A recent gameplay preview of Naughty Dog’s highly-anticipated title The Last of Us Part II yielded a breathtaking, stunning cocktail of visual prowess, protagonist Ellie’s matured and faceted personality, and disquieting violence. It seems that’s still far from what the team really has to offer, with game director Neil Druckmann revealing more details about the ambitious sequel on the official PlayStation blog that promises a rich, gripping journey in store.
Ellie will grow into her own person
It’s fair to say that Ellie’s character appears to have taken a near-180-degree turn in The Last of Us Part II. Where she was once rash but witty and innocent, the now grown-up Ellie is a hardened, no-nonsense badass who doesn’t hesitate to kill.
“In the first game, she’s trying to find someone to rely on,” Druckmann says. “She tells Joel that ‘everyone I’ve ever known has died or left me, everyone except for you.’ She kind of latches onto Joel.”
The duo dynamics are set to change at the beginning of the game. Ellie and Joel maintain a strained relationship, with the former seeking new connections with the survivors living in Wyoming, one of whom is Dina.
“Dina becomes this best friend she’s now had for years,” the man shares. “They flirt with each other, but Ellie doesn’t quite know where this girl stands. We see that Dina feels very similarly to Ellie.”
Alas, the good life is a short-lived one. A terrible incident will see Ellie heading down the path of revenge, as she deals out justice on her own terms – yes, even as a one-(wo)man show.
New infected types play into the world’s lore
With a sequel comes new features, challenges, and game elements. While it’s expected that never-before-seen infected types will make their appearance in The Last of Us II, the team has never once thought to introduce something new just for the sake of it. For instance, the Shambler – a mutated entity powered on hazardous fumes – is designed to fit into the world’s lore.
As Druckmann explains, “In the first game, there is all this documentation about the different sages [of the infection]. Now we have to justify why there are different stages. Why are there mutations of these things? Without getting into it here, there is something about the environment and how much time has passed that has allowed these mutations to occur.”
Gameplay-wise, Shamblers prove to be a player’s nightmare, especially with the backing of other infected types. Each features a different ability – Runners, as the name suggests, are capable of closing distances quickly, while Shamblers boast an AoE gaseous acid attack similar to that of Left 4 Dead‘s Spitter. Say hello to tense, new combat encounters.
Gameplay is all about the details
Apart from a more grounded gameplay experience, fans can also look forward to expanding Ellie’s capabilities with a wider pool of weapon customisation, abilities, and mobility.
It’s important to note that “grounded” doesn’t translate to full realism, just like how Ellie’s killing numbers are not a possible feat in reality. Rather, the purpose of that is to create the necessary tension, which the team deems more important than a realistic body count.
The system works on the same reliance basis. Players can clean and tend to their weapons, with the game’s camera zooming in to such acts to evoke the connection that Ellie has to her death instruments.
On that note, The Last of Us Part II will usher in the debut of animal threats to add another layer of emotional depth as well. Expect guard dogs to be used as human trackers, sniffing out Ellie’s tracks with their keen sense of smell. The worst part of it all? You’ll have to kill them, and then live with the guilt afterward.
The magic touch of humanity
With the sequel, Naughty Dog wants to treat violence “as realistically as [they] can in an action game.” This means that human enemies are not spared from feeling emotions, and will execute actions aligning to their emotional state at that point of time. Bearing witness to their comrade’s death may wrangle out a scream from the grief-stricken enemy, while enraged, anger-driven attackers may sport unpredictable moves in combat. All of these will culminate into a brutal, yet humanly believable experience.
To fight or not to fight?
Actions have consequences, and the same goes for the world of The Last of Us Part II. Because Ellie will be weighed down heavily by her choices in the game, it’s natural that some players may want to give unnecessary bloodshed a miss.
“We wanted to have whole sequences that you can be spotted, engage in some combat, and escape without clearing the area,” Druckmann elaborates. “Likewise, we wanted to have way more sequences where you could ghost completely. It’s very challenging and very hard, but it’s possible to leave areas.”
Then there are certain situations where we want you engaged, we want you to partake in certain actions that are going to make you uncomfortable. But that’s part of the narrative, that’s part of Ellie’s journey.”
Missing out on the bloody action doesn’t mean there won’t be a chance to explore interesting places, however. The game expands on its predecessor’s tight layout to bring a lot more freedom and space for character movement.
With The Last of Us putting up an impressive show of graphics and animation sequences back in its PS3 days, it’s certainly no surprise that the upcoming sequel will do itself even better with more breathtaking, detailed visuals. Apart from larger-sized levels, wider environments, and exceptional animation, the new motion-mapping technology is set to introduce more responsive and realistic movements to the game characters, allowing for greater fidelity and nuance.
Considering the overwhelming success of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog certainly has some big shoes to fill with their upcoming title. Still, we’re hardly worried – the content released thus far have shown the team’s skillful blending of visual aesthetics, narrative flair, and character depth, and it will only go better from here.
The Last of Us Part II releases on February 21, 2020.