The Last of Us Part II had an impressive showing at Sony’s E3 press conference, too impressive for some it would seem. The demo has come under fire from the Head of Eidos Montreal Studio, David Anfossi, who claimed that the footage shown was fake.
Neil Druckmann, the creative director for the game, has defended the demo, stating that although it was scripted, what we witnessed was all in-engine. It’s not an uncommon practice for game demos to largely be scripted or unrepresentative of the actual product. Famous recent examples of this include the initial Watch Dogs reveal, which was infamous for its jaw-dropping visuals that didn’t make it into the final game.
It’s somewhat understandable to sympathize with where Anfossi is coming from, Ellie’s natural movement between constricting obstacles almost looks too good to be true. Additionally, the way enemies communicate like real human beings, and the overall cinematic presentation of chase clearly has some deterministic fudging involved, but Druckmann claims that the underlying systems support all of this behavior.
The Last of Us Part II has also received flak for its uncompromising violence, a position which the creative director has also doubled down on. In his words it is important “for the player to feel repulsed by some of the violence they are committing themselves. It felt like that is the most honest way to tell this story.”
The latest trailer certainly committed to portraying the flip-side of the grim violence, depicting a kiss between the protagonist Ellie, and a new character. While the violence is even more offputting in the context of a staged demo, I think it’s fair to say that when the full game is released it will become much easier to become invested in the world, and the brutality of the violence will be much less jarring and exploitive. Naughty Dog has proven time and time again that they are one of the preeminent storytellers in the industry, and with The Last of Us Part II we will see if they can continue that streak.