Fans of Naughty Dog’s upcoming The Last of Us: Part 2 finally got to see more of the game at Sony’s E3 2018 press conference, with an extended trailer showing both a cinematic look at game’s story, and some stealth combat gameplay. The game looks gorgeous, but many have been left with one question: where is Joel?

The troubled anti-hero who the player controlled for the vast majority of the first game was noticeably absent from the entire trailer. Instead, we saw Ellie attending a party with a large group of settlers, and even enjoying a kiss with one of them before diving into some brutal stealth-killings in a darkened forest.

It’s become somewhat of a meme for fans of The Last of Us: Part 2 to speculate that Joel will die, simply because the post-apocalyptic universe that Naughty Dog has created is known for using brutal tragedy to tug on the player’s heart strings. Indeed, it seems Naughty Dog’s sequel will follow the same model of mixing emotion with brutality – a fact made clear by the jarring transition in yesterday’s trailer from a romantic kiss to a gory stabbing.

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Whilst these concerns over Joel’s death in The Last of Us Part II are not always serious, the humor in them is perhaps lessened now that we’ve had two trailers in a row with no sign of him. The cinematic trailer that was released in October last year did not feature Joel either, instead focusing on some kind of cult hanging people – likely the same cult Ellie was killing in the E3 2018 trailer.

Those who enjoyed playing as Joel in the first game should not despair just yet, however. The first reveal trailer released for the game certainly did feature Joel, giving us a very brief look at an older version of the character who finally got round to teaching Ellie the guitar. The E3 2018 trailer also did appear to mention him, with the young man who approached Ellie during the party telling her he was lectured about patrols by her “old man”.

We also know that Troy Baker, the voice actor for Joel, has had at least some role in the game, since he has called it a “fantastic game” and said the playtest is “looking awesome”. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee Joel will survive even the early parts of the game, as a large part of Baker’s role could have been in flash-back cutscenes.

So while we know that Joel will feature in the game in some form, it’s certainly not definite that he will be a major part of the player’s experience as was the case in the first game. Neil Druckmann already told us months ago that Ellie and Joel are not safe from death in The Last of Us: Part 2, so Joel’s lack of presence in the majority of trailers for the game may spell very bad news indeed.

With the game rumored for release next year, it’s likely we will see more footage of the game soon. This will allow fans to carefully study them for any hopeful signs that Joel is still alive.

The Last of Us: Part 2 is currently in development, and no release date has been announced yet.

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