What is there left to say about The Last of Us? It seems to have gained all the praise and kept people talking about that ending and discussing the morality of the decisions made in the game. Naughty Dog created a game with an ending and a story that most people have their own interpretation of the characters and the situations they were in, and they’ve done it again with The Last of Us Part II.
I’ll avoid story, plot points and characters for now in case you are spoiler sensitive and focus on those later. Let’s talk about the visuals. This may be the best looking game on the market. There were times when I found myself wondering why the load times were long, and this was because I was thinking that next gen was going to get rid of load times! But I was playing a current generation game! Playing on the PS4 Pro the forest environments and the foliage blow almost everything else out of the water. I would put this up against Crysis at maximum settings.
Talking about water, the rain, waterfalls, waves in the sea and the wet effects are also out of this world. It is hard to imagine them looking much better. Naughty Dog have truly a next level engine, artists and engineers to achieve this level of realism.
Level design is also spectacular, not just the layout of the world and the puzzles within it, particularly love how they created amazing rope puzzles akin to the plank ones form the first game. But mostly I enjoyed that every room told a story. Every corpse or skeleton allowed you to CSI the situation to see how this person died. Whether it was suicide, clickers or killed by humans. The handwritten notes with slightly different handwriting all add to this believable world.
The characters look better than ever, with the most realistic skin textures seen since Uncharted 4 and they ways the faces can distort when pressed up against. Facial animations really draw you in and you can see the fear in their faces when being choked and the anger when you take out an enemies comrade.
Each enemy is also named. Something you would expect in real life, but not in video games. Shooting an arrow into an NPC and to hear their brother in arm shout out “Chris!” makes that ‘NPC’ feel more like a person. Coupled with their advanced AI they do feel real. Each group will tackle you differently, some will rush at you with melee weapons and others shoot at you form a distance. I even experienced them using flanking procedures by drawing your attention one way as another sneaks around.
Dogs are a new addition, and if you love dogs, you’ll hate what you have to do in TLOU2. I imagine the studio also felt bad considering ‘Dog’ is in their namesake! These may be the biggest enemy to the stealth player, if you are near one it will start barking and follow your trail which you have to break by running away from your objective. They make the game much harder until you figure out a strategy to take them out. I found gunfights became more common than I would have liked. Despite this there was always enough ammo and materials to be found in comparison to the first game.
Playing on “Moderate” or normal mode, I did find the game a little on the easy side. Especially if you go in guns blazing. My crafting supplies were always full and the same with health, but I did visit every building and explore them thoroughly. The game ushers you towards them too, whether it is by notes that tell you about a stash or a safe, or simply by rewarding you with materials whenever you choose to explore. Most of the time these places are riddled with infected, but that just makes it fun.
You’ll be glad to know that there are more infected and some of the older ones have been given new tricks. Stalkers appeared int he first game but these are now completely different. They hide and wait to attack you, when they are still you can’t ‘hear’/see them through the listen mode either. Shamblers are similar to Bloaters but they move faster and expel acidic spores at you. The runners and clickers are possibly the easiest to tackle now as with Ellie, she carries an impervious switchblade that can kill an unlimited amount of times without breaking.
So, let’s start talking about the story. This game is massive in many ways, most of which I won’t have time to touch upon. The environment has the same ‘wide-linear’ layout as the latest Uncharted games and the setting of Seattle to roam around on horseback and visit areas in whatever order you want to. Easily the best portion of the game. You also realise that the world is much bigger than Joel, Ellie and their group of friend. Other factions play a major role and hint towards there being even more than this, and of course, they don’t like each other.
The WLF (Washington Liberation Front) or ‘Wolves’ who are at war with The Seraphites or ‘Scars’. Each group have their own ideologies and believe the other is in the wrong, which ultimately leaves them clashing repeatedly. Both groups aren’t aware of your group until later in the game and they have vested interest in looking for you.
You no longer play as Joel, and this torch was handed over to Ellie in the last game. She has all the abilities she used to but now she can go prone and crawl on the ground Solid Snake style from the Metal Gear series. A nod to the award winning stealth action series. Crawling under cars and low grass gives you more places to hide than ever before. This may be why the game feels easier. Getting the jump on the enemies has never been so in your favour. You craft items like before with some new additions and upgrade weapons the same. Again, these are better than before and more silenced options than you are used to.
But another nod to the Metal Gear series comes with a newcomer, Abby. Much like ‘Raiden’ in MGS2, you play as Abby a ‘Wolf’ very early on in the game where you don’t really know why. Her story intertwines with Joel. Tommy and Ellie, which comes to a crescendo a few hours into the game. Suffice to say, you don’t like Abby to begin with, and after this you might even hate her. But the game pushes her onto you and you play her for a larger portion to see her side of events.
This is where the game might lose a lot of people. I myself hated the character for the longest time. Naughty Dog really tried to hammer home her motivations and her justifications but I still couldn’t get behind her until the very end. I waited on writing this review after I realised what I feel Neil Druckmann and the team at Naughty Dog were trying to get across. The term Ludonarrative dissonance came to mind and how the human mind can juxtapose two characters so easily who have the exact same intentions. Both kill people, both are surviving, yet I prefer one over the other simply because I knew them first?
It really put things into perspective and I soon came to realise, even though I never wanted to admit it, but Abby was the ‘good guy’ in the story. She righted an injustice and both Joel and Ellie were acting more on revenge. The line between them both is blurred, but Abby falls more in the right than the other two. I won’t go into too much detail as it would mean revealing the entire plot. Play the game and let me know what you think?
Because of these two stories, the game is long. A little too long. For the first time I would say it outstayed its welcome by a few hours. It took me just over 28 hours with a lot of exploring. The story was heavy and dark, perhaps a little too much, but we will be talking about it for quite some time to come. Each cutscene is acted superbly. Not a single bad performance across the board. Facial animations again are superb, and there is a certain scene where after playing as Abby, you can really appreciate why her face contorts in the way it does, because the first time you see it, you don’t have the back story of what she had just been through. Amazing.
There are loads of tiny nit-picks for this game. Pacing, game length, no multiplayer or it’s a bit too easy. But they all pale in comparison to the achievements of this title. Nothing comes close to this in terms of story and impact and I really mean that. In some cases this is up there with TV and Film. Much like the character in The Last of Us, it isn’t flawless, but somehow still perfect to me.
- Replay Value