The Last Of Us: Part II
A fresh look At one of the most Ambitious games of All time
1It’s time for the Industry to begin challenging assumptions. It’s a message that sits at the heart of Naughty Dog’s ambitions as a studio and the intent behind the ongoing development of The Last Of Us: Part II. It’s that thought – the idea of constantly contesting expectation and execution – that is trickling down through the studio’s refinement and expansion of each and every one of the game’s systems and mechanics; a process that is helping to elevate every aspect of this sequel, from its artificial intelligence to its environment design, lighting and animation, its spectacular underlying technology to the construction of its harrowing narrative. If Naughty Dog is able to pull this off, The Last Of Us: Part II will mark a turning point for the industry – a glimpse into what the future of will hold for interactive entertainment. Of that we are quite certain.
That may appear to be high praise, but Naughty
Dog is entirely deserving of it. Set five years after the spellbinding conclusion to The Last Of Us, this longawaited sequel picks up in a world still shrouded in conflict and contention. Ellie is older now, clearly scarred by the hardship that she has been forced to endure just to survive – the ramifications of Joel’s climactic decision a weight on her weary shoulders, the world around her wrought with ruin because of it. Speaking of Joel, he is still nowhere to be seen in the early marketing push but clearly present, a commanding presence in Tommy’s settlement back in Jackson county though he is no friend to his estranged surrogate daughter now. It’s as they say: it is the old wounds that cut deepest into your soul.
The infected are still an ever-present threat for those foolish enough to wander the naturalistic wastelands of the world alone, although they have become a part of life now – a part of routine existence, as normalised as eating, sleeping and breathing. Much like in the original adventure, it’s the threat of humanity itself – of those that have been broken by the deranged routine or have succumbed to the whims of violent tribalism – that present the biggest threat to existence. That logic can be applied to the hostile groups found outside of Tommy’s settlement – hanging and disembowelling any survivors that they may come across whilst out traipsing through the wilderness – but it can also be applied to our starring protagonist as well. A lot has changed in five years, and we’re afraid of what Ellie might have become in her lateteenage years.
It is, however, something we will be forced to confront, process and come to terms with as we help usher
Ellie through the tension-laced adventure. Ellie will be taking the lead in The Last Of Us: Part II, with creative director Neil Druckmann confirming that, while Joel will indeed play a critical role in the story, he will not return as a playable character. But before you turn your nose up at this creative decision, consider what we said at the beginning: this game is all about challenging assumptions. Given the crippling weight of expectation that has been placed upon Naughty Dog here, it was only inevitable that big changes were on the horizon.
Thankfully, each of them seems to have been made with conviction. When it comes to core elements of play, such as the returning emphasis on stealth movement and crippling melee combat, Naughty Dog has constructed something that looks positively unreal. The studio actually likens the evolution in its systems and mechanics between the two games as similar to when teams moved from 2D to 3D spaces back in the Nineties, such is the scope of what the team is trying to achieve here and the boundless enthusiasm for driving change that accompanies it.
Stealth, for example, was fairly binary in The Last Of Us. You move in and out of cover to remain in or drop out of stealth – the requirement to remain unseen or become thrust into perilous combat scenarios was easy to gauge and understand. The Playstation 3 hardware allowed Naughty Dog to create something undoubtedly impressive, but it always wanted to do more; the Playstation 4 (the extra thrust of power offered by the Pro, in particular) is effectively revealing a studio unshackled by technological restraint. The analogue stealth systems introduced in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End are present here then but greatly expanded, and the results are astounding.
Ellie can now cross the huge environmental areas – discrete sandboxes that aren’t all that dissimilar to those found in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – in a variety
take note of that bracelet on ellie’s arm in this shot as it’s been pointed out that it may in fact belong to Dina, the young woman ellie dances with. its design is inspired by a popular good luck symbol in the middle east.