A Wonderful, Twisted, Perfect Circle of a Tale
Anyone who played the original The Last of Us game is already well aware of its incredible success, and phenomenal run as it brought home the close of the PS3, and welcomed in the PS4. Not only did it take home several “Game of the Year” awards, but it also earned recognition as one of the best cinematic experiences of this generation. That said, here we are now seven years later; and Naughty Dog has created a gem of a sequel.
Where Are We?
Last we saw Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us, we played out his final decisions with Ellie, particularly as it relates to her status at the Firefly hospital. As with the first game, there is a heavy tone immediately set in the wonderfully produced scenes, animations, and voicework in this game.
We hear through dialogue between Joel and his brother Tommy, that Joel fatefully saved Ellie from the hospital upon learning that the procedure to create a cure for the kill all fungal nasty demon baddies, would in fact take her life. Tommy, from this perspective, is us hearing with words a reflection of just what exactly Joel did for Ellie. But it doesn’t stop here, we also learn that he’s kept this his little secret. This immediate immersion into the theme of the characters welcomes us into Part II of this amazing journey.
The Calm, the Storm
As we begin playing through the game, we learn that our heroes are holed up in Jackson, Mississippi. Things are about as expected as they could be - the world is still dealing with the substantial, ever-growing number of infected that run wild in the wilderness that are the run down cities of the nation. The encampment is one of the few mobilized areas for survivors to gather up, and live some semblance of a lifestyle. Joel, Ellie, and a cast of new faces make themselves known as patrols to keep this encampment safe, and rightfully so - we’ve seen firsthand the brutality that Joel and Ellie hand out...so why not put them on the front lines?
The game continues forward, and throws us into the actual primary location in Seattle, WA. We won’t spoil the reasoning for this here at Phucaname, but what we will say is that it’s a great change of pace to see the “ruins” of a huge metro city, particularly one that was once dense, is now a infectious ghost version of its former glory. Keep in mind, The Last of Us: Part II is close to twice as long as the original campaign, with us clocking out a moderate completion time of about 30-35 hours.
Ellie, Post-Apocalyptic Badass
This may come as a shock to many, but Joel is not the main character of this game as he was in the original game. Thus far, we have seen so many individuals bash this game on Metacritic, and other blogs simply for the fact that they feel “deceived”. Here is what I have to say - BOO HOO. Anyone who couldn’t pick up on the fact that MAJORITY of the gameplay/demonstrations showed Ellie PRIMARILY, let alone the fact that she’s on the COVER ART for the game, needs to see their primary care physician; and I mean today. That being said, this game suffers no losses, and in fact builds on an already phenomenal foundation with a beautiful, traumatic story.
There are multiple factions you encounter as you play through the game, each with their own agendas, and claims in what remains of this world. It’s an interesting look into how, even in the face of a terrible planet-wrecking zombie-esque epidemic, we humans continue to find ways to have conflicts. We never feel that it’s misplaced, as each are given their due stories, and we learn more about the world around us through constant explorations, finding missing letters in abandoned buildings, or looting encampments that’d been lost to the infected long before.
The Eyes, the Ears
Additionally, this is a violent game - stepping up just slightly from the original. The game feels even more punishing than before and you truly feel the weight of the damage you deal along with the damage you take. Furthermore, the AI has been refined to both make baddies harder to cheese, yet also make your companions (should you be traveling with any during story points) not act idiotic when you want them to sit in cover. This works most of the time, and it’s glaringly obvious to see the refinements here.
The Seattle scene feels very natural, and you find yourself weaving through both buildings, streets, and forests to deal with the tasks at hand. Whether it’s crouching behind a run-down car, crawling through the underbrush, or sneaking through an abandoned building, you will quickly feel the tension in knowing that truly anything can happen anywhere.
The sound design of the game is stellar, and you quickly can re-identify with the first game’s listening mechanic to “sense” enemies around a corner, or pinpoint an infected mutant clicking on a floor above. Keeping your eyes and ears peeled will certainly help you not lose your mind while trying to traverse this world in one piece.
For a game that seems to throw trauma after trauma in your face, the game is incredibly well paced and balanced. The moments of beauty while riding through a grassy, broken down freeway on a horse, or finding safe haven in a record shop to restock on loot helps to make the next suspenseful, heart-pounding encounter so special.
Part II has a more expansive skill set, and crafting set, in order to give the players more toys to tinker with while surviving. That said, those require tools, loot, and trinkets. Rummaging through the world around you can lead you to these fruits, but you never know what lies on the basement level of an old Seattle highrise - the infected will not always be out in the open, rather many lay inside as they’ve taken refuge of their own in this desolate city.
The Devil’s in the Details
We could go on and on about the graphical prowess of this game. Everything is beautifully rendered, well sounding, and fantastically voice-acted. The scenes not only feel real, but the emotions are compelling, captivating, and the character drama pushes you along the path. Part II has twists and turns in it that will make some folks question what’s happening - but I assure you, Naughty Dog provides the answers.
As you progress later in the game, the story shines brightest - it’s almost as if the more you put into the game, the more you’ll reap from the harvest. All the while, Part II takes you by the hand and asks that you walk gently off a cliff, in hopes of landing on soft clouds. We say buy into this and you will be rewarded.
The Last of Us: Part II is a masterwork, plain and simple. The first game was something special, truly finding a way to grip the gamers, yet giving us satisfying survival horror gameplay, in a story that you could grab a bag of kettle corn and enjoy again and again until Oscar Sunday. Part II takes it to another level, somehow - someway, improving on the original’s design, and providing us with a story that is at WORST, equally engrossing.
The reality is that, this game goes beyond the first and I guarantee that this will leave you happy that you sat and invested your time. It has its flaws in gameplay quirkiness at times, and while playing you may have questions that you’ll feel needed answers, but trust in this game, play it through and through, and I dare you to speak against its greatness. Truly, a job well done from Naughty Dog.
Final Score: 10/10
Reviewed By CorneredFOX