Naughty Dog and Sony released a new "Inside the Gameplay" video Wednesday detailing some of the biggest gameplay changes coming to The Last of Us Part II, confirming the sequel won't feel like the original in several major ways. This direct follow-up to May 13's "Inside the Story" video doesn't grapple with any of the leaks, but somehow feels even more surprising.
Players spend almost the entirety of the first Last of Us in the role of Joel, a grizzled middle-aged man who relies on his size and strength to survive. In the sequel, you play as an adult Ellie, who Game Director Neil Druckmann describes in the new video as "very small and more nimble compared to Joel."
"How do we make you feel like you're not the strongest person in the room?" Druckman says. "But you still should be able to rise to the challenge and survive a fight with a bunch of people that are bigger than you."
The characters, systems, and mechanics in the sequel were all redesigned to reflect this pivot in the design philosophy to a playable character that's more agile and sneaky than her predecessor.
Here are five intriguing ways this will play out in the sequel:
5. Ellie can jump now — "We added a jump button ... Ellie can jump," Druckmann confirms in the video, noting that the first game only had a climb button. "The combat scenarios are much more vertical. Ellie can use elevation to her advantage." The original game featured mostly horizontal environments, particularly for combat scenarios.
There were still plenty of opportunities to sneak around and distract enemies by tossing different items around the room, but this presents a new opportunity for players to strategize how'll they take out enemies from afar — or handle a group of enemies actively hunting Ellie down.
4. Prone options drastically change stealth — Ellie can now lie prone on the ground and crawl to move around. While in this position, she has full access to her inventory, presenting players with unprecedented options for sneaking around for a Naughty Dog game (even compared to Uncharted titles).
"Something so simple — again something that in real life you'd be able to do — letting the player have access to all their weapons, item, crafting, everything while in that position, it creates so many more emergent things in gameplay," Co-Game Director Kurt Margenau says in the video.
Druckmann explains the mechanic can be used for more than "just hiding in vegetation," noting "manmade things" and "different structures that have collapsed" as other places where Ellie can hide and investigate her surroundings.
However, enemy A.I. can detect Ellie if they check under a truck, for instance, and pull her out from underneath to try and kill her.
3. Dodge might be Ellie's best form of defense — Perhaps resembling Resident Evil 3 to some extent, The Last of Us 2 will feature a robust dodge mechanic that's crucial to how Ellie handles fighting multiple larger, more powerful enemies at the same time.
"Now, with dodge, any time you're in a scuffle, you have a chance to get away [or] to counterattack," Margenau says. "It lets escape be an option as well. Sometimes you just gotta run."
Whether it's dodging enemy gunfire or a swing from a machete, Ellie can use the mechanic to avoid taking damage rather than blocking. This seems like it'll make close-range combat more like a dance rather than a contest of strength.
2. Open level design makes some encounters optional — Whether it's Uncharted or The Last of Us, Naughty Dog games are often extremely linear. In other words, it's pretty much impossible to miss any story moments or combat encounters, because everything's presented as a rigid sequence of events. The Last of Us Part II won't be open-world by any means, but new features allow for more realistic explorable environments.
"That pushed us to make our level design even more open than it was in the first game," Co-Game Director Anthony Newman says. "We've gone so far that there are actually entire story moments, entire combat encounters, full scripted sequences that you may completely miss."
This holistic and immersive design approach means players could miss out on certain plot beats if they don't take enough time to explore.
1. Upgrades are permanent — One sequence late in the video implies that there'll be some kind of New Game+ mode, allowing players to revisit the story with previous upgrades.
"There aren't enough resources in a single playthrough to fully upgrade your character," Newman reveals, which is one feature that carried over from the previous game.
Gamers will have to make permanent choices that'll impact the rest of the game. Do you upgrade Ellie's bow with a better bowstring? Or do you add a silencer to your pistol? Choosing one might mean you never get to do the other, so you have to then live with these decisions and the long-term consequences.
The Last of Us Part II comes to PlayStation 4 on June 19, 2020.