We've had to wait for an entirely new generation of consoles to see the sequel to Ellie and Joel's adventure, but this time round things are set in stone, and players can get their hands on The Last of Us 2 from 19th June onwards. It's been a long wait, but without revealing too much, you'll quickly understand why the game required so much development time.
- Contents of the preview: These first impressions are based on a select portion of the game and will be focused on the gameplay. You can read our complete review of The Last of Us 2 on the 12th June
Diving Back into Anger
Though it isn't perfect, the survival blueprint at the heart of The Last of Us blends intelligently with its impactful third-person stealth gameplay. For Part II, Naughty Dog has decided to set the game in a variety of excellent bases, all while implementing a new layer to the game thanks to a multitude of adjustments and new features. Newcomers to the series will find themselves on even footing with seasoned veterans, though they may stuggle to come to terms with how much slower Joel is than Ellie. The game features several concepts that have already been explored in Uncharted 4, such as environmental puzzles, through wires that must be tightened and loosened, and incredibly vertical levels that incentivise a more discrete approach. Naughty Dog have made stealth even more satisfying by expanding Ellie's movement animations with their trademark attention to detail. Working your way though the game's arenas showcases the immense work carried out by the development team: Ellie squeezes through narrow spaces, climbs up ledges, and camouflages herself in tall foliage with a fluidity that demands respect.
This additional movement was most notably displayed during a gameplay sequence in the State of Play and it had a precise impact on how a fight played out: the movement made running away from gunshots a lot simpler, allowing Ellie to calmly reposition herself until the fighting stopped. On paper, this may not seem like anything new, but the way that these mechanics overlap in-game helps players feel completely invested. As for enemies, the Infected are know how to raise the tension up a level, and certain new, more depraved variants will directly challenge the way you usually take down enemies with their more erratic behaviour. Their intelligence, however, can sometimes be found wanting, but even still, this is much improved from the first instalment in the series. Once things have settled, and all that's left to mask the voices of the protagonists is the sound of birdsong, arenas become well-proportioned areas for exploration, with features to keep players hooked — something that we'll touch on in our full review.
Murder, Death, & Destruction
There's no point skirting around it: The Last of Us 2 is a brutal game in every sense of the word. The shocking visuals and the uncomfortably realistic, unrelenting depiction of firearms depicts a stark violence which may put sensitive players at unease. It's no coincidence that the guard Ellie assassinates is playing Hotline Miami. They both share a very liberal depiction of violence, so whether you find that enjoyable or not is up to you. The violence is made credible by a variety of small details. While won't cover all of these examples here, the most striking is definitely the tears and cries of agony your dying enemies will make if they've not been hit in a vital spot, so ready yourself for that. The rapid crafting mechanic makes its return, as does Ellie's progression system in its entirety, though this time round with added improvements. Finding Items hidden within the environment will still allow you to unlock passive skills in your talent tree.
Coupled with technology that seems to spell the end of this generation of consoles, The Last of Us 2 seems to feature gameplay directly inline with the formula from the first episode. And even though you'll have to wait a bit longer to hear our full thoughts on it, there is a lot to discover when it comes to gameplay. All we can do is advise you to continue to steer clear of any type of spoiler, as there isn't much longer to go until release and the reward is well worth the wait. It would be a shame to flounder so close to the goal.
With our full review drawing ever closer, we're smitten with The Last of Us 2. The gameplay mechanics are much improved from the first instalment in the series and allow you to explore levels that have designed to be more interesting and much richer in content. It's rare that you get a AAA game with this level of brutality and realism, all of which is underpinned by a strong gameplay formula, which we'll leave to you to discover. Ellie is quite the a capable protagonist for this type of adventure.