The Last Of Us interview: “I really think it’s gonna turn the model of the hero on its ass”
Just as Nolan North became a crucial part of Uncharted’s success, the performers playing Joel and Ellie are key to Straley and Druckmann’s ambitions for The Last Of Us. They’ve chosen Ashley Johnson, who at 28 is a Hollywood veteran of over two decades, and Troy Baker, an experienced voiceover artist whose recent credits include Final Fantasy XIII and Batman: Arkham City.
“Joel is a survivor,” Baker tells us. “He’s not a hero, he’s not a badass. He’s a guy that learned how to use a gun because he had to, and he’s fighting every day because that’s what you do. Does that mean that [he] steals this, that [he] does this? Maybe. But it’s not that he has a plan, or that he’s a strong archetypal character. I really think it’s gonna turn the model of the hero on its ass.”
Neither of the actors look particularly like their aliases, but that doesn’t stop Johnson from identifying with her character. “When I first got the audition and saw the character design, I know this sounds weird but I really didn’t think the character was that different from me,” she explains. “This is my first videogame. Not to be cheesy, but this is a complete dream for me – and knowing that I’m able to play a female character who’s stronger, younger and tougher, and not just tits and ass, that’s awesome.”
Asked how The Last Of Us would avoid one perceived pitfall of Uncharted – that its cinematic feel could be shattered by clumsy player mistakes – the creative director teases that, “Uncharted is a different genre to this. Uncharted is pulp action. And with this game, everything is constructed around the tone.”
Although the visual style gives away the fact that the underlying tech here is the same as Uncharted’s the shooting mechanics will be very different. Ellie scavenging for bullets tells us that it won’t be a multi-weapon blast-fest: this desolate world is one of limited resources and inventory mechanics familiar from the likes of Resi.
There’s so much more to come, but the overriding message is clear: whatever the exact specifics of the gameplay, the story is king. “To me, the definition of a story is that at the end the character is irreversibly changed,” says Druckmann. “Both of these characters are going to go through something that will change them forever. And that’s the whole focus of this project, getting through that with these two characters.” Surviving a zombie apocalypse has never sounded so appealing.