The Last of Us Part 2 is, in Naughty Dog’s own words, their biggest, most ambitious game ever. It’s so big, in fact, that it’ll need to ship on two Blu-Ray discs for its physical release. According to Naughty Dog, everything that we’ve seen of the game so far – and we’ve seen quite a bit – is only “a tiny fraction” of the whole experience. The automatic assumption one would draw from that would be that the game is adopting an open world approach and will be presenting players with large, open sandboxes- but that isn’t the case.
While The Last of Us Part 2 does open up from time to time and does offer larger arenas for players to ply their combat and stealth tactics during intense scenarios, it’s still supposed to be a linear, handcrafted experience, in true Naughty Dog fashion. Speaking to IGN, game director Neil Druckmann explained just how exactly the game is structured and how that will all work in context of this being their biggest game ever.
Druckmann started by giving assurances that the length isn’t going to harm the game’s pacing, and that players can expect an emotional journey with the kind of pacing that the first game had as well.
“It’s not padded, it has that pacing of the first game,” he said. “You’re going on this crazy, emotional, harrowing roller coaster ride that has these highs of tension and these slower, more provocative, thoughtful moments… those kind of events are sprinkled throughout the entire game.”
So what exactly is the deal with the more open-ended sections? According to Druckmann, from time to time in story sections that are not too intense or high-stakes, the game will open up, allowing players to explore and take things at their own pace. However, once things start heating up, the game will take control, and deliver handcrafted set pieces in scripted scenarios similar to what one typically expects to see in a Naughty Dog game.
“Depending where you are with the story, we might open things up significantly and say, ‘Here are some optional things you can go explore, some side stories, or you can go directly next to where you’re meant to go,'” he said. “But the tension is not high, and as the tension ratchets up, we might tighten things up, you might play a very scripted, authored Naughty Dog setpiece. And we know we can go in both directions according to the need of the story.”
According to Druckmann, an open world approach just doesn’t work for something like The Last of Us because of how much tension the game would lose because of that structure.
“Unlike an open world game that is usually open all the time, that [type of] game doesn’t work for us for The Last of Us because that loses tension,” he said. “If I need to go rescue someone, and [the game] says ‘OK go rescue them right now…or do these 10 other things on the side,’ you lose tension.”
I cannot tell you how much I agree with that sentiment. I’m a sucker for open world games, some of my favourite games of all time are open world… but not everything needs to be open world. The Last of Us was so good because it was a scripted, guided, handcrafted experience, and more of that is what I (and most others, I imagine) want from the sequel. Happily, that’s what we’ll be getting.
The Last of Us Part 2 is out on February 21, 2020 exclusively for the PS4. Naughty Dog recently confirmed that the game wouldn’t have a multiplayer mode, before eventually teasing that Factions would still eventually return in some form. Meanwhile, amidst the slew of new information we’ve received on the game in recent days, we also found out about all the improvements it is making to stealth and AI. Read more on that through here.