidemic, Ellie is unaware of life before the old world screeched to a halt.

“This is the rare game that will actively avoid action for lengths at a time, instead letting Ellie pester Joel with questions about what it was like to be alive before the fungal apocalypse,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Todd Martens.

The character development, through conversations, will be far more important than the senseless killing that acts as a centerpiece for other games in the survival horror genre. Not only underemphasizing it, Naughty Dog set out to make killing as uncomfortable as possible for players – straying away from the glamorization of violence seen in games like Grand Theft Auto.

“It's pretty hard to feel heroic while sneaking up on an enemy and savagely beating him to death with a brick,” described Tom Bissell of Grantland. “Indeed, the depiction of melee violence in The Last of Us is as upsetting as anything I've played. Significantly, this kind of violence is almost always one's last resort.”

The Last of Us will be released on Friday, June 14, by Uncharted developer Naughty Dog Studios. The studio is owned by Sony, and thus the title will be a PlayStation 3 exclusive.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief