Shoreditch, in the East End of London. Within sight are the steel and glass skyscrapers of the financial district, the Gerkhin Building just down the road. But right now we're entering a disused atomic factory, the front of which has been changed to look like an abandoned cinema. The marquee above says "The Last Of Us" is showing. We go inside.
Entertainment.ie is the only Irish outlet given access to the event, and inside the "cinema" a host of international journalists have gathered to get a sneak peak of what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest and best games of 2013. The interior of the building has been covered in foliage, everything is barely lit, with endless halls of near-dark walkways illuminated only be LCD screens on which you can play a demo level of the game. Vending machines have been busted open, bar-men are making cocktails, there's screeching animal noises coming from somewhere... it's all very surreal, and certainly gets you in the right mind-set for the game. Then it's time for the presentation.
The Last Of Us deals with a toxic fungus that has infected 99% of the world's population, killing most, and turning the rest into unrecognisable killing machines. Mankind has lost control of Earth, and Mother Nature is reclaiming it. In the centre of this we meet Joel and Ellie, who must leave the comforts of a quarantine zone to traverse across the dangerous wasteland for reasons that haven't been disclosed to us yet.
First up in the presentation is the resident biology expert for Penn State University who worked closely with the games makers to ensure its realism. He shows us video footage of some very nasty viruses and fungi that the game's nasty disease is based on. After some truly stomach turning images of animals getting pretty much turned inside out, he informs us that it's not long before this animal-only infliction jumps to humans. After all, he reminds us, the likes of bird-flu and AIDS all started out in animals, as did something you may never have heard of; Toxoplasmosis. In rats, it causes them to become sexually attracted to cats. In humans, it's a strain of dis-inhibitor, and he tells us that 6% of all UK adults have it. 25% of all Irish adults have. 61% of all Argentinians have it. Lovely!
Next up is Dr. Tomas, a psychologist from Argentina!, who tells us that around the exhibition are five hidden tests which are designed to see how we'd react to "post-apocalyptic type" situations. After some searching, we found they ranged from straight-forward (put your hand in a box of something icky to receive a free beverage) to the very subtle (rude coat-check ladies who will wait and see if you argue with them or just hang up your own coat). It was a fun, interesting way to get the audience interacting, and get their minds working for how they're going to survive the game.
Last but not least, the games director Bruce Straley and the games designer Neil Druckman came on stage to show some absolutely killer footage from the game. Interviews with both of these guys, as well as lead actress Ashley Johnson (who most of us know from being Mel Gibson's daughter in What Woman Give, and the lady crushing on Captain America at the end of The Avengers), can be found at bottom of this article, and they give some interesting, insightful answers into both the making of the game, and what it is exactly that they wanted to achieve with The Last Of Us.
Soon it was time for us to get some hands-on experience with the game itself, and it does not disappoint. Even as the Playstation 3-era comes to a close, developers Naughty Dog have squeezed every last drop of power from the system to create one of the most beautiful games ever made. The graphics and sound design are incredible, and the interactivity between Joel (who you control) and Ellie (who you protect) is beyond anything seen in other games of this nature. The natural, realistic conversations and actions will have you believe that another human is controlling the A.I.-powered Ellie, and your first encounter with the infected – known as Clickers – will send shivers up your spine. This has the feel not only of a great game, but an important game, a talking point for gamers for weeks and months to come, even after everyone has finished playing, they'll still be talking about The Last Of Us.
Playstation 3 really has saved one of its best for last.
The Last Of Us is out on Playstation 3 from June 14th.