Finally, the long-awaited sequel to The nasty dog is here. The Last of Us, Part II debuted on June 19 on PlayStation 4, but I played the game several times for this review. And I’m happy to say that I’m not disappointed with the risks the developer took, even if the game didn’t go where I thought it would go, or where I wanted it to go.
At first, the previews gave us clues to a tragic event that would spark the journey to the second game. There is no doubt that playing the game is an intense emotional and emotional experience. But the story has had a few twists and turns that I think will be controversial and perhaps unpopular among enthusiastic fans.
I’m glad to see a risk-taking. The stakes couldn’t be higher. With more than 100 million PS4 sold, Sony has the chance to sell tens of millions of copies of this game (in 2018, The Last of Us had sold 17 million copies). The original has won numerous Game of the Year awards, and it is my favorite game of all time.
At first, I hated parts of the story. But Naughty Dog has embarked on this unpopular direction. Despite my initial fears, I am glad that they chose this path, because it made me question my sense of good and evil.
It’s so strange to play the game on a post-pandemic zombie apocalypse during a pandemic, with sirens for emergency vehicles that go off in the background in real life. If there was any comfort, I played it with my middle daughter, who was too young to play such a serious game when the first debuted.
But I was so much happier in the sadness of the world of The Last of Us Part II, and I was so disappointed to get out of it after each game session and to emerge into today’s reality. We have been waiting for this game for a long time, with multiple delays. But the good thing about these delays is that I haven’t encountered any showstopper bugs in the game on my PS4 Pro. It is extremely rare.
Naughty Dog vice president Neil Druckmann (who directed The Last of Us Part II) and the company’s own trailers have spoiled much of the story. But you shouldn’t put anything in everything they made you think. Part II is not at all what it seems. In fact, Naughty Dog did everything possible to mislead us by thinking about what the game is.
What you will like
A story told convincingly
I already started to sound like I wanted to rewrite the Naughty Dog script. But let’s be clear. I don’t think anyone tells better stories than Naughty Dog. This story is told in a series of flashbacks and flash-forward in a timeline. You will see the characters find themselves in an excruciating situation, then you will have to wait, because the story goes back in time to a flashback that will explain how you ended up in this situation.
This can be very frustrating until you understand the reason for the flashbacks, which makes the dramatic impact much greater. I would like to say a lot more, but that would ruin the story.
Flashbacks are an interesting tool for a storyteller, because they allow you to learn something about a character who died in his present but still alive in your memory.
The story of the first game came with an end of bookends that resonated for me. I was deeply touched by the story of teenage Ellie and surly smuggler Joel – two survivors of the zombie apocalypse who spend their days trying to survive. Graphic violence is horrible, but more often than not, Joel does it in the name of protecting Ellie, and later it is Ellie who protects Joel. Fighting zombies takes skill and discretion, and too often human enemies are worse.
At the start of The Last of Us, Joel lost his teenage daughter at the start of the pandemic. At the end of the game, he had to decide whether to save Ellie or to see his surrogate daughter die. He had to choose how much he was willing to sacrifice for someone he loved. Joel made the choice of a parent, and it was easier to make this choice even if the fate of the world was near. What made his choice easier was that, throughout the game, we learned how crappy the world had become.
When I finished the first game, I thought of a quote from Steven Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s list, about the German man who saved the Jews during the Holocaust. He says, “Whoever saves a life saves the whole world.” This quote came to my mind when I finished the match. Joel saved a life and said the world was damned.
And now Joel has to live with this choice in Part II. The rest is not about love, but hate. This is what you would sacrifice for revenge. Can you achieve justice and closure without sacrificing your soul? The main characters take a long journey to discover something about themselves. This new game also has its bookend ending, and all I’m going to say about it, for now, is that it’s a guitar.
Amazing graphics affect gameplay
It is one of the most beautiful games with graphics on PS4. So many graphic wonders appeared in the imagery that I lost count. But these graphics improvements aren’t just part of the decor – they affect gameplay.
On a skyscraper in the clouds, the fog gets in your way just as you try to target an enemy. Grass blows in the wind, and that gives you a place to hide while you crawl over an enemy. You can swim underwater, find key secrets at the bottom and emerge in a place where the enemy is not expecting you.
The story spans the seasons and the climates, like the snows of Jackson, Wyoming or the lush jungle landscapes of a Seattle overgrown. The cities are authentic, with great attention to detail. There are cafes in Seattle, but they are full of vines, moss and tall grass growing from cracks in the floors and walls.
In Wyoming, Ellie loses track of another character, Dina, in a snowstorm, then finds her. In this way, the environment plays a role in the gameplay as well as in the story.
A diversity of characters with different perspectives
We are used to video games that give us good guys and bad guys. In the previous game, our main characters were just Ellie, then 14, and Joel, a graying old man in his forties. In Part II, Ellie (played by Ashley Johnson) and Joel (Troy Baker) are four years older. But they are joined by a large cast of characters in Jackson, Wyoming, such as Jesse (Stephen Chang), Dina (Shannon Woodward), Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) and others – as well as a number of strangers we meet along the way.
This game does everything possible to paint the two faces of each person and show them in shades of gray. Ellie and Joel are both brutal killers in the first game, and they remain so in the second game, although they have settled in Jackson. Now their job is to protect their home from the infected (as the zombies are called) and human enemies outside the walls. Yes, even after a pandemic, even more than today, humanity must live in a world that has walls, and these walls must be guarded by people like Ellie and Joel.
Although the first game did not have much support, the actors in the sequel give us a contrasting point of view with the people we have come to love. They are different types of survivors, and they highlight how people can make contrasting choices in this gray world.
Significant gameplay improvements
Part II presents huge technological improvements. In close combat and exploration, Ellie can do much more with these changes. And that makes the fighting intense, grueling and rough in a way that, if you can believe it, doesn’t happen in the first game.
She can swing on ropes, climb vertical structures to avoid trouble, navigate on boats, ride horses, break the glass and crawl in the grass. She faces enemies such as dogs who can follow in her footsteps, stealth warriors who can attack with arrows and a large number of zombies. Ellie can sprint, dodge attacks and time her counter attacks. She can use her enemies as a shield and get help from her friends. This makes the fight much more diverse than in The Last of Us.
And as she does in the first game, Ellie can pit enemies against each other, forcing the zombies to attack humans. All of these improvements increase the skill level.
One character carefully observes how two others clumsily behave when they are together. It turns out that one of the characters, who is afraid of heights, tries to cope with a high crossing. The character answers: “Now?” As in, you have to ask me that now? It’s pretty funny, believe me. And after a particularly difficult level, one of the characters shouts, “Fuck Seattle!”