The Last of Us Part II - Review
Naughty Dog's epic returns with the highly anticipated Part II. But does it live up to the expectations?
JUNE 27th, 2020
t is fair to say that game developers Naughty Dog had a lot riding on their sequel to the universally beloved game The Last of Us. Introducing the chaotic and unpredictably apocalyptic world of Joel and Ellie’s West America was deemed a success, so much so that fans had actively followed the development of the anticipated sequel with forensic attention. With every new piece of concept art, footage and information, fans were salivating at what was in store for two of the gaming world’s most complex and revered characters. After six-years of waiting, those teasers made way for what has now become the fastest selling PS4 game ever - The Last of Us Part II.
Five years after the event of the first game, the sequel finds Joel and Ellie living in Jackson. Ellie – now older and more independent – is continuing to deal with the reality of her immunity to the (extreme) fungi infection, which has ravished civilisation, leaving mutated and zombielike humans running riot. Joel, whose actions in the previous game come back to haunt him, is trying to discover a way to reconnect with the girl whose life he saved.
One of the main successes of The Last of Us was the impeccable storytelling and character development; that skill continues in Part II. Naughty Dog Vice President and Director of The Last of Us games, Neil Druckmann, actively seeks to progress the character’s emotional and physical transformations this time around. Taking the solid foundation from the first game, there are both subtle and brutal turning points for each character which tests their resolve, morals and sanity. To root a game in this way can be tricky, and potentially catastrophic in the response from gamers. Yet, Druckmann takes similar risks from the first game – focusing on expanding the story, instead of solely the gameplay. It, once again, pays off.
There are moments in The Last of Us Part II where you are genuinely left speechless. Whether it be the rich and detailed graphics (fans have since been desperate for Naughty Dog to create an open-world game), or the truly unpredictable and shocking storyline – Part II rarely fails in its delivery.
But whilst the story consistently takes centre stage, gameplay is also important. This time around, developers have actively seen how they can tweak the experience. The graphics are exceptional, especially the landscapes of Seattle. The character animation is freakishly real and relatable. Every emotion is captured, every anguish and fear. The controls feel simplified and the combative experience with enemies and the Infected feels much more fluid and realistic. Naughty Dog have brought their A-game and actively aimed beyond the benchmark set the first time around.
Perhaps one the biggest selling points from The Last of Us was the relationship between its two titular characters, Joel and Ellie. The rugged, brutal and gruff Joel, in contrast to the innocent Ellie was a match made in apocalyptic heaven. This time around, that relationship is tested in the most devastating way – one which sets the tone and traction for Ellie’s role in Part II.
Yet, whilst some relationships are tried in the most extreme ways, others begin to blossom. Dina, a new character introduced, also becomes Ellie’s love interest. For those who have played the first game, becoming emotionally connected to any character in this world is perhaps not a good idea. The introduction of Dina certainly makes Ellie’s mission throughout the game much more perilous, increasing the stakes.
Apart from those characters which we emotionally invest in, in a positive way, there are those who make our blood boil. This time around, those feelings are stirred by Abby; a determined, powerful and formidable enemy for Ellie to tackle. Her suspicious introduction and obsessive will to find Joel at the start of the game is gradually explained, and emphasising Druckmann’s storytelling skills once again, you develop a sense of sympathy for her predicament and behaviour. Part II also brings the gaming world into 2020, with the series’ first transgender character and the exploration of Ellie’s sexuality. The diversity and inclusion of these characters only add to the already rounded experience.
Whilst the human enemies can be frightening, the real threat still emits from the Infected. The fungi infested mutants are utterly terrifying and remain just as disturbing from the first game. The Runners, Stalkers, Clickers and Bloaters are as erratic and unforgiving as ever, though like most elements from the first game, Part II adds new additions to the infected calamities./p>
The Last of Us Part II is much more than just an impressive game – it is a masterpiece. From its technical feats with the graphics and combative controls, to the character development; it is a game which has reset the bar. The emotional and visceral reaction to the story telling is perhaps Part II’s greatest achievement. The plot is unpredictable, truly shocking and stuffed with tension and heart pumping thrills. It leaves you breathless.
It is tragically a rarity to find a sequel to such an iconic game which lives up to the expectations bestowed upon it. Most fail to reach the stellar heights of their predecessors, mainly due to the pressure to make something bigger and bolder. Naughty Dog, to their credit, haven’t made the same mistake. Instead, they have created a sequel which, not only lives up to the first game, but enhances the overall experience. For some fans there will be moments of sheer disappointment, not due to the technical achievements of the game, but the choices made by and for the characters. Yet as the credits roll and the controller has left your hands, The Last of Us Part II is confirmed as one of those most rare things in the world of gaming sequels – a triumph.
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