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The Last of Us Part II review

Our thoughts on the latest game from Naughty Dog.

The Last of Us II
Credit: Naughty Dog

The Last of Us: Part II has been hotly anticipated but has also been the target of some serious negativity. Naturally, this review will ignore all the negativity and review the game on its own merits. Please be aware, there are spoilers for the first title from the outset. While all efforts have been taken to avoid spoilers for this game, there are some mild spoilers for the beginning of the game but they won’t ruin anything.

The Last of Us: Part II begins a few years after the events of the first game, with Ellie and Joel, settled down in the town of Jackson. Life is good, the dangers of the pandemic still affect their daily life but in general, it’s a normal life. After a tumultuous party, a hungover Ellie is tasked to go on patrol with her friend Dina to clear out any infected on the route. The patrol ends in a deadly clash with a group of people. Ellie, motivated by revenge follows the group to Seattle and finds it to be the epicentre of a civil war. She crosses the death ridden city to gain closure.

Watch The Last of Us Part II trailer below:

The story is incredibly tough to review without going into detail, so I’ll be putting up a spoiler-filled feature in the near future. Keeping this review spoiler-free, the opening makes a few cuts back and forth that seemed to me, to be in the wrong order. It didn’t cause confusion but the impact was greatly lessened. Nevertheless, after this intro and you arrive in Seattle, the game begins.

Ellie’s thirst for revenge sees you killing people as you’d expect and the game does a really good job of showing how the bloodlust is consuming her and the toll it takes. This creates a heavy atmosphere though and the slow pacing begins to hurt the game, which is a common theme from start to finish. The pacing is just off. At this point, I was getting worried that this is all the game had to offer but halfway through the game, it changes in a drastic way.

It creates a new dynamic, not quite a light tone but a different one and it comes at a much needed time. I found this portion of the game to be far more interesting but this goes on for half of the game. It culminates in a finale that, while great, is far too long. This is the hardest section to talk about, so in summary, I really enjoyed the story, for the most part, it has just enough lightness for me but the overwhelming tone might be too much for some. The biggest issue is the pacing of the story, a solid 5 hours of the game could have been cut out and the story wouldn’t be affected. The game has been painted with a brush of overt liberalism and the game treats its subject matter very well. It doesn’t come across as snarky at all, there are issues with character motivations, sure, but the fear this a “woke” game is unfounded.

The Last of Us II

Credit: Naughty Dog

As far as gameplay goes, the general concept remains strong. The suggestion you adopt stealth over a guns-blazing approach remains and it’s as strong as ever. The additions to the combat are brilliant. You can lie prone this time around, which allows you to crawl under cars, or hide in grass or maybe even play dead. This isn’t a get out of jail free card though, enemies will spot you up close. Ellie is far more manoeuvrable than Joel, she can leap over gaps and climb obstacles, lending a sense of verticality to combat scenarios that give the player a lot of choices.

I loved the scrappy nature of fights, things rarely go the way you plan, Ellie is no crack shot and a missed bullet can cause chaos and see you fleeing for your life, as you frantically lay traps. This is all helped by a massive boost to enemy AI over the first game, especially from the humans. This is most evident in the dogs, who are accompanied by their human masters and track your scent and alert their team to your presence. Enemies communicate with each other realistically enough to give the game a sense of urgency. The infected, on the other hand, play almost exactly the same as before. The only noticeable difference is in the Stalkers – this time around they actively try to hide from you and ambush you when you least expect it. When they’re mixed in with other infected, the dynamic changes quite drastically. However, I found the new varieties of infected disappointing, coming across as reskinned enemies as opposed to something truly new.

The Last of Us II

Credit: Naughty Dog

Like Uncharted 4: Among Thieves and Uncharted: Lost Legacy, the game world has been expanded significantly. Far from an open world, these large levels offer massive variety in combat and unexpected ways of traversal and finding your way to the next location. Much like the first game, these are usually resolved with a simple puzzle. One section gives you a map and a decently sized level to explore at your discretion. This was excellent but it was the only occasion of this sense of freedom. It’s not that the game felt small afterwards, more that giving us a map was strange. Crafting, looting and upgrades are all identical to the first game, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, other games do each of these systems better but for a narrative-driven game, everything is very competent.

On a visual front……I mean……wow. I expected this game to look great but it exceeds every expectation throughout its entire run time. Character models are stunning, as is the motion capture and animations alongside them. Regardless of level size, the asset placement makes the world feel incredibly real and Naughty Dog clearly have the best antialiasing method in the business, everything looks so clear.

The Last of Us II

Credit: Naughty Dog

The interactivity with objects is amazing, whether it’s foliage, rubble, water caustics and well anything, none of these result in big dips to framerate. The weather system is equally excellent, rain is a constant in this world. Much like the first game, the sound design is impeccable and the score is excellent throughout. The voice cast are all perfect. While Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker are on top form as Ellie and Joel, Laura Bailey steals the show. It’s hardly surprising but this is easily one of her best roles, also the incredibly talented Jeffrey Wright makes an appearance.

At its core, The Last of Us: Part II is a winner, though it is divisive. The mostly heavy tone, especially for the first 10-15 hours, can be quite gruelling and the switch up might not work for everyone. This is subjective and I think most people will be OK with this aspect of the game but the only real issue to me is the pacing. There’s too much unnecessary baggage, it’s frustrating because the first game managed to say so little, so well, in a shorter time frame. All in all, ignore the unwarranted hate, it’s a great game with small issues and when you finish it, come back and check out our summary of the story.

Check out some more screenshots in our gallery below:

The Last of Us II was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.

>Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Naughty Dog Release Date: 19th June 2020 Reviewed On:PS4 Pro (PS4 Pro exclusive)

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