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The Last of Us II: Last Stretch of Waiting

by Lisa Hayden
Last Of Us 2

When it comes to post-apocalyptic fare, The Last of Us is probably one of the first ones to pop up in a list of the most acclaimed, well-developed, and emotionally mature video games, so obviously leaks, news, latest release dates and trailers are much sought after. 

The immersive and thrilling adventures of the main characters Joel and Ellie gave us more than endless fighting and barebones survival, as is expected of the genre. Instead, players were reeled in for a heart-wrenching journey that felt all too real.

In terms of its perfect ending, one would think a sequel isn’t really needed. The game’s developers at Naughty Dog, however, thought otherwise. After all, the potential for more acclaim and revenue is too good to pass up. Not that we’re complaining—we just want to see more of Joel and Ellie and the compelling, cruel world they live in.

The Last of Us Part II has big shoes to fill, and fans for sure will be lining up to grab the stuff the moment it comes out. Hell, everyone’s ears perked up the moment Naughty Dog dropped the big news with a teaser trailer at the 2016 PlayStation Experience.

Now that it’s 2019, the question hanging heavy in the air is, when’s the game coming out?

Schedule A Date with your PS4 on February 2020

Naughty Dog hasn’t said much about the game this year, which is weird since everyone’s been expecting it to come out sometime in winter. It seems the release is being pushed back, with the developers keeping mum to avoid making promises they can’t keep.

Given these recent events, it’s now a growing sentiment that The Last of Us Part II will see the light of day early in 2020 instead. 

Last Of Us release date

One piece of news that supports this is the confirmation that Death Stranding, a big new PS4 game by Sony, is slated for a late 2019 release. It’s highly unlikely that Sony will double-punch the gaming world with the sequel for The Last of Us, so as to give each individual game a spot in the limelight on their own. 

Still, Naughty Dog has said that the game is in the final stages of development. That would support the belief that it will potentially come out early in 2020.

This prediction has been corroborated in recent days by various sources. One is a Variety interview with Ashley Johnson, the actress who plays Ellie. Around the 1 hour and 7-minute mark, she appeared to slip up and begin to say the word February in response to the interviewer’s question about the release. Suspiciously, she never got to finish what she had begun to say.

Another source for the rumor is a report from ZhugeEX, a game analyst and insider of the industry who has accurately leaked release data before. ZhugeEX said on ResetEra with all certainty that February 2020 would be the definite release date for The Last of Us Part II.

A February launch would also make a lot of sense, since Naughty Dog has always timed the franchise’s releases around holidays related to love, family, and friendship. The Left Behind DLC, for example, was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2014. It would be cool if the sequel to the OG game followed its footsteps.

Hints Of Deeper, Darker Themes

Speaking of following footsteps, fans of the first game have been faithfully following panel updates and trailers since the initial announcement in 2016. With expectations running high, it’s been kind of Naughty Dog to pepper some footage and information evenly over the past three years.

PSX 2016 Reveal Trailer

First off is the reveal trailer itself, clocking in at 4 minutes and featuring Joel entering an old house full of corpses where Ellie sits in a bedroom. After some close-ups of the surroundings, which reveal signs of violence and a cultish-looking logo painted outside, we see Ellie playing a guitar and singing a somber song about walking in the valley of death. 

All the while, we’re shown the gore of people killed all in the house. It’s unsure whether Ellie killed the people or if she found the place this way. 

Joel enters the room and asks her what she’s up to. Ellie replies with a vague intent to “kill every last one of them”. 

Last Of Us Leaks

This first trailer dropped at the PlayStation Experience 2016 induced lots of excitement and anticipation among the fanbase, soaking up the relationship between a now-serious, grown-up Ellie and the gruff, fatherly Joel. Although just a cutscene, it shows that the sequel will still have the darkness and depth that the first game provided. 

Paris Games Week 2017 Trailer

The second trailer, which debuted in Paris Games Week 2017 during Sony’s press conference, gives us more meat to bite into. The 5 minutes we spend immersed in the world of The Last of Us Part II are shrouded in mystery and overall discomfort. 

Amidst a downpour, a muscled woman is dragged by a seemingly sinister faction of people (possibly a cult) who try to hang her. The woman who appears to be the cult leader threatens to disembowel her, calling her “nested with sin”. 

If that isn’t enough, they also attempt to shatter another woman’s arms with hammers. Needless to say, it’s a gruesome sight that can make even the most experienced gamers a little squeamish. 

It delivers its message—the sequel will delve into a dark, dark path of animosity and gore.

Fans have been speculating that the muscled woman “nested with sin” is Ellie’s mother pregnant with her, which could explain why this faction of people is hell-bent on getting rid of the demon spawn. It would fit with Ellie’s motivations in the first trailer, hinting at revenge and more bloodshed. 

PSX 2017 Panel Discussion

The Last of Us Part II was the center of attention once more in PSX 2017, where a panel discussion among the developers shed some light on the game’s progress. They revealed that it was 50-60% done at that point in time, and confirmed that the game would be set in Seattle.

Creative director Neil Druckmann said that the story would focus on Ellie and Joel’s relationship, but at the same time cover a larger scope of events. Writer Halley Gross, known for also working on Westworld, assured that there will be hopeful moments amidst the game’s dark themes.

Scarily, when asked whether either Joel or Ellie may die, Druckmann replied with a cryptic “no one is safe”, keeping everyone on their toes. It seems the sequel could take us just about anywhere. 

E3 2018 Gameplay Reveal Trailer

The most recent trailer dropped in E3 2018 is the longest one, featuring both a cutscene and gameplay—therefore standing at nearly 12 minutes. The biggest takeaway is that Ellie is now the main character, which means things will be very different both in story and gameplay.

After an intimate, same-sex scene between Ellie and Riley, we get a glimpse at how it will be like with Ellie as the leading playable character. In a brutal stealth sequence, there appears to be a lot of fighting in the wild in pursuit of the cult that’s been hinted at previously.

Gameplay success seems to need a combination of both stealth and attack movements, with Ellie being able to quietly maneuver between areas to find weapons from bodies and then jump out to swiftly take down the enemy. Although much different from the original The Last of Us, it promises exciting gameplay and challenging foes.

In addition to the usual movements, it appears Ellie can jump and relies more on a knife than punches. Evasion also seems to be more of a thing here than in the previous game.

Sure, it looks like she has matured and learned new skills, but it’s still unclear whether or not she can already swim in this sequel.

The Band Marches On Amidst Some Controversy

Putting the excitement and speculation aside, The Last of Us Part II has had to deal with just the opposite reaction to the trailers as well. 

It seems the game isn’t immune to the bloody stench of controversy that’s expectedly rampant around long-awaited video games of this caliber. For sure, it’s the amount of attention and anticipation that makes little errors or criticisms stand out all the more.

But what exactly are the complaints?

Blood, Guts, ​And ​Gore

One centered on the gratuitous violence in the PSX 2017 trailer. Sure, a survivalist, post-apocalyptic world is bound to have major blood spilled here and there to keep the setting as real as possible. 

But the pregnant woman on a noose nearly getting disemboweled and the woman getting her arm smashed with a hammer may have crossed the line for some. It’s heartless and cringe-inducing brutality that even the average gamer would flinch at. Still, isn’t it standard fare?

Last Of Us 2 Rumours

Not when these deaths happen to prominently feature women, apparently. It seems harrowing, gory scenes these days have to be justified story-wise, else they become slaves to the abhorrent shock factor. Given the previous analyses of this trailer, if it turns out to be a flashback that may establish major plot points of the story, then the critics could be overreacting about something they have yet to understand in the context of the game.

Sony also defended the trailer by saying that it was meant to show themes of revenge and unshakeable animosity. Props to them; they achieved that. The Reddit thread where people complained is also awash with fans who believe that there’s no need to overreact (with some even calling the critics babies, which could be uncalled for).

Ellie As Officially Gay

E3 2018 saw Sony unmasking a more lighthearted yet emotionally mature trailer. Interspersed with game footage of stealth combat amidst a dangerous swamp on the outskirts of an abandoned city was a very tender scene featuring Ellie and another woman.

In it, she shares a soft kiss with Riley, a returning character from the Left Behind DLC. 

This was wholly unexpected by most, with reactions ranging from pleasant surprise to shock to cries of anger and displeasure. The negative end of the spectrum was made up of accusations that Naughty Dog was shoving a gay agenda down people’s throats to ride with the spread of dreaded SJWs.

Alongside this group, albeit not as negative, are those who expressed disbelief that Ellie would be sexualized, given that she was just a girl in the first game. Note: the people who reacted this way might be the same ones who got angry when Arya had sex in the final season of Game of Thrones. 

It’s understandable. Fans could develop a weird protectiveness over a young fictional child character who, lo and behold, has grown up.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who caught on that Ellie, looks and personality-wise, would definitely have some queer vibes and express support that creative director Neil Druckmann acknowledged over Twitter. 

Most important are the fans who pointed out hints in the DLC that Ellie and Riley would develop a relationship, defending that it seemed natural.

A solid takeaway from these issues is that the community will dig into what Naughty Dog puts out anyway and deal with what they get, maybe after a fair bit of complaining about one thing or another. 

Hence, it makes sense that The Last of Us Part II and its developers are far from discouraged. 

Many more are eager for the arrival of the game, eclipsing the negativity, and the hype and anticipation are more than enough to combat naysayers. The most avid, of course, are the fans, who stop at nothing to either pick apart or gush over (or both) the recently-released trailers.

Last Words: High Hopes To Raise A New High Bar

Amidst the speculation and the controversy is the big news that the final scene for the game has been shot, confirmed by Naughty Dog. The co-director, Anthony Newman, also tweeted out a recruitment call for the studio in light of the game needing developers to help close it out.

Last Of Us Trailer

Those updates came around May 2019, when production seemingly wrapped. But ever since, the studio and developers have been quiet about when the release will be, aggravating fans to no end.

Piercing the obvious silence is some commentary from Troy Baker, who told Push Square great things about the game during Manchester Comic Con. He said that it’s Naughty Dog’s most ambitious project and far larger than he thought possible. 

Given the already ambitious heights reached by the original The Last of Us, it’s for sure a big statement. It’s also a bit much for fans when paired with the fact that we still don’t know when the game is coming out (argh!). 

Whether Naughty Dog will surprise us by releasing it in the latter part of this year or keep things classy by slating the launch for February 2020, there’s no question that everyone will be excited for what The Last of Us Part II will add to the series. 

Aside from hoping that the sequel will be a perfect follow-up to the original masterpiece, let’s also hope that Ellie knows how to swim this time.

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