The Last of Us Part II Review

The Last of Us Part II has sold more copies than Uncharted. I’m willing to bet it’ll be uninstalled just as fast. Because after beating the game once, I feel no rush to get back to it.

I have a lot to say about this game. But, y’know, none of it can spoil it because you need to witness it first-hand. After sinking in over 25 hours on my first playthrough (on Normal difficulty), I can attest that this game is made with care, love and affection. But sadly, that doesn’t make this game a 10/10, and it certainly doesn’t make it the game of a generation.

The game is split across two discs, boasting 95GB worth of gameplay. The last game I played with two discs was Red Dead Redemption II, which I thought would bode well. If we’re talking about the visuals and sheer size of the maps, then, yes – this game is absolutely fantastic. If The Last of Us introduced us to this post-apocalyptic world, Part II lets us explore it almost without issue. In over 25 hours, I only encountered 4 or 5 instances of documents not rendering, which is astounding, especially on my PlayStation.

Gameplay

In a word – tense. In the first game, you felt like an apex predator – able to mow down entire armies without a sweat. This game makes you the prey. You feel alone, scared, constantly scrambling for your life. It’s a good thing you can sprint and jump and crawl in this game because running is sometimes the only option.

You never feel as though you are restricted to stealth or combat. You’re constantly moving from one encounter to another. ‘Improvise’ is the name of the game.

There are set-pieces that feel naturally woven-in to the story. There are, however, also quieter moments that feel jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring, as well as others that are sweet and sombre. The only way to properly witness these moments is to play the game.

Running is also an option. Unlike in the first game, where you would clear areas before moving on, this game allows you to bypass the enemy. There were whole 10-15 minute scenarios where I could sneak by the enemy. Other times, I would run out of ammo and have to run, frantically searching for an exit and dodging Clickers.

Ellie is spry and agile, not only with her dodging but with climbing and crawling. Like in its predecessor, she’s able to get to places that Joel cannot (it makes sense – he’s no spring chicken).

Unlike in the first game, where you would find a letter telling you the combination and the safe would suddenly open, in this game you have to actually remember codes and combinations and manually input them. It makes you read what you find and learn more about the world you’re in. There are also more puzzles where a code might be an important date, which makes you start searching the environment for clues to figure this out.

Combat isn’t given an overhaul, but it is exponentially improved. Ellie is more deadly than Joel, but so are their enemies.

In typical Naughty Dog fashion, there’s a nice balance of combat and environmental puzzle-solving. Whether it’s finding safe combinations, figuring out how to find areas filled with ammo and resources or simply trying to knock down one of those out-of-reach ladders. In this game, you need to think outside the box as breakable glass and climbable ropes are introduced into the equation.

Visuals

Sun-kissed wheat fields, frosted forests, the wet marshland of Seattle – the amount of variety in the environments of The Last of Us Part II is truly a marvel. It even rivals Red Dead Redemption II in the minute details, such as how Ellie tugs on her gloves when it’s cold, pulls her hood up when it’s raining and down when she’s inside – you truly feel as though you are in these different environments.

The visuals are astounding – well above any other game I’ve ever played in my life. There are easily a dozen moments where you just want to stop what you’re doing and appreciate the surroundings.

Characters

How can we talk about this game and not mention how female-oriented it is? Without revealing too much about it, there’s brilliant representation for many different minorities in this game. No-one feels 2D or weak, though that is not a surprise coming from a Naughty Dog game. Even the ‘bad guys’ aren’t just faceless grunts. You can understand the motives of both factions you come across, and no-one feels like a moustache-twirling villain.

Your companion(s) aren’t necessarily as effective but still well above the standard. There were a number of moments where a companion would place a well-aimed shot and kill the enemy that was piping me with a rifle.

This game explores Ellie and Joel’s relationship with a new technique. Whereas in the first game we see Joel lose his daughter and fast-forward through his dark years, this instalment focuses on Ellie’s trauma and how she attempts to work through it, accurately depicting how trauma is often a catalyst for change.

Story

I smiled and laughed within 10 minutes. It’s true, this is just as story-driven as the first game. But sadly, that story just isn’t as strong. That’s as specific as I can be without spoiling it. This is a game for people who played the first – this story is aptly named ‘Part II’ because it is a continuation, tying up loose ends and building on the immensely emotional foundations of its predecessor. It’s just a shame that this story is not better than the aforementioned foundations.

There is, however, a duality to the narrative of the story that is equal parts shocking and brave. Though I feel it is not as effective as it could have been, it’s important to recognize Naughty Dog are not just trying to recreate the same formula as The Last of Us, they are actively experimenting and seeing what else they can introduce to move the franchise/series forwards. It seems like’s Joel’s words from the ending of The Last of Us ring true throughout this entire game:

“No matter what, you keep finding something to fight for.”

There are touching, emotional sequences, and multiple parts of this story pass the Bechdel test, which is important because this game has women taking the centre stage. Ellie’s story is one about compromising and reconciling her need for revenge with her love for her family.

Closing Thoughts

Now, here’s the issue – and it’s a glaring issue. This is not the game of the generation. It’s not life-changing, and it’s certainly not surpassing the original. Moreover, the story becomes somewhat convoluted as the game progresses.

But having said this, this game is definitively The Last of Us. Gustavo Santaolalla reprises his role as the composer, and it is one of the best things about the game. His music is melancholy, thoughtful, and never felt unnatural or shoehorned. Additional music delivered by Mac Quayle is equally as important, adding to the creepy and tense atmosphere. The graphics and artistic direction is breath-taking, and this cannot be overlooked.

There’s an even balance of the old and the new, be it in terms of gameplay, story and sound. Everything feels similar but not the same. It’s a balance that is hard to find, but Naughty Dog did it.

This is a superb game. But 20 hours in, I was ready for it to end. Moreover, the story told within this game is just simply not as good as its predecessor. It’s definitely one to play, but if it were not for the beauty of the visual art and sound design, I would consider the £52.99 I paid to be roughly £20-£30 too much.

I might’ve enjoyed this game more if it were not reported by multiple reviewers as being a ’10/10 masterpiece’ or ‘the game of a generation’. We’ll get more into that once everyone has had time to play the game, so we won’t be spoiling it for anyone. Because of that, I award this game 8/10 simply because of the care that crafted this game. It’s made with love, but sometimes love isn’t enough.

Developer: Naughty Dog

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: PS4

Release Date: 19th June 2020

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