Why You Shouldn’t Get Excited For The Last Of Us 2 Just Yet

Posted: July 20, 2016 in Opinion Piece

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by Alex Gibson via We Got This Covered

While Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ might have put Naughty Dog on the map, few would disagree that the smash hit post-apocalyptic action game The Last Of Us is the studio’s finest work. In fact, The Last Of Us is arguably one of PlayStation’s greatest ever exclusive games and one of the must-play essential titles of the last generation. No surprises then that a sequel to that much revered game is eagerly awaited, and now that the critically acclaimed final chapter to the Uncharted series, A Thief’s End, is done and dusted, many gamers are frantically scouring the internet for any details or clues to its release date.

Indeed, many had predicted that an announcement from Naughty Dog during E3 might well occur, and there was plenty of good reason behind that bold claim. After all, Naughty Dog stunned PlayStation fans back in late 2011 when it first teased trailers for the original The Last Of Us barely a month after the launch of Uncharted 3. Based on that logic, E3 2016 seemed like E3 was a potentially perfect outlet to tease the studios next project. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and we were instead presented with Days Gone, the long awaited unveiling of Sony Bend’s new IP.

Of course, the announcement of Days Gone was exciting in itself given that gamers have tentatively been predicting its emergence for years after radio silence from Sony Bend for what has seemed like an eternity. Ironically, the studio’s last two games, both debuting over 4 years ago now, were spinoff titles based on Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted franchise. Bend has been a lesser known entity in the Sony first party eco system, and while Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a fine game, Days Gone is Bend’s first foray into developing their own AAA IP; a third person action adventure title nonetheless, which are apparently the only sort of games that Sony are interested in commissioning at the moment.

Rumors suggesting the narrative premise for Days Gone had actually long been floating around the internet, with several inside leaks suggesting the game would indeed be an open world survival horror title from as far back as early 2015. Yet, nobody could have imagined the Days Gone would follow such a similar beat to The Last Of Us in regards to theme and aesthetic.

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There are those that argue against that comparison, citing differences in tone and game design as significant enough to differentiate the two franchise, and while there is some merit in that sentiment, even the strongest advocates surely can’t deny that Days Gone, a narrative partly inspired by The Walking Dead television show, does put it extremely close to The Last Of Us in regards to overall genre and premise.

Sure, Days Gone might be less linear in its game design, incorporate a motorbike for traversal and feature much more frequent combat, but the crossover with The Last Of Us is still obvious. Both titles transcend the zombie genre, a genre that is still firmly the zeitgeist of the times. Clickers, walkers, freakers; call them what you want, give them whatever degree of intellect, bill them as infected or mentally ill, it’s all essentially the same. Similarly, you can expect familiar narrative themes like morality, ethics, family and gender intertwined in a story that explores sociology in a world devoid of law and order. These are themes we’ve not only explored in The Last Of Us but others post-apocalyptic video games as well, not to mention movies, television and comics.

So, beyond mere commentary on the obvious similarities of the two games and the slightly tired but still ever popular zombie genre, how does any of this impact The Last Of Us 2? Certainly, we’re pretty sure that Neil Druckman and co. are working on the sequel, not least because we’ve had several slips of the tongue from industry insiders and voice actors such as Nolan North regarding future workings on the title. More importantly, however, Druckman previously stated that he and Bruce Straley were throwing ideas around for a sequel prior to being asked to work on Uncharted 4, and it’s that information that perhaps provides an interesting case study in regards to studio direction.

As a publisher, Sony has control over the direction of their first party studios, and while a sequel is highly likely (Sony would be mad to walk away from the potential earnings of such a massively popular IP), one shouldn’t be surprised if the game was put heavily on the backburner so it doesn’t detract attention from Days Gone.

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Indeed, the two titles are so similar in genre it seems unlikely that Sony would want either of them launching anywhere near each other. Perhaps the most the alarming news for those eagerly anticipating news on The Last Of Us 2 is that Days Gone isn’t as far through development as many people had expected. In fact, when quizzed about the release date for Days Gone, the game’s lead director, John Garvin stated that it was not safe to assume that it would launch in 2017. In light of that information, Days Gone’s long development period is likely to push a sequel from Naughty Dog to 2019 or possibly 2020.

It seems likely that Naughty Dog won’t be encouraged by Sony to divert too many resources to a sequel title to The Last Of Us. Indeed, while it’s possible the game is in a pre-alpha state already, you’d wager that Naughty Dog are busy giving attention to other projects such as Uncharted 4’s single player DLC. It’s also unclear how much time Druckman is being allocated to assisting with The Last Of Us movie. We’ve heard rumors that the film adaptation isn’t going smoothly, with Druckman himself commenting that he’s only been involved briefly as the script is being finalized. Yet, you’d have to imagine his involvement would ramp up once filming is underway, if that ever occurs.

We’ve waited a long time for Bend’s new IP, and the studio can probably be satisfied with the interest the teaser trailer piqued at E3, but equally as many eyebrows were raised when presented with yet another zombie post-apocalyptic genre of video game. Of course, The Last Of Us’s overwhelming popularity sets it apart from generic zombie titles and the same eyebrows might not have been raised if that had been the announcement at E3, even despite its extremely similar premise.

Unfortunately, those who were hoping for a quick post Uncharted 4 announcement and then a speedy turnaround time between release dates as per Uncharted 2 to the original The Last Of Us should probably taper that expectation. It would be mad to ignore that Days Gone might well seriously impact when we’re likely to see a sequel for The Last Of Us. Indeed, while its pleasing to finally get a glimpse of what the talented team at Bend have been working on, it’s a shame that it likely comes at the expense of a sequel to Naughty Dog’s masterpiece and arguably PlayStation’s best ever game.

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