Ellie’s Bag Zips
Right towards the beginning of The Last of Us 2, you’ll be in control of Ellie walking through the Jackson community with Dina and Maria. With each step that Ellie takes through the snow-dusted streets, you’ll notice that her bag reacts. Specifically, if you look closely, her zips bounce and jangle around with each step that she takes.
It gets even cooler when you’re given free control of Ellie. Making her sprint around will see the zips bounce and fly around more violently, just as they would on a real-life bag. Tiny detail that’s incredibly cool to admire? Absolutely.
Apologies for yet another screenshot from the opening section of the game, but it was the first instance I spotted of the living nature in the world going about doing its thing as Ellie embarked on her quest for vengeance.
Once again walking through the safe streets of the commune, a small squirrel can be seen scuttling across the snow and out of sight, probably hiding away from the encroaching footsteps.
Later, you’ll see deer doing the same, and rabbits or hares bouncing through the overgrowth as you clip-clop your way closer on the back of Ellie’s trusty steed, Shimmer.
Would we notice if these animals weren’t there? Probably not, but it’s these tiny details in The Last of Us 2 that make the game so incredibly immersive and enthralling. It feels like you’re peering through a window into another world.
Whenever you get a chance to look at Ellie, Dina or any other character’s clothing up front, try and nab yourself a screenshot so you can zoom in and really pixel peep at the staggering amount of detail Naughty Dog’s poured into its creation.
Not only can you make out individual stitching and seams on every last bit of clothing that characters are wearing, but it’s easy enough to distinguish the different types of material used.
For example, the cotton of Ellie’s hoodie looks wholly different to the suede look of Dina’s dark brown jacket. The same can be said about Ellie’s worn backpack too. It looks like a rougher, more textured material than that of Ellie’s other clothes.
Workbench Weapon Upgrades
One of my all-time favorite animations in video games is the way Ellie interacts with the various weapons workbenches you can use throughout the world.
Whenever Ellie reaches one of these, she punches the rest button on the extension lead to turn the lamp on, before slamming whatever weapon you have equipped or selected on the table. Choose to upgrade that weapon and she quickly proceeds to dismantle it with an insane level of detail.
Things only get better once you’ve chosen your desired upgrade, as Ellie gets to work picking up different things from the workbench. The detail only gets more impressive when you notice that what Ellie uses on the workbench varies depending on the upgrade you’re making.
Top it all off with Ellie slinging her backpack back onto her back and turning the light off and the weapons workbenches are this incredibly intricate series of animations that players get to enjoy every time.
That Dank Smoke
Still fairly early on in The Last of Us 2, Ellie and Dina dabble in some of that dank, post-apocalyptic weed. While they’re getting all mellow and totally wavy man, my attention got distracted by the sheer obscene level of detail that’s gone into the smoke and the joint.
I mean, look at the way the smoke is so realistically weaving its way up into the air, before hanging in the room, clouding the background. Even the lit end is so incredibly-well detailed we wonder just how long some developers at Naughty Dog spent staring at the end of a lit joint or cigarette.
Also, the way in which Ellie and Dina’s eyes and facial expressions change during this scene to subtly show the effects of smoking is near-perfect.
Speaking of facial expressions, The Last of Us 2 really has these nailed. Thanks to motion capture technology, character models move and interact with the world more accurately than ever before, but facial expressions are one such thing that still require a lot of work on the developer’s side.
There’s not just one type of facial expression that’s been mastered here, but the whole range of emotions. When Ellie and Dina look lovingly into one another’s eyes, you feel it.
When Ellie strains with a struggling victim, it’s written across her face. Deep in thought, Ellie’s brow furrows with concentration. And yes, incredibly high, it’s written across Ellie and Dina’s face.
A lot of the opening section of The Last of Us 2 takes place outside in the snow. So it’s a damn good thing that Naughty Dog went to incredulous levels to detail it accordingly.
With each step you take, you’ll leave an imprint in the snow. The top layer has that glistening shine from individual particles of frost, and it looks so realistically powdery at times you almost want to reach into your TV and touch it.
Fire burning nearby? You can bet your bottom dollar the pure white sheet covering the ground will assume some of that bright orange glow, just as real-life snow would. Just look at the level of detail in the tracks and top layer of snow above and tell us that’s not some next level detail!
Insane Lighting and Shadow Effects
The Last of Us 2 is a visual masterpiece (among others), but a huge part of its visual fidelity comes in the insane lighting and shadow effects that have been implemented. A few examples we particularly appreciated was the way in which Ellie’s flashlight effects your environment.
Take the screenshot above. Right in the center of Ellie’s shadow you can see her flashlight is turned on and the faint black circle in the center of it. With the room already illuminated, the flashlight has no effect in illuminating it, but it’s still on and Naughty Dog make sure this is subtly made clear.
Similarly, just look at the level of detail in Ellie’s actual shadow. You can see the perfect outline of her body, the revolver in her hand and the hunting rifle slung over her back. Move around and it only gets better.
Ellie’s Hand Bones
During cutscenes you’ll be able to get a closer look at the character models, and it was when watching these that we spotted yet another ridiculous detail that Naughty Dog have added to character models.
While it’s easy enough to just look at the bigger picture and follow the dialog in these sections, just look at Ellie’s hands. You can literally make out the different bones inside her hands, her knuckles, and the creases in her skin around them. Fingernails can be spotted, and if you really squint you can make out very faint veins, too.
Tree Moss & Reactive Foliage
When you first get out into the snow-absent open world is when The Last of Us 2’s visual fidelity really hits you. Ambling through the woods and overgrowth, you’ll ride past trees that have some of the most detailed moss we’ve ever seen. It’s near photo-realistic with each individual strand of the green clump distinguishable from the rest.
You can almost feel its soft, springy texture just by looking at it.
Horse Branding & Veins
Shimmer is Ellie’s trusty steed and she will help you to navigate as best she can. While it’s easy to just focus on making your way to your next objective, take a minute to appreciate the detail on the horse.
On its back right leg, you can spot the ‘J’ branding of the Jacksonville community. Catch it in the right light and you’ll see stress marks or veins all across the horse’s rear legs, too.
Even the way Ellie handles Shimmer is equally impressive, with realistic grabs of the saddle and reigns as she steers and navigates the terrain. With horse’s being a go-to for world traversal in a lot of video games, Naughty Dog’s just raised the bar considerably.
If Ellie ever finds herself splashing about in water, first take a minute to appreciate the insane level of detail in the reflections and the way that it reacts to her movements. But also, when Ellie hops out of the water, just look at the bottom of her jeans.
You’ll notice they’ve got that wet-look sheen, but only where the water actually made contact with her clothing. It’ll even dry over time, realistically, too.
Some of the most beautiful moments in The Last of Us 2 are when Ellie takes a moment from stabbing both human and infected enemy alike in the neck and bangs out a tune on one of the many guitars lying around the world.
While these are so beautifully shot and performed, what impressed us most is the way in which Ellis actually plays the guitar. As in, she’s pressing the right chords and strumming along as you actually would if you were playing the song in real-life.
For a missable cutscene, that, without a doubt, is next-level detail.
“Should a sky really be included as a missable detail?” I hear you ask. Well, yes, it should be, because I bet few of you just looked directly up into the sky in The Last of Us 2 and appreciated just how life-like it looks.
I mean, the screenshot above could literally be someone taking some artsy photo of themself with the sky in some thriving metropolis today. The way the sun naturally tries to shine through the clouds, the shape of the clouds themselves, and the way that they discolor the natural blue of the sky around them is quite simply stunning.
Seriously, forget about Ellie’s quest for a minute and look up. Appreciate it, and then appreciate it some more.
The Finishing Slice of the Knife
This one’s another oddly satisfying animation to behold in The Last of Us 2. When you sneak up behind an enemy, be it human or infected, Ellie will have the option to perform a stealth kill. Choose to do this and she’ll thrust the knife deep into their throats from behind.
As she struggles with them, she’ll drag them to the floor and maneuver the knife still nestled in their neck. With a final flourish, Ellie performs a jolted movement with the knife, which we can only imagine is cutting a major artery, or just finishing the job of slitting through the entire throat.
Whatever it is that Ellie’s doing with this, it’s gory, but also incredibly satisfying to watch.
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