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The Last of Us 2 release date: Joel and Ellie return in May

A surefire Game of the Year contender, but what details have we got about this much-anticipated sequel?

The Last of Us was an epic cinematic masterpiece that combined a moving story with brutal stealth-focused combat. Its critical and commercial success saw it pick up numerous Game of the Year awards and the announcement of its sequel at PSX 2016 was met with fervour by the legion of loyal PlayStation gamers in attendance.

Years have passed since those emotional scenes and information regarding the plot, characters, and gameplay has slowly trickled our way. We’ve seen a terrifying demo at Paris Games Week 2017, a gripping gameplay trailer at E3 2018 and a release date reveal trailer in September 2019. We’re now within touching distance of the game’s release, so let’s break down everything we know about the long-awaited Naughty Dog-developed title.

Read on to find out everything we know about The Last of Us 2.

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The Last of Us 2: Everything you need to know

The Last of Us 2: When is Part II coming out?

During PlayStation’s State of Play address in September 2019, it was announced that The Last of Us 2 would be landing on PS4 on February 21 2020. Just a month later we were hit with the crushing news that this had been pushed back three months. Assuming there are no further delays, we’ll be getting The Last of Us 2 on May 29 2020.

The Last of Us 2: What will Part II be about?

We already know that The Last of Us 2 will take place five years after the events of The Last of Us and that a nineteen-year-old Ellie will be taking the lead. We’ve been given a brief glimpse of some hooded individuals in the Paris Games Week trailer who refer to their prisoners as “apostates;” the woman who is about to be hanged – speculated by some to be Ellie’s mother – is seemingly being condemned for having “nested with sin.” These words – and the pretty fanatical people speaking them – point in the direction of some kind of cult; this was confirmed by Naughty Dog themselves at E3 2018, who named the cult the ‘Seraphites’ and explained that they weren’t too keen on outsiders.

We also know, thanks to the game’s director Neil Druckmann, that it will be a story about anger.

“If the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that,” Druckmann said at the game’s reveal at PSX 2016. “This story is about hate, through Ellie this time. The first game you play as Joel, this game you play as Ellie.”

The Last of Us 2: Everything we’ve seen so far

So far, we’ve had four trailers, increasing in length, intensity, and minor spoilers from one to the next. The initial trailer didn’t give us much to go on, showing us a bloody, guitar-playing Ellie surrounded by dead bodies, something we assume she is responsible for. You’ll also note that there’s no sign of Joel. Fans have been speculating that he might be dead, although Naughty Dog has already confirmed that Joel will definitely be in the sequel.

The second teaser trailer shown off at Paris Games Week 2017 didn’t include anything to do with Ellie or Joel’s story at all. Instead, we were introduced to several new characters in an extremely graphic, and frankly terrifying, trailer. This stuff is definitely not for children.

While we don’t have any clue what’s going on, it hasn’t stopped fans from speculating. Many are suggesting that the woman being hanged at the start of the trailer is Ellie’s mum, Anna. We never actually saw Ellie’s mum in the first The Last of Us game, but she was arguably ever-present as Ellie’s motivator. Naughty Dog even added fuel to the fire as it tweeted out pictures of the new characters, along with their names. While Yara, Lev and Emily are all named in the series of tweets, the woman being hanged is just indicated with a series of four black blocks.

An 11-minute long trailer at Sony’s conference at E3 2018 gave us our first real look at how The Last of Us’ core mechanics will be returning in a tantalising glimpse of gameplay as Ellie. In typical Naughty Dog fashion, the trailer is packed with heartfelt narrative and unrelenting violence. Brace yourself for more rated-18 content.

The gameplay is so seamless that many of the most crucial tidbits would go unnoticed if not for our highly-trained eyes. A touching cutscene confirms that Ellie AND Joel survived the events of The Last of Us, with a throwaway line from an unnamed character banishing any fears fans might have had about the original protagonist’s fate.

We’re barely given time to go doe-eyed at Ellie’s romantic pursuits before the actual gameplay kicks in, opening with some familiar close-quarters knife-in-windpipe action. It is immediately obvious that Naughty Dog will be building upon a solid foundation of core mechanics laid down by The Last of Us; even the weapon menu appears relatively unchanged for the brief second that it’s visible during the trailer.

So what’s new? Ellie is wielding a bow and arrow, which makes this the second time we’ve seen one of those in a Last of Us Part II trailer, and she’s pretty handy with it. In fact, the introduction of a bow is quite significant: traditionally, a bow is the game developer’s ranged stealth weapon of choice, which makes a nice change from the obnoxiously loud firearms that Joel was burdened with in the original game. Expect to be a little more effective at avoiding unwanted attention.

Notice also that the enemies are whistling to one another: this is an intentionally cryptic communication method, and is one part of a new AI that Naughty Dog is creating. This walks hand-in-hand with the fact that enemies now know each other by name, which brings an unusual dimension to your gameplay as you keep track of who is calling to whom. 

Quadricep-busting sneaking ensues: we happen to know that you’ll have a detection indicator, to make life a little easier. A short crawl towards the crest of a hill shows off the new prone function; Joel hadn’t mastered crawling on his belly, but Ellie, it seems, has no trouble with it. Next, we get a glimpse of a scene you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d seen before – the robed figures, busy hanging and disembowelling a captive, are surely members of the same shadowy group (the ‘Seraphites’) that featured in the Paris Games Week trailer in 2017.

From this point onwards, the trailer throws as much as it can at a combat sequence that flows so smoothly it doesn’t feel like a videogame at all. Contextual actions abound as Ellie takes more punches than she seems to be dishing out, subtly pointing out the dedicated jump and crouch buttons as she flees. The environment looks a little more roomy than perhaps we’re used to from The Last of Us, and interactions abound as Ellie chucks bottles, squeezes through gaps in shop displays, and grabs arrows from corpses that are seemingly just randomly placed. 

The September 2019 release date reveal trailer again focuses on Ellie, as she heads out of the security of town on a horseback patrol into the snowy wilderness. Horseback action looks to be more prominent this time around, with the Deluxe Edition of the game’s art book featuring Ellie firing her bow and arrow from the back of a steed, strongly hinting that we’ll be seeing more of this kind of combat.

After a brief reminder that the clickers are still a very real danger, we see Ellie searching for Dina, with whom she shared a kiss in the previous trailer. She enters a large cabin and is subsequently taken hostage by an unknown man. It’s not clear when this is all taking place but we then seemingly fast forward to Ellie on a vengeance mission, stating ominously “I have to finish it.”

The environments on show are breathtaking, as are the various ways in which Ellie kills; the montage featuring her laying both humans and clickers to waste with a huge array of weaponry is vivid and deeply visceral. The trailer culminates in Ellie being grabbed by an unseen assailant, who – surprise, surprise – turns out to be her old buddy Joel, who says “You think I’d let you do this on your own?” as the screen fades to black.

We won’t know how Joel and Ellie’s relationship plays out until we’ve got the game in our hands, but given the conclusion of The Last of Us, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Naughty Dog handles the return of one of gaming’s best realised and most impactful on-screen partnerships.

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