Following delays, leaks, and more in-depth looks into how Naughty Dog’s latest game is coming together, we finally had a chance to experience The Last of Us Part II for ourselves. With the critical acclaim that followed Joel and Ellie’s last adventure seven years ago, the sequel is set to continue their story as the world tries to survive long after Outbreak Day.
In a special preview, we took control of Ellie in her bid to find a character named Nora. Suffice to say, dangers are everywhere in Seattle.
Right off the bat, the details and work that went into recreating a virtual Seattle were apparent. The Last of Us Part II is quite simply Naughty Dog’s best visual work yet, painting a relatable picture of a post-apocalyptic world.
Amidst the wreckage and the vegetation, this is a world ripe for exploration and exposition. While the main story pushes you along to your next objective, the environmental storytelling present in The Last of Us Part II is unmatched. While you may not always get the full picture, there are many threads that hint at the different stories of people trying to survive, successful or not.
That said, the world of The Last of Us Part II is full of danger. As we make our way towards a nearby Washington Liberation Front-held hospital in search of Nora, plenty of obstacles lie in wait.
Thankfully, Ellie is not new to the eternal test of survival of the fittest. Adept with both ranged and melee weaponry, she augments those with her crafting. Molotovs, smoke bombs, and trap mines are great equalisers. It also helps that Listen Mode is back once again, allowing Ellie to detect nearby enemies and plan your movement around them.
Considering how both the infected and human enemies are considerably smarter this time around, every little bit helps. For instance, while the Runners and Clickers are less than subtle about their whereabouts, the returning Stalkers are back playing their favourite hide-and-seek. Equipped with the wit to now flank you, these annoying monsters are a constant threat. Even Listen Mode is less effective, as a hiding Stalker is harder to detect with Ellie’s otherwise useful ability.
For the human foes, going up against more military-like WLF is more akin to the first The Last of Us, albeit now with canine companions that can sniff you out. The Seraphites, or Scars, are the cloaked figures seen in the trailers, who mix up their approach with bows and stealth as well.
Being able to manoeuvre around the enemies is key to survival, and as you take them down one by one or in an all-out firefight, it is obvious that Naughty Dog wants you to understand that these are people with real relationships. The faction members call each other out by name, are able to alert one another to Ellie’s presence, and flank you whenever possible. The challenge of combat has only heightened with The Last of Us Part II, but so has the emotional stakes.
The more open nature of The Last of Us Part II helps in this aspect. Both enclosed and open spaces offer plenty of room for Ellie to move around in. Her smaller stature allows for squeezing through gaps, hopping over structures, and the new prone mechanic comes into play often with tall grass. Distracting foes with glass bottles or bricks, setting traps, or lobbing a Molotov into a group of enemies, it all feels amazing. Even when detected, Ellie’s ability to dodge will save your bacon if you time it right.
This gameplay loop in The Last of Us Part II rewards you no matter how you play it. While combat can sometimes be unavoidable, there are parts where clever timing and movement can help you avoid patrolling enemies altogether.
Of course, nothing comes quite as close to feeling the intensity of taking down the Infected and the human enemies without being detected. The Last of Us Part II continues that tradition in the same vein, but ramps it up even further. However, having the stealthy approach also allows you to appreciate just how dangerous the world is, and what you need to do in order to make it through.
From creating a gorgeous looking world to perfecting the combat and exploration, Naughty Dog is doing everything right for The Last of Us Part II. While this snippet is but a preview of the full experience, we came away suitably impressed and raring to go for more. That, plus the fact that Ellie can now swim, makes The Last of Us Part II an event to look forward to.