Naughty Dog has made it very clear that The Last of Us Part 2 is centered on some dark human emotions. "The emotional journey of & # 39; the first game was this idea of, can we – through interactivity, gameplay, storytelling, music, all those things – make you feel, or come so close to feeling, the unending love you & # 39; t feel a parent to their children, "creative director Neil Druckmann tells us after & # 39; t play through a section that was somehow attracted to the sequel. "There are the wonderful moments that will come, and the kind of insanely terrible moments that could come from there, such as how far someone is willing to go for one that keep them unintentional.
"We have this conversation that love is sometimes foolish, right? It leads you to madness – and that's not necessarily a judgment. It's just who we are as people. I think we are deceived this way, and we see by the end (of The Last of Us) how far Joel is willing to go to protect Ellie, with this game we play with different ideas that didn't work, to have the same emotional core miss.
"And then, where we came from, it's a very similar question to how far are you willing to go for love, but if someone has wronged a person, you really care. How far are you willing to go to go right through them in order to bring the people responsible for justice and what effect that might have on you, in this case Ellie, the journey that they & # 39; t have on the people around them goes, if they go too far and if so, they never come back from that. "
In the section that is shown for example, Ellie works her way down in & # 39; a barely recognizable Seattle main street through long-growing quarantine checkpoints, in the pursuit of a character named Nora in a nearby hospital. She must climb over turnstiles that have rusted in place and barbed wire that has been thrown in and given place for vegetation.
One thing you will notice about The Last of Us Part 2 is that locations feel almost unmanageable. Even though you are always subtly focused on specific waypoints, it never feels like you're being locked in or funneled – the path forward seems organic, allowing you to always provide optional resources. While exploring, we pass through stores and stores that have been abandoned for 25 years at this point in the & # 39; e Last of Us, but I could still find useful items here and there on & # 39; barren shelves, and by displaying the odd glass and punching machines ahead to reach a review rag or plastic bottle, hidden to & # 39; ; e back of & # 39; e case. Many areas had several shops that you can explore if you want, although it's easy to walk straight through or overlook a hidden entrance if you just push ahead to the next story beat.
I eventually wanted to go in on our exploration, and eventually ended up at a craft brewery bar with its main doors, but with huge glass windows to the street side. Through these windows we were able to see a number of infected inside, in stark contrast to the deadly silent streets that I just came through. There seemed to be no quiet way to get in, so after a little preparation, I grabbed a bottle near to hit the glass, and alerted the small crowd inside. One runner then crashed out of a second window to attack us on the street, and was quickly followed by four more of his friends.
Fortunately, I was able to set some trap minutes around a parked car to lower its numbers when it exploded on contact, sending a shower of limbs into the air. All that was left to do was to get all shoppers out with a well-placed headshot with our bow, a few items, including a letter and some old fodder from the corpses, and then scramble back over the sealed window in # 39; a now empty bar. And there's not much besides empty glass bottles and the drought of some alcoholic spirits behind the bar that can't be siphoned to use when making health kits or molotov cocktails. Not exactly what you would call a valuable trek, but The Last of Us has never been about big prizes and payoffs. It's about weighing the risk versus reward of any given situation, and the reward is sometimes just scraping up enough to stay alive until the next checkpoint.
One thing The Last of Us does even better than maybe every other game series is in creating hundreds of little stories that aren't directly woven into the fabric of its world design. At one point during the demo, Ellie takes a detour into an old apartment block. In one of the houses, a suspicious number of wells were scattered, surfaces looked watered down and tidy, there were even some lovely green tomato plants on it. a window sill sinking. All the neighbors are screaming at you to stay alert, but, without spoiling anything, I didn't get the memo at the time.
What was even more interesting is what I found in that building previously indicated by the letter that was dropped by an infected earlier in our playthrough. Wherever you go in The Last of Us, Part 2 seems to have its own story to tell if you look hard enough, stories that don't intersect with the main plot, stories that you don't can easily miss or pass on. These stories simply exist to enrich the world around you, and add together to make this an apocalypse in which you believe. If you survive by them, of course.
And although fighting is an important part of The Last of Us Part 2, navigating your surroundings is just as important to your survival. This is now a dedicated jump button, which means Ellie can raise herself over bars and clear holes over obstacles, which, along with the ability to use ropes to scale and swing buildings, new verticality permits to avoid the many ruined structures and skyscrapers in downtown. Ellie can now approach, crawl under cars and through long grass to hide from enemies while using the very important listening mode to propel a safe route forward.
Even though fighting feels very iterative in its original game, Part 2 did a lot to make Ellie feel real. And perhaps, despite how well-prepared you are to look ahead to enemies, the safest and smartest thing you can do is to run away and use your environment to disappear from the path of a wandering clicker or arrow. ; t was detached by someone who stalked you.
It is impressive how highly open areas, these claustrophobic tunnels and streets, flourish seamlessly together, so you hardly notice as you move from one place of interest to another. A familiar-stay conference center sees you exploring from an accounting department, from a window, to a fire escape, to the next building, across a raging river and into a sewer, where Ellie proves she finally learned how to swim. Navigate out of the sewer, your surface into an abandoned railway station that appears to be Pioneer Square. Here, though fully buried, you can directly recognize real landmarks such as the Iron Pergola and the Tlingit Totem Pole.
It is only when I step into the long grass of Pioneer Square that I hear some strange whistles and what attracting bowstrings under the swirling vegetation can be. On the edge of some trees ahead is the bright glow of a bonfire. A whistle runs out and an arrow hits our shoulder. Ellie is cut back as more whistles call out in response to the first. I have to hold R1 to remove the arrow, otherwise it will consistently damage us, but most of all I am flanked by this new enemy, a group of & # 39; ultra-religious zealots known as the Seraphites, as scars. It turns out, these are way more difficult to bypass than infected. They move fast and quietly, communicating wordlessly with each other with whistles and conversations. Most use bows, some carry axes and sledge hammers which Ellie quickly has to escape from while waiting for an opening with her knife. As a combined force, they invariably attack. Overhead, one of its disembowelled victims swings from a tree limb.
"When we come to Seattle, and that part of the prospect that you had to play, we get to see that there are two groups that don't fight for the resources of the city," Druckmann says . "One of them is a secular, militaristic group, and they restore electricity, they have generators, they have weapons. Then there's a religious group that has rejected many of those things and has become more like Luddites, they try to live off the land. And that is how they see that they will protect themselves and their values.
"That each group and by each character in each group has different values. And that becomes kind of ripe for drama, investigate what happens when you bring these two groups together and don't match their values. How can they handle that? "
Indeed, you see the two groups later collide in a forest, where the & # 39; seraphites liberate another victim & # 39; by cutting them up and cutting them open. This extreme violence has been seen in various trailers and gameplay demos before the game, and it's shocking in the way that it depicts a clumsy, slow, amateurish violence, not the quick and clean almost glorified guide that we are used to seeing and indeed performing in similar types of games. "We felt like if we were going to deal with a story about the cycle of violence, and what people are capable of doing to each other, both mentally and physically, we couldn't care less," Druckmann explained. "That would do the story a service. We have to do that, or people like it, have fun, hate it. That's what the story is. That's the core of it, what we need to do."
But how does the development team feel about immersing themselves in that kind of heavy violence every day, and weighing on them as they make that story? "Every time you deal with difficult subject matter or physical aesthetics of that difficult subject matter, such as the violence you describe, there are people who don't work on a team that deals in a variety of ways," says Druckmann. "Some people just have complete separation: as they create something, and they look at the details of it. They don't want to think about the larger context, they think: & # 39; How do I replicate the way light reflects this of this fluid surface? ? & # 39;
"Then there are other people who can be affected by that. And what we've done with this game and for the team is to say, see, if there's content that's you ; you feel uncomfortable working with a short time, a longer time, there is plenty to do in this game, right? There are plenty of other things to work on that are not those things. Let's give you the tasks and make you comfortable. At the end of the day, we want people who are passionate about what they do. That's when they do their best work. , or they're not in there, they won't do their best work. And we want to make the best game possible. "
For what it's worth, it never feels like the game is set to zero on a neckpiece or forces you to look at someone's panic death penalty, just don't want to shock and disturb it. It makes a statement about the world in which Ellie lives, about what the people in that world are doing together to stay alive or maintain control, and it's part of the story that the game as a whole is trying to tell.
As you may have seen in a recent State of Play presentation, there is one enemy guard that will meet you when she plays Hotline Miami on a Playstation Vita. As well as keeping the console surprisingly well, I wondered if Naughty Dog made a statement by specifically recording that game, given that it was all about the guilty pleasure of extreme violence. Druckmann said they were originally going to record one of their own games, but then asked themselves, "Okay, is there an opportunity here just to make some meta-explanation about the kind of narrative we're after? And we're also just big fans of Hotline Miami – like, I love that game. I love & # 39; the engine of that game. That we reached out to the boys, and they were kind enough to let us put it in. "
Given that Naughty Dog is afraid to remove spoilers prior to the release of the game, there was little in the way of # 39; a way of main story development during our demo, but Ellie as a character still shines through when she muddies plans for herself or keeps herself from attacking. She's clearly influenced by the events of the last five years, and she's clearly grown up in a world where innocence is a luxury that few can afford. Says Druckmann of her development, "We made a trip with Ellie, and Ellie is who she is, as defined in her previous game. She is now 19. How do we explore all facets of how it is is to be 19. Like, well, you think you're invincible. You think you know what's right and wrong in the world. You're sexually attracted to people you're not attracted to. Those are all kinds of things that we don't want to explore for this character, we do that honest story. "
Of course, it's difficult to talk about The Last of Us Part 2 and the elephant in his room – not the fact that large parts of the game appeared online last month, when hackers after all thoughts infiltrating Naughty Dog's private servers and posting video's of pivotal scenes online. Druckmann said these leaks suck, of course, but eventually the game will speak for itself. "Look, first of all, every game we have had this happen – The Last Of Us had game leakage, Uncharted 4 had a truck where the games from that truck were stolen and people placed it ending early, ”he said. "And that ultimately didn't take anything away from being nothing compared to playing the game. Nothing compares to being with Ellie and feeling those moments, not just in cuts, but in conversations in gameplay in the & # 39; awakened by "the action, the music and the emotional effect it has on you. And the story was constructed in such a way that it's really not about turning and turning. It's about the crank slowly and feel the tension with the choices that don't make the characters. "
The story will eventually speak for itself in & # 39; the full context of the game, but what the expanded section of & # 39; gameplay & # 39; we have played, it shows that in terms of wonderful, scary spectacle and disgraceful, panic survival, The Last of Us is still unrivaled.
For the part of Naughty Dog, the studio, according to Druckmann, is excited for players to finally discover "this method trip we've created for Ellie and how & # 39; these events are affecting her. are highs and lows of this journey; there are wonderful sweet moments and these dark, kind of hard moments to deal with. And we want it to be challenging. It's like, yeah, there are games that aren't are just comfort food. This is not one of those games. There are moments in the game that are comfort food, and there are moments that are really emotionally challenging to play through. And that's part of its design. "
The game section available for preview definitely demonstrates this. It's desperate and challenging and often brutal, but just like its predecessor, there are those moments of quiet beauty and silence that don't shine like bright lights at the end of a dark tunnel. The road for Ellie may be hard, but I still can't wait to run it with her.