Gamers will find local sites in 'Last of Us'


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BOSTON --The annual Penny Arcade Expo (PAX East) held in Boston last weekend attracted hundreds of gaming publishers, from the biggest in the industry to one-man teams working tirelessly on the next big independent title. Fans and industry professionals flooded the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, trying to get hands-on with gaming's latest and greatest.

A game that was hard to ignore was "The Last of Us." Its tall booth was located in the middle of the convention center and had a line of eager gamers that wrapped around the show's floor to play the 30-minute demo. A prominent part of the survival/horror game from Naughty Dog, the development team behind the popular "Uncharted" series, is set in Pittsburgh.

Set 20 years from the present day, a fungus infects nearly all of humanity, turning them into zombie-like creatures. The main character, Joel, and his 14-year-old companion, Elle, are on a journey of survival that spans the United States. The outbreak turns thriving cities into post-apocalyptic ruins, and Naughty Dog included Pittsburgh as one of the featured American locales.

"The Last of Us" is set to release on June 14 exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and is rated M for Mature. It is one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, along with "Bioshock Infinite" and "Grand Theft Auto V."

Arne Meyer, community strategist for the game, discussed the lengths taken to create these virtual visions of Pittsburgh.

"When we looked at the journey across the United States, there were different cities and towns that we wanted Joel and Elle to go through," Mr. Meyer said. "We wanted to pick certain cities that worked. Pittsburgh happened to be one that some of the designers and artists had an affinity for. We thought it was visually interesting."

This won't be a one-to-one virtual replica of Pittsburgh, although the artists wanted to include landmarks and styles that make the city unique. Local gamers can expect to see rivers, bridges and references to once-thriving businesses in the ruins of Pittsburgh.

"Since it's 20 years in the future and things are falling apart, we wanted to get the feel for the city. For us, it's important to throw in things that people who are from the city would recognize, whether it's landmarks or other subtle things."

The story promises to offer more depth than just the scares and violence of a world overtaken by violence. "The Last of Us" features tense action sequences paired with a cinematic-style narrative that explores the bond among Joel, Elle and their small group of survivors.

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Max Parker writes The Game Guy blog at communityvoices.post-gazette.com. On Twitter: @GameGuyPGH. First Published March 29, 2013 4:00 AM


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