February 21, 2020
Naughty Dog says that The Last of Us Part II is its biggest and most ambitious title to date. Recently, we got a small (two hour) taste of this ambitious project, but we walked away incredibly satisfied. It almost goes without saying that The Last of Us fans should be excited for the game’s launch on February 21, but here are four other big takeaways from our time with the game.
Prepare to feel rage
The original Last of Us explored a child/parent relationship between Joel and Ellie. Naughty Dog says that if the first game was about exploring that kind of love, then the sequel explores a completely different kind of emotion: rage.
Ellie grew up in a broken world – a planet where a fungal outbreak transformed most of humanity into zombie-like monsters. However, by the end of the first game, Ellie reaches a safe haven where it seems that she might have the chance to build a new life and experience some of the joys that many of us take for granted. As Part II opens, Ellie lives inside a relatively safe community of people and she even has the chance to explore a romantic relationship with another young girl named Dina.
However, at some point in the game, Ellie faces a tragedy that completely changes her outlook. Naughty Dog remains tight-lipped about the nature of this tragedy, but the event sets Ellie off on a quest for revenge. In The Last of Us Part II, we’ll get to see how Ellie behaves after she’s had the safety of a “normal” life ripped from her – we’ll get to see the lengths with which Ellie will go to punish those who have hurt her. You can see the pain etched into the lines in Ellie’s face every time she sneaks up behind an enemy and slides her knife into their throat. The Last of Us Part II isn’t a game for the squeamish.
Movement is key to survival
Like the first The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s action feels grounded and brutal. Enemies coordinate their attacks and even call to each other by name. Ellie’s luck can quickly run out of she is surrounded and outnumbered. One of the best strategies remains to stay hidden for as long as possible and pick off your foes one-by-one. Fortunately, environments are large enough that I found it easy to run and find a hiding spot to catch my breath. Still, enemies won’t forget that they saw you and are constantly on your heels, which adds a lot of tension to the action. I felt like I was constantly on the move – taking a few sections to loot a room or craft an item before I had to hide again from a roaming patrol.
Unlike Joel, Ellie now has a jump button, so she can scamper and climb all over the environment. Climbing over things is sometimes a great way to avoid your captures, but it can also make you easier to spot. I found that it was often better to go low. Ellie can both crouch or go prone. Laying down in tall grass makes Ellie harder to spot, but as enemies get closer they will be more likely to see you. In The Last of Us Part II, you’re never completely hidden or safe.
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New enemies help heat up the action
The Last of Us Part II’s enemies are smarter than ever. Not only will human foes coordinate their attacks, they have a few new tools to use while hunting you. One of those tools is actually man’s best friend. Humans now employ hunting dogs, and they will use them to sniff you out. Using Ellie’s hunter’s vision, you can see your own scent trail and watch these animals slowly follow that trail to your current position. Dogs are a challenge to stealth kill because they can sense you coming, so you need to take them down from a distance with a bow and arrow or some other silent weapon. Unfortunately, you will feel like a monster every time you kill a dog. At one point, a sniped a dog’s master, and the pup started to whine and paw at his master’s feet. I didn’t have the heart to kill the dog, which may have been a mistake, because the animal eventually caught my scent and hounded me until its teeth were in my throat.
Another new enemy is a version of infected called the Shambler. These lumbering brutes aren’t too fast, but they are tanks who can’t be stealth killed and will force you to burn through a lot of ammo. At one point, I smashed the glass of a vending machine to get at the goodies inside and I inadvertently alerted a Shambler who was next door. The beast charged into my room and startled me. I tried hacking at the monster with a hatchet, but the creature released a toxic plume of gas that sent Ellie coughing her way to an early grave. Shamblers are dangerous creatures, and you should feel no shame in avoiding a fight with these horror shows.
Crafting is still king
Crafting was an important element of the first game, and it remains a huge focus in the sequel. As you explore these dilapidated cities, you can scavenge old homes and commercial districts for ingredients to make new weapons and other supplies. As in the first game, the same ingredients can be used to make a health pack or a molotov cocktail, forcing players to make a strategic choice: do you heal up or give yourself another offensive tool to help clear out the next room? This strategic pattern is repeated multiple times in the crafting menu for The Last of Us Part II. You won’t always be able to make everything you want, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make something good.
One of the new gadgets I crafted is a trap bomb that can be strategically placed throughout the environment and triggers automatically like a landmine. I used these bombs occasionally to cover my tracks and they became a handy early warning system, alerting me whenever I was being followed.
Some crafting items will be locked behind the upgrade menu. As with the first game, Ellie finds pills throughout the environment, which she can use to upgrade her skills. I used some pills to allow Ellie to crawl faster and gain a larger boost from health packs, but you probably won’t find enough pills to upgrade Ellie completely. In fact, at one point, I found a hunting magazine that unlocked an entirely new upgrade branch filled with things like reduced weapon sway and faster movement speed while aiming. So, it’s possible that some players won’t even unlock or discover certain upgrades during their playthrough.