Last week, I was lucky enough to play 20 minutes of perhaps the most highly-anticipated PS3 exclusive of 2013. The Last of Us astounded me on an emotional and technical level, but given the game's superficial third-person similarity to Uncharted, I was especially eager to compare the controls and general feeling of The Last of Us with its adventuresome forebear.
What I discovered is that The Last of Us is another beast entirely, an organic and fluid experience wholly distinct from the third-person shooting of Uncharted. Most notably, there is no dedicated button for taking cover in The Last of Us. Instead, Joel will press against objects and walls naturally as the player moves slowly - or stealthily - towards them. He can move away without problem, easily breaking into a jog or sprint when necessary. It's an appropriate change, because staying still and hunkering down in The Last of Us almost certainly means imminent death.
In other aspects, similarities between the two games are easy to draw. L1 raises your gun (or object), while R1 fires (or arc throws). The D-Pad is used to cycle between equipped weapons and items, Square initiates melee strikes, and X is used for vaulting and jumping. The Last of Us adds a few twists; R3 activates your flashlight, and L3 places Joel into a crouched position.
I asked Lead Game Designer Jacob Minkoff whether development on The Last of Us' control scheme used Uncharted 2 as a jumping point, or if the former's mechanics became familiar by sheer happenstance. "Sometimes you find that you try a whole bunch of other solutions to an issue and none of them work as well as the one you've tried in the past," Minkoff replied. "Sure, there are some moments, perhaps like when Joel is vaulting a piece of cover, that might feel similar. But, the cover system is completely different . . . it's not stop-and-pop, right? It's free-flowing, automatically contextualizing to things because this game is much more about stealth and organic environments and creeping . . . Sure, there are going to be comparisons to Uncharted, but I think fundamentally this is a drastically different game."
After hands-on time with the game, I couldn't agree more.
Now that you've learned more about how The Last of Us feels, are you more or less excited for its May 7 release? Sound off in the comments below.