The Last Of Us: Part II

A fresh look At one of the most Am­bi­tious games of All time

Play (UK) - - Contents - Sony In­ter­ac­tive en­ter­tain­ment naughty Dog tbc 2019 • •

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.

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