Sony Goes Into Detail On The Amazing Realistic Facial Animations For The Last Of Us: Part 2

Sony Goes Into Detail On The Amazing Realistic Facial Animations For The Last Of Us: Part 2
Credit: Sony

When playing The Last of Us: Part 2, whether you liked the game or hated it, you have to admit that it is breathtaking and realistic.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a game as the amazing cinematics take you on a journey that is often more reminiscent of a major motion picture than your standard survival video game.

Sony has gone in depth on some of the tactics used by developer Naughty Dog that really brought characters like Ellie, Abby, Dina, and the rest to life.

Animator Keith Paciello talked on the PlayStation blog about the process of making video game characters emote in a hyper realistic way. He used a look of complete immersion on the face of Ellie as she studied a painting as a prime example. He noted that player interactions are able to trigger relevant facial animations.

“You as a player are aiming with the controller for Ellie to look at the painting, which is triggering a ‘look at target’ placed by a designer,” Paciello said. “On top of that, I animated small eye darts (saccades) within the character’s facial idles to try and indicate an overall thought process. So animated eye saccades sitting on top of the eye-aim, work together to create what looks like focus and thought process.”

The 25 major characters in The Last of Us: Part 2 have 20 different emotional states. These states are used throughout the gameplay experience in order to accurately reflect the situation. Even the infected will have varied facial expressions in reaction to certain encounters, ambient moments, player actions, dialogue, and more. At least, the ones with faces will.

“We were looking at and talking about how to make a blade of grass even better (in game),” Paciello said. “In doing so, we panned up, and there was this blank face on the character. I was like ‘Oh.’ It was then I wondered how we could simply, across the entire game, add these emotional beats to the characters, so at any point, you can tell what the character is feeling.”

The emotional expression of the characters in The Last of Us: Part 2 are what make it such a compelling and emotional gaming experience. People had such extreme reactions to certain story elements of this zombie survival adventure, and part of that has to be the realistic animated expressions portrayed by all of the characters.

The Last of Us: Part 2 is currently available exclusively on the PlayStation 4 console.