Sony’s new game The Last of Us has what sounds like a pretty typical setup: You play as the grizzled veteran Joel escorting 14-year-old girl Ellie across America, now a ruined landscape filled with murderous humans and the feral infected. But the folks behind the game at Naughty Dog have tried to make it an atypical apocalyptic tale. The critically acclaimed game (reviewers have called it “remarkable,” “genuinely surprising,” “a new entrant into the discussion for this year’s best title.”) is visually stunning, but it is also a character-and relationship-driven combination of story and strategy that marks a departure from standard zombie offerings. Here, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckman and game director Bruce Straley discuss how the studio approached a classic genre and made it new.
The world of The Last of Us features the United States two decades after a fungus has claimed most of the population, turning them into zombie-like infected. But the focus of the story isn’t the monsters. It’s the people who survive. “When the post-apocalyptic genre is done properly, you really get to explore people and what we do to each other,” says Neil Druckmann, the game’s creative director.
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