Over the last week, Naughty Dog have talked a great deal about some of the biggest changes and improvements they’re making to the upcoming The Last of Us Part 2, from what they’re calling a “next-gen leap” in animations to just a larger size and scope of the journey we’ll be headed on. But perhaps the improvements players will be most excited to see will be those with the AI.
The artificial intelligence of both the enemies and companion characters was notoriously uneven in the first game, but in the sequel, Naughty Dog are making some major improvements. The biggest effect this change leads to, however, is the fact that companion characters are just a lot more effective at the things they do than they were in the last game.
Speaking with GameSpot, co-director Anthony Newman got to talking about companion characters, beginning first by talking about how much time we’ll be spending alone in the game as opposed to with another character by Ellie’s side. We know for a fact that Joel is going to be an integral part of the story, but a lot of the gameplay we’ve seen for The Last of Us Part 2 so far has seen her heading out on her own.
“I can’t get too much into the exact ratio of time you spend alone. I’d say the game is definitely a blend of being by yourself as you were in the second part of the demo, and being with an ally,” said Newman. “Allies are at the core of Naughty Dog games. We get a lot of great stuff out of them in terms of this back and forth as you were pointing out.”
Newman then went on to talk about the improvements their AI has seen, from independent stealth kills to better melee combat, and more. “I think, as you may have noticed in the first part of the demo interacting with Dina, our allies can do a lot of pretty exciting new stuff where they can get stealth kills independently,” he said. “They have their own pretty nuanced melee system where they can interact with enemies in melee and also help you out and rescue as they did in the first game. They’re a little bit more flexible and nuanced this time around.”
Separately, Newman also spoke about AI companions during stealth sections, and how now they actually obey the rules of stealth rather than being invisible to enemies like they were in the first game.
“[In the original] there is a mode the AI can be in–which is their default mode when you’re in stealth–where they will just never be seen,” he said. “They’re almost better than the player can be at being stealthy.
“There’s a tricky balance there because [Ellie] could then just hang way, way back and just never be seen, but then you don’t feel like you have an ally with you, [so] you feel lonely. So there’s a really interesting line we’ve been walking but I can definitely say that that aspect of the game has been dramatically improved, I would say.”
Meanwhile, companions are also a lot more effective in combat. Newman brings up the example of Uncharted games, and how, even in spite of Nate’s allies shooting at enemies, a lot of that would just be for show, with their bullets doing significantly reduced damage. In The Last of Us Part 2 however, companions’ bullets do just as much damage to enemies as Ellie’s do.
“One other thing that’s also interesting is that in the past, [in] almost all of our games, the allies have done fake damage where you’ll see them shoot enemies and it’s a little bit theatrical where their bullets are clearly doing way less damage than yours,” said Newman.
“What I’m really excited about is that with a lot of effort and some clever AI tricks, every time you see your ally shoot an enemy, their bullets do exactly as much damage as yours do,” he continued. “Which is just another way that players are able to make predictions and think two or three steps ahead. When they see Dina take a couple of shots and then they realize, ‘I only need one more shot to finish off that enemy because I saw that happen.’ I think it’s great that players can now count on that and make those types of plans interacting with their allies.”
The Last of Us Part 2 is out exclusively for the PS4 on February 21, 2020. Stay tuned to GamingBolt for continued coverage on the game.