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The Last of Us Part II companions and enemies will be significantly smarter than they were in the previous game by using massive improvements in artificial intelligence, as developed by Naughty Dog (via Gamespot, Gamespot).
In an interview with Gamespot, co-director Anthony Newman explained how these improvements were brought into development and what players could expect from the new game. Companion artificial intelligence has made leaps and bounds, and Newman called it ‘one of the few really significant technical achievements we’ve been able to make on the game.’
He recalled how Ellie, Tess, Henry, and Sam would be ‘almost better than the player’ at evading enemies in The Last of Us, because the game wouldn’t register that they were evidently visible. ‘There’s a tricky balance there because Ellie could then just hang way, way back and just never be seen, but then you don’t feel like you have an ally with you, [so] you feel lonely,’ Newman explained. ‘So there’s a really interesting line we’ve been walking but I can definitely say that that aspect of the game has been dramatically improved.’
In the sequel, companions will no longer be armed with a peashooter, figuratively speaking. ‘[In] almost all of our games, the allies have done fake damage where you’ll see them shoot enemies and it’s a little bit theatrical where their bullets are clearly doing way less damage than yours,’ Newman said. ‘What I’m really excited about is that with a lot of effort and some clever AI tricks, every time you see your ally shoot an enemy, their bullets do exactly as much damage as yours do.’
This leads to greater interaction and reciprocity between the player and their companion, and the characters won’t trail ineffectually behind nor will they get in the way, because they will ‘do a lot of pretty exciting new stuff’. ‘They have their own pretty nuanced melee system where they can interact with enemies in melee and also help you out and rescue as they did in the first game. They’re a little bit more flexible and nuanced this time around,’ Newman stated.
It would only be fair that the enemies received a few more IQ points, as well as the goodies. Newman described the ‘vague knowledge’ that enemies will possess in the new game. ‘Not only does this make them more intelligent to new situations where these systems can cause more intense moments to transpire for the player, it also gives the player the opportunity to make predictions,’ he said.
‘By having these more refined and nuanced layers of knowledge and perception and coordination, players can make better and better predictions and make more refined strategies about what to do next,’ he elucidated, before adding that these technical improvements were intended to make the game ‘unsettling’. ‘I think along with, honestly, every aspect of the game – narratively, mechanically, and technologically – the AI was just one facet of the game that we really wanted to take to the next level and ask, “What can we do that’s next-gen?”’, Newman concluded.
The Last of Us Part II will launch for PlayStation 4 on February 21 2020.