SideQuesting allowed me to publish this article there, so if you want to see it look a little more professional go check it out!
The problem with zombie games is there are no humans. Only archetypes and singular goaled beings exist among the undead in the games we play and therefore the argument can be made that the opposition is not unlike each other. Survival is not the most interesting tale to tell without careful character growth and if one developer could pull it off, it would be Naughty Dog.
Granted, a trailer is not the meatiest bone to pick off of, but The Last of Us shows more promise that it should have. Maybe it was because the zombies weren’t zombies in the same sense that 28 Day Later’s zombies weren’t zombies. It’s the difference between brainless fodder and intelligent predators, The Last of Us’ breed look like the latter. The hope here is that the environment will weigh down the characters with constant pressure, allowing room for the state of the world and the survivors to provide the narrative.
Naughty Dog has the talent to create characters that leave behind the obligatory, Nathan Drake won’t tell himself, “I need to use this gun in my hand to shoot the lock open.” In an emergent situation like man and the young woman are forced into during the trailer, they don’t have time to explain, it’s about instinct. And instinct is the very thing that drives the scripted moments in Uncharted, it’s also the trait in us that breaks it.
If the chance to demand two things from Naughty Dog when developing The Last of Us is allowed, it would be to explore player agency and to be devoted to scarcity; guns should be used sparingly if not ever. Stop punishing the player for making the wrong move, give them branching options of varying danger. And it’s a post-apocalyptic world, don’t look at Fallout, look at Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for enemy encounters; in other words: drop the “combat”. While we’re at it, take a cue from Richard Matheson, give us a story about the characters’ motivations, not the zombies, or whatever you’d like to call them. The Last of Us has potential if Naughty Dog will let it.