“Yes, you remember me!“- he then asserts with full awareness, and with a gaze that seems more piercing than bullets.
We also remember Ellie, that aggressive little girl, far from the innocence of children, a sometimes ruthless and sometimes a little frightened murderer. We remember you, in the first The Last of Us, but when he possessed a modicum of hope in humanity, when he still believed he could save her thanks to her immunity to Cordyceps infection. Of that Ellie, in The Last of Us Part 2, only the fury seems to have remained, which seems to have engulfed any form of compassion. The new video unveiled during the last episode of the State of Play has highlighted the brutality of an adventure that has no fear of hitting the player straight in the stomach. As told by the director Neil Druckmann, the in-depth analysis of the history and the playful dynamics of the sequel has put on display a gameplay that moves in perfect coherence with the narration: just as the plot feeds on Ellie’s hatred, the game mechanics are also the offspring of that violence that arises from resentment.
“Naughty Dog’s biggest and most ambitious game”
In our previous special on The Last of Us Part 2 Story Trailer, we speculated that part of the experience would focus on the facts that involved the two protagonists shortly after the events of the first chapter. This new State of Play gives us a little confirmation: the reconstruction of some sequences belonging to the final stages of the progenitor with the graphic engine of the sequel let us imagine that the plot will investigate a little more deeply in the relationship between Joel and Ellie, perhaps analyzing the consequences of that act of loving lie perpetrated from the former smuggler.
Years after the resounding conclusion of The Last of Us, the protagonists have restarted another life in Jackson, where they seem to lead an almost normal existence within a peaceful community. But as Neil Druckmann says, a terrifying event will destabilize Ellie’s balance, who will set off in search of revenge.
In its path it will have to face several factions competing for a Seattle now in ruins: on one side the WLF (Washington Liberation Front), a militia that kills or imprisons anyone who sneaks into its areas, and on the other a group of religious fanatics known as the Serafiti, devote yourself to a symbolic self-harm.
According to the director’s words, the game world laid out by Naughty Dog is the most ambitious that the team has ever created, not only in terms of scenic reconstruction, but also by extension: beyond realism, to strike is the breadth of the explorable areas, which at first glance seem to greatly expand the more contained maps of the first chapter and bring to the extreme consequences a playful approach tasted in small doses also in Uncharted 4. Naughty Dog it therefore seems to go further and further in the direction of the freedom granted to the user, not renouncing the spectacularization of the most scripted sequences but letting the players voluntarily create them, without imposing a specific rhythm of play on him. Ellie’s ability to jump, climb or use a rope to reach elevated positions is certainly not a revolutionary gameplay mechanic, but in The Last of Us’s playful economy it allows production to find a new dimension, maximizing all that the level design has to offer.
The expansion of the spaces involves, predictably, secondary events to assist and new approach mechanisms: in Naughty Dog’s goal, stealth and action follow one another without interruption, and travel in symbiosis with a scenic construction designed to adapt to the user’s needs. The renewed extension of the maps therefore spurs the player to advance as he sees fit, sometimes even avoiding some encounters with hostile creatures altogether. Furthermore, the scenic variety and the conformation of the areas are such as to require the use of a horse or a boat to give us the opportunity to visit every corner of the setting. In short, The Last of Us expands the reach of its world, all for the benefit of the gameplay.
The threats to face
Although humans are always the potentially most dangerous threat, the infected are also back in charge: in addition to the well-known Runner, Clicker and Stalker, The Last of Us Part 2 welcomes the Shamblerlarge, clumsy, well-protected and damn lethal creatures that, if approached at too close a distance, emit corrosive spores that burn the protagonist. But Ellie has tough skin: she is a fighter, agile, quick and lethal.
From the physicality quite different from that of Joel, the girl moves more quickly, strikes sharply, and manages to dodge the opponent’s assaults with precision. From the gameplay video, it looks like that dodge timing will be very important to get the better of enemies in hand-to-hand clashes: according to Druckmann’s words, with the right practice we will be able to understand in advance when to correctly calculate the time to dodge the shot, according to the different weapons wielded by the targets.
The clashes are therefore very physical, rough and terribly violent: Ellie does not hesitate to use an opponent as a human shield, and the contextual animations, linked to the use of the various objects on the scene, contribute to transmit a feeling of realism of great impact.
Always in the name of the freedom granted to the user from the expansion of the explorable areas, we will also be able to find manuals thanks to which to learn new weapon modification techniques, in order to further customize the style of play and clean up the different areas with approaches always new, directly related to the resources available to us. Dates similar premises, The Last of Us Part 2 recovers the playful logics of the progenitor to enhance its potential with game design choices which, if taken individually, certainly do not seem totally innovative, but which – once added together – give shape to an adventure characterized, at least in appearance, by a real attention to detail out of parameter.
A wickedness that is felt and listened to
The long gameplay demo shown at the end of the State of Play was chosen by Sony probably to highlight the distinctive characteristics of the production, in a scene in which more linear moments, portions of storytelling and more airy sequences in which to observe the artificial intelligence and the range of playful solutions available.
Ellie has now learned to to swim, can dive to escape the eye of the pursuers, or use some filthy body of water to emerge in another area of the map; in the same way it climbs, sneaks through the tall grass or between the air ducts, ready to hit its targets both in stealth, equipped with a bow and silencer, and with an open face, literally smashing the skulls of those on the its path.
Badness, in The Last of Us Part 2, is “felt”: on the one hand there is the physical backlash given by the incredible animations of the bodies that openly express their pain, and on the other the sound design has an intensity that is almost destabilizing. The muffled lament of who is slaughtered, the suffering yelp of a dog in flames, or the panic screams of who is flushed out are sound effects implemented with a force so realistic as to convey a sensation of uneasy feeling.
Consistent with the crudity of the story, centered – we remember – on Ellie’s journey of revenge, it seems that Naughty Dog wants to immerse us in this epic of hatred and brutality by making us warn the weight of every death. On the gaming side, we have only seen the surface of what The Last of Us Part 2 will offer us in the final version, yet from now on it is clear that the commitment made in structuring the level design reaches incredibly high processing levels : on the other hand, in the demo it is possible to notice rather large areas, both internal and external, where it is easy to glimpse alternative paths to take.
And so The Last of Us Part 2 does not seem willing to revolutionize its reference genre, but to ennoble it and enhance it to the full of the expressive abilities of the current generation: facial mimicry, sound design, attention to detail, dynamic direction, and script non-obligatory intertwine to compose an experience that – based on what is admired by the video – mixes with rare skill both the typical spectacularity of the adventure and the tacticism of the survival. All in the name of a ferocity for which – we are sure – there will be a very high price to pay.