The Last of Us, released in 2016, was a complex and immersive PS4 game that dealt with a near-future urban wasteland full of dangerous gangs and infected half-humans. Joel, a resistance fighter who lost his daughter in the earliest days of the outbreak years before, is given the reluctant task of bringing the young teenager Ellie to the Fireflies group outside the city. Its strong story, quality graphics and evolving gameplay with puzzles to solve, targets t shoot and high-stakes for characters, ensured that it has remained a benchmark for many gamers and for Naughty Dog, the company that created it.
Fans clamoured for a follow-up but for a long time Naughty Dog were concentrating on further chapters of their other massive console hit, Unchartered. Eventually they revealed they were working on a The Last of Us 2 and in 2016 a brief video was released in which the only glimpse of Ellie was a few moments of her strumming a guitar in a rundown bedroom, the featured song Through the Valley by Shawn James went on to hit a top spot on Spotify. In 2017 a more kinetic promo was released and felt quite tonally different; essentially an attack on an almost-cannibalistic camp of ne’er-do-wells by a character we’d not seen before. Since last year there’s been continued interest but very little public movement. Though there is still no firm release day for the sequel (we’re vaguely promised a 2019 release at this point), more information has been revealed at the annual E3 event that took place last week, including a much longer trailer and a look at some of the new and improved gameplay. We now know the story takes place four years after the controversial wrap-up to the first game and that Ellie appears to be the prominent character rather than her adopted guardian Joel, though we have been assured he also appears. Ashley Johnson (Blindspot) will once again provide the voice of Ellie with Troy Baker reprising Joel. Westworld‘s Shannon Woodward will also feature.
Despite the frustrations involved in the waiting, the quality of the released video and imagery (above) indicates how much effort is being put into tbe title by Naughty Dog – the original gameplay was impressive but it’s obvious the latest tech has improved it further. There has been some controversy as Ellie shares a same-sex kiss in the promotional footage. Frankly, it’s beautifully rendered and Ellie’s sexuality, while not mentioned in the first game’s main narrative, was confirmed in the additional prequel game that was issued with it. Any negative buzz has been drowned out by the more positive comments regarding that and there are more people commenting on the larger degree of explicit violence this time around and possible concerns that it might over-dominate the story that attracted fans to the original. The makers of the game insist that more so than other titles, they want any death and destruction seen in the story to have consequence, that if characters and situations are going to resonate, you can’t and shouldn’t feel like you are just be blasting pixels on a screen.
However there’s really no way to evaluate the final result until the full game actually hits the shelves.
As well as several fan-made efforts, there’s also been talk of an official The Last of Us live-action feature film, though there’s been little movement on that in the last year or so. For now, the future of The Last of Us remains just over the horizon, but everything we know says it will be worth the wait…