The Last of Us 2 Devs Explain How They Managed to Achieve Such Realistic Eyes

June 29, 2021

The eyes are the windows to the soul and in The Last of Us Part 2, Naughty Dog did everything possible for players to experience the most realistic experience when it comes to the game’s characters.

Even before The Last of Us Part 2 released in June last year, our expectations were high. We knew Naughty Dog could pull off amazing looking environments and characters. I mean, you only have to look at Uncharted 4 for a start but the length the developers went to in TLOU2 even went beyond the studio’s comprehension.

Many opinions float around about The Last of Us 2, mostly due to the direction the narrative took, but there’s no doubt about it – when Naughty Dog set their minds on a game, you can guarantee it will look special and the level of details will be outstanding.


Earlier this year, technical art director Waylon Brinck and technical artist Steven Tang who worked on The Last of Us 2 put together a presentation where they talked about the technical side of the art that went into the title.

Throughout the in-depth discussion, subjects like how snow, wetness, and other implements were added to the game but also how much work actually went into rendering character, and animals, eyes.

At first, the artists were happy with how they looked in the initial Last of Us 2 reveal trailer and within the game itself but noticed that it depended on the quality of light at any given time meaning that an entire overhaul was needed. If anything, we all know that players pay very close attention to details and this was something Naughty Dog didn’t want to take a backseat on.

With so much work that had gone into the characters themselves from skin, clothes and animation, allowing the eyes to come to life just as much as everything else was a high priority. Adding in ‘screen-space shadows’ for characters’ eyelashes and eyelids was part and parcel of the overhaul as well as not forgetting the eyes of the animals.

Brinck and Tang explained that the team wanted to include every aspect possible when it came to TLOU2‘s creatures “We had a moment in the game where we wanted some taxidermied wolves to have retro-reflective eyes like many nocturnal animals do.” This can be found when real-life animal’s eyes glow depending on what light they are exposed to.

Fans of the title will also have noticed that the devs included this feature with the infected also – giving them a more sinister look and feel AND making those moments when you spot one in a certain light a little bit more scarier than normal.

For reference on the eyes, check out this side by side shot of Abby and her real-life face model, Jocelyn Mettler. That’s pretty incredible work right there, so much so that it’s almost difficult to differentiate between the two.

I think it goes without saying that the work that has been done on TLOU2 is second to none and probably more real than any of us were hoping for. It will be exciting to see what the team has next up their sleeve. As for HBO’s The Last of Us series, production has now begun with the hopes of a delivery sometime next year.


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