“You know, this is Sacrifice Land.”
The Last Of Us Part II loves to punch players right in the gut and never relents. Five years after the events depicted in the first game Joel and Ellie are living relatively safe, peaceful lives in a Jackson, Wyoming settlement started by Joel’s brother Tommy. The harmoney comes to an abrupt end early and the story starts taking shape around a new set of characters.
The Last Of Us focused on Joel’s and Ellie’s journey, the people and situations they encountered along the way. Part II shifts the focus to an older Ellie and her journey to Seattle with her girlfriend Dina. The overall status and condition of the world are the same as before, fungus zombies still roam the land killing any living thing they can catch. Survivors have built their own communities and factions to live their lives in whatever they believe is the safest way possible, considering the state of the world. The story telling is done well, even if the story told isn’t very good.
Naughty Dog did a great job building upon the world of The Last of Us, making it feel dangerous, yet alive. This game has a slight, open-world vibe that the original did not, tempting you to explore each area in depth. When searching through these expansive segments, you’ll come across plenty of notes, most of them outlining the lives of others who have likely perished since it was written. There’s also different collectables for each playable character; Ellie can gather superhero cards, while Abby seeks out quarters from all 50 States.
Graphically, it’s one of the most beautiful PlayStation 4 exclusives. The attention to detail wasn’t just limited to the environment, but how the characters interact with it. Everything action is seamless, and the surroundings respond accordingly, really bringing you into the game. The sound is also amazing and just as immersive.
Human enemies are more than just targets to kill to progress through the story, they have names, families and lives while not on duty. While you sneak around you hear them holding conversations about their day-to-day lives. When you kill a human, you might hear one of their comrades scream their name out of sadness. The infected also have new noises.
Since Runners haven’t progressed too much passed the initial infection, they make creepy sounds that are almost like words. The subtle, yet ominous, noises Clickers make seems enhanced. It’s as if every twitch and jerk they make gives off sound, so their screams are much more terrifying when they happen.
While TLOU featured mainly combat against the infected, Part II really pushes the “people are the real monsters” narrative, so you fight human enemies far more often than in the previous title. That’s why they have names and friends who are obviously hurt by their death. It’s blatantly clear Naughty Dog’s quest was to humanize your enemies and show how Ellie and company, aren’t perfect.
Before the game’s launch Druckmann said “This is a story about hate – an intense, harrowing, and emotional adventure” and he didn’t lie. You can feel the hate in Part II, you can taste it and in my case it made me hate pretty much every character in the game. Mostly because they are all awful people who do a series of terrible acts, Ellie included. In fact, she’s wearing the crown of “Most Awful” in my eyes. It wasn’t an easy realization for me to come to, but it’s true. I can’t explain why I feel that way without including major spoilers, so you’ll have to come about the ending’s specifics on your own.
The gameplay and combat mechanics are top notch, feeling smoother and more reliable than in the previous game. Enemy AI are smarter, so along with the upgraded stealth system, it makes for a great combat experience. Certain encounters require plenty of planning and execution to survive, especially on the harder difficulties. However, nothing about the combat was drastically altered.
The only real difference is how Abby and Ellie don’t go through combat the same way. They have separate skills, weapons and how they fight during conflict. Abby is a lot stronger than Ellie, she can kill infected by simply throwing them to the ground and stomping their heads in. Ellie is better at stealth and moves quicker than Abby. It’s meant to feel this way, but can still be jarring when your thrown back into the opposite character.
Item crafting is pretty much the same as it was in the first one, except item ingredients can now be found in segments requiring you to find more segments to complete your recipe. It seems like it serves no purpose other than being filler to make the game longer.
While The Last Of Is Part II features many refinements over its predecessor, it fails fans of the series with a string of odd, and outright bad, story choices. Naughty Dog disrespects returning characters Joel, Ellie and Tommy as well as new characters like Abby. However, the game is still immersive and once get past a certain point, you’re likely heavily invested in the outcome, even if you don’t like it. The Last of Us Part II can be completed in at least 25 hours if you don’t do any expansive exploring.