Contrary to what you've heard about its dark and often disturbing themes, The Last of Us 2 (opens in new tab) is a game with a heart. Several of them, actually. In a recent interview with Polygon (opens in new tab), co-director Anthony Newman revealed that the team at Naughty Dog has programmed working heartbeats into every single character in the game, including Ellie herself.
"I’m not sure if you noticed it, but as Ellie sprints around and then she settles, she’ll kind of catch her breath”, explains Newman. “What’s happening behind the scenes is that [Ellie] has a heart rate that is oscillating up and down. It goes up when you sprint, it goes up when you melee, it goes up when you take damage, and goes up into the presence of enemies. And that modulates the bucket of breathing sounds that she’s able to use.”
But Ellie isn't the only one with a working heart-rate. According to Newman, Ellie's allies and enemies will also be reacting and breathing differently depending on the actions they're performing, and this extends to The Last of Us 2's infected roster of Clickers, Bloaters, and goodness knows what else.
“It’s been incredible because I found myself able to play cat and mouse with Clickers better than ever before because I can kind of understand them by the noises that they’re making”, says Newman. “And the humans will do the same thing with breathing and sprinting and stuff.”
The idea behind Naughty Dog's heartbeat tech is to add another layer of intensity to The Last of Us 2's bloody, breakneck gameplay, as the sound of Ellie's heavy breathing in the presence of enemies on the hunt only exacerbates the tension of the game's stealth-focused combat scenarios.
"Not only do our human enemies have names”, jokes Newman: “They have hearts!”. This sequel really is going to make us feel like a monster (opens in new tab), isn't it?
For more, check out everything revealed in Last of Us 2's Outbreak Day info drop (opens in new tab), or watch below for our hands-on gameplay preview of the sequel.