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S.O.P.H.I.A.

You'll Kill A Lot Of Dogs In The Last of Us Part 2

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The Last of Us Part 2 is adding a lot of tweaks and changes to the formula established by its 2013 predecessor. But probably the most startling is the amped-up brutality you'll see on-screen as Ellie shoots, stabs, chokes out, and hacks various other humans to death. Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic stealth series is about the horrific things you'll have to do to survive and, in addition to murdering a lot of people, you'll also be murdering a lot of dogs.

We recently spent about two hours playing The Last of Us Part 2 at a press event in Los Angeles, where Naughty Dog introduced us to its smarter, more dangerous human enemies. Joel and Ellie fought (and killed) truckloads of murderous human survivors in the first game, and Ellie faces more of them in the second--but this time, they've got scent-tracking attack dogs to use against you.

The dogs add some new wrinkles to stealth gameplay. If they cross the scent trail Ellie leaves as she moves around, they can track her, which means you have to worry about being rooted out on top of staying out of sight and being quiet. Often, you'll have to keep moving or use a distraction to throw a dog off--you can't just chill out behind a piece of cover to stay safe. Ellie's increased mobility and new capabilities, like crawling through tall grass so she's tougher to spot, help a lot, as do larger encounters with interior and exterior locations that give you plenty of options to keep moving and avoid being caught.

Stealthing through every situation and keeping out of combat is very tough, though, and it likely won't be long before you're forced to kill someone to keep yourself alive. If you get into a pitched battle with enemies, you'll find attack dogs running you down, trying to knock Ellie down and rip out her throat. That means you'll be shooting dogs, stabbing dogs, and sometimes slamming melee weapons like axes and machetes into dogs.

Of course, fighting attack dogs isn't really anything new in video games, but Part 2's focus on the savagery of fighting for your life makes these moments particularly harrowing. They're amplified as well by the reactions of the dogs' human companions when you kill one. After finishing off a dog, it's common to hear its owner screaming out in anguish about the situation.

Hearing those pained cries is a horrific addition to an already awful situation--and a purposeful one. Co-director Anthony Newman said Part 2's detailed kill animations are "meant to be unsettling," and that goes for those times when you're forced to fight and kill animals, too. And yeah, "unsettling" is definitely a good way to describe the whole situation.

Our play session featured a lot of humans roaming around with dogs, making the animals a serious threat, whether you're in stealth or in combat. More often than not, we had no choice but to dispatch them, causing dog lover after dog lover to loudly mourn their canine buds--and loudly curse Ellie.

The Last of Us Part 2's thematic focus is on pushing you to feel the impact of your actions as you work through its post-apocalyptic world. Ellie is on a crusade for justice (or vengeance) in Part 2, and Newman said the game is about humanity, and what you might have to sacrifice of it to stay alive in its brutal world. For animal lovers in particular, it seems like The Last of Us Part 2 is going to make that even harder to grapple with.

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