In last week’s State of Play stream, Sony gave us their final glimpse of The Last Of Us Part 2 before launch on June 19th. Fortunately for you guys, we’ve been playing it, and here’s a sneak peek at the new gameplay area shown off on Wednesday. Please not that this preview will contain NO STORY SPOILERS.
It’s dusk in Seattle. A rusted old cinema marquee is above Ellie, with long grass having long devoured the road in front of her. The street lights aren’t on, but the air is filled with a heavy atmosphere, as the fading natural light casts elongated god-rays down the street. Abandoned vehicles line the road, their tyres popped and their bodywork rusted away. I’ve got to get to a hospital to find a woman named Nora, so I set off. Clambering through an old building brings me to a crossroads, and it’s at this point I catch my first glimpse. Infected. In a diner on the other side of the street. Upon realising the door is locked, I throw a brick at the window, but the instant my finger taps the R2 button, I realise that one of those infected is a Clicker. Panic sets in as the brick crashes through the glass, immediately alerting the corcyceps-infested inhabitants to my presence, and gifting them a fast way to get to me. Quickly, I switch to my shotgun, and prepare for the inevitable. The Clicker lunges forward, but using the L1 button sees Ellie duck and weave like a flyweight boxer and evade the attack, before unloading a shell, and turning a terrifying foe into a twitching mess on the floor. With only a single shot left, I take aim at the other Clicker, before engaging in a deadly dance-off with the remaining Runners, and proceeding to check out the diner for any useful supplies.
Based on this encounter, you might be thinking that it all sounds a bit too familiar. However, it’s in this subtlety that The Last Of Us Part 2’s mechanical changes begin to show. The combat still feels weighty, with real impact and damage behind each thing you do, but it also feels nimble and easy to control. Dodging feels natural, and the ability to smash any pane of glass not only helped to open up new areas, but also allowed me to crack open a vending machine and get some pills to upgrade Ellie’s skillset with. This segment also hammered home the point that you’re never safe. Upon going to upgrade my weapons at a workbench, I was jumped by a small group of humans. It was a fairly easy encounter, but it was a stark reminder that danger is lurking around every corner.
Dusk has given way to night. Ellie crawls up to a grass verge where some mysterious hooded figures are torturing someone. Having strung them up, they interrogate them and gut them. Their entrails cover the floor. An order is barked to “search for stragglers”. Checking Ellie’s inventory, I see that I don’t have enough ammo to take them all on, so instead I start distracting them with bottles, bricks and sneaking past them. Turning a corner, I find myself in the car park from the first gameplay reveal trailer in 2018. While navigating my way past these strange cultists, I end up running out in front of one of them. They whistle for support, and then charge me. The tension immediately ramps up, and I try to evade, rather than engage, once again.
There were three or four combat sequences in this preview stretch of gameplay, and each one offered up something different. Tackling a small number of infected head on resulted in some brief, noisy action. An area that reintroduced the terrifying “Stalker” enemies made my palms sweat pretty profusely. This section where I had to channel my inner Solid Snake and guide Ellie through a hostile landscape gave me some moments of genuine tension and stress, and the final, balls-out section as I stormed my way through a hospital against fighters from the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) was heart-pumping for all the right reasons. The violence is real, it’s gritty, and it can be quite tough to stomach at times. Hammers, crowbars, pipes, they all get used to an unnerving extent.
In amongst the combat and environments, I’m tasked with a couple of environmental puzzles that the first game did so well. Breaking up the moments of tension and action, these signal their arrival with a drop in the music and Ellie putting away her weapons. The first was to enter a hidden area to stock up on some supplies, and involved throwing a rope to create a climbing and swinging point, a mechanic lifted straight from Uncharted 4, but fitting into place like the final bit of a jigsaw right here. The second one took a little longer to fathom, as it required some precision timing with running and using the Triangle button to open up a roller door, but once I’d figured out what to do, it was just a case of honing that timing more than anything else. In all honesty, it was probably these moments of downtime that I enjoyed most during the preview, as it really allowed me to sit and contemplate what had just happened. While the tension and action may be relentless when you’re in the thick of it, the feeling of relief when you make it past an encounter in whatever fashion is so great that it’s got me eager to get my hands dirty with the rest of the game.
Eventually, the abandoned hospital is entered via a collapsed street. Emerging from the water reveals a lone WLF soldier playing on… Wait, is that a Vita?! “At least they’ll die doing what they love”, I think, as Ellie’s knife hits yet another windpipe, leaving the Hotline Miami soundtrack piercing the silence. Checking the ammo situation, I decide that I’ve got enough to forget about stealth and bring the fight to these bastards. A silencer crafted from a container and rags makes short work of dealing with the first three. As I attempt a stealth kill on the fourth, another sees me and shots start to ring out. Enemies flank, before unleashing several volleys of gunfire. I manage to get a few shots off and take out the remaining members. Eventually, Ellie crawls into an air duct. The elusive Nora is close. I watch through a grate as Nora goes into an office, Ellie following closely… “Don’t scream… Remember me? Yeah. You remember me”…
Quite who Nora is, I don’t know. But I know she’s linked to someone called Abby, and that Ellie is on the hunt. Back in the reveal trailer, we saw Ellie tell Joel that she’s going to exact her revenge, and “kill every last one of them”. In just over 2 weeks’ time, we’ll see if she succeeds…