Oof. Ouch. My Feelings.
At this point, I think everyone has some personal hot take on The Last of Us Part II. If you've played the game or not, you know something about it and I'm certain you have feelings about it. My job is to give those feelings a numerical evaluation. It was not an easy task. The Last of Us Part II is probably the most ambitious game Naughty Dog has ever made, and there's a lot here. So let's see if Part II should be the last of us.
Yeah, we're starting with that awful pun. You're welcome.
Taking place about four years after the events of the first game, Ellie has lived a generally peaceful life in Jacksonville, despite some minor turbulence. However, an event I can't detail without getting deep into spoiler territory throws her life into upheaval and causes her to take a long trip to Seattle with a few of her friends. Their goal? Hunt down a woman named Abby and kill her. Of course, Abby has her own life, her own friends, and you're going to be seeing things from her perspective as well. As you may suspect, things are going to go horribly wrong for everyone.
Don't Infected Open Inside
I know that's vague, I really do, but it's a bit hard to talk about The Last of Us Part II's story while tiptoeing around the spoilers. If you haven't had this story spoiled for you yet then I have to assume you have either been living under a rock or under a self-imposed internet blackout. I'd like to thank you for emerging from your self-made cocoon and checking out this review, but please go back and try to keep yourself spoiler-free a little longer. The story is simply phenomenal. The original already presented a masterclass in worldbuilding, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that its sequel manages to continue the trend. The world of The Last of Us is terrifying, full of little moments of hope sandwiched between terror and drama.
A lot of this is also thanks to some top tier characters. Both Ellie and Abby are fantastic leads, with wonderful acting and an insane amount of personality. Each side character you interact with is equally great. There are some impressive scenes, such as Abby's first date with her boyfriend Owen, or Ellie trying to worm her way out of explaining to Jessie that she kissed his girlfriend a week after they broke up. It adds a ton of depth, both obvious and subtle, to each character and really made me feel for all of them. This is also a shame since, you know, The Last of Us is not a nice world and you can count on your fingers the number of characters that make it out alive.
However, the best characters and worldbuilding can't solve the issue of bad pacing. Part II seems to have an overabundance of flashbacks, several of which just completely wreck the flow of the story. Worse, a good chunk of them run too long. The end result is that several times the story feels like it's about to pick up into something a little faster paced before suddenly grinding to a halt. It also doesn't help that Part II as a whole is a little longer than it should be. That doesn't mean every flashback is bad, one of them is even straight up my favorite scene in the whole series so far, but I feel like the story could have flowed a lot better and the campaign made more manageable if a few of these flashbacks popped up in different places with chunks cut out.
Everything Goes A-Ok
Going into Part II, I was convinced nothing good could come from the story. One of my prevalent thoughts wasn't an unpopular one: Joel and Ellie's story was finished, and things would be better if a fresh installment focused on new characters. It turns out that I wasn't exactly right on that. Joel and Ellie had plenty of stories left and plenty of ways to grow, and I absolutely loved getting to see this continuation. Now? I want to see more of them, and wouldn't mind seeing a Part III show up down the road. Even if I'm sure all it will manage to do is break my heart more than it already is.
The basics behind the gameplay haven't changed too much since the original game. You'll be playing out a horror third-person shooter with a heavy emphasis on mid-combat crafting, stealth, and accurate aiming. You rarely have more than a full clip of ammo, often relying on melee attacks in dangerous situations because it may just not be a good idea to use up your last shotgun round when you may need it later. Scavenging is important, as is finding crafting materials so you can hastily assemble Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs in the middle of combat.
What really sets it apart from other third-person shooters is, again, just how scarce supplies are. Missing a shot in other games is usually lame and unfortunate. Missing a shot in Part II is a devastating setback. You won't find machine guns or assault rifles and there are no ammo caches that refill everything you spent. You just have whatever you can find off of whoever had the misfortune of dying before you showed up.
Murder is the Language of Choice
You'll alternate between Ellie and Abby throughout the 25-hour campaign. While both characters generally play the same, there are some seemingly minor differences between the two that actually lead to totally different play styles. For example, Ellie can craft Molotov cocktails while Abby makes pipe bombs. That may not sound like a huge difference, however, there's a lot more to it. A molotov cocktail uses the same crafting material as a medkit, which already means you're making a pretty important choice.
On the other hand, crafting a pipe bomb requires more materials but actually nabs you two bombs for your efforts. Molotovs hit the ground and instantly explode, creating a zone you can lure infected into, while pipe bombs take a few moments to explode, and once they blow they're done. That's just one example of a small difference that actually means quite a bit, and it's not even getting into things like different guns or upgrade trees.
None of that would matter if the enemies weren't worth fighting, but Part II is loaded with those. The infected are back and seem to be deadlier than ever. The most common type you'll see are runners, which are basically just fast zombies. Yet you'll also need to deal with the stealthy stalkers, the terrifyingly strong clickers, and a new type called shamblers that constantly emit poisonous gas. It's a good variety of enemies, and I had a great time trying to find creative ways to dodge and kill them. You'll probably also be using a lot of melee attacks, and the addition of a dodge button does wonders as to making the melee combat flow better.
Much to my surprise, the human enemies have a pretty high variety as well. You're up against two main factions here. The WLF is more of the "heavily armed and goes in loud" type. They have rifles, shotguns, trained dogs to sniff you out, and will throw pipe bombs as well. On the other hand, the Seraphites prefer bows, long-ranged weapons, and a stealthier approach. You can't really fight both types the same way, and in particular, it's nice to see the Seraphites because they use the same tactics you've become used to using.
You'll have to quickly adapt no matter the situation. If you're against infected enemies, you'll find yourself moving around a lot to dodge their attacks and lure them into traps instead of using ammo. On the other hand, human enemies play like a slower cover-based shooter, with you having to make careful shots and being sure not to miss. Stealth can help in both situations, but you're always going to want to keep ready for if you manage to mess it up entirely.
Sometimes the stars align and you come to a glorious moment: times when there are both infected and human enemies in the same place. Using this to your advantage and pitting the two factions against each other quickly became some of my absolute favorite moments of Part II. I found myself throwing bottles and smashing windows before moving back so I could watch my labor pay off with an infected tearing some guy's throat out. AI battles are always amusing, and I could watch them fight each other for hours if given the opportunity.
Occasionally you'll hit a special combat section, which usually means fighting while the passenger of a moving vehicle. You'll often find yourself with unlimited ammo and that it's rather difficult to die here. They're obviously scripted action set-piece events, but they're also really cool and fun to play so that's totally fine. There's also a decent sniper section where it's just nice to be able to kill infected without them posing any threat to you for once. There are a few boss fights, which usually tend to be intense moments that require you to use as much of your arsenal as possible. I'd rather not spoil those moments much further than that though.
It's not all murder and combat, as there's also some light puzzle-solving. You won't be translating ancient ruins or assembling weird puzzles like the Uncharted series. Instead, a lot of it is just trying to figure out how to get from location A to B. You'll be doing things like finding codes hidden in written notes, pushing around dumpsters to help you climb up walls, or figuring out how to throw ropes over support beams so that you can swing across gaps. Sometimes you can even do this in special ways to access optional areas, where you can find more supplies and collectible trading cards or coins. None of it is excessive or difficult (in fact, if you get stuck in one spot for too long, a character will straight up tell you the answer), but it's a nice break from the norm.
There's one thing missing here, and that's multiplayer. The original game had a surprisingly well-loved multiplayer component. Part II lacks anything of the sort, although it is apparently coming at a later date as a stand-alone offering. Still, I'll admit that I wish it was here now since I wouldn't mind the chance to take the combat elements to an online setting. At least the single player is rather meaty and should keep you going for some time.
Somehow, Naughty Dog also took the time to make what may possibly be one of the most lovely games I've ever seen. It's not just the beautiful graphics, although I don't quite believe I've seen a game as good looking as this one. It's also the little details. The way snow falls out of a tree when you run into it, or how ropes and glass react to other objects. There are so many living details to make this feel like a real world, and I just couldn't get over every interaction. Perhaps the only graphical fault I have is that there is an intense film grain effect that's pretty annoying, to the point where my roommate saw me playing the game and his first comment was "does your TV suck or is that bad film grain?" I wish there was an option to shut it off, especially since there are options for other effects like motion blur and camera sway.
The Last of Us Part II Review | Final Thoughts
Really, I can't believe how much I actually enjoyed The Last of Us Part II. It's not the strongest PlayStation exclusive, God of War and Dreams are still my preferences there, but this is still an extremely well-made game. From a story that manages to build upon the original in all the ways, I didn't know I wanted, to gameplay that takes an already solid foundation and amps it up, to just straight up being beautiful, The Last of Us Part II has managed to make me more excited than ever to have my heart completely broken.
TechRaptor reviewed The Last of Us Part II on PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Instantly Captivating Story
- Fantastic Characters
- Fun Combat
- Great Enemy Variety
- Puzzles Are a Nice Distraction
- Stunningly Beautiful
- Occasionally Poorly Paced and a Little Too Long
- No Multiplayer
- Film Grain is Annoying