Last weekend Naughty Dog bestowed gamers world over with an early Christmas miracle as the developer announced a sequel to their 2013 critical smash, The Last of Us. Titled The Last of Us Part II, the reveal came with a shiny new trailer that perfectly stunned and amazed fans and a panel discussion that revealed a few minor details.
Amongst the details, players learned we will assume the role of Ellie who, five years since the last game ended, is 19 years old and out for revenge. The game will also reportedly run on a completely new engine and for fans of Naughty Dog games, you’ll know what a big deal this is.
For me, the first Last of Us is one of the best games on modern consoles. Whilst it does have it’s flaws, overall it is one of the most solid games that I have had the pleasure of completing four times (twice on PS3 and twice on PS4).
Yet, there’s always room for improvement right? Here’s five things I’d like to see in the Last of Us Part II.
Less linear levels
The Last of Us is an incredible game that tells a heart-wrenching and surprisingly touching story of love, loyalty and bravery. However, with the focus so heavily placed on the characters and story, the levels themselves are very straight-forward and linear in design to allow the story to play out.
On occasion the player is encouraged to explore and scavenge for supplies but seldom do you stray from the path set out in front of you. Naughty Dog could improve on this by making levels much more open and give the player more freedom on how to approach a particular area.
I’m not suggesting the game becomes open world. However, what we have seen from games such as Dishonored, we can still be creative and find alternative paths to complete a section in a single level. This would give the game greater diversity and allow the player to choose how they want to approach a certain situation.
Better developed secondary characters
The first Last of Us rightly focused on the development of Joel and Ellie’s relationship so that by the end you understood their bond and the reasoning behind Joel choosing to save Ellie over the rest of humanity. Unfortunately this meant that very few secondary characters were given time to shine and become more than a sidekick or villain for that particular chapter. For example, Tess seemed a prominent character in the early stages of the game but beyond a few references to her past capers with Joel, wasn’t given much development before three became a crowd and she was disposed of.
According to reports, Naughty Dog “are adding an LGBT character who is going to be one of the leading characters in the game”. One theory behind Ellie’s mission for revenge is that she falls in love with this character and they are taken from her; prompting the desire to bash in some skulls. It would be a shame if this character wasn’t fully utilised as there could be a real opportunity to develop them and their possible relationship with Ellie. This would add more weight to the situation if they were to be killed and will make the player get behind Ellie in her quest for revenge.
It’s no secret that The Last of Us didn’t have the most complex puzzles known to games. It did involve some light puzzle solving but these mostly involved picking up and moving ladders, crates and boxes to progress to the next area. These got very repetitive quite quickly and there’s only so many times you can plonk Ellie on a crate in order to cross a river. Unfortunately this is quite disappointing as Naughty Dog is known for making interesting and challenging puzzles for their Uncharted series.
There’s certainly scope for The Last of Us Part II to build on its puzzles. It’s not necessary to introduce an Uncharted level of riddles but a little more variety would go a long way. During the PSX panel, it was revealed that Ellie would have a different play style to Joel so perhaps she will be more thoughtful and intelligent in her style as opposed to Joel’s more brute force approach.
More types of infected
There were four main types of infected in the first game – Runners, Stalkers, Clickers and Bloaters. Each type is meant to represent various stages of the infection and are very well utilised throughout the game. Being in a dark room with a group of Clickers was certainly one of the most chilling moments from the game but I think there is an opportunity to introduce new types of infected.
With part two set five years since the first game, there could be a new evolution of the infected that the game could introduce. Or perhaps there could be pre-existing types that have just been previously unseen. As the virus is plant-based they could easily introduce new classes of infected by explaining that different climates and ecosystems influence how the virus mutates and contaminates the host. Just imagine all the uniquely terrifying plant zombies you could mow down.
The elephant in the room
At the end of the Last of Us Joel was faced with the difficult decision whether he wanted the Fireflies to operate on Ellie, killing her in the process, to develop a cure for the outbreak or go against them in a gun-mad rage to save Ellie’s life. Needless to say that Joel, who by this point had grown fond of the 14-year old potty mouth, chose the latter.
Whilst choosing the life of one girl over the whole of humanity may have seemed a selfish move, the player completely empathised with Joel. However, Ellie has no idea that Joel made that decision as he lied to her and said the cure wasn’t real; leading him to swear that there was no chance for humanity after all.
For the sequel, they need to find a way to address Joel’s lie and reveal the consequences to his relationship with Ellie. However, they also need to tread carefully to try and avoid an instance where Ellie vows to never speak with Joel again due to his deceit and therefore tearing the characters apart for the duration of the game.