The Last of Us 2 director explains its strict review embargo and sneaky trailers

The discussion surrounding The Last of Us 2 has been ongoing and multifaceted. And while there is plenty inside of the game to speak about and debate, there are also a bunch of topics to cover that are outside of the game. Its restrictive review embargo as well as the stealthily edited trailers were two hot subjects that engulfed The Last of Us 2 before and after it released, respectively. Director and writer Neil Druckmann recently explained why the team chose to be so tight-lipped and why, in his opinion, it worked for the game, not against it.

Druckmann went on Kinda Funny Games’ The Last of Us 2 spoilercast to explain these decisions. At around the 1:35:45 mark, he spoke about the surprise the team wanted to give players and the obvious game that inspired them to do such a bold thing.

“We try to think about what kind of game would do we want to play and what are the expectations that we want to have going into that?” Druckmann explained. “Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of my favorite games and there’s no question that was an inspiration in this. I know some people hated it, but I loved when I played Metal Gear Solid 2 and I saw those trailers and I was at that E3, and it was one of the first E3s I went to, and you were deceived. They moved boss battles around. You always saw Snake and they never showed you Raiden.”

The Last of Us 2 director defends strict review embargo and sneaky trailers

He then recalled actually getting behind the sticks and controlling Raiden’s introductory swimming segment and then thinking it was “fucking awesome” when the blonde dork took off his mask and revealed his decidedly non-Snake face.

“The turn comes late and it’s so much to me about the joy when a game does that,” he said.

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This mentality also feeds directly into the game’s approach to its trailers. Many scenes in those trailers were edited with different character models or different characters entirely to hide what happens in the game. Some have claimed this was false advertising, but Druckmann said it was all about preserving the experience.

“Just giving away a little bit of that magic takes away from the experience,” he explained. “I know there are some people that need to know everything about the game. That’s not how we think and that’s not how we operate. So we did as much as we could to try to protect that experience; not to bamboozle anyone or get their $60 [on a false promise].”

Keeping the experience fresh also translated to how reviews were handled, too. Some reviewers criticized the restrictive embargo that barred them from speaking about most of the game, which included the entire second half. Everyone with an early copy (us included) had to tiptoe around the game and only speak vaguely about most of it. PR tried to open up those restrictions, but Druckmann and the studio put their foot down.

“In fact, PR told us to let people say whatever they want in reviews,” he said. “‘[Reviewers] are gonna get upset with this restriction.’ And we said [we didn’t] care. I know the leaks are out there. Not everyone has seen the leaks. In fact, most people who play the game will have not seen the leaks. But they will read reviews. And I know if the restrictions are not there, sometimes reviews try to one-up each other in what they say. They’re gonna talk about it so I’d rather have the restrictions and eat some people’s frustrations.”

It’s unfortunate that one of the few games that tried to surprise players got leaked early. That surprising content that Naughty Dog was trying to hide likely would have stirred up some of its base but seeing it on the internet without context likely cause an even bigger explosion that fed off claims of feeling deceived. But regardless on whether you agree with Druckmann’s commitment to secrecy, at least it’s easy to see why this was the path Naughty Dog tried to take.