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The Last of Us 2 release date, gameplay, trailer and cast

The story of a handful of people trying to make their way in a world decimated by a zombie-like plague, The Last of Us was a huge hit upon its release in 2013, drawing gamers in with its complex characters and suspenseful gameplay. In its five star review, The Guardian praised it as "heart-rending, tense, unnerving and brutal." Empire lauded the game's story, calling it "the best film of the year (that wasn't actually a film)." With all that adoration from critics and fans, a sequel was almost inevitable.

The ending of The Last of Us was extremely challenging for many gamers, with the morally ambiguous implications of Joel's decisions leaving the door wide open for new stories to unfold in the game world. Though some have argued the murky nature of the ending offered a perfect conclusion for the story, a highly-anticipated sequel is on the way. 

Naughty Dog has remained characteristically tight-lipped about many aspects of the new installment, cautiously avoiding spoiling the experience for players who have waited so long for this follow-up. Even with all of the secrecy, there are still some juicy tidbits of information available. From the release date, to returning characters, to gameplay, here's what you need to know about The Last of Us 2.

What's the release date for The Last of Us 2?

Early on, the release date for The Last of Us 2 spawned a great deal of anxiety-fueled questions and speculation. Even The Onion got in on the fun, publishing a satirical article about the topic. In June 2019, Neil Druckmann joked on Twitter, "Every time someone asks for the release date, the game gets pushed back by five minutes." Basically, the lack of updates in the years following the title's announcement at the close of 2016 became a meme in itself.

A February 2020 release date was finally announced at PlayStation's 2019 State of Play conference; the launch was later pushed back to allow the developers more time to deliver on the polished experience they promised fans. You can now expect The Last of Us 2 to release on May 29, 2020, though Sony announced on March 27 that the coronavirus pandemic could delay production schedules for its first-party studios and partner studios.

Is there a trailer for The Last of Us 2?

Anticipation for The Last of Us 2 reached a fever pitch with the unveiling of a massive trailer at E3 2018, which gave gamers their first good look at the story, characters, and some of the sequel's intense gameplay. That trailer shows Ellie sharing a romantic kiss with her girlfriend Dina at a town hall dance, before abruptly switching to a prolonged action sequence in which Ellie systematically disarms and kills several enemies.

The 2019 State of Play release date trailer continued this tone, showing Ellie adjusting to a life of peace and her newfound relationship with Dina. Tragedy strikes, and it appears as though Dina is killed by another group of enemies (this remains unconfirmed). Despite warnings from her friend Tommy, Ellie sets out to take revenge against these new threats, also encountering some of the infected. The trailer ends with the reveal of Joel, who looks older and more tired than you last saw him, promising to accompany her on the mission. 

Both trailers demonstrate the new game has lost none of the first installment's heart or edge, which should be a welcome sign for fans.

Which consoles will The Last of Us 2 be available on?

It's been known for a while that The Last of Us 2 would be a PlayStation exclusive, much like the first game. What wasn't clear was whether the game would launch during the current console generation or if fans would have to sit tight until the PlayStation 5 made its debut. In May 2019, alongside confirmations for other upcoming titles like Death Stranding and Ghost of Tsushima, Sony made it clear The Last of Us 2 was, in fact, still planned for a PlayStation 4 release. 

Further displaying its confidence in the current console generation, Sony referred to the game as part of an "outstanding roster of exclusive AAA games still to come" to the PlayStation 4. This doesn't rule out the possibility of a cross-generational release for The Last of Us 2. After all, the first installment was released on PlayStation 3, then received a well-reviewed remaster for PlayStation 4. It is possible the sequel will follow a similar trajectory. At least you won't have to wait until Holiday 2020 or purchase a PlayStation 5 to experience the follow-up.

Will The Last of Us 2 come to PC?

Though billed as a PlayStation exclusive, fans continue to speculate about the possibility of a The Last of Us 2 PC release. Naughty Dog recently posted an open position for a graphics programmer to work on The Last of Us 2. While this isn't necessarily strong evidence by itself, the listing mentions "PC programming experience" and asks for candidates with "a thorough understanding of current GPU architectures." 

Though the job description does not confirm a PC port, it does set the groundwork for a compelling argument. Besides, it's not out of the realm of possibility to expect a "console-exclusive" game to also release on PC, as this is a relatively common practice. So, whether or not this job posting is a sure sign of a PC release, it's promising for all those hoping for a larger distribution.

Are there special editions or pre-order bonuses for The Last of Us 2?

As with many major video game releases, there are multiple editions of The Last of Us 2 available for pre-order, along with a few fun bonuses. Pre-ordering the standard edition of the game for $59.99 (physically or digitally) will earn players an upgrade to their ammo capacity in-game and a digital training manual for the game's crafting mechanics.

The Special Edition, priced at $79.99, will come with those digital bonuses, a PS4 avatar set, PS4 dynamic theme, a SteelBook case, and a 48-page mini art book.

Next you have the Collector's Edition, which will run you $169.99, and includes the previously mentioned bonuses, plus a statue of Ellie, a replica of Ellie's bracelet, stickers, pins, a lithograph art print and thank you letter, and digital soundtrack. This edition appears to be completely sold out.

Finally, you have the Ellie Edition. This one is priced at $229.99 and features all of the swag from the Collector's Edition, along with a The Last of Us 2 logo patch, vinyl record, and a replica of Ellie's backpack. It should be noted that the Ellie Edition also appears to be sold out, but hopefully there will be more available as the game's release draws closer.

Will The Last of Us 2 have multiplayer?

The first game featured a downloadable multiplayer mode called Factions, which turned out to be a big hit with fans and critics. While there were initial plans for a multiplayer mode of some kind to make a return for sequel, those plans have changed. 

"As development began on the evolution of our Factions mode from The Last of Us Part I, the vision of the team grew beyond an additional mode that could be included with our enormous single player campaign," explained a statement from Naughty Dog. "Wanting to support both visions, we made the difficult choice that The Last of Us Part 2 would not include an online mode. However, you will eventually experience the fruits of our team's online ambition, but not as a part of The Last of Us Part 2. When and where it will be realized is still to be determined." 

In other words, Naughty Dog will one day release this new and improved Factions mode, but it will be in a form that is independent from the primary The Last of Us franchise.

When does The Last of Us 2 take place?

Naughty Dog has confirmed the action of The Last of Us 2 unfolds around five years after the events of the first game. Joel and Ellie have settled down in the town of Jackson, Wyoming, where Joel's brother is running a small settlement of surviving humans. Though the town seems to be doing alright, Joel and Ellie's relationship may have soured in the intervening years. At E3 2018, Neil Druckmann, the game's writer and creative director, explained, "If the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that ... This story is about hate."

Co-director Kurt Margenau commented, "It's a complicated relationship after the events of the first game." It will certainly be interesting to see what has caused this rift between the two, who were inseparable during the previous game. Is Ellie simply a rebellious teenager? Or does she know what Joel did to save her life?

Spoilers for the first game: At the end of The Last of Us, Joel essentially doomed humanity by rescuing Ellie and killing the doctors who were going to use her genetic material to craft a possible cure for the virus that turned most of the human race into monsters. It's implied in the final moments of the first game that Ellie knew Joel was lying, but the plot of The Last of Us 2 may involve her coming to terms with that revelation, leading to a fractured relationship with Joel.

Is Ellie the only playable character in The Last of Us 2?

Players mainly controlled Ellie's guardian, Joel, throughout the first game, with Ellie briefly taking over as the main playable character for the game's haunting "Winter" section. She was also the only playable character in The Last of Us: Left Behind, a DLC chapter which features flashbacks to Ellie's youth. In contrast to the dynamic from the first installment, Neil Druckmann has revealed Ellie will be the lead character of The Last of Us 2.

In fact, she may be the only playable character. Though this may be a way of making sure fans are surprised by a sudden shift in narrative (much like "Winter" was a surprise while playing the first game), Druckmann has stated, "Ellie is the only playable character in the game." 

This may be a bummer for folks who wanted to step back into Joel's blood-stained shoes, but handing the reins solely to Ellie may work in The Last of Us 2's favor as a more focused character piece. What this means for Joel's status at the beginning of this game is another mystery that should have fans salivating for the continuation of this story.

Will Ellie have a companion in The Last of Us 2?

Though Ellie may be the only playable character, that doesn't mean she will be all on her own. One of the best storytelling devices in The Last of Us was the ongoing banter between Joel and Ellie, which had the double effect of encouraging character growth and filling the long stretches of horror with a bit of levity. This was a style that was later used to great effect in Uncharted 4 and 2018's God of War.

Neil Druckmann confirmed Ellie will be joined by an NPC companion but has remained cagey about the specifics. In the release date trailer, you see Ellie traveling with Dina for a time, likely near the beginning of the game's story. Also, with Joel's new appearance, you can safely assume you'll see the two of them together. It would certainly feel just like old times, only with the roles reversed with Ellie as the game's protagonist.

Who is the main enemy in The Last of Us 2?

In October 2017, the second teaser trailer for The Last of Us 2 made its premiere at Paris Games Week, introducing a new faction of enemies. In a post on the PlayStation Blog, Neil Druckmann said, "We're sure you have many questions after watching this scene," and he wasn't kidding. The trailer features a horrific torture scene at the hands of these new antagonists, but there were no real hints as to their name or motive.

It wasn't until the following year that Anthony Newman and Kurt Margenau, the sequel's co-directors, opened up a bit more about these mysterious enemies. In an interview with GamesRadar+, they revealed the characters were members of a religious cult called the Seraphites. Newman said these Seraphites are "a more fanatical group, and they center their lives around faith and spirituality in a way that has become kind of fanatical and hostile and aggressive to outsiders." This fanaticism could possibly make these villains scarier (and more violent), because they truly believe what they are doing is right.

Who is part of the cast for The Last of Us 2?

In Kotaku's review of The Last of Us, it praised the work of lead actors Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, who play Ellie and Joel respectively. "The actors have an uncommon chemistry and fearlessly tackle their roles; time and again they're faced with difficult, emotionally raw material, and time and again they deliver." This "uncommon chemistry" is one of the things that drew gamers in and sold the apocalyptic circumstances of the first game's story.

Johnson and Baker will be returning for The Last of Us 2. It seems Neil Druckman did briefly consider not bringing them back, saying, "I had ideas with different characters and it didn't feel right. The Last of Us is about these two characters."

In addition to Johnson and Baker, The Last of Us 2 will feature some familiar voice talent. Among the cast is Laura Bailey, playing an undisclosed new character. Bailey is an accomplished voice actress with nearly 500 credits to her name. Most notably, she voiced Kait Diaz in Gears 5, Catherine in the English version of Catherine: Fully Body, and will bring Black Widow to life in the upcoming Marvel's Avengers.

Bailey is joined by Emily Swallow, perhaps best known for her roles in Supernatural and Netflix's Castlevania. Swallow plays Emily, a member of the Seraphites first seen in the haunting Paris Games Week trailer. With such great returning talent and new names joining the fray, the sequel should be just as captivating as the first installment.

The Last of Us 2 will introduce a new stealth system

Hiding from enemies was a big part of the first game, with Ellie and Joel often better off going around the infected Clickers and Bloaters, rather than facing them head-on.

In an interview with Kotaku, Neil Druckmann described how the stealth system in The Last of Us 2 will differ from the first game. The sequel will feature a meter that shows how hidden the player is. "The smaller the circle, the more hidden you are," Druckmann explained. "You're never fully hidden when you're in foliage. It changes how close an enemy has to be to spot you."

In addition to this new system, Ellie will be able to go completely prone, affording her new ways to hide behind and under scenery. According to lead designer Richard Cambier, "going prone gives you even more protection." With the danger seemingly increasing in this new installment, it's a bit of a relief to know there are more options for getting Ellie to (relative) safety.

The Last of Us 2 will feature more vertical exploration

In The Last of Us, players were slightly limited by Joel's abilities. Sure, he was a tough guy who got Ellie through a lot of hard situations, but he's also an older male who isn't as agile as a young woman. This difference in physicality is going to play a big role in how you play The Last of Us 2. Because Ellie is slighter and more agile than Joel, players will have new possibilities opened up to them. What does this translate into? Vertical exploration.

Developers clearly had some fun with Ellie's agility, creating puzzles and secrets to explore in difficult-to-reach places. On Mar. 17, 2020, Naughty Dog tweeted a clip of Ellie exploring a snowy area. The 11-second video shows her climbing on top of a vehicle and jumping over to an adjacent crate. This teaser opens up a lot of possibilities for gameplay in The Last of Us 2. Dust off your jumping-puzzle skills — you're in for a lot more vertical exploration.

Enemy AI will be much smarter

As if the infected monsters of The Last of Us aren't scary enough, the biggest danger is the people. In The Last of Us @, human enemies will be much more intelligent, even able to communicate with one another through whistles and codewords. 

"They communicate with each other much more than they have before," said Druckmann in an interview with Kotaku. "In the past, in the previous game, if anybody saw you, immediately everybody in the area would know where you are. Now there's information propagation. So whoever sees you, they have to call it out."

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it enhances the realism and immersion of enemy encounters. Second, it gives the enemies more options for coordinating against the player. It's usually a little easier to defeat an enemy that behaves like any other NPC, so this extra level of intelligence may lead to players being more selective in their targets and strategies. It certainly sounds like Ellie will be facing greater challenges than before.

The new Infected can hear your heartbeat

The Infected have evolved to become more dangerous than ever. The reasons for this have yet to be revealed, but Neil Druckmann has hinted there's more going on than you may realize: "There is something about the environment and how much time has passed that has allowed these mutations to occur." 

One of the mutations has resulted in the new "Shambler" class of Infected, which give off a type of poisonous and acidic gas. Not only is this gas harmful, but the other Infected can use it as cover, bursting through the haze to latch onto their prey. In other words, the Infected are more organized. 

As if that weren't horrific enough, the game's co-director, Anthony Newman, explained Ellie's enemies will be able to pick up on her breathing and heartbeat, which changes depending on how she traverses the terrain. In other words, just because you've taken cover doesn't mean the Infected can't find you, particularly the Clickers that hunt by sound.

Ellie is out for revenge

While concrete plot details are scarce, it's clear Ellie will have a taste for vengeance in The Last of Us 2. In an interview with The Telegraph, Neil Druckmann described the inspiration for taking Ellie down this dark path. Turning to documentaries like Paradise Lost for his research, Druckmann was fascinated by the awful impulses of seemingly normal, peaceful people. The idea of someone "willing to commit this heinous act because they believe that is just," informed the lengths to which Ellie would go in the new game.

What sets Ellie on this path remains unclear, but she seems single-minded in her purpose. In the game's very first teaser, Ellie says with the utmost conviction, "I'm gonna find and I'm gonna kill every last one of them." Reactions to Ellie's newfound brutality have been divided, but it's likely safe to assume the Seraphites have somehow crossed a line with Ellie it can never uncross. Whether or not that spells certain doom for Dina remains to be seen.

Ellie is gay (and always has been)

In The Last of Us: Left Behind, a DLC chapter for the first game, players took control of Ellie as she searched for supplies to aid an injured Joel. Intercut with these sequences were a series of flashbacks involving Ellie's best friend Riley. Toward the end of the story, Ellie and Riley kiss, in a moment IGN praised for its "beautiful ambiguity."

Speaking with Gay Gamer about that moment, Neil Druckmann said, "Now when I was writing it I was writing it with the idea that Ellie is gay ... there's that chemistry there from the get go that was important for us so that we earned that moment when they kissed each other."

In the E3 trailer for The Last of Us 2, Ellie shares a romantic dance and kiss with another girl from Jackson named Dina. "Ellie was born gay," said Halley Gross, co-writer of The Last of Us 2. "This is just who she is. And to explore who she is as a teenager and as an adult, it wouldn't be honoring her character to hide some facet of herself. We want to engage with her as a full character." 

It's great to see Naughty Dog hasn't backed away from established continuity and want to do justice to Ellie's character, showing players how she's evolved since the first game. Sadly, in the world of The Last of Us, Ellie's newfound comfort and happiness may not last.

Gustavo Santaolalla returns to compose the music

Just like in the world of motion pictures, a game's soundtrack can go a long way toward selling the emotions of a scene, conveying a sense of weight and purpose even when there's no dialogue. Referred to by Sputnik Music as a "lonely, isolating experience," Gustavo Santaolalla's score for The Last of Us was the perfect companion to the game's desolate, crumbling landscapes. 

The composer's work received rave reviews, with Modern Vinyl commenting, "Santaolalla's score has enough emotional depth that the narrative comes simply out of imagination." It's hardly a shock that Santaolalla has been asked back to compose the score for The Last of Us 2. The first sample of Santoalalla's new score is reminiscent of his strongest pieces from the first game.

The composer isn't a solo act anymore

In addition to Gustavo Santaolalla returning to score The Last of Us 2, the game will feature at least one other band contributing music to its soundtrack. During the trailer scene where Ellie joins her love interest Dina for a romantic dance, a song by the band Crooked Still, called "Little Sadie," plays in the background. VGR points out this is "not exactly a bright or optimistic song," perfectly fitting the world of The Last of Us. 

A limited edition 7-inch vinyl featuring music from the upcoming game was released by Mondo, which featured "Little Sadie" and a new track from Gustavo Santaolalla called "The Last of Us (Cycles)". Furthermore, the band has said that an instrumental version of its song "Ecstasy" will also feature in the new game in some capacity. 

Whether or not these two songs will constitute Crooked Still's only contributions to the soundtrack, it's quite encouraging to see Naughty Dog taking a few risks with the music in the game. "Little Sadie" really sets the mood of the dance scene in the trailer, selling the feeling of falling in love at the end of the world.

Filming has wrapped ... and it's emotional

Back in April 2019, Neil Druckmann announced Naughty Dog had just finished filming the final scene of The Last of Us 2. Not much is known about the scene's contents, but if the picture of the script posted by Druckmann is anything to go by, the sequel appears to end with a dramatic cut to black, much like the original game's conclusion. 

Just a few days later, Druckmann marked the final day of filming with the game's two leads. Druckmann posted a photo of stars Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker in their motion-capture suits, remarking, "And that's a wrap on Ellie, Joel, and the most ambitious cinematic shoot we've ever done. Tears were shed." Between the script's ominous "CUT TO BLACK" and the fact people were crying on the set, gamers can likely expect the next game in the series will be just as emotionally complex as the original. It seems there are no easy answers or simple endings in The Last of Us.