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If you've played through The Last Of Us Part II, you're no doubt familiar with the game's worst boss: The Rat King.
This tangled mass of flesh and fungus appears towards the very end of the game in the lower levels of the hospital, offering up one of the most difficult - and arguably irritating - encounters. Combining incredible speed and strength, it's a test for both Abby and the player. I know during my playthrough poor Abby got snapped in two like a twiglet a dozen or so times before I finally beat the damn thing. One-hit kills and incredible range? Not a great combo.
But I digress. Whatever your thoughts on how the Rat King boss fight plays, there's no denying that the design of the thing is incredible. In a game full of disturbing monsters, the heaving, pulsing Rat King stands apart from the rest.
Most of the enemies in The Last Of Us Part II look scary because they either resemble - or are -humans. Not this beast. The Rat King is a straight-up nightmare. A one-off anomaly hiding below the surface of a world that humans believed they'd started to wrestle back into some form of control. I get shivers just thinking about how many more Rat Kings could be out there in The Last Of Us universe... gestating.
In a fantastic new interview with GamesRadar, Naughty Dog revealed a little bit more about the inspirations behind bringing the Rat King boss fight to horrifying life. The Last Of Us Part II's co-game director Kurt Margenau revealed that, much in the same way that the Rat King is a twisted mess of infected, the design of the thing is an amalgamation of various sources... including, as many suspected, the monster from the end of indie hit Inside.
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"One big reference point for us was Neil Blomkamp's short film, Zygote," Margenau explained. "If you look at that video, you can see that there's a lot of inspiration there. Inside is another one; the way the monster's arms touch a lot of stuff is just this inherently creepy thing. So we're aware of things like that, but we have to make it our own and do all the extra work that's needed to make it feel real."
The game's other co-director Anthony Newman added that God Of War and Bloodborne also played a role in the battle - particularly in the way the Rat King eventually splintered off into two separate pieces, with one large and slow, the other small and fast.
"The ending fight with the Stalker was inspired by Eileen the crow from Bloodborne," Newman said. "I loved how in a game with bosses that were 20 stories high, the most challenging and brutal fight of them all was this person who is the exact same size as you. So that was something we were really interested in: how can we make an infected who isn't massive feel just as deadly?"
There we have it. The Rat King is awful because it was inspired by awful things, and I've just watched Zygote for the purposes of this article and will never sleep again. What a productive day I've had.
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