"Realism" can refer to so many things in video games, but it rarely applies to the actual layout of a world, as opposed to its look. Even when replicating real places, level designers routinely fudge things (as they should) for pacing, gameplay, and performance. So, it'll be really interesting to see how much The Last of Us Part 2's take on Seattle, Washington lines up with reality, because Naughty Dog says it actually followed Ellie's path through the city.
In a newly released video focused on the attention to detail in The Last of Us Part 2, Art Director John Sweeney says that Naughty Dog team members took three trips to Seattle for the sake of collecting photoscan data and reference material for the corresponding part of the game. That's a pretty common practice in triple-A development—see DICE scanning rocks and beaches for Battlefield 5—but Sweeney says the team also "went through and walked the path of Ellie through Seattle."
"[T]hat was anything from going inside buildings and taking pictures of signs on the wall to various bus stops and awnings around the world," Sweeney says. "We're trying to find those kind of iconic details and bring them into the environment."
It's possible that most players will be too busy evading hostile survivors and attack dogs to really notice the finer details, but hopefully it'll be easy for Seattle residents to cross-reference just how close The Last of Us Part 2 gets. A shot of the skyline in yesterday's State of Play presentation shows a few key landmarks in the right spots (like the Pier 57 ferris wheel and the Pioneer Building) but the real test will be to see if a walking tour that charts Ellie's in-game path is indeed possible.
Now, between all of Naughty Dog's imagined post-apocalyptic decay and the necessities of game design, it's probably the case that it won't be a one-to-one thing. Still, it'll be neat to compare Naughty Dog's work both with the real world and with other digital renditions of Seattle. Between this and Sucker Punch's Infamous Second Son, the PlayStation 4's first-party lineup is basically bookended by two versions of the Emerald City. We've also got Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 coming, which featured a faithful (if supernaturally twisted) version of Pioneer Square in its most recent trailer.
After years of development, a few delays, reports of crunch, and a major story leak, we're finally just a few weeks away from The Last of Us Part 2's launch on June 19. Surely someone's going to try to figure out Ellie's path through the real Seattle once they're done playing—for now, though, it might be best to stick to Google Earth for the sake of safety.