When I excitedly booted up The Last Of Us Part 2 for the first time on a rainy Thursday afternoon, it dawned on me that I have never played a game with expectations this high. For seven years fans of the first game have waited for this follow up, to find out where our beloved characters are now and what may happen next. Speaking as someone who holds the original game as an all-time favourite, my expectations may have been even higher than most, but did the game live up to these ridiculous levels of hype?
If you haven’t played The Last Of Us Part 2 yet or you’re still playing it then fear not, this is a completely spoiler free review with a spoiler filled version to follow very soon.
It’s not very often that I start a game review by taking about the story, but this is The Last Of Us and the incredible story told over both the original and this sequel is undeniably the driving force behind this beast. Straight away it becomes clear that this game will reward fans of the series who have recently replayed the first game. The two perfectly go together like a protective father figure and a badass young lady, and if you’re unsure whether or not to play the first game again before starting the second then let me help… do it, you won’t regret it.
It’ll come as absolutely no surprise that Neil Druckmann and co over at Naughty Dog don’t pull any punches with this story. It will make you cry, smile, laugh and even moan. The story told over the games 25-30 hour adventure is an emotional roller coaster which often falls on a more dark and depressing tone through most the game. This is raw and real and a lot of people will not like it. There’s no fairy tale storytelling here, it’s gritty, nasty and damn well perfect in my eyes. Add to that the tremendous voice acting from the likes of Ashley Johnson, Troy Baker and many others and it’s hard to ignore how good this story and it’s characters are.
There are some brave decisions made by the writers which I’m sure will split public opinion but I can’t help but commend the developers for being so brave in telling the story they set out to tell.
Much like it’s predecessor was for the PS3, The Last Of Us Part 2 feels like a true swan song for the PS4 as it pushes the system to its absolute limits on both visuals and gameplay. The graphics are nothing short of stunning as locations feel overwhelming in the best way and every character looks so close to real life that it results in the story hitting home that much harder. The facial animations are truly wonderful to behold, not just in cut scenes but during actual gameplay as well. If you take the time to spin the camera round to a players face when they’re being chased by clickers, they’ll look terrified. If they’re having an awkward conversation they’ll look concerned. All these little touches to the already outstanding visuals makes The Last Of Us Part 2 the most engrossing and close to real life video game I have ever played.
The gameplay only adds to the realism. The way Ellie moves between standing, crouching and prone is so fluent and natural, the way she attacks both stealth and hand to hand is brutally realistic. Every type of weapon also has its own distinct feel to it, making you want to take out a group of enemies a different way every time just to try out all your toys. You’ll also learn pretty quickly which weapons work best for which enemy, human or infected.
Enemies have also been vastly improved. I’ve never played a game that has humanised the characters you murder like this, I say murder because that’s exactly what it feels like when you take out an opposing character. If you’re stealthily taking out a group one by one then the other enemies will call out for their allies by name, often panicked about where their friend has gone. Sometimes you’ll take someone out but they’ll still be holding onto life, either begging you to end it or angrily daring you to get on with the deed before you put them out of their misery. It’s brutal, dark and almost too realistic. Quite frankly it’s insanely impressive and will leave you questioning your actions from beginning to end.
Naughty Dog have also taken a page out of their Left Behind DLC playbook and now give the player certain areas which have both infected enemies and human. Having the ability to set these enemies against each other is so satisfying that it always left me wanting more.
As I touched on already, the game sits comfortably around the 25-30 hour mark but in truth it feels a lot longer given how much story they manage to cram in. A lot of this also comes down to the games new open world feel. No you’re not thrown into a GTA map but you will often come across a large area with the option to either explore for supplies, collectables and side stories told through notes and messages or simply just get on with the task at hand and move on. It always felt that when I chose to explore I was always rewarded fairly, leading me to want to do the same as the game went on and making my overall experience a better and larger one for it.
Given the excellent storytelling, gameplay and visuals, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that the soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece within itself. The in-game music does a spectacular job of both building tension and alerting you to when you’re close to being spotted. Without spoiling too much, there’s also a great use of some actual songs that just work so well in this dark and depressing post apocalyptic world, there’s songs in this game that got me more emotional than anything on film or TV. I’m not usually one for listening to a games OST after the credits have rolled but The Last Of Us Part 2 may well change that for me.
As I conclude this review, I’m really struggling to pick out any issues. Even if I take off my TLOU fanboy hat, all I can reach for is maybe a few glitches or bugs which didn’t take away from the gameplay experience in the slightest. The story will definitely upset a few, but stick with it as this is Neil Druckmann telling a Last Of Us story and has earned enough respect to trust him and his team’s vision. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a sublime story. Visuals, gameplay and sound all push the PS4 to its limits and makes the game one of, if not the most impressive game to ever grace the console. Genuinely if I was allowed to rate this masterpiece above a 10 I would.
I give The Last Of Us Part II