The Last of Us 'not a zombie game,' says Naughty Dog

By Steve Watts, Dec 13, 2011 9:00am PST

When we saw the debut trailer of The Last of Us at the Spike VGAs, it was hard not to think it's another zombie game. A well-acted zombie game with Naughty Dog's signature style of witty dialogue from our charismatic heroes, but a zombie game nonetheless. But the developer doesn't like the stigma attached to that name.

"If the game was about the monsters, we would have not showed them," said creative director Neil Druckmann. "The story's not about them, so [we thought] let's get it out of the way."

Druckmann told Eurogamer that the real thrust of the game revolves around the lead characters, Joel and Ellie. "What are those non-verbal signs saying about how long they've known each other. What about the other non-infected person?" The infection here refers to the Cordyceps fungus, which actually infects and kills bugs with zombie-like symptoms in real life.

The game is "story-driven" according to game director Bruce Straley, isn't surprising given the narrative focus of its Uncharted franchise. The studio wants to push that since Druckmann says "storytelling is so poor right now." The distinction they're drawing seems to be that the story isn't about what caused the zombies, but rather with how the characters deal with it.

That's not to say combat won't play a role. Straley says the trailer drops hints at the gameplay. "If you break down the trailer, all the action there is meaningful," he said. "It's teasing the different kind of mechanics you're going to be playing with in the gameplay set-ups. There's some melee and a gun - where that goes as a strategy is kind of intriguing."

To us, a game in which you kill humans infected with a fungi that makes them act like zombies sounds an awful lot like a zombie game. But all we've seen so far is the trailer, and Naughty Dog wants to accent the hard work put into the story, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. You can re-watch the debut trailer below.

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