Development of The Last of Us began in 2009, soon after the release of Naughty Dog’s previous game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The relationship between Joel and Ellie became the central focus of the game, with all other elements developed around it. Actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson portrayed Joel and Ellie respectively through voice and motion capture, and assisted creative director Neil Druckmann with the development of the characters and story. The original score was composed and performed by Gustavo Santaolalla.
Following its announcement in December 2011, The Last of Us was widely anticipated. Upon release, it received universal acclaim, with praise directed at its narrative, gameplay, visual and sound design, characterization, and depiction of female characters. The Last of Us became one of the best-selling games on the PlayStation 3, selling over 1.3 million units in its first week and over eight million units within fourteen months. It won year-end accolades, including multiple Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications, critics, and game award ceremonies, making it one of the most awarded games in history, and is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time.
After the game’s release, Naughty Dog released several downloadable content additions; The Last of Us: Left Behind adds a single-player campaign following Ellie and her best friend Riley. An enhanced edition of the original game, The Last of Us Remastered, was released for the PlayStation 4 in July 2014. A sequel, The Last of Us Part II, was announced in December 2016.
The Last of Us is an action-adventure survival horror game played from a third-person perspective. Players traverse post-apocalyptic environments such as towns, buildings, forest and sewers to advance the story. Players use firearms, improvised weapons, and stealth to defend against hostile humans and cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. For most of the game, players control Joel, a man tasked with escorting a young girl, Ellie, across the United States; Ellie and other companions are controlled by the artificial intelligence. Players also control Ellie throughout the game’s winter segment.
In combat, players can use long-range weapons, such as rifles, shotguns, and bows, and short-range weapons such as handguns and short-barreled shotgun. Players can scavenge limited-use melee weapons, such as pipes and baseball bats, and throw bottles and bricks to distract, stun, or attack enemies. Players can upgrade weapons at workbenches using collected items. Equipment such as health kits and Molotov cocktails can be found or crafted using collected items. Attributes such as the health meter and crafting speed can be upgraded by collecting pills and medicinal plants. Health can be recharged through the use of health kits.
Though players can attack enemies directly, they can also use stealth to attack undetected or sneak by them. “Listen Mode” allows players to locate enemies through a heightened sense of hearing and spatial awareness, indicated as outlines visible through walls and objects. In the dynamic cover system, players crouch behind obstacles to gain a tactical advantage during combat. The game features periods without combat, often involving conversation between the characters. Players solve simple puzzles, such as using floating pallets to move Ellie, who is unable to swim, across bodies of water, and using ladders or dumpsters to reach higher areas. Story collectibles, such as notes, maps and comics, can be scavenged and viewed in the backpack menu.
The game features an artificial intelligence system by which hostile human enemies react to combat. If enemies discover the player, they may take cover or call for assistance, and can take advantage of players when they are distracted, out of ammunition, or in a fight. Player companions, such as Ellie, can assist in combat by throwing objects at threats to stun them, announcing the location of unseen enemies, or using a knife and pistol to attack enemies.