The Last of Us has been met with critical acclaim and for good reason; Naughty Dog have bested themselves once again with their latest game and this is no mean feat considering the sheer quality of the seminal Uncharted franchise that helped define the PlayStation experience this generation. The Last of Us is a brilliant game that is defined by its jaw-dropping visuals, its unprecedented voice acting and facial animations and its brilliant story and characters that engage gamers in a manner which seldom few games have managed to do thus far. However, it is not without its faults and whilst it would be somewhat pedantic of us to pick apart the smaller gripes with such a beautifully crafted game, we feel that certain features that were touted by Naughty Dog prior to the release if the game, that have fallen short of expectations should be brought to light. The Artificial Intelligence along with the Multiplayer component of this game (to be discussed soon) are two elements we feel need to be criticised.
Prior to the game’s release, Naughty Dog showcased some elements of the game, and apart from the visuals, that immediately impressed at a cursory glance, it was the behaviour of the enemies that left a lot of gamers excited. The A.I in this game was supposed to be a far cry from what we gamers have come to experience and from the brief glimpse that we had of the game, the enemies appeared to behave very dynamically and realistically. However, having completed the game on Hard, it appears that in reality, the A.I leaves a lot to be desired even by current standards let alone the lofty expectations we had as a result of Naughty Dog’s representations.
“We can have characters that are not just pop up targets that die after five seconds of being on screen, and you can really get to understand them as real humans”– Jason Gregory, Lead Designer
Contrary to Jason Gregory’s statements above, our play-through left us feeling the complete opposite. The characters in the game do feel like cannon-fodder, there is no real avenue to understand them as ‘real humans’ because simply put, their A.I behaviour breaks the illusion of any real humanity within them. The game’s A.I don’t appear to be able to discern the presence of any of your friendly comrades that accompany you throughout the game. So whilst you might be sneaking around, hiding behind cover and being ultra stealthy against human enemies, your A.I comrades have a tendency to take cover in the most inappropriate of places, or not even take cover at all and just run around in circles.
Furthermore, we’ve had instances where our comrades have just stood right in front of enemies or even go as far as touch them without the enemies failing to do anything. Also, rather oddly, the game features a class of infected called ‘Clickers’ , who can only supposedly perceive threats via their ultra-sensitive hearing (like bats and sonar) and whilst you, the player have to be extremely caution in the manner in which you tread the game space (simply crouching won’t suffice, you have to crouch slowly and walk past these enemies), your A.I cohorts tend to, rather hilariously run around all over the place. In one instance of our play-through, one of our rather obese comrades was running all over the place as if he was desperate to empty his exploding bladder and then managed to bump into one of the Clickers. Instead of this action prompting the surrounding Clickers to attack him, they ignored him completely and ran across directly to our main character who was on the opposed end of the field! It appears that this isn’t just an odd glitch suffered by a few; this is simply how the A.I behaves and it can really break the immersion in the game.
“It’s all based on their perception, and they’ll switch behavioral modes based on what’s going on,”
This statement by Jason is simply not true. Yes, the game’s A.I does tend to respond to your behaviour but it only does so in a rudimentary fashion; similar to the manner in which the enemies behaved in games like Uncharted and the like. We really don’t want to critique an otherwise sublime gaming experience, which we easily hold us as one of the best, if not the best experience this generation, but it really is a shame that a fault as big as this made its way over to the final game; it can really detract from the experience and break the immersion that the game does so well otherwise to instill. To be fair however, realistic Artificial Intelligence is the hardest thing to develop and Naughty Dog should get the benefit of the doubt in this regard. The game is otherwise fantastic and you owe it to yourself to play this game, regardless of the somewhat dense inhabitants that feature in it!