It's been a while since we heard anything about The Last of Us Part II. Developer Naughty Dog dropped quite a bit of knowledge on fans with an extended gameplay trailer at E3 2018, which was impressively crisp and responsive--so much so that much of what was going on in the scene looked like scripted events (but Naughty Dog tells us they weren't).
Though we've finally seen the game in action, 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.
We've compiled everything we know about The Last of Us Part II so far, including how combat works, the characters we can expect to see, where Joel is, and more. We'll continue to update this feature as we learn more about Part II.
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 still not clear who she's referring to, but it's very clear that she means it. That comes through in the gameplay we've seen, with Ellie performing brutal takedowns fueled by anger.
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."
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. Part II is set some time 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).
In the gruesome Paris Games Week 2017 trailer, we were introduced to four new characters: Yara, Lev, Emily, and an unnamed character played by actress Laura Bailey (Uncharted 4, Gears of War 4). Bailey has said that she feels like throwing up every day on set because she wants to live up to expectations. That same trailer also showed some infected.
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.
So Where's Joel?
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. We know that he's in the game--and that actor Troy Baker is reprising his role--but it's not clear what part Joel plays in this story. When asked if Joel dies, Druckmann teased that "no one is safe" in Part II, not even Joel and Ellie.
How Combat Works
While similar to the original game, combat in The Last of Us 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.
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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 that it was the first time around.
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."
Druckmann has said that 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 baddies we saw were a religious cult called the Seraphites, who seem to be taking the place of the Hunters from the first game.
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 Part II as well. We haven't seen much of them yet, especially not in combat situations, but the terrifying and powerful Clickers from the first game are confirmed to return.
Neil 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 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 Multiplayer
The original The Last of Us included a multiplayer mode called Factions, which ended up being a surprise hit. In an interview, Newman and Margenau confirmed that Part II will also have multiplayer. They did not provide any other details, but Newman did refer to it as Factions.
Naughty Dog has not yet revealed the release date for The Last of Us Part II.