Feature Article

The Last Of Us 2: Gameplay, Release Date Delayed, And What You Need To Know

All the big details on Naughty Dog's new game.

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After The Last of Us Part II's initial announcement, Sony has been fairly tight-lipped about the highly-anticipated sequel for several years. Both Sony and Naughty Dog have since kept their cards close to their chests, waiting for the right moment to drop more details about the game's story and gameplay. However, in recent months, we've been hearing more about how the game will play, as well as more story details. While the game has been recently delayed from February to May 2020, the excitement hasn't let up.

Though we've seen The Last of Us Part II in action--which was impressively crisp and responsive--there's still a whole lot we don't know about the follow-up to one of the PS3's most acclaimed games. Story hints about what's going on with a much-older Ellie (now the series' protagonist) and her adopted father, Joel, so far have been cryptic, and details about what to expect from Naughty Dog's world overrun by fungus-infected zombie-like monster-people. We do know that The Last of Us Part II is going to be violent and horrific, like the first game, as well as plenty emotional.

As you eagerly await The Last of Us Part II's release, read on below to catch up on everything we know about it so far, including the characters we can expect to see, where Joel is, how combat works, and more. More details are sure to be revealed, so be sure to check back again as we update this feature in the coming months. If you know you want the game, check out our Last of Us 2 pre-order guide for a look at the Ellie Edition and more, or check out the new TLoU-themed merchandise on the way, including a nice 12-inch tall Ellie statue.

Release Date

The Last of Us Part II was originally confirmed to release on February 21, 2020, but it has since been delayed to Mary 29, 2020. This should come as a bit of a shock, especially after the big release date reveal a month ago. According to game writer/director Neil Druckmann, "It was during the last few weeks, as we were closing out sections of the game, that we realized we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality. At this point we were faced with two options: compromise parts of the game or get more time. We went with the latter, and this new release date allows us to finish everything to our level of satisfaction while also reducing stress on the team.

You Play As Ellie

In The Last of Us, you primarily played as Joel. In the sequel, you play as Ellie (voiced again by Ashley Johnson), and it seems that much of the game revolves around her. The reveal trailer from 2016, which shows an older Ellie playing guitar and singing in a house filled with fresh corpses, ends with her vowing to kill "every last one." It's unclear who she's possibly referring to, but we'd like to think it's one of the major lingering survivor groups still make a mess in the world. who were shown in a previous trailer. That comes through in the gameplay we've seen, with Ellie performing brutal takedowns on them fueled by anger. It's safe to assume that, like its predecessor, The Last of Us Part II's setting will be quite unsettling--something Naughty Dog says is completely intentional.

Writer/director Neil Druckmann confirmed that Ellie will have an NPC companion in the game, though he didn't specify who or in what context. "Well, so, Ellie used to be an NPC, but she's the protagonist in this story, so the player is controlling Ellie," he said. "It's safe to say with the game that we made in the past that there will be some NPC with you in this story, even though we're not showing [the NPC] in this demo." If the new trailer if anything to go off of, we're guessing you'll be accompanied by a rotating roster of multiple characters as the story goes on.

Story, Setting, And Other Characters

Like the original, The Last of Us Part II is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which you have to fight both humans and zombie-like creatures infected with the Cordyceps fungus. It's set sometime after the events of the first game; Ellie is now 19 and, according to Neil Druckmann, she has found "a semblance of peace and normality" following the horrific events of the original. We also know that a large part of the game takes place in Seattle (and not Wyoming, where Joel and Ellie were headed at the end of the first game) and that the theme of this game is hate (whereas the first game's primary theme was love). Much of the game's premise

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A vague but intriguing story detail came during PSX 2017. Druckmann said of writer Halley Gross (Westworld), "After her first day, Halley goes home and says to her husband, 'I think I got someone pregnant.' And you'll see what that means [in The Last Of Us: Part II]."

The E3 2018 trailer introduced us to two more characters: Dina, played by Westworld actress Shannon Woodward, who kisses Ellie, and Jesse, who seems to be Dina's ex and mentions Ellie's "old man." It sounds like Jesse and Ellie both work for the settlement by going out on patrols, which could be an indication of her role there, the kind of company she keeps, and how her life has developed since her road trip with Joel.

Another notable character showing up in the sequel is Tommy, Joel's brother, who appeared in the original game. He seems to be worried about Ellie's thirst for vengeance and warns her about trying to take on such an endeavor purely by herself.

So Where's Joel?

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Joel has been largely absent from everything we've seen of The Last of Us Part II; while he appeared in the reveal trailer, he was not present in the subsequent trailer or the gameplay we saw at E3 2018. However, he was shown in his fully aged and grizzled nature in the State of Play trailer, which you can see in the trailer at the top of the page.

Actor Troy Baker is reprising his role and it appears he will be accompanying Ellie on her quest for vengeance. When asked if Joel dies, Druckmann teased that "no one is safe" in The Last of Us Part II, not even Joel and Ellie.

How Combat Works And New Gameplay

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While similar to the original game, combat in Part II has been significantly updated. What we saw during E3 2018 seemed very cinematic, almost like parts of it could have been scripted, but Naughty Dog says that's actually not the case; co-directors Anthony Newman and Kurt Margenau confirmed in an interview with GameSpot that dynamic dodges, healing animations, and more are all in your control during combat.

Ellie can now go prone and crawl under cars, and the way she dodges an attack depends on the weapon used, the angle of the strike, and other factors. There's also a mechanic specific to the new arrow enemies; when Ellie has an arrow lodged in her body, it causes a status effect that disrupts aiming and other combat abilities. You have to actively find a good time and place to pull the arrow out and clear the effect.

Listen mode returns from the first game, though the co-directors did not give any specifics or discuss how it has evolved. The most important thing about combat is that it's closely tied to the game's expression of Ellie and who she has become, and it seems to be more involved than it was the first time around.

Enemies appear more organized than ever before looking to hunt you with more coordination and strategy. It seems you've got to be more clever and tactical in your approach if you hope to survive.

According to Druckmann, "We've completely overhauled our engine, developed new combat mechanics, created a new analog stealth system, and revamped our animation system to fully express Ellie's desperation, resourcefulness, and unique agility."

For a look at the latest gameplay, watch the video above for new glimpses of combat, stealth, and exploration.

Tougher Enemies

Druckmann has said that The Last of Us Part II increases the capabilities of enemy AI, and it showed in the E3 trailer--enemies generally seem smarter and work together better to search for Ellie as she sneaks around in the forest and ruins of the world. The most prominent human enemy we've seen thus far is the Seraphites and the Wolves, who are two major survivor groups that seem to be taking the place of the Hunters from the first game. It seems they have hunting dogs that can easily pounce on you if you're not careful of their elevated ability to detect you.

Something that may make you second guess yourself as you kill enemies is how every single one has a name--yes, even the dogs. Newman told us in a recent interview that they'll often refer to each other by name when coordinating. "Not only does it show how intelligent they are that they're able to coordinate, but by naming them they become that much more of a real human," he explained. It's clear that The Last of Us Part II wants to make you feel bad for killing.

Of course, the Infected, the humans infested with the cordyceps fungus that turns them more or less into zombies, are going to make a return in The Last of Us Part II as well. Runners and Clickers are back, and it appears they've grown far more grotesque with the passing years.

Creative Changes

Druckmann was a major creative force on The Last of Us, and he's back running the show in the second game as both writer and director, sharing writing duties with Gross. However, Bruce Straley, who co-directed The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 with Druckmann, has since left Naughty Dog and hasn't worked on The Last of Us Part II. On the plus side, The Last of Us composer Gustavo Santaolalla, best known for his Oscar-winning scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel, is back to do the music for the second game as well.

There Will Be No Multiplayer

The Last of Us Part II is purely single-player experience--multiplayer is not included. According to lead game designer Emilia Schatz in an interview with US Gamer: "We're focusing on a single-player experience, so we're just making a single-player game for this." This signifies a change of plans, as Naughty Dog had previously confirmed that the multiplayer Factions Mode would be making a return.

Given the response, Naughty Dog issued a statement on its decision to skip multiplayer, suggesting a separate multiplayer experience could come in the future.

How Long Is It?

Druckmann revealed that The Last of Us Part II will be the longest game and the most massive that Naughty Dog has ever made--though an exact estimate for how long it will take to complete has not been confirmed. And apparently, it'll be a two-disc game.

In a PlayStation blog post, Druckmann wrote, "We began working on this game over five years ago. It's hard to describe the immense pressure of following up the first game. We know how much you love this world and its characters--especially Ellie and Joel. Believe me, we’re fans as well. We love them. Which is why we spent years crafting a game that we feel will do them justice, telling a nuanced story that deals with the core question: how far would you go to exact justice against the people that hurt the ones you love? It's a highly emotional story with complex themes that befit the world of The Last of Us. What we realized pretty early on is that we were putting together Naughty Dog's most ambitious and longest game in our 35-year history. To tell this kind of story the game needed to be massive."

For comparison, both Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and The Last of Us were each about 15 hours. If we were to guess: it's possible that The Last of Us Part II may clock in anywhere from 20-30 hours. That's potentially a lot of game! And another fact worth noting is that the game will take up two BluRay discs worth of data.

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Matt Espineli

Matt Espineli is an Editor at GameSpot. He loves MGS, film noir, and westerns, but he very much loves YOU too.
The Last of Us Part II

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