There are only a few months left to wait until we can all finally get our hands on The Last of Us 2 – and we’re getting excited.
The ending of The Last of Us was pretty conclusive. But as it turns out, that hasn’t stopped developer Naughty Dog from cranking out a sequel in the form of The Last of Us 2 – or, The Last of Us: Part 2 if we’re using its proper name.
Given the first game was hailed by players and critics alike as a masterpiece with excellent, emotional storytelling and engaging, realistic characters, we have to admit that the decision to release a follow-up isn’t particularly shocking. We’d probably have been more surprised if there wasn’t one. And yet, when The Last of Us 2 was first announced, we’d be lying if we said our hearts didn’t skip a beat.
The Last of Us 2 was first announced by Naughty Dog at PlayStation Experience in 2016 alongside a teaser trailer, but it wasn’t until September 2019 that we were finally told the game’s initial release date of February 2020 during a State of Play livestream. However, Naughty Dog later announced that the release date has been delayed by a few months, and we now know we’ll be joining Ellie and Joel again in May 2020.
Now we’re into 2020 there’s not long to wait, so let’s break down everything we know about the highly-anticipated The Last of Us 2 so far.
[UPDATE: The Last of Us 2 is facing a crunch controversy. Read on to find out more.]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The sequel to the critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic game The Last of Us
- When can I play it? May 29, 2020
- What can I play it on? PlayStation 4 and probably PS5 (rumors of PC)
The Last of Us 2 release date
The Last of Us 2 was initially due to release on February 21, 2020. However, Naughty Dog later announced that the game’s release date was being pushed back to May 29, 2020.
The game’s director, Neil Druckmann, apologized in a blog post and explained that the developer wanted to prioritize game quality over a punctual launch.
“We realized we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality,” Druckmann wrote.
It seems The Last of Us 2 is still on track for this new release date and it’s been confirmed the game will launch on PS4. However, it’s possible we will see The Last of Us 2 as a cross-generation title, launching on PS5 also. Although, neither PlayStation nor Naughty Dog have confirmed if this is the case yet.
The Last of Us 2 trailers
The most recent trailer for The Last of Us 2 is also its (initial) release date announcement trailer. Shown during the September 2019 State of Play stream, it revealed the game’s initial release date and shows Ellie in action as well as a glimpse at Joel.
Check it out below:
Probably the most emotion-evoking Last of Us 2 trailer was shown during E3 2018. This trailer finally gave us a look at Ellie in an intimate scene before cutting away to some of the brutal but stealth-based combat we can expect to see in the game when it’s launched.
The gameplay sequence gives us a look at Ellie fighting for her life in the wild. Success in a fight appears to require the right balance between stealth and all out attack as damage seems to have a more realistic impact. Ellie can move quietly between areas, taking weapons from bodies and crafting, before bursting out and taking down her enemies. It’s a different creature in many ways to the original The Last of Us but it looks like something to look forward to, with more advanced enemies to challenge us and more complex gameplay to thrill us.
See the gameplay for yourself below:
The Last of Us Part 2 had another trailer drop during PSX 2017. During a panel it was confirmed that the game will be set in the city of Seattle and the darker themes we know are coming were touched upon. You can watch the panel for yourself below:
Another trailer for the game was shown at Sony’s press conference during the 2017 Paris Games Week. This trailer is around 5 minutes long, focusing on conflicts between the human factions in the game. It shows that part 2 is going to have a dark story, perhaps even darker than the first, and the trailer is fairly harrowing to watch.
Visually impressive though it is, do note that it’s gory before you watch it for yourself below:
The first look at The Last of Us 2 came with its announcement at PlayStation Experience in 2016. Despite the fact that the game was early in development, the trailer showed a full (non-gameplay) scene that features both Ellie and Joel. You can watch it below:
The Last of Us 2 news and rumors
A recent report from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has opened up discussion over crunch practices at The Last of Us 2 developer, Naughty Dog. According to Schreier’s development sources, despite best efforts to avoid it, crunch is still happening at the studio and that the game’s delay hasn’t alleviated overlong working hours. Schreier states that, for some, being on the team means “working upwards of 12-hour days and even weekends when the studio is in crunch mode, sacrificing their health, relationships, and personal lives at the altar of the game.”
Following the publication of the report a former animator for the developer, Jonathan Cooper, posted his own experience of crunch practices to Twitter, adding that one of his friends was hospitalised due to overwork.
The reason I left is because I only want to work with the best. That is no longer Naughty Dog. Their reputation for crunch within LA is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project. As such we loaded up on film animators.March 12, 2020
Sony and Naughty Dog are yet to make an official comment on the report, though Naughty Dog VP, Neil Druckmann, posted praise for the studio’s animators on Twitter. Schreier’s report is an interesting deep-dive into Naughty Dog’s reputation and asks important questions about just how sustainable crunch practices (which are believed to be a problem throughout the industry, not just with Naughty Dog) actually are.
In a thrilling sign that the release date of The Last of Us 2 really is drawing closer, images of the European steelbook cover of the game have appeared on Reddit. The covers don’t give much away about the game’s still-closely-guarded plot but they do offer fantastic watercolor portraits of our protagonists Ellie and Joel looking far more mature than they did in the first game. These covers are likely to be a must-have for big fans.
Coming to TV
The Last of Us franchise has been confirmed as coming to TV following an announcement on Twitter from HBO. The series is being led by Craig Mazin, who previously worked with HBO on the highly-acclaimed Chernobyl series, and Neil Druckmann, co-director and writer of the games, will be writing the series with an executive producer credit too. This is to be the first production from Sony Interactive Entertainment’s film and TV arm, PlayStation Productions and at the moment it only has a release date of “coming soon”.
TLOU 2 will “redefine triple-A”
It seems Naughty Dog is pretty confident about The Last of Us 2, with the game’s co-director, Anthony Newman, tweeting that it will “redefine triple-A in 2020”. Check out the tweet below:
we bout to redefine triple-a in 2020 ¯_(ツ)_/¯February 14, 2020
An update and a PAX East demo – canceled
Naughty Dog has given an update on the progress of The Last of Us 2, writing on the official blog that it’s “entered the final stretch of production” and the team is “putting the finishing touches” on things.
In addition to that tantalizing bit of information, the developer announced that The Last of Us 2 would getting a playable demo at PAX East. However, PlayStation has since canceled its PAX East appearance over concerns about coronavirus – meaning the demo won’t be available.
Members of the public would have had the chance to play an early area of the game called “Patrol” that features Ellie and Dina. The demo was due to be around an hour long and was apparently just a “small glimpse” of what the full game will offer. Guess we’ll just have to wait a few more months…
Ashley Johnson has been honing her archery skills
Ellie actor, Ashley Johnson, has revealed she took archery lessons in preparation for The Last of Us 2. In an episode of Retro Replay, Johnson hesitantly said that her desire to take up the sport “came from wanting to get at better at that skill for… I don’t know if I can say this… for the second game.”
We’ve already seen Ellie wielding a bow in trailers for the game, but perhaps we’ll be relying on it as a primary weapon in the upcoming sequel. Although, Johnson did point out that her desire to learn archery isn’t indicative of how heavily a bow and arrow will feature in the game.
Much more violent and sexually explicit
The Last of Us 2 sounds like it’ll be much more violent and sexually explicit than its predecessor, if its ESRB rating is anything to go by.
However, the content warning describes ‘blood and gore’, ‘intense violence’, ‘nudity’, ‘sexual content’, ‘strong language’ and ‘use of drugs’. And, while The Last of Us’s rating warned of ‘blood and gore’, ‘intense violence’, ‘sexual themes’ and ‘strong language’, it seems that Naughty Dog is upping the nudity and sexual content in the game’s sequel.
While we’re not surprised that The Last of Us 2 is going to be extremely violent (the trailers have suggested that), this will be the first Naughty Dog game to feature nudity.
But what does that mean we can expect? Well, as GameSpot points out, the ESRB defines ‘nudity’ as “graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity”, while ‘sexual content’ is defined as “non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity”.
That means we’ll be seeing a lot more nudity and sexual scenes than we did with The Last of Us, which had a “sexual themes” descriptor that warns about “references to sex or sexuality.”
We’re not sure exactly what form this will take, and the ESRB hasn’t published the rating publicly, but it looks like things are about to get much sexier in The Last of Us.
Pointing out Parallels
Fans have been noticing some neat visual parallels between The Last of Us and The Last of Us 2. And Creative Director Neil Druckmann has been noticing this noticing. Picking up on a recent tweet comparing the beginning and end scenes from both games, Druckmann pointed out that these won’t be the only parallels.
It’s a teasing comment that’s left many fans asking for more information and some are theorising that there could be narrative and visual parallels between the games. Regardless, those who enjoyed the original game are likely going to be happy to see any nod of acknowledgement which will tie the titles together in a more meaningful way.
Not the only parallel between the two games. 😉 https://t.co/Fc2orTJ5jaDecember 16, 2019
New job listings
Naughty Dog has posted a mysterious job listing recently for an online systems programmer for a new online experience. While the listing doesn’t detail which game the person will be working on, there are naturally some rumors milling around that it could be for an online experience related to The Last of Us 2, though there’s an argument to be made for another Uncharted instalment.
Last year, Naughty Dog confirmed that The Last of Us 2 won’t launch with an online mode due to a wish to completely focus on the game’s substantial single-player story. However, it was added that something would be coming eventually and separately from the main game. We won’t know for certain what game this online project is related to but it’s exciting to see that something is in the works.
There’s been another job-listing recently that also hints at some exciting news: could The Last of Us 2 be coming to a PC near you?. There’s been a lot of online speculation recently thanks to a LinkedIn job posting, which specifies some interesting skills for a graphics programmer to be part of the team working on The Last of Us 2 – including PC programming chops.
Halley Gross Interview
Narrative lead and co-writer of The Last of Us 2, Halley Gross, has been talking to Official PlayStation Magazine (via Wccftech) about working at Naughty Dog and writing the character of Ellie.
In the interview, Gross praised her colleagues at Naughty Dog as “wizards” and said that they’re working together to “make the most complex, nuanced character in a videogame”. This character is undoubtedly Ellie who Gross touches on later in the interview.
Ellie, Gross explains, is a traumatized character on a “mission for justice” who is, overall, “driven by love” for other characters like Joel and Dina.
According to Gross, the narrative is about seeing who Ellie “can become when she grows up in such a hostile environment.” This, unfortunately, means putting Ellie in difficult situations which will test her values and her drive: “while we love Ellie, and we’re really excited to see her grow up, we’re certainly not going to coddle her”.
Neil Druckmann Interview
In an interview with the official PlayStation Blog, Neil Druckmann cast some light on what we can expect from The Last of Us Part 2 when it’s released later this year.
Rather than throw in new enemies just because they can, Druckmann says that the studio has carefully considered new Infected additions like the Shamblers. These new enemies emit clouds of burning acid and will force players to consider how they approach combat in a different way, especially when they’re appearing alongside the fast Runners and powerful Clickers.
Human enemies are also more dynamic. According to Druckmann, every human enemy in the game will have a unique name so that when they die their comrades might scream out their name in grief. Human enemies can become emotional and unpredictable, making combat more dynamic and realistic.
Fans of visuals will also be happy to know that The Last of Us 2 will be making the most of the power of the PS4 like The Last of Us did with the PS3 before it. This means, according to Druckmann, that the game is “able to have much wider environments, sequences with a horde of infected, several squads of enemies looking for you in big spaces.”
Similarly, this has made it possible to give Ellie and all of the other characters a new animation system called motion mapping making their movements more responsive and more realistic:
“The fidelity we can get in the faces and the motion capture — we can better translate what the actors are doing on stage into the game, and get these nuances so we can rely more on the way someone blinks or the way they squint instead of lines of dialogue. It allows the writing to be much more nuanced than it’s been before.”
The Last of Us 2 is going to be an ambitious game. So ambitious that the adventure will be split across two discs. Following Sony’s State of Play livestream where the game’s release date was confirmed, it was confirmed in retail listings that Ellie’s adventure will be sold in two discs. At the very least you’ll be getting them together and not years apart.
There are few things more frustrating than a completely incompetent ally in a combat scenario when you’re playing a game and, fortunately, it seems that won’t be a concern with The Last of Us 2. In an interview with GameSpot, the game’s co-director Anthony Newman said that the team took criticisms with regards to allies in the first game on board and are looking to rectify them in the sequel.
“In the past in almost all of our games, the allies have done kind of fake damage, where you see them shoot enemies and it’s a little bit theatrical—like their bullets are clearly doing way less damage than yours,” Newman said.
For The Last of Us 2, however, ally bullet “do exactly as much damage as yours do” so players can count on the AI to help them.
During September 2019’s Sony State of Play event, it was confirmed that The Last of Us 2 will not launch with a multiplayer element. In a tweet, Naughty Dog stated that its main focus for the game’s launch is its single player which is “far and away the most ambitious project Naughty Dog has ever undertaken”.
An update regarding multiplayer: pic.twitter.com/CUd98LgJGCSeptember 27, 2019
Although it was no slouch in the gameplay department, it was the story told by The Last of Us that stuck with us for months afterwards. Naturally Naughty Dog had to give us some kind of hint about where the sequel would go.
At the moment we know The Last of Us 2 will take place in the city of Seattle, five years after the end of the original game, with a 19 year old Ellie taking the starring playable role. Joel will still appear in the game but if the teaser trailer is anything to go by, he could be a much more passive presence.
This time around, Ellie is extremely angry about…something. From what we saw from the teaser trailer she wants revenge, which to her appears to be a dish best served deadly.
She does, after all, promise to “kill every last one of them.” It’s not clear who “them” is but it could signal that the Fireflies, the first game’s well-meaning but morally grey antagonists, will make a return. Anger, hate and revenge are going to be key themes this time around so expect to be in for an emotionally heavy ride.
In the trailer for the game shown at Paris Games Week in 2017, we got a look at how dark the game is likely to be. The trailer focuses on the opposing relationships between human characters in the game and features some seriously cringe-inducing violence.
It doesn’t tell us much about any new characters of how they’ll relate to one another but it does confirm that we’re going into a dark game world in The Last of Us part 2.
In a recent panel at PSX both Druckmann and Gross said that though the game’s story will indeed be dark and there’ll be a focus on the theme of hate, “there is hope” and there will be “lighthearted moments.”
We can’t pretend we’re not relieved to hear this after the game’s controversial Paris Games Week trailer which, Druckmann said, was intended to highlight the game’s exploration of the pursuit of justice.
Ellie is one of the most real and refreshing characters we’ve seen in gaming so it’s exciting that Naughty Dog are going to take her story further and put her in center stage.
The creative director of the game, Neil Druckmann has said that the story will be about Ellie and Joel’s relationship and that though the story would be complementary to the story of the first game, it would be much larger.
When asked at a PSX panel whether or not Joel or Ellie may die, Druckmann responded that “no one is safe” highlighting that the game’s story really could go anywhere.
Hopes are particularly high for this larger story as it’s been revealed that one of the writers of Westworld, Halley Gross, will be co-writing the game’s story. Having someone who’s written scripts for such an incredibly popular and successful show should be a boon for the game’s story.
E3 2018 brought us our first proper look at the gameplay in The Last of Us Part 2. Given Ellie is now the leading playable character, it was expected that things would be a little different from the first game and the presentation at the show made this fairly clear.
Ellie will have some moves similar to Joel but there are some things she’ll be able to do that are completely different. For one thing she can jump – the new jump button should make the world of The Last of Us Part 2 more complex and more enjoyable to traverse. It also has the potential to make combat more interesting. Speaking of combat, Ellie doesn’t really throw punches as her first form of attack, she has a stealthy knife. Melee combat generally appears to offer a little more than the original game, with evasions and an environment that can help as well as hinder your fighting.
Not only has Ellie matured as a character, the enemies she faces have developed and they’re more realistic than ever. The Infected in The Last of Us Part 2 are smarter and more reactive than their predecessors, making them a tougher foe to face. AI has improved, allowing enemies to communicate with one another and to look for Ellie when she’s hiding. Expect some tense moments to arise from this.