Ever since the violent gameplay demo of The Last of Us Part II was shown at Sony's E3 2018 press conference, fans have been debating whether or not the footage was totally real. Things got further complicated when Eidos Montreal studio head David Anfossi, who is currently working on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, called the gameplay fake. He later apologized for his comment, but the statement had already opened up a can of worms. Thankfully, Naughty Dog director Neil Druckmann clarified what was shown at E3.
There's a long history of developers passing off prerendered footage as gameplay at E3 press conferences. Some of the most notorious examples have come from Sony, as their Motorstorm and Killzone 2 demos looked little like the finished products that they wound up releasing on PlayStation 3. Due to a massive amount of fan outrage, these types of practices have been curbed for the most part. Although, fan speculation still surrounds most major releases and press conference showings.
"Those were all real systems," Druckmann revealed to Kotaku. He went on to explain that an E3 demo is comprised of "complicated systems that are random" and it's the job of the developers to make "them deterministic." They do that by playing the slice many times and then choreographing it. "So we’re showing off very specific things. But those are all real systems that players will experience when they play the game."
Obviously E3 demos are complicated beasts and aim to show the games in the best possible light. This often means that players see an ideal experience that isn't likely to be totally replicated when played by a normal person. That said, there's a difference between seeing something fake and it being the version of the game when the gameplay stars all align.
By expanding upon what was shown in the demo, Druckmann is being honest and open about the development of The Last of Us Part II. More developers should aim to be this transparent, as elaborate fakes have damaged the trust that many gamers have with footage shown at press conferences. Hopefully as more developers follow suit, this conversation and debate of gameplay being real or fake can disappear. After all, this type of discussion just takes away from the actual game that was shown, and provides a distraction from what actually matters.