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The Last of Us Part 2 almost had a very different ending

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The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is a strange blend. On one hand, it’s a good excuse to revisit Digital Trends’ 2020 Game of the Year selection. On the other, it’s a bizarre package filled with tone-deaf bonus modes that water down the base game’s own message on cyclical violence. Considering that it’s not as much of a “remaster” as its title implies, I wouldn’t blame most players for skipping it.

There is, however, one good reason to check the package out. The new release contains an extensive commentary track featuring the game’s cast, creative director Neil Druckmann, and others. It’s several hours worth of insight that plays over nearly every single cinematic in the adventure, and it often gives some illuminating information on the project. It’ll help you better understand the nuances of specific scenes and how actors approached their characters.

What’s most fascinating, though, is how much the commentary reveals about Naughty Dog’s original ideas for the project. The Last of Us Part 2 was almost a very different game, from its cast to its heavily reworked ending. If you’re not looking to spend money on an inessential rerelease, here are some of the juiciest tidbits we found in the entire commentary track.

This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2.

Seattle was built thanks to Infamous: Second Son

Sucker Punch

While there are a lot of story details to unpack, the most surprising fact is a bit of behind-the-scenes trivia. Commentary reveals that the version of Seattle that Naughty Dog created for the game was actually based on Infamous: Second Son, another Sony game set in the city. The crew confirms that developer Sucker Punch gave Naughty Dog access to its Seattle map when it started development. From there, Naughty Dog began snipping out sections that it could turn into focused levels. Obviously, the postapocalyptic version of the city in The Last of Us Part 2 is very different from what’s in Infamous, but the bones of the latter built the former.

Abby almost had a different voice

Abby stands in the rain in The Last of Us Part 2.
Naughty Dog

Voice actress Laura Bailey has a choice role in The Last of Us Part 2, bringing Abby to life. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role today, but there was almost a reality where she wasn’t in the game. Druckmann confirms during one snippet that the team didn’t want to cast Laura Bailey for the role originally. Naturally, that decision changed and she was chosen for the role in the end, but there’s an alternate timeline where someone else has the honors of voicing Abby.

The golf club scene almost looked very different

Two characters restrain Joel in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.
Naughty Dog

The entire commentary track through the scene where Joel meets his untimely demise at the business end of a golf club is worth listening to for a few reasons. Not only does it provide some raw reactions from the cast, but the team reveals two ways it was almost very different. One’s just an editing decision. The version in the final game happens over the course of one continuous shot. It’s an effective trick that we almost missed out on, as an early version had multiple cuts. Also notable is that Druckmann and company tweaked when Ellie arrives during the scene. An original draft had her entering the room after Joel was already dead, but it was changed to make sure Ellie got there in time to witness the brutal killing and be more properly motivated by it.

It was almost five days instead of three

A house burns in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.
Naughty Dog

The Last of Us Part 2 features a memorable structure, as we spend three days in Seattle playing as Ellie and then rewind and play those same three days from Abby’s perspective. Commentary reveals that the game was almost much longer, chronicling five days instead. The extra time would include a day where Ellie travels to Scar Island and digs into the culture of its inhabitants. That section was ultimately cut because Naughty Dog felt it didn’t shift Ellie’s journey. Considering how long the final game already is, cutting back a couple of days seems like the right call in the end.

We almost had Ghost Joel

Joel looks at Ellie in The Last of Us Part 2.
Naughty Dog

The crew discusses a lot of ideas that never made the cut over the hours of commentary, but there’s one that’ll make you say, “Thank God that was cut.” The team confirms that the original idea was to have a ghost version of Joel that popped up occasionally to talk to Ellie. Presumably, that was built as a way to keep the popular character in the game after his death. Thankfully, Druckmann recognized that the idea was “too campy” and left it on the cutting room floor.

The original ending was radically different

Dina and Ellie hug in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.
Naughty Dog

The biggest revelation in the commentary track concerns the game’s ending, which was almost entirely different. For one, an original draft would see Lev dying in addition to Yarra. That detail was changed after the team saw the early chemistry behind Lev and Abby’s actors. Even more shocking, though, is that Abby was also supposed to die originally. Ellie would complete her revenge quest in the original script, successfully drowning Abby instead of stopping at the last second. Those two changes will likely change the course of The Last of Us Part 3, so it’s a pretty major swerve.

Ellie’s ending was almost very different, too — especially when it came to the fate of her hand. In the final version, Abby chomps some of Ellie’s fingers off in their final encounter. While Ellie was always going to end the game maimed, the method by which that happened was almost different. One draft simply had a parent of a random NPC that Ellie killed attack her in a town near the end. It would have been an unexpected act of violence that showed how deep the violence cycle had spread.

Other changes were more subtle. The current game ends with Ellie returning home after her fight with Abby to find Dina has moved out. An original version of the ending had Ellie returning to a completely empty home, but Naughty Dog worried that players would assume something terrible happened to Dina in the process. Then there’s the very final flashback, where Ellie and Joel tentatively reconcile. The original vision for the scene had the two hugging, but the team ultimately felt like the characters weren’t quite there yet. The lack of a physical reconciliation would rob Ellie of just a bit more closure, further fueling her trauma over Joel’s death. All of this would have made the ending feel entirely different, but Naughty Dog’s justifications for the changes make sense when looking at the final product. We can at least rest easy knowing that we didn’t have to meet ghost Joel.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is available now on PlayStation 5.

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