It’s finally almost here. After years of anticipation and multiple delays, The Last of Us Part 2’s hotly anticipated launch is in sight. Given the pedigree of its predecessor (and its developer), expectations from the game are sky-high, but Naughty Dog is among the few developers in the industry that can deliver on those expectations. As we gear up for its launch, we’ll be talking a lot about The Last of Us Part 2 (and we certainly won’t be alone in that). In this feature, we’ll be talking about fifteen crucial pieces of information that you need to know about the game.
So without further ado, let’s get started. And this should go without saying, but there will be no spoilers in this feature.
Shifting focus from Joel to Ellie as the primary playable protagonist, The Last of Us Part 2 will pick up five years after the conclusion of the first game. Joel and Ellie have been living in Tommy’s settlement Jackson County, Wyoming- but their relatively peaceful existence over the last five years is disrupted. Ellie and her close friend Dina set out on a routine supply run, where they get ambushed by a new and violent group. Something happens that sets Ellie off on a quest for vengeance against this new group of villains.
Ellie will be taking over from Joel as the main playable protagonist in The Last of Us Part 2, but Joel, of course, will be coming back as well, as several trailers have confirmed by now. Someone else who’s been confirmed to be coming back is Joel’s brother Tommy, which means we can probably expect to see his wife, Maria as well. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. The likes of Marlene and Tess won’t be returning, given that they’re dead (unless there are flashbacks or something). It’ll be interesting to see if we Bill again. He was alive and well when Joel and Ellie left him in the first game, so here’s hoping he makes another appearance.
Stealth was a core part of the gameplay in The Last of Us, and it looks like Naughty Dog are emphasizing it just as much – if not more – in its upcoming sequel. And it seems like they’re going to be making several improvements to the game that will give major boosts to stealth sections, from improved AI to more mobility for Ellie, and much more. What exactly are those improvements going to be? Well, that brings us to our next point.
IMPROVED ENEMY AI
The Last of Us Part 2 is promising to make some notable gameplay improvements over its predecessor, and the one that’s probably going to have the greatest impact is the advancements it’s making to enemy AI, which will affect both stealth and combat. During stealth in particular, it seems like enemies will pose a much greater threat. They will track Ellie down and keep right on her tail with much more drive, they will communicate with each other to narrow down her position, while according to Naughty Dogs, companion AI will also now follow the rules of stealth rather than haphazardly running around in front of oblivious foes like they used to in the first game.
As we mentioned earlier, improved mobility is something else that will play a big role in The Last of Us Part 2. Unlike Joel, Ellie is much more agile and nimble, and that will materialize as mechanics as well. There is a dedicated jump button now, which the game will take into consideration to design more vertical environments around, and making use of this verticality and the jump will add a whole new level of stealth to the game (yes, pun intended). Ellie can also slip through cracks in walls, go prone, crawl while she’s prone, crawl underneath cars- and while she’s prone, she can aim and shoot in any direction as well.
Ellie’s greater mobility will have other, more immediate effects as well. On top of being able to jump and crawl and what have you, she will also be able to dodge melee attacks during combat- yep, The Last of Us Part 2 has a dedicated dodge button, which we can probably assume means that melee combat will be a greater focus (and will be more polished) than it was in the first game.
Ellie will be facing off against new enemy types in The Last of Us Part 2, of which Naughty Dog have revealed a couple so far. The first of these are guard dogs- who’re going to make stealth an absolute nightmare. That’s because on top of obviously being able to sink their fangs into your flesh, they can also pick up Ellie’s scent (which you can see as a trail in Listen mode) to track her. So if you’re in the middle of a stealth section and spot a an enemy who has a guard dog with them, it’s going to be a good idea to stay as far away from them as possible.
Another new enemy type that Naughty Dog have revealed are Shamblers, a new kind of Infected that are something of a cross between Clickers and Bloaters. They, too, are blind, and track enemies through echolocation, but also have thick layers of fungal growths all over their body that act as armour. Shamblers will be able to take a lot of punishment before going down, and when they die, or if you get too close to them, they will spray poisonous spore clouds. So, you know, stay away.
Naughty Dog are always, always at the top of their game with technical stuff in their games, and animations in their productions are always the best in the industry. With The Last of Us Part 2, they’re looking to keep up that trend. We’ve already seen some of this in action in plenty of trailers, and the developers seem very excited about the work they’ve done. A couple months ago, creative director Neil Druckmann tweeted about the animations in particular, and this is what he had to say: “Even after years of working on it, I’m still blown away by the animation in Part II. We have one of — if not the — best animation team in the industry — both in raw animation skill and technical knowledge. Can’t wait for you to experience their incredible work.”
Progression is another part of the gameplay loop that will see improvements in Part 2. Like the first game, you’ll be scavenging pills and using those to upgrade Ellie, but the system has more depth to it this time. There are three separate skill trees – Survival, Crafting, and Stealth – and the game will allow you to choose which ones to focus on, encompassing upgrades to health, melee upgrades, crafting speed, greater movement speed while prone, unlocking pistol silencers, new crafting recipes, Listen mode improvements, and more.
Weapon customization, like progression, will also benefit from more in-depth mechanics. Players will be able to equip weapons to different scopes, magazines, stocks, hammers, grips, muzzles, and more, and improve their stats such as reload speed, rate of fire, stability, ammo capacity, damage, recoil, and a lot more. All of this will be done at a workbench, where, like the first game, you’ll be using weapon parts you’ll find in the environment.
Naughty Dog have experimented with having certain sections being set in larger, much more open-ended environments, and that’s something they’ll be doing in The Last of Us Part 2 as well. It’s not going to be open world, of course, and the game is still going to be a linear, directed experience, but the developers have said that these linear, driven sections will be broken up every now and then by larger areas that will give players plenty of room for exploration.
There’s no telling yet exactly how long The Last of Us Part 2 will end up being, but something we can safely say at this point that it will be significantly longer than the first game. Naughty Dog have said that it will be about 50 per cent bigger. Now, The Last of Us was already pretty meaty at about 15-18 hours long, and 50 per cent bigger than that would mean that we’re looking at a runtime of somewhere between 25 to 30 hours for The Last of Us Part 2.
NAUGHTY DOG’S “MOST AMBITIOUS” GAME YET
Ambition and Naughty Dog go hand in hand, but the developer has said multiple times that The Last of Us Part 2 is going to be its most ambitious game ever. We’ve already seen hints of that with the improvements in gameplay and tech that it is introducing, while we also have high expectations from the game in terms of narrative and storytelling- and surely, part of that ambition also stems from just how long the game is going to be (or vice versa). All the way back in September of last year, this is what Neil Druckmann had to say about it: “What we realized pretty early on is that we were putting together Naughty Dog’s most ambitious and longest game in our 35 year history. To tell this kind of story the game needed to be massive.”
“HITTING THE LIMITS” OF THE PS4’S POWER
Naughty Dog always find ways to squeeze as much out of whatever hardware they’re developing for as possible, which leads to games that boast industry-defining visuals. With the upcoming The Last of Us Part 2, it very much looks like they’ll be doing that once more- and they definitely seem to be confident about that. “Just as with The Last of Us, we were hitting the limits of memory, of computational power, how many enemies we could have on screen, and the size of levels,” Neil Druckmann said of the game last year. “Now we’re able to have much wider environments, sequences with a horde of infected, several squads of enemies looking for you in big spaces.”