The Last of Us Part II is finally, actually, nearly here and the hype is building. It is the subject of the latest episode of PlayStation’s State of Play series, offering fans an in-depth look at one of the most anticipated games of the year.
There’s a lot to break down here. Let’s talk about some of the things that excite us most.
We’ve known for a while that dogs would play a large part in how enemies track Ellie in and out of combat, but getting to see more of it is very exciting.
Should an enemy with a sniffer dog be in the area, once Ellie breaks line of sight it will begin to track her scent. Ellie can see her scent trail when she enters Listen mode, allowing her to plan her next movements around where the dog will go. This opens up a lot of opportunities for surprise attacks or getting out of dodge entirely.
We’re interested to see if it’s possible to confuse the scent — backtracking and overlapping Ellie’s scent — or break it by entering water.
Thinning the herd
One of the best feelings in any game is when the systems align such that you can get different enemies to take each other out. The Last of Us Part II leans into this, with sections full of human and infected enemies alike.
The human enemies specifically want Ellie. The clickers aren’t particular about who they nibble on. Ellie can use this to her advantage, using throwable noisemakers to bring nearby infected down on unsuspecting patrols. The two factions will then battle it out, leaving Ellie to mop up whoever’s left at the end.
We get the impression that you won’t be able to do this in every section, rather it will be a few select areas where this will be a potential strategy.
The long way round
One thing Naughty Dog has been keen to point out has been the move to larger, more open environments. This was something ND focused on with the standalone Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and it’s good to see it returning in a full-fledged title.
The benefit of these more open environments, accessible via large jumps, ropes, and some climbing, is that it opens up the ability to either get the jump on your foes or avoid them entirely.
This is great for a couple of reasons — The Last of Us Part II is already an extremely violent game, as the State of Play above attests. There will be players who don’t want to brutally murder everyone they encounter. Giving them options is good design.
Also horseback riding? Dope. Love it.
The biggest change to how The Last of Us Part II approaches stealth is that Ellie can now go prone. This means she can hide in long grass, breaking line of sight or creating ambush opportunities. This is a significant addition for Naughty Dog, which has been more or less happy with a standard cover-shooter arrangement for many years now. It’s great to see them moving in these directions, and we’re excited to see how the prone ability changes combat.
The broadcast quickly covers a slew of infected enemies that Ellie will encounter on her travels. Some, like the runners, clickers and stalkers are returning favourites. Others, like the shamblers, paint a horrific picture of what the infected have become in the 20 years since the outbreak. Shamblers are slow-moving but heavily armoured infected covered in pustules that must be chipped away at from a distance. If they get too close, their bodies expel a corrosive spore cloud that burns everyone in its area of effect.
The trailer hints at other infected enemies to come, but we’re given nothing more than a series of guttural screeches against a black screen. The mind reels at the possibilities.
The Last of Us Part II launches June 19, 2020 exclusively on PlayStation 4.