The Last of Us Part II – Everything You Need to Know on Ellie’s Next Adventure

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The Last of Us Part II has been among the most anticipated upcoming games ever since its reveal in December 2016, during that year's PlayStation Experience event.

That's not only because of Naughty Dog's sterling reputation for creating great titles, but more specifically because the first entry in the franchise was arguably their pinnacle. The first The Last of Us managed to beat even Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V (which would go on to become the best-selling game ever made) when it came to the tally of Game of the Year Awards in 2013.

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Following a seven-years-long wait, fans will now get their hands on The Last of Us Part II in about a month and a half. Neil Druckmann once again directed the development, though this time he was helped by Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman, following Bruce Straley's departure from Naughty Dog. Druckmann also co-wrote the plot with Halley Gross, a former writer of Westworld's first season. On the soundtrack front, two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla returns as the composer.

Release date

The Last of Us Part II was originally supposed to launch on February 21st, 2020 as confirmed in September 2019. Then, just a month later, Naughty Dog and Sony announced a delay to May 29th in order to ensure the whole game was perfectly polished.

A few weeks ago, the game was delayed 'indefinitely' (alongside Iron-Man VR) as a result of issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, following a series of story leaks, Sony hastily confirmed a June 19th launch date last week.

The game will be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, though we fully expect The Last of Us Part II to get an enhancement patch once the PlayStation 5 console is released. Additionally, this sequel could eventually make its way on PlayStation NOW, allowing other players to experience the game on other platforms through streaming. Don't count on this happening for the first year at least, anyway.

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Story

Whereas the first game featured Joel as the main character with Ellie playable for brief sections, The Last of Us Part II is centered on Ellie, who's now 19-year-old following the five-year-jump. Joel is in the game, that much we know, and voice actor Troy Baker went on record to say he'll be 'central' in the plot even without being playable.

The beginning of the game (split into seasonal chapters, much like Metro Exodus) sees Ellie in a happy relationship with Dina, a new character from Tommy's settlement in Jackson County, Wyoming. Most of the game will take place in and around Seattle, though, as surmised a long time ago. That said, the folks at Naughty Dog have been quite clear to mention that this sequel will be about 'hate', in opposition to the overarching 'love' theme of the first The Last of Us.

Truth to be told, in the original reveal trailer Ellie did state her intention to 'kill every last one of them', which led to the speculation of a very important character being killed and prompting her retaliation. The main enemy, other than the zombie-like humans infected by the Cordyceps fungus, may well be the Seraphites, a mysterious religious cult featured in the Paris Games Week 2017 trailer, which became controversial for its significant display of violence. The Seraphites have already been shown to perform ritualistic torture and human sacrifice.

Expect the plot to be potentially divisive, by the way, as recently hinted by Troy Baker. After all, Naughty Dog did state they want players to feel like any character could die, Ellie included.

In terms of length, however, we know The Last of Us Part II will be the biggest game ever made by Naughty Dog, about 50% larger than the predecessor.

Mechanics

The Last of Us Part II will retain the action/adventure framework Naughty Dog is known for. That said, the gameplay mechanics have been improved in a number of ways, starting with smoother environment traversal that includes climbing, jumping, going prone, and even dodging. While it won't be an open world style of game, the environments are said to be much larger with a greater sense of verticality.

The first game's 'Listen Mode' makes a comeback, allowing Ellie to locate enemies and display their outlines even through walls and other objects. There's also a new identification meter to help players understand when Ellie is about to get spotted while trying to be stealthy.

Just like in the original The Last of Us, Ellie will be accompanied by an NPC on her travels. According to the developers, the AI powering the companion character will be now more nuanced and realistic; they have a proper stealth system in place (whereas in the first game the companion was essentially just invisible to enemies while in stealth mode), they can perform stealth kills on their own and do real damage with bullets.

However, enemy AI has been upgraded to allow for better communication and teamwork, too. Furthermore, there is a new layer called 'vague knowledge' which sits between full awareness and complete unawareness of Ellie's whereabouts.

Two new enemy types have been revealed so far. The first is a large Infected named Shambler, who has tank-like armor and can spew poisonous clouds at Ellie. Then there are the hunting dogs, who are used by hostile humans to track Ellie's scent.

Players will have to deal with a new injury meter in The Last of Us Part II. If some enemy manages to get an arrow in Ellie's shoulder, she'll have to hide somewhere and take the time to remove it or her aim will be worsened.

Ellie can now craft different ammunition types, such as explosive arrows. Her capabilities will get expanded over the course of the game via three skill trees, the self-explanatory Survival, Crafting, and Stealth.

Multiplayer

While the Factions multiplayer mode was one of the most positive surprises of the original The Last of Us, fostering a dedicated community, there will be no multiplayer in The Last of Us Part II. The developers revealed as much in September 2019. However, they later clarified this is because the scope of the multiplayer mode that was being worked on grew larger than something that could be shipped alongside the story campaign, suggesting it could eventually get a standalone release.

Engine

The Last of Us Part II is reportedly running on a brand new engine, coupled with new motion capture technology. The animation system has been fully revamped as well, with Game Director Neil Druckmann boasting how Naughty Dog can count on one of the best animation teams in the industry. The animations will be based on a 'motion matching' system now to ensure they blend in much more smoothly, avoiding stark blending.

The eyes of the character even support internal refractions and reflections now. Needless to say, we expect The Last of Us Part II to look positively stunning when played on PlayStation 4 Pro, given the developer's technical pedigree.

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