The Last of Us Part II (Spoiler Free) Review
Back on June 14th 2013, The original The Last of Us game came out and changed what video games could be forever. With groundbreaking graphics, writing better than many blockbuster movies released today, outstanding acting, outstanding sound design…it goes on and on. From my very first time playing it I was hooked, and it quickly landed in my top 3 games of all time despite it’s gut wrenching opening that literally made me shed tears. It was the last hoorah for the PlayStation 3. Flash forward to today, and we must ask if The Last of Us Part II repeat history?
The PlayStation 5 was officially unveiled last night, will this game be the swan song for the PS4? Back in may developer Naughty Dog declared that The Last of Us Part II will be the studio’s “largest, most ambitious game ever”. With what the first game did, plus the studios massively successful Uncharted series, could this be true? Short answer: Yes but let’s get into why. And don’t worry, I will not be posting, commenting, or alluding to any story beats in this review as I want you to experience it for yourself.
The world in The Last of Us is one of trauma and grief. The characters have all been through their various life experiences and backgrounds that may differ, but virtually everyone is a broken human being. The writing keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you feel every emotion going through the characters on your screen. This type of writing is usually reserved for movies; here, it’s the hallmark of a game.
At it’s core, the game is trying to tell you a very specific tale (which if you played the first one, you are familiar with) but does it in a way I couldn’t have even imagined. Much like movies and shows – like The Walking Dead – there is always a creature of sorts to worry about at the center of the story (in this case the infected). Ultimately, however, the conflict of the human race always becomes a bigger threat. As I stated before, I will not go into detail here on this, but all I will say the story is a beautifully executed, and a master class of narration. It will leave you at times cringing, smiling, laughing, and even at moments you may shed a tear or two. While the game maintains it’s mature rating and violent undertones, it is truly a horrific ballet of bullets, monsters and melee weapons. It makes you really think about actions and reactions of the human race, and what makes us strive to survive.
The audio, just like in the original, continues to play a massive part in The Last of Us Part II. I played the entire time in my headphones and let me tell you, Naughty Dog took extra care to bring you into this world. You can hear every pluck of the guitar strings as Ellie plays a tune. You hear every rain drop as it hits the ground, and yes if the rain hits a nearby tree, car, or pavement it all has it’s own unique sound. Of course you hear the grunts of the infected from afar, and the horrific clicking of the Clickers, like we remember. Since silence plays such an important part of this game, the sound design, and how accurate it is, is truly remarkable. If you are walking on broken glass, you hear every crack and snap beneath you, as does your enemies. If you open a door too quickly, you hear the tinge of metal squeak and give away your position. Of course items have returned to help you distract your enemies like throwing bottles or bricks at walls or through windows to divert the attention away from you allowing you to escape or stealthily creep up and assassinate your victim. In The Last of Us Part II you can hear every echo, every bird, every wave, every breeze. And it is glorious.
To no ones surprise, Naughty Dog has pushed the limits of what these consoles can do. I have numerous times brought up to folks about how I sometimes feel next gen is coming too soon, because developers haven’t explored the full potential of the consoles we have today. Much like the original game, The Last of Us Part II looks better than anything else I have seen on console….even on a launch PS4. The trees move, the water has life, you can see far into the landscape and you see every speck of dirt or cut on the body of the characters. You can see the rays of sunshine poking in from the horizon and you see the movement of characters or horses in the far distance. In my play through I literally had ZERO lags, glitches, pop-ins…absolitely nothing. The game performed perfectly at all times, which I have seen much less taxing games in my mind have problems running at a consistent manner. The game plays with basically no load screens at all, as they are hidden behind cut scenes and such so you are never awkwardly taken out of the experience.
When it comes to the game play, for the most part is the same experience you had on The Last of Us, with some quality of life improvements. Crafting home made distractions, gadgets and upgrades are still a major part of the game play loop. Of course, you have to scavenge for resources in order to do this, and search for ammo which is limited, ala Resident Evil. There has been a few changes and additions to how you traverse the world, which I will leave for you to discover and experience, but for a game that is driving you to go from point A to point B, there is a remarkable amount of freedom available to you on how you want to do it. You could probably bypass large portions of the game and not even realize it. I, however, found myself wanting to explore every nook and cranny, open every door, search every space and honestly never got tired of it. The areas are much larger than the first game and gives you a lot of opportunity to tackle them how you see fit. Naturally, once again, they sprinkle additional upgrades, items, and even story pieces via notes and such in these areas that can greatly enhance your time spent with the game. I took care to read everything I came across and some of the stories there are carried throughout different areas. Once again a little something extra Naughty Dog did to make this world even better than it already was.
It definitely takes something special to get that coveted Game of the Year nod from the industry. It is even harder to be a game that is considered best of this generation. The Last of Us Part II not only does both of those for me, it is literally the best game I have ever played in my 30+ years playing video games. Once again, the development team has simply redefined what gaming is, can and should be. Simply said, this is a must buy for any gamer out there.
I want to thank Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada for the opportunity to review this game, as well as my team here at Gamesreviews.com, and of course Naughty Dog for creating this masterpiece of a game.