Few games in recent memory have sparked such strong debate as The Last of Us Part II.
Whether it’s the setting of the game, the implementation of new characters, the role familiar faces have to play, or even the script itself, everything is being scrutinised.
I guess that’s what happens when you’re following up from one of the greatest games of the last generation or any other.
But just as its predecessor did, The Last of Us Part II furthers the conversation about games being a more serious form of entertainment and the quality of storytelling now possible with the medium.
Because of that, I came into The Last of Us Part II with anticipation, with trepidation, but also a bit of frustration.
See, I was one of the unlucky ones that got spoiled just a few months back. I didn’t get a point by point breakdown of the game, but I happened across a significant plot point in the most unexpected place.
The spoiler nobody really wants coming into the game, yet one that drives everything and pushes the story forward.
Fortunately, while that spoiler stayed in the back of my mind and refused to shift no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the game still achieved its desired impact.
The Last of Us Part II is just full of these moments that have you squirming in your seat, hiding behind your hands, and even pausing the game for minutes at a time, digesting, contemplating, analysing.
I was legitimately gasping at times. I also felt anger, elation, hatred, and even had tears streaming down my face more than once. Just thinking about certain scenes now makes my heart sink.
I can say with complete honesty that no game has made me go through such a kaleidoscope of emotion quite like TLOU 2. And amazingly, across my forty hours of play, I found myself completely glued to my screen. Whether I wanted to or not, I could not look away.
I’ve heard comments about the pacing being off, but I have to humbly disagree. Everything flowed marvellously for me, each scene was important, and just as I felt the combat was starting to wear out its welcome, the story kicked back in.
The thing that irked me was how it plays out and how Naughty Dog made me feel from one moment to the next. At times, this is a hard game to play and I’m not necessarily talking about the difficulty. The Last of Us Part II is a ride.
Naughty Dog are often putting players in uncomfortable positions and there’s nothing you can do to change your course trajectory. I haven’t felt so conflicted about what I’m being asked to do in a long time.
And The Last of Us Part II put me in that position at least 4 or 5 times.
Without question, story is the driving force of this game. Mechanically, the game hasn’t massively deviated from the original in that you still pick up parts to tweak your weapons and medicinal supplies to level up your attributes.
Just like the original, The Last of Us Part II is a mostly linear experience but the scenes are sandboxes with lots of options for cover and resources to scavenge. There’s new abilities, weapons, and alterations, of course, but players of the original will feel right at home coming into this. And honestly, I can’t imagine too many newcomers deciding this would be a good place to start.
Trust me, it isn’t. The events of the original – particularly those towards the end of the game – are so inextricably linked to the entire plot of Part II, you’ll miss out on a lot of context and probably feel pretty lost, even though the game does a good job of backtracking and recounting its own history.
But there are a lot of new characters to meet during The Last of Us Part II, such as Dinah who, you probably know, serves as a love interest for Ellie. Then there’s Jesse, Lev, Yara, Abby, and many others. Each playing a significant role in the development of the plot.
To say how can be a bit of a spoiler in of itself, but the way that Naughty Dog have not only continued Joel and Ellie’s adventure but added to it in thoughtful, meaningful ways.
Something has to be said for the game’s use of motion capture. This is a new evolution for games – a defining moment if you will. Subtleties in facial twitches, eye rolls, sly smirks are just the tip of the iceberg.
You can see the love characters have for one another in their eyes, just as quickly as you can see that love turn to hate. Acting is such a huge part of this game that there can be long, drawn-out silences without it being awkward. It makes every motion meaningful.
Even down to the slightest touches like characters whimpering in fear, sniffling with sadness, grunting with rage. You’ll catch Ellie both admiring herself in the mirror and turning away from the player when you try to get a look at her face. Everything is purposefully done, bordering on a perfectionism rarely seen in similar titles.
While the player directs their own experiences for the most part, the greater direction at play, bringing the main plot points together, is ever engrossing, occasionally masterful, but always captivating.
It’s a word thrown about a lot when it comes to art, but through all the blood, horror, and tension, The Last of Us Part II is genuinely a masterpiece.
Through its incredible. acting, compelling dialogue, gorgeous score, subtle touches, and ever-flowing, easy to grasp gameplay, The Last of Us Part II will undoubtedly be vying for Game of the Year Awards – winning many of them – but its impact is greater still.
This game will change the way storytelling is done in games forever. In the eyes of the mainstream, this has further legitimized games as a powerful tool to tell a deep, enriching tale that will stay with you days, weeks, even years later.
Naughty Dog have outdone themselves once again, and given the PlayStation 4 the world-class exclusive it deserves to not only say goodbye to a generation, but provide the next one with the boundless possibilities for amazing stories to come.
The Last of Us Part II is now available on PlayStation 4
Review Code Provided by Sony