This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us.
The Last of Us Part II may still be a ways off, but we did get a nice new look at the game last week with the new E3 trailer. While it was both gorgeous and brutal, and showed us a bunch of new gameplay mechanics the sequel is introducing, a lack of the previous entry’s main playable character left many of us wondering: where is Joel?We played as Ellie for a stint in Part I, but Joel was the main focus of the story. And as much as we love seeing Ellie all grown up and taking after his brutally violent ways, at the back of our minds we’re all hoping for the next glimpse of Joel.
We got one such glimpse in the announcement trailer for Part II back in December of 2016, when he emerged out of a doorway shrouded in light. But given that we never got a good look at his face, theories emerged that he was actually dead. We know now that’s not true—in the new trailer, Ellie’s friend Jesse referred to him as her “old man,” mentioning that Joel lectured him about keeping Ellie safe when they go out on patrols. So we know he’s out there. But why would the developers choose to keep him hidden for this long when he’s such an important part of the series?
For one thing, it’s a way to build suspense. Of course we’re all going to perk up every time we see something new about the game, because there’s a chance we could be getting our first real look at Joel. The longer they hold off on showing him, the hungrier we are to know what’s really going on. It’s a smart way for Naughty Dog to pique our interest.
I also have a crazy theory that something’s up with his face. No, seriously. What if he has some kind of wicked scar or something that they don’t want to reveal yet? What if he lost an eye? Part II is set five years after the first game, and a lot can happen in that time.
Naughty Dog has outright said that we will be playing as Ellie, and only Ellie, in the sequel. It is important to keep in mind, however, that they said we would only be playing as Joel in the first game, and didn’t reveal that Ellie was a playable character for the sake of the surprise. So I’m willing to bet we will be able to play as Joel, even if for a moment, in Part II, considering how well that worked in the first game. But even if we don’t play as Joel, I’d be okay with that. Neil Druckmann has said that The Last of Us was Ellie’s origin story, and Part II would be a continuation of that.
And it’s hard to say whether Joel will make it out of this installment alive. Druckmann did also say that no one is safe from death, not even Joel and Ellie, and I have a sinking feeling that they could off him to further Ellie’s arc.
At the end of the day, I’m really just thinking Naughty Dog is dangling the carrot with this one, and I have to say it’s working—the lack of Joel has people buzzing. But what do you think? Is Joel really dead? Does he have to wear an eyepatch now? Why do you think they’re keeping him so hidden? Let us know in the comments.
Images: Naughty Dog