The Last of Us Part II deep dive with Neil Druckmann

Having made the switch to current-generation hardware as compared to the PS3, it is no surprise that Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II will look even more stunning than the first. In an interview with the PlayStation blog, Game Director Neil Druckmann has stated that the sequel will have “much wider environments” due to the power of the PS4.

The Last of Us Part II deep dive with Neil Druckmann - Writer Halley Gross and Neil Druckmann

This continues Naughty Dog’s experimentation of building bigger worlds, which began with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

“As you saw with Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy, we’re experimenting with much larger layouts,” Druckmann emphasised. “We’re going to do that with [The Last of Us Part II], and find ways to use that to mirror the story.”

 

With The Last of Us pushing the limits of the hardware of the PS3 towards the end of its lifecycle, it is very likely that The Last of Us Part II will be doing the exact same thing on the PS4 as well. The added computational power has allowed the developers to expand not just the world, but also fill it with more to do. “Now we’re able to have much wider environments, sequences with a horde of infected, several squads of enemies looking for you in big spaces,” Druckmann added.

As for the story, it all came down to a meal shared with Ashley Johnson that solidified the idea.

I met with Ashley Johnson and I pitched her the idea for Left Behind,” Druckmann said. “And I told her I had something else I was working on and I pitched her that idea. So she’s there in the restaurant crying, and I’m thinking ‘I hope people don’t think I’m doing something horrible.’ But that’s the first time I remember having some strong idea.

The Last of Us Part II deep dive with Neil Druckmann - Ashley Johnson

The basic start, middle, and ending were already floating in his mind as early as 2013, but things evolved as development continued.

That’s how it starts. It’s a kernel of an idea. Then you bring more people in and it becomes a shared vision. Video games are this collaborative medium and we all march towards this focused idea.

It is evident from all that we have seen that Ellie is a key part of The Last of Us Part II, and she has come a long way since her days with Joel. As their relationship deteriorated towards the end of the first game, she has found herself a new beginning in Jackson, Wyoming. Meeting new people and forming new connections for a new world.

“In the first game she’s trying to find someone to rely on,” Druckmann stated. “She tells Joel that ‘everyone I’ve ever known has died or left me, everyone except for you.’ She kind of latches onto Joel.”

The Last of Us Part II deep dive with Neil Druckmann - Ellie

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and something will push her over the edge and set her off on a deadly quest for revenge. “Ellie wants to make it right by bringing the people responsible to justice, even if she has to go at it alone,” Druckmann says.

That quest will not be easy, and Naughty Dog have been carefully planning any new additions to the variety of enemies that players will face in The Last of Us Part II. The new infected, the Shambler, is but one example.

In the first game, there is all this documentation about the different stages [of the infection]. Now we have to justify why there are different stages. Why are there mutations of these things? Without getting into it here, there is something about the environment and how much time has passed that has allowed these mutations to occur.

We have Runners that close the distance quickly. We have Clickers that move slowly but are one-hit kills. Shamblers provide this area of attack, where they have this cloud of gaseous acid that burns materials around it. It burns your skin. The way you saw it in this demo is that they’re mostly on their own. It gets really interesting because you have a cloud that hurts you when you enter it, but it also blocks your view, then Runners burst through it. So the combinations get really interesting.

The familiar visceral and grounded combat returns as well, and is a “pillar of Naughty Dog’s vision.” But the team also wanted to expand upon the options at Ellie’s disposal, and that meant “a wider variety of weapon customization, abilities, and mobility.”

“If you had these weapons your life and death would rely on them,” Druckmann added. “You would clean them, you would tend to them. So we created systems and aesthetic – we really zoom the camera in and show you the weapon and how she works them to improve them – to make you feel the connection she has to these instruments of death, in a way. What it means to survive in this world.”

This extends to the animal threats as well, which will definitely divide opinions when players experience it on their own. “There is something when you kill a dog that makes you feel worse than when you kill a human,” Druckmann said.

However, that does not mean the human enemies are sparing you from the emotional connection in The Last of Us Part II.

We want to treat violence as realistically as we can in an action game. One example is that every human enemy in the game features a unique name, such as Omar, or Joe. [This was] a big effort that required not only new tech, but a lot of recording investment …. The way they communicate is much more sophisticated.. We do that in order to make you feel it’s not just like an NPC or braindead obstacle.”

Enemies will have emotions, freaking out in grief or going mad with rage when you take out one of them, it all combines together for a brutal and believable experience.

To cap it all off, Druckmann added that the team are “on the home stretch” and are “so excited to finish this game” for the fans.

We’ve been very protective about what we’re showing, and even though people here are playing the demo and we’ve put out a story trailer, we’ve been very mindful not to spoil the story and what makes the story special, and what twists and turns are in store them. We just can’t wait for them to play it.

The Last of Us Part II will launch exclusively on the PlayStation 4 on February 21, 2020.

Jake Su
Trophy hunter and dedicated completionist, love to talk all things games!

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