The Last of Us is a crafty, tense experience in which my attempts to attack bandits and disfigured creatures head-on usually resulted in a gruesome death. Upon starting a two-level demonstration of the game, I only had two bullets in my pistol – missing a headshot felt like a catastrophe. Surprise and caution enable success, just as cynical protagonist Joel constantly tells Ellie, a young girl who hasn't yet been turned dour by the terrible state of the world.
To grasp what's most important in The Last of Us, and what it might deem valuable in comparison to other games that blend stealth, scavenging and shooting, I asked Naughty Dog designer Ricky Cambier for some general survival strategies. Supplies and Supplements
"Start by getting yourself equipped," Cambier said. "You can pick up some supplements, and you can also pick up some supplies, and these are two things that are going to allow for upgrades. One upgrade, just to give you scenario: you can find these tool benches throughout the game, you can go there and if you've got supplies, you can upgrade your weapons. For example, you could give yourself extra ammo slots - increase your clip size."
One of the game's most unsettling enemies, the clicker, is able to locate you via echolocation. Defeating one requires a quiet approach and brutal swing with a melee weapon. Once you've been discovered, however, they're not as easy to take down.
"You're going to find that in a game like this you're really going to notice that [clip increase], Cambier said "Because it's not great to have to reload if a clicker is barreling down on you. Having those extra bullets is really going to have an impact in those survival moments."
Supplements are going to increase Joel's health, make the gun sway go down so you can be a little accurate, so tactically all these things are going to help."
Bricks and Bottles
"There's a resource out in the game that we talk a lot about - bricks and bottles. These are really useful tools, they can be used as noisy distractions. Someone's coming toward you, getting close, so you throw something out, distract them and get away. They're especially good against clickers, that use sonar to detect you. Don't underestimate how useful a bottle or brick is in a time of need, even if it buys you just a couple seconds. Always keep one around."
By pressing the R2 trigger, you can enable a "listen mode," which visualizes nearby enemies even if they're obscured by cover.
"Making a plan" and being a "bit tactical" is a good mantra for The Last of Us, Cambier said, even though the game's appearance – that of a cover-based shooter – incurs a more aggressive impulse. "Knowing where you can flee to, knowing where you are, using listen mode - it's a great tool for assessing your situation, especially if you're in cover at that moment and you don't know where everybody is and have to test the situation.
Cambert added that the supplies, weapon components and ammunition planted throughout the game are mostly predetermined and not arranged on the fly, making resource conservation a long-term concern. Before long, he said, "You start to learn what it costs to kill somebody."