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The Last Of Us Part 2 Preview: Cruel, Cold & Unforgiving

The Last of Us Part 2 has been teasing and tantalising PlayStation gamers for the last few years, and after delays, leaks and everything in-between, we’re finally on the run-up to release.

I’ve been playing The Last of Us Part 2 for the last couple of days and I have a lot of thoughts on the game. There’s going to be a lot to unpack when I get down to reviewing the whole thing, but (thankfully) we’ve got time for that later down the line. Today we’re just going to be talking about one particular section of the upcoming Naughty Dog title, which showcases the search for a character named Nora in the decaying landscape of Seattle.

If you think that sounds familiar to you then you’re not mistaken, as some of the preview touches on the section of game that Sony showed off during the last State of Play. The good news here is that this is an entirely spoiler-free preview, so you can uncover your eyes, I promise.

Credit: Naughty Dog

This preview-friendly section of the game occurs around halfway through the story, and is around two hours in length. Ellie is almost unrecognisable from the rebellious 14-year-old we first met back in 2013. She’s a seasoned killer, a dedicated and dangerous woman who sticks to her guns in every sense of the phrase. She’s tracking down a character named Nora (for reasons which you’ll find out for yourself when you play), and she’s hell-bent on succeeding in her quest.

Her aim is to reach the hospital. To do so, Ellie needs to travel across Seattle, a grey and crumbling landscape which requires a lot of climbing and crawling to navigate across. Seattle has been heavily hit since Outbreak Day, and it makes for a bleak and hauntingly beautiful place to explore.

Though the game isn’t open-world, it’s definitely Naughty Dog’s most ambitious attempt to recreate the feeling of an open-world game. There’s a lot to explore, abandoned buildings to loot, and items to be scavenged. Despite being a linear game, the environment is crafted in a way which disguises this nicely.

Credit: Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog games are known for being fairly rigid when it comes to guiding players to the place they need to be, but the preview section of Part 2 is less heavy-handed with the idea. You can head straight to the hospital, or you can go for a wander beforehand. There’s seemingly endless things to discover in the streets of Seattle, from mini-puzzles to help uncover extra supplies, to optional Infected to kill in the hopes of finding more craftable goods. Even just within this two hour section of the game, it’s clear that multiple playthroughs will be needed to get the most from the experience.

Choosing to explore the streets of Seattle will lead to encounters with the Infected. Runners are a lot more zombie-like in this game than they previously were, and they somehow seem less threatening than their PS3 counterparts (I put that down to Ellie’s fierce nature and strength, which makes something like the problem of a Runner pretty trivial). You’ll meet a few different types of the Cordyceps-ridden dead on your travels to find Nora, but that’s something best discovered by yourself, when the time comes.

As you tackle the landscape, you’ll need to rely on your keen eyes to find the valuable resources you’ll need for crafting and healing. It almost goes without saying that taking the time to scout for ammo is never a bad decision. There’s a lot of options when it comes to weapon choices, with add-ons like the craftable Silencer giving you the opportunity to customise your weapons based on the scenario you find yourself in.

Credit: Naughty Dog

As you move closer to your destination, you’ll encounter the new enemies, the Seraphites, a cult-like group of killers who strike more fear into me than any Clicker ever could. The group scour the wooded park area that you find yourself in, send out spine-chilling whistles to each other as a means of communication. I’m a big fan of horror games, and though TLOU Part 2 definitely isn’t a horror game, there’s few things on this Earth that have struck as much fear into me as a sudden ear-piercing whistle from a Seraphite you hadn’t detected, ringing out from somewhere near you.

If you’re aiming for as few kills as possible, you’ll need to move with the grace and skill of an interpretive dancer to get by the group unnoticed. Thankfully, Ellie is pretty cat-like in her movements, and controlling her for a stealth run is a dream. Naughty Dog has previously stated its intent to make Ellie feel lighter and more spritely than Joel did in the first game, and her fluidity is clear in the preview. New game mechanics, such as the ability to jump and go prone, really make the stealth experience livelier and more realistic than ever before.

Once you’re through the Seraphites, and you’ve taken advantage of Ellie’s swimming skills, the next big section of the game is your destination: the hospital.

Credit: Naughty Dog

Sony’s State of Play showed off the area already, so I kind of knew what was coming. I decided to forgo the stealthy approach I’d taken with the Seraphites in favour of on all-guns-blazing takedown of the WLF gang who have set up camp in the building. It was a nice change of pace, and it demonstrated that Naughty Dog has put some serious meat on the bones of its combat.

Killing is brutal, and has never felt more realistic in a Naughty Dog game. Far removed from the trigger-happy Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series, Ellie kills with a personal vengeance that surpasses the game mechanics. Killing in this game takes a lot of your moral being and fibre. Your enemies will scream the name of their fallen comrade upon discovering their body, or gurgle as they choke on their blood after you’ve slit their throat.

Using melee weapons adds another dimension to the brutality. Whether you’re swinging a piece of pipe or a plank of wood, there’s something pretty special about the feeling, making for unusually satisfying kills. There’s an unavoidable human-ness to melee kills, which is both weighty and gratifying thanks to the solid mechanics, but also cold, cruel and calculative due to the attention to detail.

As you’ve probably seen in Sony’s State of Play, the sequence that we’re permitted to talk about here ends with Ellie confronting Nora. If you haven’t yet seen it, you can check out some of the gameplay we’ve spoken about here in the video below.

YouTube video

Rounding off this preview is a little tricky, because there’s rules that need to be followed when it comes to press coverage. I can’t talk about our impressions of the game outside of this section of gameplay, but I can tell you exactly what I said when the State of Play gameplay first aired: this certainly is one of the most brutal and ambitious ventures of the generation.

The Last of Us Part 2 launches exclusively on PlayStation 4, June 19. GameByte will share a full review of the game on June 12.

Featured Image Credit: Naughty Dog

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