The Matrix Reloaded*, Devil May Cry 2, Jaws 2 and Duke Nukem Forever. What do you notice about these things? Yes, they are all sequels to arguable film/gaming masterpieces and yes, they are all terrible compared to their predecessors.
Sequels are extremely difficult to get right. There is a fine balance that must be met. Stray too far from the original and the fans will shout, “this is nothing like the first one!” but stay too close and the accusations of laziness and unoriginality will roll in. This is why I have everything crossed for John Wick: Chapter 2.
Of course films like The Empire Strikes Back, LOTR: The Two Towers and The Return of Jafar (trust me, go watch it) are perfect examples of how to nail a sequel. In the game world you have Uncharted 2, God of War 2, Assassins Creed 2, Half-Life 2, Halo 2 and the list can go on and on. These games, however, had something to improve on in terms of their predecessors.
Improving and developing on The Last of Us is something that seems impossible to many people. Some of these people even argue that a sequel is entirely unnecessary. So I’ve come up with a few ways that Naughty Dog can avoid dropping an Iron Man 2 on us and make their difficult second album a success.
1. An evolution of the plot beyond simple survival
The Last of Us picked us up at the very start, twirled us around in an emotional hurricane of a story for 20 hours (depending on how hardcore you are) and dropped us right at the end feeling very upset about the fact that it was all over. In no way am I saying that they need to improve on this. What does need to happen, though, is that the story is developed into something new.
The Last of Us has a plot that, in its basic state, can be referred to as “the quest”. Joel and Ellie set out to accomplish the goal of getting Ellie back to the Fireflies. If The Last of Us 2 drops us into another quest storyline, I think it could be in danger of receiving those accusations of being too close to the first one. A natural development for the game could be that we move past trying to survive and into the realms of trying to grow. Trying to bring back parts of the old world and expand again.
An overcoming the monster plotline would also be a natural fit. Having an enemy to defeat would move away from the simple survival aspect. In any case, whatever they decide to do, it will need to be just as engaging and amazing as the first one, but I think we can be pretty safe in the knowledge that the story will not let us down.
2. A broader post-apocalypse America
Post-pandemic America was quite a sight to behold. It could be beautiful and peaceful in one moment, and then harsh and terrifying in the next. Giraffes and clickers, right?
We got to see and explore pretty much all of it, which means that the Last of Us 2 is probably going to need to freshen up these environments or set us somewhere else. Developing the world is a big part of a sequel and we’ve been very much in Joel and Ellie’s bubble up to this point. Seeing what has happened in other places would add flesh to the bones of our story. I’d love to see a different country at some part of the game if not for all of it and with that would come all the perks of new environments to explore and gawk at in wonder and horror.
3. New characters worth caring about
I thought Bill was badass as hell when he rolled up with his huge knife and booby traps. I wanted him to hang around for longer even though he was a bit of an asshole. Now in the gap between the two games, Joel and Ellie would have clearly been through some things. Once we’ve found out about all of that what else is there going to be for the characters? Some of my favourite segments of the game were when you were hanging out with a third character like Tess, Bill or Henry.
A strong third character would definitely be an asset to the game, especially if Naughty Dog is planning on making this series last longer. Alternatively coming across more characters like these three and working with them would be great even if it were temporary. The game doesn’t need a third wheel but I’d love to see more stories and more interesting and charismatic people, like Bill. Bring Bill back please.
4. More kinds of Infected
I’ve always hesitated to call The Last of Us a zombie game because I don’t think that’s the main allure of it. Yes, there are zombies or ‘infected’, but no, the game isn’t all about them. In a world completely overrun by runners and clickers, the most interesting drama unfolds between the humans. It’s the whole rebels vs. government thing but beyond the wall is something worse, yet largely ignored unless you go out there.
Having said all that, seeing more of the infected is a possibility. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be in the game more but a larger variety would make for more interesting encounters and puzzles in the game. You’ve got the runners and clickers, which are the most common, and then the bloaters and stalkers that are more rare. I have no idea what they could throw in amongst those but another two types of infected with different strengths and weaknesses would add more variety and an unpredictable nature to later stages of the game.
5. Gameplay tweaks and puzzle changes
There were a few things gameplay wise that bugged me. When you were trying to stealth around, your mates at the time would generally either take cover with you or run around in front of the humans and infected, usually without consequence. The shooting mechanics were a bit dodgy even if you decreased the weapon sway (that or I am just useless at shooting) and the puzzles became a little tedious. It was all about moving ladders or planks to get to a certain area. More variety in the puzzles would be great, as well as improved AI for your friends.
I was also very jealous of Bill’s knife. Throughout the whole section with him I had knife envy. Perhaps a permanent melee weapon that was repairable might be cool? I also think that some deeper RPG elements would add to the game. More upgrades for Joel/Ellie and the weapons could be added as well as more items for crafting. This would offer more options in approaching puzzles and conflict to go with the greater variety of puzzles and conflicts. Gameplay improvements will always help make a sequel better and would be a great place to start. I’m not worried, though; these are the guys who made Uncharted 4.
Is there anything you would add?
*Editor’s note: FAKE NEWS. Reloaded is great.