Naughty Dog rarely disappoints, so many gamers expect The Last of Us to be nothing short of spectacular. This post apocalyptic tale set after a fungal pandemic has an interesting world where urban decay and nature’s unbound fury meet. It is the characters, however, that steal the spotlight in this book about the artistic merits of this new masterpiece.
The book begins with what it feels is the most important part of the game, its two main characters. Ellie and Joel are not only thrust together as partners to brave the American wastelands on their adventure, but also share a bond and father/daughter relationship that grows throughout the story. Their bond and why it is important is the centerpiece of many of the main themes the developers explore in the game. The art book displays the enormous focus that the designers put on making their characters perfec,: showing their many emotional states, changes in appearance over time, and their evolution from simple concepts through months of development. It would be hard to make these main characters feel more like real people visually.
Ellie and Joel feel even more real due to the horrific and familiar world they live in. Over the past 20 years, Mother Nature has been reclaiming what humanity once stole, and she is doing it with an unbridled fury. A dead and dry America is experiencing a botanical rejuvenation that is similar to an invading force. There is an emphasis in this world on seeing the former beauty of once highly-populated cities now uprooted by a furious natural decay. Foliage lines almost everything and breaks cracks into the streets, acting like the fungal outbreak that ripped civilization apart.
The art is far from alien though, grounded and modern with a natural tension that helps create the atmosphere. Direct lighting is utilized to keep the environments feeling dead and quiet, with fire and sunlight illuminating small sections but allowing other areas to remain ominous and foreboding. This is America: Boston, Pittsburgh, colleges, and even a Walmart, nothing is left untouched. The posters and advertisements help keep the natural sensation as well, some of these even being utilized as a narrative tool.
Outside of the militaristic and oppressive quarantine areas are even more dangerous and unforgiving environments. The artwork does a great job of getting these notions across without having to spell them out for the reader. The Infected are artistically some of the more interesting enemies I’ve seen in a while, splattered with various colors in splotches on their skin from the fungal virus and stricken with odd sores and growths that twist flesh in grotesque ways, resembling the misshapen landscapes.
The Art of The Last of Us is very captivating and has me even more excited for the game, but the near $30 price tag is questionable. The book offers several insights, like the meaning behind the “T1” printed on Ellie’s shirt, and even concepts and elements that were changed throughout the game’s development. The book is very repetitive though, and the focus on the characters means staring at many of the same models for a few pages, which can get old quickly. Some of the explanations also contain minor spoilers for the game, so be cautious. For those players who do become truly engrossed with this brave new project though, this book will make a stunning addition to their collection.