SONY and Naughty Dog hit Shoreditch with a bang yesterday, taking over Nicholls & Clarke and converting it into an abandoned cinema, overgrown with plantlife: the perfect setting for the upcoming post-apocalyptic Survival Action game, The Last Of Us.

Not being ones to rest on their laurels after the success of the Uncharted series, following the release of Among Thieves, Naughty Dog decided to create a new dev team within the studio to start working on a fresh title, something that had nothing to do with Nathan Drake or his ongoing campaign to steal ALL the treasure. Borne out of a love of dystopian cinema and literature, Neil Druckman (creative director) and Bruce Straley (director) wanted to create a game that captured the suspense and tension audiences felt when watching films like No Country For Old Men or The Road, and bring it into the realm of gaming.

 photo lou-04_zps4b2c38cf.jpg"We really wanted to take what Naughty Dog does best with storytelling and gameplay […] and apply it to a new genre"
states Bruce Faley. "We saw No Country For Old Men together, and I remember so clearly walking out of that movie theatre, and it was like stepping out of a world and back into reality, this isolated, insulated, beautiful experience… the stakes in that movie were so high, and you cared so much for those characters, I remember walking out, after that fight scene with the shotgun - I remember thinking, 'I've never played a game like that. I want that kind of tension, with a joystick. Let's do that'"

They certainly don't mess around when showcasing their games, either. Everything about the venue fits the tone of the world they've created, whether it's the psychometric tests dotted around the bar, or the half hour presentation from Dr David Hughes, who told us everything we needed to know about virus and fungus behaviour. Dr Hughes delved deeply into the game's main conceit, that the Cordyceps fungus has achieved zoonosis, allowing it to travel from animal to human, effectively turning anyone infected into a walking death machine whether they're infecting you, or smashing your head against an abandoned car. He also showed us some videos of just how savage mind altering parasites can be in our eco-system, and is probably responsible for this week's surge in haz/mat suit sales. It was a terrific atmosphere, and just the thing to put you in the mood for the game.

*(my personal favourites were plunging your hand into a mystery box filled with goop to retrieve a key - get a free cocktail, and the vending machines packed with sweets that had been left unlocked - nobody knew if they were supposed to take the sweets or not)

 photo lou-02.jpgI got the chance to play two different levels in the demo, one set in Lincoln, your typical abandoned US town with the odd infected bad guy lurking around to make the remnants of americana all the more terrifying, and Pittsburgh, which is a more urbanised area, where I was up against a very organised, and extremely well armed group of survivors. Both levels contrasted the potential gameplay styles perfectly, with stealth and caution very much the order of the day when up against the fungal monstrosities that pose as the game's main antagonists, and a keen shooting eye and a cool head proving the only way to survive when up against anyone sporting a gun and an attitude.

The game's protagonists are Joel and Ellie, two people forced into a situation through circumstance. Neither of them seem to know each other that well. For some reason they're having to travel across the ruins of the US together, leaving the confines of the quarantine zone to enter a landscape that's been reclaimed by nature, overrun by the infected and home to pockets of Mad Max style survivalists (with less bondage gear and motorcycles).

 photo lou-05_zps50765cdf.jpgFull disclosure - I am absolutely abysmal at this game. It's been a while since I've had my ass handed to me so consistently, but I died a lot. This is not going to be the sort of game where you can run in guns blazing, you need to be aware of your surroundings, your limitations and a good handle on your inventory. Sometimes, a pistol just won't do, especially as ammo is so scarce, and you will need to throw a well-timed nail bomb. Also, the infected are more than capable of taking you out in one hit if they grab hold of you.

Luckily, there are many things within the game that will help you make sure the protagonists, Joel and Ellie don't meet a grisly fate. The game utilises a crafting system that allows Joel to create weapons, med packs and upgrades from the materials he salvages, but knowing what to use and when is still going to require a good deal of skill - the game's UI doesn't pause the game when selecting items, so chances are if you've not equipped it in time, you're going down.

As for the gameplay environments, they may not be the finished product, and I may well have been playing a souped up PC as opposed to the final console version (unlikely, but not impossible), but they are absolutely stunning, from the way the light dapples through the canopy of the forest, to the haunted look of every abandoned street. I may have only got to spend an hour or so with the game, but it was time enough to suspect that Naughty Dog may have another smash hit on their hands.

On a side note, Troy Barker voices the game's protagonist Joel - you may remember him as the voice of Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite. If he keeps choosing games of this calibre, Nolan North may be out of a job. Also, Ellie is voiced by Ashley Johnson in her first video game role - she's been in quite a few movies, and you may recognise her, but to me she'll always be the child star in Jean Claude Van Damme's A.W.O.L.