Updated: Mar 11
The challenge for December 2021 was to complete The Last of Us Part 2. It's been a fairly traumatic one for me, especially as I'm a huge fan of the first game. But contrary to 50% of the fan base, I have loved and hated it, but I cannot say that I have not been invested in it. Read on to find out exactly what I thought.
The Last of Us 2 Review
WARNING-This review has spoilers.
A game that has completely split the audience in half, in terms of opinion. To the point where things have got a tiny bit nasty.
I myself have found numerous pros and cons for the game but have decided after completing the game that I am firmly stood on one side of the fence. I will not tell you yet which that is, so that you may hear my points objectively.
Here we go.
I’ m going to pretend that anybody reading this has already played the first game. If not, I suggest you go and do it. This article may have spoilers.
The game begins 5 years after the events of the first game. Joel and Ellie have joined Tommy’s group and made a life for themselves in a large settlement, that has a massive community of survivors. Things seem rosy for the pair initially. The town boasts huge boundary walls to safeguard them from any unwanted guests, and patrols constantly to and fro, keeping any wandering, stray infected at bay.
Not long into the game, you take control of Abby, who is evidently a member of a separate alliance, and who is seemingly attempting to track down Joel. It soon becomes apparent that she holds a grievance with him and that she is intent on unearthing him, no matter what dangers she will get herself in harms way of. And so, ensues the opening that has caused so much division in the fan base. Half shocked at the lead of the original game being killed off, and half praising the bold statement and direction the writers had taken.
I myself was extremely upset when this happened. A character that I had grown to love, despite his obvious flaws, had been dispatched of, before I could even get a foothold in the game. I t was upsetting, and initially annoying, but after time and reflection I came to respect it a little. I respect that in some films, dramas or games, the writers don’t always follow the trends or the blueprint for how things should go down. Yes, we didn’t have much warning. Yes, there was not much introduction to the new characters before they took our man of the hour. I did not particularly enjoy how it was done but I do think it worked. It resonated with me. That is the world that Joel, Elli and all the other survivors lived in, so that’s how things might sometimes pan out.
Anyway, let us talk about the game itself, and some of the mechanics and playability. From my early encounters, TLOU2 felt tons better than the original. I enjoyed the first game but always felt like the controls were extremely clunky and I seemed to get disorientated a lot and struggled with close combat. This, in my opinion, has been addressed, resolved and improved upon tenfold. So much so that I don’t recall having any of the same stroppy moments, accusing the game of being guilty of causing me a cheap death.
It felt responsive, effortless and rewarding. The addition of the prone crawling (although a little unrealistic in a physics sense), the enhanced one on one combat, which is extremely satisfying when timed to perfection, and the overall fluidity of gameplay felt far superior over Joel and Ellies PS3 days (I never played the Remastered version).
Whether cunningly sneaking around, dagger in hand, cutting more throats than a Bic razor, or going gung-ho and achieving a higher body count than Arnie in Commando, there is enjoyment to be had. I was on the edge of my seat with every encounter, the severity of my actions (or lack thereof) manifesting regularly on my screen in hd4k quality. The music, sound and voices all working in unison to horrify me or to get my pulse racing at every opportunity. It often made me wonder if a change of pants was necessary.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of the encounters. From the ‘humans’ who have tonnes of individual dialogue (and will mention the names of their allies when they find bodies), to the infected, who seemed mostly unchanged from the first game, but still worked seemlessly. (The infected did have a few accompanying extras/ alterations which were sufficient to give the game a feel of progression, rather than the perception that everything had been recycled. Recycled AI enemies have been enhanced to another level in this game),. The game performs so well that it still feels fresh. An aggressive thumbs up for the gameplay department from me.
As with the original, this is one of the best-looking games of its era, and it sets the bar for what any triple A games can be achieving. There are so many animations for the characters for this game, I wouldn’t know where to start. The body language, the facial expressions, the depictions during combat, stealth, cutscenes. All breathtaking. You would struggle to find an abundance of motion capture elsewhere, that will match the quality of this. It’s an absolute spectacle and would probably be equally satisfying to be a spectator, let alone the player.
The music is practically the same theme as the original so if it’s not you’re thing, unlucky. For me, it’s perfect and invariably manages to catch the mood (Although Joel's song served to cause me to cringe a fair amount).
The voice acting is some of the best I’ve ever heard. Every voice fused with the character (and yes I know the characters were modelled on the actors, but I don’t care) and made them feel so believable. It needs to be commended what an amazing job they all did bringing their characters to life. They had great depth, and I found myself warming to many, craving more back stories and character arcs.
The sound effects were also on target and believable. Nothing sounded out of place. Different textures, water, infected and weapons were all on point for me.
I loved the story, and I don’t care who hates me for it.
Although there were occasions that removed me from the immersion. There is a particular scene, where an antagonist shoots at Dina, for her to fall through a glass roof, but then decides to holster his weapon and attempt to strangle her, rather than killing her quickly as was fairly necessary. A very minor point of the game to be fair, but annoying nonetheless.
There were also a few back tracking segments, I struggled to identify with the ‘rattlers’ in the end game, (it felt rushed), and there were a few character actions, that didn’t quite ring true with me.
These are just minor offences in my eyes, that were just bumps in the road of what was an impressive, fascinating and enthralling story, that I thoroughly enjoyed playing through, and I still relish the thought, that there's more to come.
People may dislike me saying this, but after initially despising being in control of her for long periods, I became so fond of Abby and her story, that I wasn’t all that bothered about getting back to the theatre. But that probably coincided with the fact that I knew if I was to return, I would be nearing completion, which I was reluctant to do, seeing how attached I was to many of the characters.
I was impressed with the idea that, even in this tyrranical and oppressive world, there are still repercussions for your actions. I perceived that a message of this story is that revenge is a vicious cycle, which manufactures a perpetual cycle of torment for all involved, and anyone connected to those people. Nobody triumphs.
I see the similarities in the arcs of Abby and Ellie. Both grief stricken and in search of retribution. Slowly but surely coming to realise the futility of their actions. And somewhat comprehending the ripple effect of their violent riposte.
This game is one of the finest productions I have had the privilege to play in such a lengthy time. That’s not to say that I believed the story was the most convincing or as touching as it could have been, but it was still exceedingly engaging, and the gameplay was slick and satisfying. I never tired of encounters and was, not-for-a-moment, weary of watching cutscenes with some amazing, memorable characters. Jesse, Yara, Lev and Dina, to name the lesser mentioned personas. (Jesse probably being my favourite). They all had substance and brought so much to the atmosphere and the feeling of every emotion.
I loved this game and am a thoroughly gutted that I won’t get to play it for the first time again.
I am going to give The Last of Us Part 2 a score of 9/10. It was extremely close to a 10 but the few gripes and groans that I have, halted its progress on the march towards a perfect score.