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All that we learned about The Last of Us 2's gameplay and story from 'Inside the Demo'

(Image credit: Sony)

Before this week's bevy of The Last of Us 2 footage, it had been around a year and a half since we had seen anything new regarding Naughty Dog's long-awaited follow-up. But with three-hours of gameplay made available to the media on September 25 and the Outbreak Day release of a nearly ten-minute behind-the-scenes demo, we've got a lot to work with. 'Inside the Demo' does what the name implies, taking us through the gameplay with the help of some of the title's developers. You can watch the preview below: 

While most of the footage is stuff we've already featured in our preview, getting the developers' insider info makes it much more interesting. We learn that Ellie and Joel have been living in a settlement called Jackson since we last saw them and that Ellie and her "friend" Dina regularly go out patrolling the outskirts of the city to clear it of infected. This is where the first part of the demo picks up, and where things quickly get dicey. The sleepy snowy area soon swirls with a storm, an environmental effect meant to make you nervous. "It's all to build tension," says Kurt Margenau, co-game director. 

But Ellie and Dina are more than capable, as The Last of Us 2 has upgraded our favorite heroine quite a bit, which means traversing the game world is going to change dramatically. "Ellie is so much more agile, kind of athletic, that it seemed that we should really pursue this whole avenue of gameplay," says co-game director Anthony Newman, "Introducing like a real jump, like a real arcing jump, has allowed us to make for much more interesting puzzles, more interesting vertical environments and can frequently integrate well into combat setups."

But what is perhaps the best part of the ten-minute video is learning that Ellie can squeeze through  "squeeze-throughs" as they're called by Margenau. "Oh it looks like I can fit through that, oh I can fit through that, that's cool," he says, referring to small spaces between shelves or holes in walls. The developers go on to explain how this drastically changes the stealth mechanic, adding a new way for Ellie to sneak about to either avoid or engage. 

'Inside the Demo' also reiterates that, technically, you don't have to kill the guard dogs. While discussing how the addition of a new sense of perception (scent) ups the stealth ante, Margenau points out that Listen Mode will let you see the visualization of your scent: "You can see if the dog is sniffing you and where it's going, you can throw bottles to distract the dog off of your scent." So, if you're a dog lover and can't imagine killing a cute canine, don't fret, just master the art of stealth. 

Director Neil Druckmann expands upon the new enemies we can expect to face, including more dangerous human foes that have completely rewritten AI, and a boss fight with a stalker that shows off the new fighting mechanics. In The Last of Us 2, toe-to-toe battles are going to feel even more intense. You'll be able to evade, exchange combos, and slam each other into objects. "It's all done in service of grounding you more in this world, making you more immersed in this fight and feel like Ellie is barely surviving by the edge of her abilities," says Druckman. I'm anxious already. 

The Last of Us 2 will be available exclusively on PS4 on February 21, 2020. Here's how to preorder it.