Everything we know about 'The Last of Us Part II' video game
A sequel to the 2013 hit horror-thriller is on the horizon. Here are all the rumors and hints we've discovered about one of gaming's most anticipated sequels.
Since its critically lauded debut in 2013, fans of "The Last of Us" have been eagerly awaiting a return ticket to a post-apocalyptic America besieged by zombies. The action-adventure game, crafted by Israeli-American creative director Neil Druckmann and studio Naughty Dog, had emotion, drama and more thrilling, heart-pounding moments than some of the best Hollywood films.
“Through the interactions you form a bond that’s something you can’t do in a passive like a film or a book," Druckmann, who credits his storytelling to playing classic adventure games as a child in Israel, told the Telegraph. "You care for this other character because she is there helping you out. That, coupled with the story and the performances, creates a bond unlike anything you’ve seen in a video game before.”
While this summer's E3 gaming expo came and went without an official sequel announcement by Naughty Dog, there's still plenty of signs pointing to something on the horizon. Below is everything we currently know about one of the gaming world's most anticipated future titles.
The first teaser has arrived
At the 2016 Playstation Experience, organizers concluded the event with a veritable mic drop – stunning the audience with a four-minute teaser trailer for "The Last of Us: Part II."
According to Neil Druckmann, the reveal is a great relief to the entire Naughty Dog team.
"I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally be able to say that Ellie and Joel are back for another intense, harrowing, and emotional adventure,"he said in a blog post. "Like many of you, we have a deep love for the world of 'The Last of Us' and its characters, and while a sequel may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, that wasn’t the case. We knew that it needed to be a story worth telling and, perhaps more importantly, a story worthy of Joel and Ellie. After spending years on different ideas (and almost giving up), we finally uncovered a story that felt special – a story that evolved into an epic journey."
As for a timeline, the current language being thrown around is that the game is still in "early development." With this in mind, we expect 2019 to offer the most realistic release window for "The Last of Us: Part II."
The second trailer will make you wince
While the first "Last of Us" was high on character development and story, it was also extremely violent. At the 2017 Paris Games Week showcase, Naughty Dog gave us a brutal reminder of this fact with a new trailer that's almost guaranteed to make you instinctively shield your eyes.
According to Druckmann, the new characters shown in the brief clip are reflective of the ensemble tone that the new game will embrace. While Joel and Ellie will certainly be the main characters, it's clear that Naughty Dog is interested in fleshing out more of the survivors struggling to survive in post-apocalyptic America. As for the setting, who these new players are, and how they fit into the story, Druckmann says they're keeping those details a secret for now.
Our first look at gameplay is both gorgeous and gruesome
Ushered in by a special live performance by Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla, Naughty Dog presented the first gameplay footage from "TLOU 2" at Sony's 2018 E3 Press Conference. At times both sublime and horrifying, the 11-minute-long footage contrasted expertly between a budding romance under barn lights and a dramatic shoot-out in a lush nighttime forest. So fluid was the animation of Ellie under duress from a horde of enemies, that it was difficult to reconcile that this was actual gameplay and not some pre-rendered scene.
While no release date was shared in the wake of all the wild cheering that followed the gameplay's premiere, we're hopeful that 2019 is still a possibility. Naughty Dog expects to share more details during this week's E3, so fingers crossed we'll all be in the know soon.
It's set three years after the first game
As revealed during "The Last of Us: Part II" panel at PSX16, the events of the sequel will pick up three years after the first game when Ellie is 19-years-old. Druckmann also mentioned that while the first game featured players in command of Joel for most of the story, the sequel will flip the script and have Ellie take the lead.
The city of Seattle features heavily
After months of speculation, Druckmann finally confirmed during the 2017 Playstation Experience that a west coast city will play a big role in the sequel's story. “A large part of the game takes place in Seattle, which Reddit detectives have already figured out,” he said.
As for progress on the title, the creative director divulged that developers are further along than anyone expected.
"We’ve handed off a bunch of levels, there’s a bunch of stuff being worked on," Druckmann said. "We’re like 50 to 60% done."
Ellie and Joel performed their song live
Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, who voice Ellie and Joel respectively, surprised guests at the Playstation Experience with a live performance of a new song that reportedly features in the game. As usual, Druckmann was coy as to the song's true meaning.
"The thing about songs is that you can take them literally, or they’re a metaphor for something else," he told the audience after the performance. "And just like everything else we’re putting out there, we’re not going to say a whole lot about that song."
Druckman: No one is safe
Like the unexpected character deaths in "Game of Thrones" or "The Walking Dead," Druckmann was quick to remind fans that "The Last of Us: Part II" will not protect fan favorites from unfortunate events.
"There are stakes – there are real stakes. With 'The Last of Us', no one is safe," he said. "We want people to go into 'The Last of Us: Part II,' especially with this theme [of hate] and what we're trying to say with this game, is knowing that no one is safe - not even these two [Joel and Ellie]."
It may feature a canine companion
Dogs in video games are certainly nothing new, with games like "Dead to Rights" and "Fable II" making them an integral part of the storyline, however it appears that Naughty Dog is truly living up to their name in "TLOU 2."
Neil Druckmann recently tweeted a picture of a German shepherd pup sporting the same motion capture suit (or "mocap" for short) used to digitally capture the movement of actors. He added the hashtag #TheYearoftheDog.
While 2018 happens to be the Year of the Dog in Chinese Astrology, we're also hoping it's the year "The Last of Us 2" hits store shelves. Just let the digital pooch survive the zombie apocalypse, okay Naughty Dog?
Its dialog is inspired by a Netflix series
Speaking at the recent DICE Summit 2018, Neil Druckmann let slip that much of the dialog in "The Last of Us 2" was inspired by the Netflix series "The End of the F***ing World."
"There’s a show on Netflix called End of the F***ing World – which is so well written, acted, and quirky – has been totally inspiring the stuff we’re doing in [The Last of Us 2]," he shared.
One look at the trailer and maybe you'll be breathing a sigh of relief? I only say this because the teasers we've so far been shown for "TLOU2" have offered nothing but beautiful graphics and unfiltered misery. If Druckmann can channel even a little of "The End of the F***ing World"'s tongue-in-cheek humor, I won't need nearly as much therapy after playing the game as I'm expecting.
It has two major 'Westworld' connections
If you enjoyed the first season of HBO's hit science fiction drama "Westworld," you'll be thrilled to know that two alumni from the series are joining the "Last of Us" sequel.
The first is American actress Shannon Woodward, who plays the programmer Elsie Hughes on the HBO drama. She surprised her followers on social media recently by posting a selfie of her and Druckmann on a capture stage for the upcoming game. "I am embarrassingly over-excited here because I'm peaking," she gushed. "@Neil_Druckmann is letting me act in The Last Of Us: Part II."
While Woodward would not say what character in the game she might be playing, Internet chatter has her rumored to be a possible love interest for Ellie.
The other "Westworld" alum is none other than American screenwriter Halley Gross. According to Druckmann, Gross is a co-author on the screenplay for the game.
Writer Josh Scherr inadvertently confirmed its existence
Outside of "Uncharted" voice actor Nolan North's comments at Metrocon, Naughty Dog itself has been extremely careful on whether a sequel to "The Last of Us" was actually in motion. That changed last September when longtime staff writer Josh Scherr slipped up while discussing the work of animator Eric Monacelli.
"All the facial animation in the 'Uncharted' series was led up by Eric, here," Scherr said, "...and [on] the first 'The Last of Us.' Uh, did I say the first 'The Last of Us'?"
Druckmann has previously stated that any new projects won't receive full backing until a new single-player campaign for "Uncharted 4" ships sometimes in the near future. That said, the studio has previously split development between franchises, so a lot of the denial we've seen over the last two years could be just smoke and mirrors.
It will likely take 3-4 years to complete
In an interview with The Frame, Druckmann said that most games at Naughty Dog from start to finish take between three and four years to complete.
"'The Last Of Us' took three and a half years," he shared. 'Uncharted 4,' during its entire production, took a little over four years."
While we have no true way of knowing just how far along Naughty Dog is with "The Last of Us 2," we do know that they've never gone more than four years between sequels. If the studio is holding true to its story of zero development on another game until the "Uncharted DLC" is complete sometime in the future, that would mean a possible seven-year gap until another chapter in the post-apocalyptic world of "The Last of Us" kicks off.
The original voice of 'Ellie' would like to return
American actress Ashley Johnson, who provided the voice of Ellie in the first "Last of Us," recently revealed that while she's in the dark as to the sequel's development, she would be more than happy to be included.
"I feel like if they were to pursue it again, if they were to have another story for Ellie or Joel or that whole world, I would totally jump on board," Johnson told Gamespot. "But you know there's also a part of me that thinks, 'Man, the story could stand alone,' and sometimes we should just leave it alone. If they were to make another one, though, I would love to be a part of it."
As for American voice actor Troy Baker, who brought life to the character of Joel, he told the audience at Indy PopCon 2015 that there's still so much we don't know about his character.
"You know, spoiler, when you go from the prologue and then credits and then cut to 20 years later, you see a completely different guy," he said. "There's a part of me that wants to see those 20 years."
Thumbs up from both actors is good news for fans hoping for a return of Joel and Ellie to the world of "The Last of Us." Druckmann has previously stated that he would have to reconsider the story for the sequel if neither were interested in reprising the roles. "They are Joel and Ellie to me," he told Reddit.
'Uncharted 4' included a wild Easter egg
Naughty Dog is fond of leaving hidden clues and references to past and future titles, so-called "Easter eggs," throughout its games. Back in 2011, eagle-eyed gamers playing through "Uncharted 3" noticed a newspaper that hinted at an "unstoppable deadly fungus" spreading around the world. This fungus, which turns the dead into zombies, is the central plotline of "The Last of Us."
In the newly released "Uncharted 4," you can see a poster in the bedroom of Drake and Elena's daughter flanked by Polaroids and a postcard of Jerusalem, a possible shout-out to Druckmann's native country.
The poster itself reads "The Last of Us: American Daughters," showing a pregnant woman in a mask. Fans have long speculated that a sequel to "The Last of Us" might actually end up being a prequel, with more time showing the downfall of the world and the transition of its survivors. Could this pregnant woman possibly be Ellie's mother? Or is this Ellie in the future?
Of course, because this Easter egg also has the logo for Dark Horse Comics at the bottom, its entirely possible that this is a teaser for another comic series based on the franchise. Back in 2013, Druckmann and Canadian cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks published a four-issue series through Dark Horse called "The Last of Us: American Dreams." Regardless, it's clear that Naughty Dog has plenty of ideas for stories within the franchise for a sequel.
Composer Gustavo Santaolalla will return to score
In the world of video game soundtracks, Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla's score for "The Last of Us" is considered one of the more hauntingly beautiful. The minimalist compositions, anchored by the ranroco, a small stringed instrument similar to the mandolin, evoke both melancholy and hope.
"I was seeking the music to be abstract, but I always try to not to make it manipulative; it does not indicate what you have to feel," he said in a May 2013 interview. "It has to accentuate feelings, but it cannot tell what feeling you have to have at any times."
Santaolalla, who admitted he never imagined himself writing music for a video game, enjoyed the creative process so much that he says he'd love to return to score the sequel.
"Currently there is no other project and I hope to do another 'The Last of Us,' but now everybody wants to take a break," he added.
Update: As heard in the above teaser for "The Last of Us: Part II," and confirmed in the accompanying panel, Gustavo will return.
Fans are having fun with fake promotions
Our favorite comes from YouTube user Fabien White, who crafted this trailer for a 3D cinematography project at his college.
"Though most of the video is open to interpretation, I was going with events after the first game that perhaps the town Joel and Ellie find at the end of the game wasn't so safe," he said. "They are now once again on the run trying to survive and this cabin is currently where they are holding up."
There's also this great start screen mockup
A mockup by artist Vin Hill of what a possible 'Last of Us 2' start screen could look like. (Photo: Van Hill/ArtStation)
Part of what made "The Last of Us" so moving was its quiet moments, a rare dramatic treat in gaming. The opening start screen was no exception, showing a broken window flanked by ragged curtains and losing a battle with nature.
In homage to this moment, former Ubisoft artist Vin Hill spent an estimated 10 hours crafting his own gorgeous version of a start screen for the sequel. Hill took elements from the teaser trailer, such as Ellie's guitar, and wove them together using personal photos to form an eerily beautiful image.
"I took a few hours and headed outside with my SLR to take some texture pictures," he wrote on ArtStation. "I was pretty lucky in that my in-law's place in the mid-west has a ton of abandoned cars and stuff which is overgrown with vines all over their land."
Someone get this guy a job at Naughty Dog immediately!
You can see a dynamic version of the backdrop below.
The 2017 'Outbreak Day' poster drops some new hints
In celebration of the 4th annual "Outbreak Day on September 26, the date in the first game when the fictional virus is unleashed on mankind, Naughty Dog released a commemorative poster that includes a few hints about the sequel.
In addition to the strong arm wielding a hammer, you ca also see what appears to be the image of wolf's face in the flames rising up from the rusted car and into the pine trees above. And speaking of trees, the setting of the poster strongly seems to confirm rumors that much of the game will take place in the Pacific Northwest; possibly including, but not limited to, what remains of Seattle.
In addition to the poster, Naughty Dog also released a "Last of Us: Part II" branded t-shirt and a theme for the PS4.
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