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The Last of Us Part 2's Hotline Miami Nod Was Almost Going to Be a Self-Reference

We could've been in for another Uncharted 4-style hat-tip.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

The Last of Us Part 2 is close enough to release that there's only so much to say about it beyond hands-on impressions—and our Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey has some—as soon everyone will have a chance to play and pick apart every detail. Already, though, one detail in particular is being obsessed over: the inclusion of a nod to the PlayStation Vita and a beloved indie game.

During last week's State of Play show for The Last of Us Part 2, the exclusive gameplay demo featured a tense, brutal scene between Ellie and a stranger with a Vita in-hand. After Ellie kills the stranger, music from Hotline Miami can be heard coming from the headphones plugged into the Vita. Speaking with our sister site Eurogamer, game director and Naughty Dog vice president Neil Druckmann says the reference comes from a love for the indie hit, but that it wasn't always going to be Hotline Miami from the start.

Initially, says Druckmann, it was going to be another Naughty Dog game on the Vita, which would've made the moment something of a grim companion to Uncharted 4's Crash Bandicoot scene. Instead, Naughty Dog stopped to ask, "[I]s there an opportunity here to just make some meta-statement about the kind of narrative we're after?"

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Just how Naughty Dog's emphasis on harsh, uncomfortable gameplay—which was recently taken in an unseemly direction by GameStop—mirrors or stands in contrast to Hotline Miami's hyper violence and self-commentary is something for critics to dissect. In fact, writer Cameron Kunzleman already discussed the two in relation to each other before the world learned of the reference. Still, it's noteworthy that including Hotline Miami came after seeing an opportunity for a "meta-statement" in place of a Naughty Dog reference. The scene would certainly feel different if that Vita was running, say, Jak and Daxter.

As for settling on Hotline Miami and making the nod happen, it seems that was easy. "And we're also just huge fans of Hotline Miami—like, I love that game," says Druckmann. "So we reached out to those guys, and they were nice enough to let us put it in there." Developers Dennaton Games have been quiet of late, but Hotline's publisher Devolver did acknowledge the reference shortly after the State of Play presentation.

The Last of Us Part 2 will launch for the PS4 on June 19, 2020. Be sure to read the full impressions and interview with Druckmann from Eurogamer, and for more, check out Kat's new thoughts on it and Senior Editor Caty McCarthy's detailed preview from last fall.

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Mathew Olson

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Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.
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