At Sony’s last State of Play Event, after an extended period of radio silence, The Last of Us Part II debuted a new story trailer that climaxed in a release date. February 21st, 2020. Ever since the collective internet hype train has been travelling full-speed ahead.
Despite the hands-on media exclusive event just two weeks ago – where select parties were able to play through a two hour hands on experience – this week fans of The Last of Us were hit with bad news. Part II, delayed.
This comes as somewhat of a surprise, given the widespread critical acclaim of the hands on experience. Greg Miller of Kinda Funny, has already tipped the title for Game of the Year, 2020. High praise indeed, when based solely a two hour hands on.
Nonetheless, in a short press release; game Writer, Creative Director, Naughty Dog Vice President and Wearer-of-Many-Hats Neil Druckman said:
… during the last few weeks, as we were closing out sections of the game, that we realized we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality. At this point we were faced with two options: compromise parts of the game or get more time. We went with the latter, and this new release date allows us to finish everything to our level of satisfaction while also reducing stress on the team.
While we’re relieved that we won’t have to compromise our vision, we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to avoid this exact situation. We wish we could’ve foreseen the amount of polish we needed, but the size and scope of this game got the better of us. We hate disappointing our fans and for that we’re sorry.
We hope you understand that this additional time ensures that The Last of Us Part II lives up to our collective ambition as well as our commitment to the highest level of quality.
Cue internet meltdown. Having already confirmed – that for the same reasons as the latest delay – The Last of Us: Part II would be shipping without an update to The Last of Us’s highly popular multiplayer Factions, some fans were (almost) understandably upset. In my opinion, wrongly so. Here’s why.
Let’s not mince words. The Last of Us was a masterpiece. It deserved every accolade it received. And there were many. It is my favourite single player experience, ever. Despite being a huge fan of Naughty Dog’s PS3 repertoire, The Last of Us came as a surprise for me. I went in with relative media silence. I hadn’t obsessed over trailers frame by frame. I’d barely read a review. Looking back, this title was so far ahead of it’s time in scope and narrative; that I still struggle to believe that it debuted on PS3. In 2013. Two-thousand-and-thirteen. Just let that sink in.
With the launch of the PS5 confirmed for Winter, 2020, if we don’t count 2015’s Remaster; there’s a gap of almost an entire generation between the releases of Part I and Part II.
Take a moment to consider titles that have released since 2013 and today and the near exponential increase in Their size and detail. We’ve had the hugely expansive Read Dead Redemption II, the simply immense God of War relaunch, and of course, Horizon Zero Dawn.
What do all of these titles have in common? Lengthy development times, and you guessed it – delays. Looking back, can we really hold a grudge?
Cast your mind now, to what seems like a plethora of titles that have released in this generation that at launch were simply not finished. You have the messy No Man’s Sky – which only hit it’s true advertised potential with the Beyond expansion this year. There’s Fallout 76, that was borderline broken at launch and is still experiencing technical difficulties despite its new premium membership. If two months is going to solve any similar potential problems, then Neil, take all the time you need.
Finally, let’s take a deeper dive into Naughty Dog’s press release. Pay particular attention to the references to quality:
…enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality.
…additional time ensures that The Last of Us Part II lives up to our collective ambition as well as our commitment to the highest level of quality.
What is Naughty Dog quality? It is not hyperbole to say that as a single company, Naughty Dog have raised the bar for character models and writing, which have combined to set an impeccably high industry wide standard for single player experiences. Remember RIPPlayerOne? I strongly believe that without the Uncharted series or the Last of Us, God of War does not happen. Story and character engagement was undoubtedly holding previous God of War franchise entries back.
Next, go back and rewatch the trailers for Part II. Perhaps the latest trailer best illustrates my point. In particular, the final scene; were Joel releases Ellie from a rear grab. The animation of Ellie is second to none. The transition from fear, to anger, to bewilderment and finally relief, is something that even the finest of Hollywood actors would struggle to emulate. This is not a game, it’s a fully interactive movie.
That, it is Naughty Dog Quality; and that is the hook of The Last of Us.
Three more months of patience is a small price to pay for a game, that in my opinion, will once again elevate and enhance the single player experience for the next generation and beyond.
Again, Neil – take all the time you need.