The Last of Us Part II - PlayStation 4 Review

the-last-of-us-splash-560x315 The Last of Us Part II - PlayStation 4 Review

With The Last of Us Part II, the PS4 is dying in style. If it wasn't for that divisive ending...

  • System: PlayStation 4
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Developer: Naughty Dog
  • Release Date: June 19, 2020

The Last of Us Part II – Official Accolades Trailer | PS4

Who it Caters to

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The Last of Us is by leaps and bounds one of the best games of our generation. It debuted 7 years ago, in June 2013, and it presented us with a story that showed us the true power of the PlayStation 4, and how video games were now more of an interactive experience instead of just a way to pass the time. Technically, it was full of beautiful, detailed environments and realistic 3D models; on top of that, it had a mind-blowing soundtrack and a script that has nothing to envy to the most popular, highest-grossing Hollywood movies.

Fast-forward to 2020 and the long-awaited sequel to Joel and Ellie's story is already in stores, and it surely didn't miss the mark. If you fancy a mature video game that makes you think, smile, and cry, then you already know The Last of Us Part II is a playable masterpiece, and all owners of a PS4 should be playing it right now.

What to Expect

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The easiest answer to this question would be to say 'expect more of the same, but in a higher dose.' This second part is not about saving Ellie, though; it's about getting to know her, just like she's trying to understand herself.

There are a lot of new characters, a lot of new enemies, but the essence is quite the same. This is a narrative-driven adventure, and you'll find different gameplay mechanics along the way. Sometimes you'll find yourself running and gunning, some other times you'll be exploring and solving puzzles, and there are even some minigames here and there. Of course, there are also hours upon hours of dialogue and interactive cinematics, but this should come as no surprise for any The Last of Us fan.


Visuals

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A few days ago, we were all drooling at the upcoming PlayStation 5, dreaming about how cool all these new games could look, and how real the more ambitious triple-A games could feel. With The Last of Us Part II, though, the PS4 is dying in style, and it's hard not to take a moment to be mesmerized by your surroundings every time you're out in a mission.

The vibrant colors, the polished textures, the importance of a clean UI design... it's hard to find something we don't like about this game when it comes to the graphics. A keyword here would be 'immersion', and the perfect use of light, textures, and the color palette puts you exactly where Ellie or the other characters are. Truth be told, a game like The Last of Us Part II would still be amazing even with lower graphics, but part of its charm is definitely how close to realism it can get.

Sound, Music

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What's to say about Gustavo Santaolalla that any The Last of Us fan hasn't already said? This game's powerful soundtrack will definitely put you in the mood for whatever's coming to you, from a tear-jerker scene to a horde of Infected coming at you. The instrumentation, the arrangements, and even the silences, everything's there for a reason, and everything has something to tell you. And since Ellie's guitar plays a big role in the narrative, you can even find an emotional cover of A-Ha's 'Take on Me' in the voice of Ellie! That's just extra proof that music keeps everything together, and that a game's soundtrack is more than a few songs playing in the background.

If we're saying this is a narrative-driven game, and it all feels so real, we need to take a moment to admire the voice acting too. Just like in the first game, all character's voices are on point, even when some lines feel a little bit too much for the scene.

Gameplay

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First off, let us start by saying that we won't be talking about all the controversy related to the leaks, sexism, racism, or the review-bombing on different platforms. For us, this review is about what we felt when playing The Last of Us Part II, and not about our previous expectations or whatever the community has to say.

All that out of the way, let's talk about the basics: The Last of Us Part II, much like the first part, defies the concept of a classic video game. For the most part, you obviously will be running around, exploring things, shooting at your enemies, and solving puzzles, but a lot of your playtime is basically taking a step back and just enjoying the dialogues and the landscapes. Some of these segments are good old cinematics, but some others at least try to make you part of the story. It's up to you to say how fun or boring it is to just walk several minutes while another character talks to you, or how fun or boring it is to casually explore a room while Ellie talks to herself, but these things are what ultimately makes The Last of Us Part II feel different, and closer to a movie or TV show. Unlike other games, though, the transitions between gameplay and cinematics are deliciously smooth, so at least that helps with immersion.

the-last-of-us-splash-560x315 The Last of Us Part II - PlayStation 4 Review
Other than Joel and Ellie, the protagonists of the original game, the big names in this sequel are Dina, a new survivor who joins Tommy Miller's settlement at Jackson County, Tommy's wife María, and the mysterious Abigail "Abby" Anderson. The first 2-3 hours are nothing but the prologue to Ellie's new adventure, and that's more than enough to understand who is who in the sequel—well, not really, because there are a lot of secrets and plot twists waiting around the corner, but you get the idea. In this first portion, we learn what happened to Ellie and Joel after The Last of Us' finale, we learn the basic gameplay mechanics, and we're also introduced to the aforementioned characters. Don't worry, we're not spoiling anything, but be mindful that that's exactly the reason that makes reviewing a game like The Last of Us Part II such a challenging assignment.
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Combat mechanics feel more natural now (finally!), mostly because Ellie is more agile, and you can always decide between a stealth approach or just shooting everything in sight. Although it's super fun to engage in close combat with a group of survivors, and all animations are on point, avoiding enemies is easier now, but you also have several weapons to chose from and you can even customize them. Of course, this being a survival horror game, you need to think twice before spending your valuable bullets, arrows, and molotov cocktails... so just running away is ok! The Last of Us Part II does a better job when it comes to environmental story-telling. Maybe not the best in the industry, but this certainly encourages you to explore every place twice, and if you like them, there are also dozens of collectibles waiting for you in the weirdest places you could think of.

In other titles, at least you have a clear objective, and you are aware of your situation. Am I winning? Am I making some progress? What's my goal now? Thanks to this game's nature, however, you never know what could happen next, and that keeps you at the edge of your sit. You don't even know if you're allowed to expect a happy ending. In fact, what would a happy ending be like in a story like this? So yeah, The Last of Us Part II is extremely fun to play and we really enjoyed all the upgrades and improvements... but let's talk about the one thing we didn't like: the ending.

There are great video games, books, movies, and TV shows that feel so perfect and satisfying without a 'happy ending'. Our problem with The Last of Us Part II is not what happens in the most talked-about scene or the reason why Ellie goes after Abby; our problem is how poorly resolved it all feels, and how this anticlimatic ending leaves you thinking that it all happened for nothing...in a bad way, because we can think of a lot of awesome stories about people losing it all or not being able to live happily ever after. Simply put, and from our humble perspective, the ending makes no sense at all and makes the rest of the game—including Ellie's decisions and motivcations—feel totally trivial.


Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

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In the first game, everything happened for a reason, and thats why we all got so into the story. This sequel's finale doesn't do the original story justice and leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, but we can agree it's majestically narrated script-wise, so it's not about how they told it but what they chose to tell. All in all, The Last of Us Part II is a rollercoaster of emotions, and Naughty Dog clearly took a lot of risks here. At least we can say that if we limit ourselves to the technical aspects alone, it turned out really well.

Honey's Pros:

  • Graphically, it pushes the limits of a ‘dying’ console.
  • Even if you don’t like what happens to specific characters or where the story goes, the use of the narrative aspects to move the gameplay forward is wonderful.
  • Gustavo Santaolalla is a beast.

Honey's Cons:

  • Some decisions definitely angered the fans. They can probably justify every decision made, but the ending just feels... anticlimatic and unsatisfying.
  • At times, you would rather be playing and actually doing things than watching cinematics, but this is how The Last of Us goes. Narrative over gameplay. At least we get swift transitions and zero loading screens!

Honey's Final Verdict:

Like many of you, we spent our whole weekend playing The Last of Us Part II, and boy it was a demanding experience. In all honesty, we're upset about the fate of some characters and how random the ending feels when you analyze some of Ellie's decisions, but we certainly enjoyed the ride. Is this the last time we hear about The Last of Us, though? We still need some answers!
the-last-of-us-splash-560x315 The Last of Us Part II - PlayStation 4 Review

Author: Yaz L.