Naughty Dog’s survival game The Last of Us breathed new life into the zombie genre, with emotional storytelling that garnered nigh universal praise. It set a high bar for any sequel to clear, a hurdle that creative director Neil Druckmann recognized in 2014, claiming the studio would only do a sequel if they had “a story that’s really worth telling.” Druckmann and company seem to have found that story, having announced The Last of Us Part II at the PlayStation Experience in 2016 and given out very brief bits of content in the years that followed. What story will the sequel tell? How will it build on the gameplay of its predecessor? Here is everything we know so far.
Naughty Dog has kept most plot details under wraps, but we know the game takes place five years after the original The Last of Us. Although the first game focused on the loving bond between Joel and Ellie, Druckmann told fans at PlayStation Experience 2016 that the theme of the sequel is “hate.” We also know players will primarily control Ellie rather than Joel this time around.
Following the announcement at PlayStation Experience 2016, Druckmann, along with voice actors Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie), took part in a panel hosted by Game Informer’s Andy McNamara.
Druckmann took care to reassure fans that Naughty Dog is treating the characters with the respect they deserve. He emphasized that the odd naming convention of Part II was important, saying “The Part II is really kind of doubling down on that to say we believe in this so much … The Last of Us is about these two characters specifically. So yeah, Part II is saying this is gonna be a larger story, this is a complementary story to the first game, but the two together are going to tell this much larger tale.”
Regarding the script, Druckmann’s co-director for The Last of Us and Uncharted 4, Bruce Straley, is not working on Part II. “Bruce recently decided to take some much deserved time off after shipping two critically acclaimed games in the last few years. He’s looking forward to returning to the studio soon and jumping back in on his next project,” Sony said in an official statement to Kotaku. Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who created the score for the first game, will be returning, according to Druckmann.
At PlayStation Experience 2017, Druckmann revealed the game will largely take place in Seattle, confirming a popular Reddit fan theory. However, we also know that part of the game will be taking place in Jackson, Wyoming.
Apart from this information, most of the details we have regarding the story have been pulled from gameplay demonstrations and sporadic trailers. There is strong romantic tension between Ellie and newcomer Dina, who was first seen at E3 2017. It is hinted that something bad may happen to Dina in the game, but this has not been outright confirmed thus far.
Alongside normal scavengers in the game, one of The Last of Us: Part II‘s primary enemies is a faction called the Washington Liberation Front, colloquially called “Wolves.” This group has largely taken control of the area, and are much more dangerous than typical human enemies. They have access to dogs, making Ellie’s life even more stressful.
The Last of Us: Part II is not a drastically different game from its predecessor, and still features many of the same gameplay elements. Ellie will sneak around enemies, using improvised weapons like bricks to distract and kill human enemies. When things pop off, she’s ready with hunting rifles, pistols, and shotguns, but supplies are very limited. She must scavenge what she finds in the environment and save her resources from when it is absolutely necessary. This is so true, in fact, that running can often be the best course of action.
Human enemies can have dogs this time around, which can sniff out Ellie’s location — making it even more crucial to be stealthy and aware of your surroundings. The game’s Listen Mode makes a return, allowing Ellie to see enemy locations, and now, her own scent trail. If a dog is closing in on her position, she can know ahead of time and plan an attack of her own.
Against the infected enemies, Ellie has to be even more careful, as their enhanced hearing means they can quickly find her if she makes too much noise. The Clickers enemy type also makes a return. They are blind but are especially adept at zeroing in on any unexpected noise.
As you progress in the game, you will be able to upgrade your abilities via a skill tree. Even your prone speed and stealth kill speed are tied to upgrades, and you can also upgrade your items and weapons. This should allow you to create a version of Ellie that best suits your play-style.
No multiplayer, at least at first
The Last of Us launched with its own competitive multiplayer mode back in 2013, but this is not the approach Naughty Dog is taking for the sequel. When The Last of Us: Part II releases, it will only include the single-player story mode, as said it’s the “most ambitious” thing it has ever developed.
However, the Factions mode could be coming as a standalone experience. Naughty Dog said on Twitter that players will “eventually experience the fruits of [its] online ambitious, but not as part of The Last of Us: Part II.”
As part of the original announcement, Naughty Dog released the first trailer for the game. A visibly older Ellie (19, Druckmann has confirmed), plays a guitar in a ruined house. She discusses hunting down and killing a group of people, so she carries some of that hate Druckmann was talking about.
Interestingly, while Joel is shown speaking to Ellie, he is kept out of focus, mostly seen in silhouette or shot from behind. The framing in the trailer has led many fans to wonder whether or not Joel has died in the time between the two games.
Naughty Dog released a second trailer during Sony’s 2017 Paris Games Week presentation, which was light on details but slathered in mood and brutality.
Unlike the first trailer, Joel and Ellie don’t appear at all in this trailer. Instead, we are introduced to new characters: In a dark, rainy forest a woman with a scar on her face, leading two henchmen, hangs one woman and tortures another before they are both rescued by a bow-wielding ally from the forest before the “demons” attack. Druckmann offered a little commentary after the fact on Sony’s Paris Games Week live-stream, pointing out that this demo was designed to both show off technical effects such as rain, and to emphasize that, while this is a direct extension of the first game’s story, the sequel will expand the scope of the series to be more of an ensemble piece. The characters in the trailer are some of the important new characters we will meet along the way. We know the young man’s name is Lev (13), and the young woman is his older sister Yara (16).
The most recent trailer for the game was given alongside the release date and features the return of Joel’s brother Tommy from the previous game. Joel is initially nowhere to be found, though he does appear eventually to offer his support for Ellie’s mission. Joel looks remarkably older than he did in the first game, with even more gray hair, and it’s clear that Ellie will need to establish herself as a leader for survivors as the previous generation is no longer as capable as they once were.
In addition to the trailers, Naughty Dog has also released some concept art for the game.
New cast members
In addition to Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who will return to their roles as series protagonists, Joel and Ellie. The Last of Us Part II will also feature a new character, Dina, brought to life by Westworld actress Shannon Woodward, who revealed her role in the game via a photo on Twitter with director Neil Druckmann. She is an ally and romantic interest of Ellie, and the two share a kiss at a town party before another eruption of violence.
During The Last of Us: Part II cast panel at PlayStation Experience 2017, Sony introduced the three primary characters of the second trailer: Yara, the kidnapped girl whose arm is broken, will be played by Victoria Grace. Lev, the boy with the bow, will be played by The OA actor Ian Alexander. Lastly, the as-yet-unnamed character being hanged in the trailer will be voiced by popular game voiceover actress Laura Bailey.
Release date and special editions
The Last of Us: Part II was scheduled to release on February 21, 2020, as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, but it was later delayed to May 29, 2020 over quality and polish concerns.
Along with the standard edition of the game, there will be several different special editions available.
The game’s Special Edition comes with the standard version of the game, a steelbook case, a 48-page mini Dark Horse art book, a PS4 dynamic theme, avatars, and ammo capacity and crafting training manual pre-order upgrades.
The Digital Deluxe Edition includes the game, avatars including an exclusive, PS4 dynamic theme, digital soundtrack, digital artbook, and the same pre-order upgrades.
The Collector’s Edition includes the same digital content as the Digital Deluxe Edition, with the exception of the exclusive avatar. It also includes a steelbook, Ellie statue, the artbook, Ellie’s bracelet, lithograph, a letter, stickers, and enamel pins.
Last up is the Ellie Edition. It includes all of the content from the Collector’s Edition along with a logo patch, vinyl record, and Ellie’s backpack.
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