Part II picks up the story several years after the end of the first game, when Ellie and Joel have settled in a protected community in Jackson, Wyoming. Ellie is now 19, and just as she is beginning to gather a life for herself, disaster strikes in a form that that will likely wait until the game’s release to discover. Ellie sets out alone in pursuit of retribution and justice.
While the game includes varied locales including snowy areas near Jackson and lush forest zones in the Pacific Northwest, the bulk of the story is told in the old quarantine zone of Seattle. There, we see that Ellie has a host of new navigation options, including jumping gaps, and using ropes to swing to new platforms or for tactically bypassing enemies. She also regularly makes use of horseback riding and a motorboat to get around.
Seattle is a warzone between competing factions. The Washington Liberation Front (WLF) is one of the two factions, made up of militaristic and well-equipped soldiers who often use guard dogs to track down their targets. The other major human faction are the tribalistic Seraphites, or Scars, who ritualistically scar their bodies and faces, and use more stealth-oriented combat methods.
In addition, the Infected also fill the area, including old and familiar types from the previous game, like Clickers, Runners, and Stalkers, along with new types, like the armored Shamblers, which explode when they come near.
To navigate all these threats, Ellie has new options for navigating encounters, including hiding in tall grass, breaking glass to open up new paths, and crawling through tight spaces. She also has a wide array of crafting and customization options for her equipment and weapons, and after using a workbench, her items reflect the changes in their cosmetic appearance. She’ll also have allies that help out in a fight. Whether it’s her, or her friends, the takedowns exhibited reveal that Naughty Dog is certainly not shying away from brutal, harsh violence. Ellie’s battles are visceral and often gruesome.
After walking us through some of the details, the State of Play presentation opened up into a single uninterrupted gameplay sequence.
We see Ellie swimming in a forested area with the city in the background. She is being hunted.
She swims underwater and emerges in an industrial basement of some sort, swimming up behind seemingly helpless enemy woman, extracting info on the woman she’s trying to find, and then killing her when the woman pulls a knife. Ellie climbs out into the open, into the grounds of what turns out to be a hospital. She kills some more of her foes on her path through the area, staying stealthy for a time before the alarm is raised. She preps a Molotov cocktail and then flings it down onto a passing guard and dog, and then makes a run for it. By using her last known location as a reference, she sneaks behind yet more of her foes and mercilessly drops them. After some brutal throwdowns using a variety of weaponry, she blocks off a stairway, and reaches her target – the upper area of the hospital. Climbing through some air ducts, she eventually tracks down the girl she’s looking for – Nora – and they recognize each other, presumably from a dramatic event earlier in the game. And then the demo fades out.
From this 20-minute presentation, Naughty Dog clarifies much of what we already expected from the game. That is to say, the technology on display is remarkable, the tension and intense violence in encounters is hard to watch, and the storytelling is taut and exciting. It’s great to see more of the game in action. And unless the extreme violence is more than you want from your games these days, there’s every reason to expect that the high caliber we’ve come to expect from both the studio and the franchise are on track to continue with this new game.
The Last of Us Part II launches June 19 on PlayStation 4.