Barren wastelands. Decrepit and abandoned towns. Desolate landscapes ravaged by time and trauma. Recognisable landmarks slowly but surely reclaimed by nature after our demise. Games have consistently embraced the post-apocalyptic setting. It invites excitement, apprehension and a deep curiosity, and plays on the thought-provoking hypothetical, the 'what if?'. And when these post-apocalyptic environments and landscapes are incredibly detailed, they can result in great efficacy and power.
And here's why.
I mustache you something.
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Editor's note: Rob's piece here concludes his series of essays for Eurogamer on the seasons in video games. For more, be sure to check out Video games and the life of summer, starring Witcher 3, Firewatch and Dishonored 2, The power of spring in Horizon Zero Dawn, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and The Last of Us, and Video games and the power of winter, which looks at Skyrim.
Apparently speedrunning - racing to finish a game as fast as possible - is quite popular. Of course it is - where have you been? Haven't you heard of the charity speedrunning marathons Games Done Quick?
We are living in a new golden age of video game music, and by way of a celebration there will be a lavish orchestral concert at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of the month (Wednesday, 30th May). It's called PlayStation in Concert and will feature an 80-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, plus City of London Choir, bringing PlayStation music to life. Oh, and a light show.
After the darkness and dormancy of winter life restarts, almost as if the punishing frosts, snows and winds had never happened. The season of spring starts to take hold, colours reappear, foliage regrows and landscapes transform to offer different looks, feels and opportunities for interaction. This can be truly impactful when it manifests in video games. Where winter revealed the bones of landscapes and their design, spring brings a softer touch, its re-birth and revitalisation draping life and colour back over lands. Spring can empower a landscape to represent and symbolise in its own way. By adding these into games' story arcs and narratives, a whole new side of the landscape can be seen and experienced - one where the land tells stories of recovery, shows an ability to cleanse and has an ability to enhance peace and quiet, all while under the drape of a colourful, full of life landscape, giving the land an entirely new look and atmosphere.
The environments of massive open-world games, particularly in recent years, have been rightly praised for their representation, scale and design accuracy. However, there are some gems at the other end of the spectrum - environments that make you feel cramped, tense and desperate for a break. This is an approach to environment design utilised in our real-world, from gardens to architecture, and is mirrored excellently in some game environments, creating areas that trap us in cramped, claustrophobic conditions.
Former Naughty Dog employee David Ballard has gone public with a claim of sexual harassment he faced while working at the Uncharted and The Last of Us developer.
The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End co-director Bruce Straley is departing from Naughty Dog after 18 years.
It looks like The Last of Us Part 2's location - or one of them - has been figured out by a couple of dedicated fans.
Actress Shannon Woodward, best known for her role as Elsie Hughes in Westworld, has joined the cast of The Last of Us: Part 2.
An official The Last of Us poster teased the game's sequel back in September, fans have now realised.
The Last of Us fans have come up with a big theory on Naughty Dog's upcoming Part 2.
A little while back, we reported that a minority of PlayStation 4 Pro titles were experiencing performance issues that resulted in some games running at a lower performance level than standard PS4 hardware during stress points. The good news is that almost all the titles we highlighted - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Mantis Burn Racing and Watch Dogs 2 among them - have received patches that help to set things right. Mantis Burn Racing even got an HDR upgrade in the process. At the end of last week, Naughty Dog released an update for The Last of Us Remastered that similarly sets out to address our concerns. There's some great work in this update, so why isn't everyone happy?
Initially, there was some confusion about what the new code actually delivered. Patch notes for the update are not particularly helpful, citing 'miscellaneous bug fixes' only, when the reality is that this update features a remarkable optimisation push. There's no post about it on Naughty Dog's website either - but a post tucked away on the PlayStation community forums gives us a little more information:
"We introduced bug fixes and optimisations that will ensure a consistent and high level of performance on the PS4 Pro," says Scott Lowe, senior communications manager at Naughty Dog. "Now, when running The Last of Us Remastered on the PS4 Pro on a standard high-definition display, the game will run natively at 1080p and offer high-quality shadows when running at its high-framerate mode."
Ellie will be the lead playable character in The Last of Us Part 2, Naughty Dog has revealed in a panel session at this year's PlayStation Experience.
The Last of Us, one of the finest games in recent memory, is getting a sequel.
Developer Naughty Dog formally announced The Last of Us 2 this evening on stage at PSX 2016.
Main characters Joel and Ellie will both return for the follow-up, which is set some years later. Ellie is a young adult, vengeful. She also still plays the guitar. And she's still hanging around with Joel.
Some time before The Last Of Us was released in 2013 I received a small, squeezable brick in the post from Sony Computer Entertainment. It was about the size of a deck of cards and textured like a stress toy, and it had "The Last Of Us" printed on one side, with a smiley face on the other. A happy brick.
The brick remains one of the oddest pieces of promotional material I've ever been sent, although with hindsight there are worse emblems for Naughty Dog's serious, desaturated tale of survival in post-civilisation America. John Lanchester, writing about games, noted that "Respectability is a terrible thing for any art form", and with its Oscar-winning composer, its shelf of BAFTAs, and its zombies that are too sophisticated to be called zombies, The Last Of Us comes perilously close. You wouldn't know from its face, but this brick is caught in the middle of a tug-of-war over this respectability, at once a sign of how resistant the game and its grim setting are to celebration and trivialisation, but also, actually, the perfect symbol of The Last Of Us' lean simplicity. The game is cold and hard, compact and brutal.
The Last Of Us was a summing up of sorts. It arrived in June 2013, less than six months before the launch of PS4, a late-generation victory lap for Naughty Dog after the studio had delivered three breathless, brickless Uncharteds. Here, though, was something else, not so much a break from matinee adventuring as a dark inversion - The Last Of Us takes the invincible third-person combat of Nathan Drake's extended power fantasy and turns it into a 15-hour prison-yard murder, the same levering reticule and cover mechanics transmuted into a gasping, sweaty ordeal. It is a game about powerlessness and fear, one that declines to spare us the mundane details of scavenging and survival. It's a game about opening drawers and cupboards, about making bandages with bourbon and rags. It's a game about the irreducible usefulness of bricks.
It's been a good week for people who enjoy half-cloaks and complicated bits of machinery, all things told. Star Wars Battlefront's new DLC let's you play as cape-sporting cloud man Lando Calrissian, whereas Fallout 4's Contraptions workshop DLC lets you tinker with all sorts of, well, contraptions.
The Last of Us and Uncharted's film adaptations are both stuck in development hell.
A couple of dedicated Grand Theft Auto 5 modders have recreated The Last of Us' main character and aesthetic in Rockstar's latest open-world opus.
Two dozen PlayStation 4 games are now buy one, get one free via the PlayStation Store.
Last week Naughty Dog accidentally referred to its hit post-apocalyptic epic as "the first The Last of Us" and voice actor Nolan North had previously let it slip that a sequel was in development. But that's not necessarily the case as the studio has recently clarified.
Naughty Dog all but confirmed that a sequel to The Last of Us is in the works.
During a livestream of the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection writer Josh Scherr said, "All the facial animation in the Uncharted series was led up by Eric [Baldwin, lead animator] here. All the facial animation in the Uncharted games and the first The Last of Us- uh, did I say the first The Last of Us? The first Last of Us. The Last of Us. The first Last of Us. The Last of Us was also keyframe animation."
Baldwin couldn't help but laugh at this point while community strategist Eric Monacelli stuck to the script and pretended nothing had happened, quickly changing the subject to the Left Behind DLC.
The Last of Us is getting an extravagant four-disc vinyl soundtrack tomorrow for $75 (about £48).
UPDATE 30/6/15 9.55am: The Last of Us lead actor Troy Baker has said he knows nothing of a sequel to the game, despite word today from Uncharted lead Nolan North that The Last of Us 2 would be made.
Some tremendous steps toward LGBTI equality have been taken of late - the gay marriage referendum in Ireland being one particularly inspiring example. There's still a ways to go, of course, but overall it's encouraging to see acceptance growing in the public consciousness.
Sony will soon sell The Last of Us downloadable add-on Left Behind as a standalone product.
Upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger film Maggie looks more than a little inspired by The Last of Us, Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic PlayStation masterpiece.
The Last of Us star Ashley Johnson stole the show at the BAFTA Game Awards last night with an emotional acceptance speech for her role as Ellie.
Whatever your stance on the humble moustache, mutton chops, beard or goatee, facial hair can be found growing with reckless abandon on a number of gaming's most memorable protagonists (and a few forgettable ones to boot). Once you delve a bit deeper, however, a pattern starts to emerge from among the bristles; facial hair is, basically, game developer shorthand for emotional development.
BEWARE OF THE SPOILER! (It's right there at the very top of the article, so should you not want one of Left Behind's key story beats spoiled for you run, run you fool, and don't look back.)
The Last of Us is getting some slick new multiplayer DLC this week with a bevy of new weapons, skills, items, outfits, gestures, and special executions. While most of these add-ons can be purchased for either the PS3 or PS4 versions of the game, some of the new executions are PS4-exclusive due to "memory constraints" with Sony's older hardware.
"We had to exclude some sets from the PS3 version of the game due to memory constraints on the hardware," said Naughty Dog community strategist Eric Monacelli on the official The Last of Us site. "Yes, it seems with our latest add-ons we're squeezing every last ounce of memory the PS3 has to run our Factions mode."
The PS4-exclusive special executions are for the rifle, automatic rifle, and ground shiv, Sony has confirmed to Eurogamer.
Uncharted and The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog is turning 30 this month, but I'd swear it doesn't look a day over 21.
The Last of Us owners will soon be able to download two new multiplayer maps for free.
The Last of Us: Remastered has climbed to the top of the UK all-format charts with the fifth biggest launch of 2014 so far.
The Last of Us: Remastered sits behind Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, EA's Titanfall, Bethesda's Wolfenstein: The New Order and Sony's Infamous: Second Son on the list. The PlayStation 4 re-release is also the fourth best launch for the platform to date.
Naughty Dog's effort has ended Watch Dogs' long reign in first place - shuffling Ubisoft's open world down into second.
With Naughty Dog, you often get more than you asked for. When the Sony-affiliated Santa Monica developer set about creating a light-hearted jaunt for the PlayStation 3 with Uncharted, it created a dynamic and impressively filmic brand of interactive action. As the last generation came to an end and it set about a fusion of the survival horror of Resident Evil 4 with the emotional heart of Ico, it flourished a post apocalyptic genre piece with a tale of human warmth: a story about adolescence interrupted, adulthood and parental responsibility, as well as the countless lies we tell each other every day just in order to survive.
Last night's live theatrical performance of The Last of Us included a special gift for fans in attendance - a previously-unseen epilogue scene written by the game's director Neil Druckmann.
Mystery has surrounded Naughty Dog's PlayStation 4 remaster of its survival horror classic, The Last of Us. Announced by error and with a somewhat muted marketing push, it's a remaster where the developer has seemingly been unwilling to actually show us the game in action, a state of affairs that persisted into E3 where it was mysteriously absent from the Sony press booth. Quite why this was the case remains a puzzle - Naughty Dog had nothing untoward to hide. It's a brilliant game.
We'll be approaching it on Digital Foundry via two distinct articles, produced by authors coming to the game from two totally different perspectives. Tomorrow, my colleague Tom Morgan unleashes a full PS3 vs PS4 comparison and tells you about it from the perspective of someone who completed the original - essential reading for any potential double-dippers out there. This article is different: aside from playing through a 20-minute pre-release press demo, I've never played The Last of Us to any great degree. Dim recollections of the demo and editing the tech analysis aside, I've nothing to compare it to - I'll be judging it solely on its merits as a PlayStation 4 game, while at the same time attempting to answer all the major questions players may have.
So let's look at the tentpole enhancements as Naughty Dog has outlined them. Principally, we're looking at 1080p resolution at 60fps in both single and multi-player, a 4x detail increase to texture maps and a 2x resolution boost to shadow maps. Texture streaming is no longer required owing to the PS4's prodigious RAM, and there's longer draw distances, better LOD and improved particle effects. In essence, Naughty Dog has scaled up the original game to full HD and boosted assets to match, while doubling frame-rate. How does that look? Well, we've prepared a 22-minute 60fps gameplay capture here, downscaled from full resolution captures, and we've provided a 1080p60 download that should work just fine on most modern computers - and indeed the PlayStation 3.
Game of Thrones co-star Maisie Williams has been in talks to star in the movie adaptation of The Last of Us.
The Last of Us Remastered is released for PS4 this week. We're confident that our review of the original PS3 game applies to this edition too, so here's the original review - first published on 5th June 2013 - in full. In the left-hand column you'll find links to our review of the included add-on Left Behind and a few of our other favourite articles about the game. For a closer look at the PS4 edition, check Digital Foundry's analysis of the remaster, or its PS3 vs PS4 face-off.
The Last of Us, a surpassingly confident and handsome survival thriller from the cinematic populists at Naughty Dog, serves the post-apocalypse straight. Set 20 years after a fungal disease brings American society down and turns the infected into mindless monsters, its gorgeously ruined world, zombie body horror and cynical portrayal of survivors turning on each other are all very familiar themes right now. They don't come from the collective subconscious of a world in crisis so much as from a dozen tastefully chosen inspirations, among them The Walking Dead, Half-Life 2, 28 Days Later and The Road.
There's another layer of modern mythology at work though, and it's a quintessentially American one. The story follows Joel, a taciturn and bitter Texan smuggler, and Ellie, a precocious teenager, as they travel from Boston, through lawless Pittsburgh and all the way west to the Rockies, covering the best part of a year as it does so. The seasons change and the pair have to fight off bandits and scrape together what they can from their surroundings to survive, often travelling on foot, sometimes on horseback. It's the classic journey into the west, the pioneer's tale - but turned on its head, because this anti-Western isn't about the birth of a nation. It's about the death of one.
14 new screenshots of The Last of Us Remastered have leaked on NeoGAF a week ahead of the game's 30th July launch (though North Americans get it a day earlier).
It was recently revealed that the spruced up version of Naughty Dog's neo classic post-apocalyptic adventure will have a Photo Mode available in a day one patch. On the downside, even the retail game will require a 50GB install.
The Last of Us Remastered will be in 1080p and include "higher resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting, upgraded textures, along with even more improvements."
Cast and crew from Naughty Dog's smash-hit survival adventure The Last of Us will reunite next week for a special theatrical show.
The Last of Us: One Night Live will feature Troy Baker (Joel), Ashley Johnson (Ellie), Merle Dandridge (Marlene), Hana Hayes (Sarah) and Annie Wersching (Tess) under direction from Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann.
Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla will also perform parts of his score for the game.
The Last of Us: Remastered is getting a day one patch that introduces the game's photo mode - and early reports from those who have their hands on the retail version suggests the game itself will require a 50GB install too.
The photo mode is coming as part of a patch that also introduces Grounded, the full-length documentary about the making of last year's hit PlayStation 3 game.
"One of the things that we wanted to include was the share mode, especially after we saw the reaction for the inFamous photo mode," Naughty Dog's community strategist Arne Meyer told Eurogamer. As to how exactly it'll work, there are still no concrete details. "Generally speaking we want to break the camera so you can move around, with depth of field. We were already experimenting with that. We don't have a full feature list just yet.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End will be aiming for 1080p60 in-game, with Naughty Dog saying it's become an objective for all of its PlayStation 4 titles.
The Last of Us will receive new DLC add-ons this year, but all of the new content will be multiplayer focused.
Sony will not offer a discount to those buying The Last of Us Remastered on PlayStation 4 who already own The Last of Us on PlayStation 3, it has confirmed.
In April Naughty Dog's Eric Monacelli responded to a fan question regarding a discount for those who had already splashed out on the PS3 game (and perhaps also a season pass) less than a year ago, saying the developer was "looking into the business model for all this".
Now, Sony has confirmed there won't be an upgrade available.
UPDATE 17/7/14 09.30AM Naughty Dog's decision to include an optional 30fps lock in The Last of Us Remastered is due to requests by PS3 "purists" - not because the game would otherwise experience tearing.
That's according to the developer's co-president Evan Wells, who wrote on Twitter last night that the feature was implemented simply due to fan demand.
"Does the inclusion of a 30fps lock mean the 60fps fluctuates quite regularly?" a user asked.
Sony is using PlayStation 4 to target Wii owners who skipped the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
If there was one key message to take from last month's E3, it was that 2015 is going to be a proper treat. The roll call of games coming out next year is just dizzying - Halo 5: Guardians! Bloodborne! Xenoblade Chronicles X! - and it's all so exciting that even some of what were set to be this year's biggest games didn't want to be left out, with the likes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Batman: Arkham Knight slipping back to get involved in the throng.
Sony's president of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida has spoken about the importance of third-party games such as Destiny as well as PS3 remasters like The Last of Us Remastered in the PlayStation's line-up towards the end of 2014, as well as the importance of new audiences the PlayStation 4 has found.
Sony has confirmed the rumoured The Last of Us Remastered PlayStation 4 bundle for release across Europe.
The bundle includes a PS4, The Last of Us Remastered and a DualShock 4 controller.
In a post on the PlayStation blog Sony announced a €429.99 RRP price.
Sony and Naughty Dog unveiled The Last of Us Remastered some time before E3, but for whatever reason last week's showing in Los Angeles was still rather anaemic. We learned that the game will be out on 29th July, but very little of the trailer shown at Sony's conference was in-game.
With that in mind, Digital Foundry is keeping its powder dry for the game's release next month - or at least when we get to see substantial in-game content - but for the time being we've put together a quick video comparing the game's E3 trailer with the same cut-scenes in the PS3 version. The main differences will be a smoother frame-rate and higher resolution (although the PS3 cut-scenes will have been rendered at a higher res and then scaled down), but hopefully it will still whet your appetite.
UPDATE 11/06/14 19:07: This report from GamingBolt.com suggests that the Uncharted 4 trailer is indeed running in real-time - a simply phenomenal achievement. We've studied the video in a little more depth and have concluded that it's definitely running at native 1080p resolution (as opposed to being rendered at a very high resolution, then scaled down - a process known as super-sampling). Small clipping anomalies, a touch of specular aliasing on Nate's shirt as he sits up, along with some shadow aliasing on his forehead also suggest a real-time render. On the face of it, we're still looking at some pretty incredible anti-aliasing here for a real-time technique on a game running at 60fps, particularly when it comes to the perfect, artefact-free rendering of Nate's hair - but the combination of the low contrast setting, slow camera movement, motion blur and depth of field would work well generally in making aliasing much less of an issue.
Naughty Dog's harrowing post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us has been dated for a 29th July release, Sony announced at its E3 press conference.
That's a Tuesday, so it's ostensibly the following Friday, 1st August, in Europe.
The Last of Us Remastered will feature the original game along with its Left Behind campaign expansion and all the multiplayer DLC.
Sony is considering a discount for owners of The Last of Us on PlayStation 3 who also buy the upcoming PlayStation 4 version.
UPDATE #3 05/05/14 7.50pm: Naughty Dog has released a trailer for its Reclaimed Territories multiplayer DLC due on Wednesday. It shows off the add-on's four new maps and a smattering of new weapons. Check it out.
Naughty Dog has released a glimpse at The Last of Us Remastered in a new video.
The video, below, contains a few seconds of the post-apocalyptic adventure running on PlayStation 4. It's lifted from a particularly memorable moment in the game, so we won't spoil it here.
The Last of Us on PS4 includes higher resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting and upgraded textures. It runs at 1080p resolution, and Naughty Dog is targeting 60 frames per second.