The Last of Us Part II Review
After a 5 year wait, The Last of Us Part II has finally arrived. Directed by Neil Druckmann, the game promises to be highly ambitious, brutal and emotional. The game boasts to push the PlayStation 4 to its limits with realistic graphics and physics that would blow any player away. The game uses real actors, in motion capture, to create the most realistic experience possible, for conveying true human emotion. Does The Last of Us Part 2 deliver to be the critical masterpiece it has claimed to be, or will it fall from grace, burning every fan on its way? Read our review below to find out.
The Last of Us Part II uses take the control scheme of The Last of Us (Part 1) and grows it in every way. In stead of being able to just crouch, you can now go prone and crawl. In stead of just climb, you can now jump. In steal of just hit, you can counter. Everything about The Last of Us Part IIs control scheme feels improved. Which is a massively welcomed improvement.
Combat in The Last of Us Part II feels extremely brutal. When you are up against an enemy you can use your array of weaponry to change up your approach of attack. If you sprint up to an enemy with a melee weapon equipped, then your character will use their momentum to land a devastating blow, and depending on what weapon you have equipped determines the different takedown that happens. For example, with a Lead Pipe, you will use it to dislodge or disfigure someone’s face, whereas with a sharp object, such as a woodcutter axe, this would be used to slice and stab. Guns feel really smooth and responsive, but they feel hard to control which emulates a presence of fear and adrenaline in the characters. The arsenal available to the player grows as the game moves on and is varied enough that it complements the feeling of freedom when working out how to tackle a problem. An example of this was when I got to a large mansion area, surrounded by guards. I had just come out of a long gruelling battle prior, leaving me with little ammo and equipment. In the interest of ammo conservation I tried to stealth through the area, but ultimately ended up being caught. I then proceeded to try and escape, darting from cover to cover, whilst sprinting in the direction I wanted to go. I never felt like the game ever punished me for taking this approach, but instead supported it. A bit later, I watched my partner do the same area, and she had a completely different experience in which she found ammo in a nearby shed, and proceeded to have a massive fire fight, giving her time to go and collect/restore her ammo from the left overs of this now empty area. I find it incredible how we can all enter this game and have an entirely different playstyle and somehow the game manages to support it.
One other note to catch is the incredible addition of using names. This sound trivial but it adds a layer of emotional complexity to this game. As you “thin out the herd”, you’ll hear the enemy characters call out to the peers by name, or if they find them dead, they will say things such as “Someone’s killed Sophie!” or they’ll sometimes mourn the loss of a colleague. Such an incredible little detail that adds so much in the way of emotional consequence, which is the re-occurring theme of this game. As you can imagine due to the violent nature of this game, you can find yourself as the player tensing up as you play scene by scene. The developers of Naughty Dog have clearly identified this and added peaceful sections to break up the constant barrage of chaos. These will be beautiful scenes where you spot wildlife, or simply go for a walk, and this is where The Last of Us Part IIs story telling is at its best.
When navigating the world, The Last of Us Part II opts to be more like Uncharted 4 in its approach. It changes frequently, giving you open areas to explore, then pushing you into tight dark corridors where you’re movement options are limited. These tight areas are usually where you come across our “monster enemy type”, the infected. In this game these feel more terrifying then ever. These feel way more unpredictable then in the first game, which gives a sense of “evolution” to these foes. The Clicker type enemy, which is a blind enemy that uses sound to track you, now will randomly let our it clicker style gurgle randomly, which previously had been used as a sign to state it had found you. This made navigating way more intense, because whenever you heard that particular sound, you’ll frantically be looking around to see if you’ve alerted one. The Infected now all seem much stronger and much better equipped to take down “survivors”. Instead of just scratching and biting you as they did in the first game, the now chase you, flank you and use team tactics to bring you to the ground, and if you get caught off guard you’ll be in for a gruelling death scene. Standing your ground to fight, is no longer an option.
My only real critique to The Last of Us Part IIs gameplay is how “clunky” it feels. The game is littered with invisible walls that lead you in one direction, In the more open areas, invisible walls feel poorly placed, and can become quite frustrating. An example of this was when I was trying to navigate through an area, In the centre was a large number of guards, and I needed to cross past these. To do so, I figured I could stealth my way around the outside of this area via an opening into a garden I could see, but when it came to trying to enter this through a large grassed off area, there was an invisible wall not allowing me to pass. The game was forcing me to go towards the enemies, when there was quite clearly a route that could be used to avoid these a lot easier. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it does break the immersion of being in control and can be fustraiting.
The Graphics in The Last of Us Part II are not rivalled by any other game that has come out this generation. Character models animate with perfection and like never before, characters emotions not only show on their face but they look incredibly real. A problem that previous games this generation have, is that they make the main cast look incredible, but the side characters such as non-important enemies always look like they’re of a lower quality. Which can at time draw away from emotional response to an action such as brutally slaughtering them. In the Last of Us Part II, that is not an issue. EVERY character you come across will look like a real person… which makes killing in this game so much harder. As I described earlier, Naughty Dog have tried to give every character a persona and when matched up with believable looking graphics, makes attacking them feel so much worse. I will say that character models are reused, from section to section, which is something I spotted once or twice, but for a 24-hour long game, this only occurring once or twice is a pretty incredible feat.
The world in this title is just simply beautiful, glass shimmers, water sparkles and when the sun is shining it bounces off of all of the surfaces as it would in the real world. There are moments where you see animals in this world, and you can’t help but revel in their beauty. Graphic are single handily the best thing about The Last of Us Part II and from the screenshots in this review, you will hopefully see this and agree with me.
The story of The Last of Us Part II, continues from the ending of the original title, where we saw Joel lie to Ellie about what happened with the fireflies. This final moment in the first game was an incredibly powerful moment, knowing that this lie could breakdown everything that was build in the first game and this is the theme of the second game. As a result of this lie The Last of Us Part 2 will 100% make you feel every emotion you’ve ever experienced in your life. You’ll experience Anxiety, Sorrow, Laughter, Hatred… absolutely everything. This is also because the game has no limits in what happens during the events of the story, so expect anything to happen. Every main character that you encounter in this game, you get an opportunity to really understand them and their backstory. Which, when playing a game about loss and death, really stacks up when their lives are on the line.
The story telling in this game is incredible, each scene takes you on a journey and really entices you to invest in the trauma that is faced in each of the games sections. At the center of this games story is Ellie, our young female lead from the previous game. Ellie is faced with a predicament where she is forced to witness the cruel harshness of this world, in which drives her on a path of hatred and revenge. Key characters from the previous game try to talk her out of this, but ultimately Ellie decides to go on this journey. Although the story begins to face its short comings about mid-way through where you are forced to go through a storyline, that you as the gamer, does not want to experience. It’s a situation that makes you seethe the part of the game that you are playing and in my case I ended up rushing through the next 40% of the game due to not wanting to relate with this storyline. Although, I will say that it does pay off once you begin to reach the climatic ending.
Personally, I loved the story of The Last of Us Part 2, but I wished that the second part of the game was given as an unlockable mode at the end instead of a forced story section, as it pressed me to have to wait a long time to see the part of the story that I cared most about.
The music for this game is incredible. I mean let’s just start with the fact you can play a guitar (in game) and it actually plays real chords. I mean, I can see there is going to be YouTube Videos of people playing real music from within Last of Us Part 2, if not already. But that aside, Gustavo Santaolalla does an amazing job of depicting the games mood through its music, whether that be in the rare moments of peace a soft harmonic stringed soundtrack echos in the room, through to the moody tense music when fighting infected. The mix of music and sound in this game comes together in union, to make a truly immersive experience.
But one thing that really makes The Last of Us Part II’s audio a masterpiece is in its acting. I mention before that the game give each character you fight a name. But not only are they given a name, the acting associated to this name in incredible, in fact the acting overall is incredible. Everything that a human does, oozes with Human emotion. You can hear peoples breathing, and if they’ve been running or fighting etc, then their breathing will be more rapid. You people will call out to eachother and check in on each other, giving you the feeling of a real and living echo system. In the core characters, the way they they all speak to each-other, is as if they are all actually in that room together. Then this is over-laid with EVEN more complexity. Depending on where a character is, will change their voice due to acoustics. If you are in a grand hall, the voices will begin to echo, if you put on a gas mask, then the voices will be muffled. The voice acting and thought to sound design is incredible and I don’t think I’ve witnessed any game quite as complex and well done as this title.
The sound effects utilised within The Last of Us Part II have had some real consideration given. I played the game with a standard 5.1 surround sound headset and at one point I ended up having to drop the sound effects slightly. This was because the guns were so loud and gave such a sudden realistic bang, that I ended up blinking every time I forgot and began firing at enemies. Which is an incredible feat. I mean up until now, I’ve been thinking guns in games have sounded pretty good, but this title has set it apart from others. This doesn’t only apply to guns either. Every sound feels planned and well scripted, whether that be the sound of a whelping dog in pain, through to the sound of a piece of metal being bent by a heavy object, it all just sounds so realistic.
The Last of Us Part II is a masterclass of the third person shooter genre. It ties together stealth, action and walking sim really nicely delivering a really robust experience. The game struggles to deliver an epic adventure quite as good as the first game but delivers a great story none-the-less. The visual of this game are our first peak into the next generation and they get me excited for what’s to come with the next generation. The audio in this soundtrack is easily some of the most complex audio in a video in existence and deserves rewards on this alone. In terms of some of the user reviews that I have seen, I think that I understand the frustration of some players who have rated this game below a 5 and can understand that at the 50% marker of the game, some fans might become irritated, but if you make it to the end, I can promise this only adds to the impact of climatic ending.