It's nearly here. Seven years after The Last of Us, Naughty Dog's sequel is almost upon us. We've spent several hours with the game, analysed its staggering tech and here, ahead of our The Last of Us Part 2 review which will be landing on June 12th at 8.01am BST, is the first part of an interview with director Neil Druckmann (a word of reassurance, too - this is spoiler free, and we'll be delving more into story details with Druckmann at a later date).
I hope it's okay, just briefly to touch on the elephant in the room as well. I was wondering if the leaks had any impact on the studio?
Neil Druckmann: They sucked. You've worked on something for so long, and then to have it come out in the way that it did was disappointing, to myself and other members of the team. But pretty quickly we huddled together and wanted to discuss it. First of all, The Last Of Us One had stuff leak, Uncharted 4 had a truck where the games were stolen off that truck early and people were like posting the ending early. And that didn't take away from anything at the end, because nothing compares to playing it. Nothing compares to being Ellie and feeling those moments, not just in cutscenes, but in gameplay, conversations, the music and the emotional effect that has on you. And the story was constructed in such a way that it's really not about twists and turns. It's about slowly ratcheting the crank and feeling the tension with the choices the characters make.
So okay, it sucks. But we know once people get their hands on it, they're going to feel what it is we're after whether they've seen it or not, and that's that's what made us confident. Okay it's going to be uncomfortable for a while, the games gonna be out there, and I think you're going to get what we want you to get out of it.
Yeah, it totally sucks. And it really annoys me as well because it just felt like there's a toxicity around aspects of the game at the moment, and a minority that won't accept any depiction of diversity at all. I'm curious as to what your thoughts on the reaction to that is because it seems so contradictory to what the game itself is trying to say.
Neil Druckmann: There's a lot of the feedback that came out, our take on it is, you don't know. Right? There's so many false things out there. We don't want to go out there and correct anything because that would be spoiling the game in a way - by saying what it isn't, we're kind of saying what it is.
And then as far as the kind of characters we put in our game, we try our best. We made a journey with Ellie, and Ellie is who she is. It's been defined in the previous game. We're going to continue going forward. She's now 19. How do we explore all the facets of what it's like to be 19? You think you're invincible. You think you know what's right and wrong in the world. You are sexually attracted to people you're attracted to. Those are all things we want to explore for this character - that's how we do honest storytelling.
So if you somehow have a problem with that, well, then that sucks, but the story's gonna win for us. It's ironic or maybe sad - I think that people will benefit the most from this kind of story are the ones that are yelling the loudest right now, but I hope there's enough in the game to draw them in and just normalize stuff that is normal. It is part of our society and it is part of owning up to an interesting nuanced character.
Yeah, 100%. I feel so bad that you guys have to weather the storm. But I really think that it's going to be worth it for the people who are finally going to see themselves represented in a game like this. And I think that the people that matter are really gonna appreciate it. Just, you know, from my perspective.
Neil Druckmann: And yeah, a lot of the misconception is like, oh, we're somehow sacrificing the story to win diversity points. And that's not how we work. Everything is in service of the story. Getting better diversity gives us better story, gives us fresher perspectives on conflict. And I hope once they play the game, they'll realize it.
Did you ever worry it was a consequence about making a game about hatred that it kind of begets more hatred in kind? I guess I think a lot of players are uncomfortable with having any kind of a mirror held up to themselves in that respect.
Neil Druckmann: Oh, it's interesting that some of the reaction is very much indicative of what the game is designed to do. And I think it's a bit into spoiler territory, but we want to elicit certain feelings from the player and then have them reflect on those feelings for the second part. So for us, it's like okay, we got the first part. Now let's see if we can get the second part once the game is out there because again people just don't know. There's all these theories about what the ending is but the ending is not out there. You actually don't know how it all comes together.
We're finally getting it into people's hands, to see this meticulous journey that we've crafted for Ellie and how these events affect her, the highs and lows of that journey - that there's beautiful sweet moments and these dark, hard moments to deal with. And we want it to be challenging, right? It's like, yes, there are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those games - there are moments in the game that are comfort food, and there moments are really challenging emotionally to play through. That's part of the design of it.
Check the link for more.