A treasure trove of The Last of Us Part II information was unearthed at the E3 Coliseum today, including revelations regarding the game’s combat and bi-linear story arcs.
The biggest bombshell was the discovery that the game will explore two different timelines. Fans have theorised that the second timeline could be anything from an exploration of Ellie’s mother to a pre-attack and post-attack Ellie following the destruction of Jackson, the first game’s final destination and the sanctuary in which the Part II trailer is set.
The most likely timeline set-up will likely be Ellie in pre-attacked Jackson and post-attacked Jackson. The reason being was the revelation that the church scene, as seen in the trailer, is set four years after the events of the first game in Jackson, whereas the gameplay demo is set five years after.
Essentially, in the year between those two events, something majorly bad happens in Jackson, which has clearly affected Ellie’s psyche, as seen in the cinematic trailer’s preference for hard cuts and dual timelines. There was no confirmation of the actual content of the timelines by Naughty Dog, though, so a wide array of alternate possibilities remain.
A multitude of gameplay improvements will be introduced too, ironing out issues seen in the first game. Part II will introduce new traversal and prone move sets, adding another dimension to the game’s tension-laden combat.
A new dodge and evade mechanic will be introduced as well, which will be incredibly important for Ellie’s hand-to-hand and melee combat. Realism is the major goal for Naughty Dog in combat here, so players can expect a more difficult, guerrilla-warfare style extension of the first game’s gun-heavy play.
To match this more versatile and gritty take on combat, the game’s level design will focus upon verticality, allowing for multiple path and resolutions to combat scenarios. The levels themselves will be designed more organically, with the effectiveness of stealth areas such as grass being dependent on lighting, foilage, and height.
In terms of combat fluidity, the developer wanted a greater emphasis on creative and emergent moments via an increase in options; Part II will add layers to the combat, including items, weapons, and stealth mechanics.
Regarding AI, Naughty Dog has massively improved the system to prioritise realism; enemies will now communicate, transmit information, and proceed through systematic check-ins to track Ellie down. The AI will react intelligently to the situation, including smaller changes in the environment such as sound.
A major gripe with The Last of Us was the omnipotence of the AI once the player has been spotted, which is being rectified in the sequel. In response to this AI telepathy, enemies will whistle and actually communicate once Ellie has been spotted. The effectiveness of this communication is dependent on the player’s stealth skills and/or reaction time.
The infected, which are yet to be extensively revealed in trailers, will be expanded with whole new classes. The major antagonists for the game will be a religious group called Seraphite.
For animation and graphical changes, The Last of Us Part II will be a more advanced type of the facial capture and mo-cap technology seen in Uncharted 4. A lot of work has been put into facial animation technology, with nuances of the face (including creases and folds) prioritised.
In terms of the whereabouts of Joel, who was absent from this year’s E3 trailer, he is to be found “somewhere out there in Jackson.”
For more details, check out the full E3 Coliseum with Naughty Dog below: