The Last of Us, though released on PS3 in 2013, is still regarded as one of the greatest stories ever created on a gaming console. It was awarded Game of the Decade by Metacritic users and is constantly recognised for its emotive yet realistic storytelling of survival and the human condition.
Naughty Dog, the same studio who brought the Uncharted series to life and to completion, have proven time and time again that they know how to tell a story. Therefore, it is without question that The Last of Us Part II is considered one of the most anticipated games of this year. The incredible Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker are reprising their roles as Ellie and Joel respectively, and Gustavo Santaolalla is back to provide yet another deep and reflective soundtrack – but with such a perfect game the first time around, what makes Part II unique?
Neil Druckmann (Creative Director of The Last of Us), and the team at Naughty Dog have referred to this game as the ‘most ambitious’ that they have created yet.
With that said, let’s look at some of the reasons why we should be excited about what is to come.
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE IN A FAMILIAR WORLD
We have already been exposed to the world of The Last of Us. A world subjected to a pandemic that turns humans into runners, clickers and bloaters.
It begs the question, what story is left to tell if the first story felt so complete on its own? Druckmann has stated that many of those questions about how to ‘top’ the previous game need to be pushed aside, and rather ask the question, what is unique to this story? One of the ways this story is already unique is a fresh perspective. We have yet to experience the game outside of Joel’s point of view. Part II will shift from experiencing the world through Joel’s eyes to Ellie’s. This means we may finally be able to piece together Ellie’s side of the story after the controversial conclusion to the first part, and gain some much-needed insight into her state of mind.
We also know that there has been a five-year time jump in Part II, meaning Ellie is no longer a child. She is now 19, living in a settlement in Jackson, Wyoming, with Joel, the friends she has made in the five-year time gap, and a group of survivors. The heart of The Last of Us is concentrated heavily on Ellie and Joel’s relationship, but we know for Part II that the ensemble cast are bringing something strong to the thematic elements of this world – though many of their roles still remain a secret.
One of the new relationships we do know about is Dina, Ellie’s best friend and romantic interest. From the trailers released, Dina seems to play an important role in the game, and appears to be a driving force behind some of Ellie’s actions. We also see Joel’s younger brother Tommy return in the trailer, having a heartfelt discussion with Ellie. It can be expected with these new connections, there will be another dynamic to Ellie’s motivations now that she has formed other relationships outside of her father/daughter bond with Joel.
In a recent story trailer, there seems to be a semblance of comfort for Ellie in the settlement in Jackson, but descends quickly into the direction of uncertainty and rage as we find that she moves into the city of Seattle. What does this trajectory mean? Why is Ellie there and what is she striving for? Though much of the story has been shrouded in mystery, it can be expected that these questions will be answered in layered and rewarding ways.
NEW THREATS LOOMING
Anyone who has played The Last of Us would be familiar with the many classes of ‘The Infected’. They pose a constant threat, are slowly shedding their humanity and a stark reminder of the realities of the world that Ellie and Joel live in. However, the team at Naughty Dog have emphasised that new groups are now posing a threat to Ellie.
In addition to the WLF (a militia group who has little tolerance for trespassers in Seattle), there are guard dogs who have a heightened perception, adding an increased difficulty to stealth operations. There is also a new class of infected called ‘shamblers’, a heavier enemy that can take a lot of punishment and is difficult to defeat. From the information that has been shared, we know that beyond these enemies there is an even greater threat in a new cult that has emerged. This group seems to play a significant part in the story – though the team has been very quiet about them, and what they represent.
According to Naughty Dog, the enemies will be even more threatening than in the first instalment, adding another level of tension during gameplay. Though Ellie is known to be very capable in this world, so are the enemies that she encounters along the way – because this world is about survival. Motivations behind that survival vary, however. In Ellie’s case, the team at Naughty Dog have said that it asks the question of how far you would go to bring justice for those that you love. If Ellie has been wronged personally by those on an opposing side, how desperate will she become, and how willing will she be to throw herself into a threatening circumstance when seeking revenge? A quote used constantly by Druckmann during this process that feels rather fitting to the demos and trailers released, is “If the Last of Us was about love, Part II is about hate.”
DEEPER AND MORE REALISTIC GAMEPLAY
In more practical terms, Naughty Dog has promised another round of grounded, linear gameplay. However, as many years have passed, there is significant tech and engine improvements, furthering the fidelity of the game. Everything from rainfall effects, to lighting and facial performance have been significantly improved even beyond that of 2017’s Uncharted: Lost Legacy.
We know that in the world of The Last of Us, your survival depends on your stealth, your agility and most importantly, your weaponry – and in Part II your weapons on the workbench can be interacted with more closely and meticulously. In combat, enemies have names, and stronger connections with one another. If you were to take out a soldier, those that work alongside them would respond accordingly – calling out their name and experiencing personal shock or grief in that moment. These small additions will provide an even more immersive and realistic experience, but also has a way of showing that the world of The Last of Us Part II has a harshness and cruelty for everyone who lives within it.
‘The Last of Us Part II’ is out June 19 on Playstation 4.