Before I start, I just want to say that the review does not contain any spoilers.
This was a generation where Sony’s exclusives were clearly marked by the enormous focus on narrative. The Last of Us Part 2 does not defraud this lineage and ultimately results in the best work to date by the american studio Naughty Dog.
The narrative of The Last of Us Part 2 (TLOU 2 from now on) continues after the events of the first game, but this time we play as Ellie. We’re now part of a community, a place where people try to get back to normal, within what’s possible. Jackson – the name of the city – offers the necessary comfort within four walls, but the daily chores of hunting and searching for supplies also continue. These are the moments that remind us how dangerous it is to leave the comfort zone. After certain events, things take a turn and the whole harmonious environment that existed, ends up being completely turned upside down. We are now entering a spiral of revenge and seeking justice.
This is without a doubt the strongest point of this game. The so-called main course of a meal. It was the aspect that surprised me the most in the first game, both for their way of being and interacting with each other, but also to be able to experience their growth and respective relationship. TLOU 2 continues this work in an exceptional way and we can already see some relationship changes after the events of the first game. TLOU 2 brings to us more characters directly related to Ellie, resulting in a bigger network of feelings and connections between the various elements, because we started the adventure in Jackson, the community where everyone lives and knows each other. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more about this subject. Anyway, what I can say is that the growth and development of characters remains as good as expected.
A world to explore
If in the first game there was room to explore, this sequel ends up raising that aspect to a level several levels higher. Literally. Some areas are huge and allow vertical exploration, offering even more places to walk. Most of these places are not mandatory and it’s up to the player to decide if he wants to explore them, and pick up a few more resources, while at the same time taking the risk of facing new enemies, or if they prefer to continue on their way.
The truth is that the game rewards the player for exploring every corner, whether it’s with new skill trees by picking up training manuals, new weapons or resources to improve our arsenal. Seattle – the first place to have access outside Jackson – offers a huge amusement park in terms of exploration. It took me several hours to explore every nook and cranny, getting important resources for improvements, as well as such training manuals and some weapons. If I had decided not to explore, I would never have been able to get some of these important game pieces, which are always needed and never too much.
Who doesn’t remember the fact that Ellie couldn’t swim in the first game? Yeah, the water is now part of some scenarios and it offers a different dynamic in some areas, not to mention the fact that it shows Ellie’s growth in this field.
Some areas offer several paths to continue our adventure, although some of them are just that. They are just different paths to get to the same point a few meters up front, although in some cases there are resources to pick up in one of those areas. As I said, in order to never be handicapped in the future, I have always tried to explore as much as possible, even more because it gives me pleasure to walk in a world that seems so real in terms of construction and design.
The combat is as intense as ever
Combat is one of the most important aspects of the game, although stealth is often advised as much as possible. I have always tried to defeat most enemies so that I could explore the area for resources or collectibles without having to worry about being attacked. The combat was always accessible but as the hours progressed, I began to feel the difficulty of some encounters, where the enemy began to be much more aggressive and their presence in greater numbers.
I clearly noticed the intensity increasing and, in some tighter and darker places, I felt some claustrophobia when facing clickers and company. For two or three situations, the pressure was so great that I preferred to leave the area quickly, something I never really felt in the first game. So what does this means? Well, it clearly means that the experience is more real than ever and makes you sweat in quite a few moments. The truth is, we’re never safe.
One of the new features of combat is the possibility of going prone. With this, we can hide among the vegetation in some scenarios, although this does not prevent us from being seen at all. The existence of enemy dogs is also another aspect that changes the way we act in combat, forcing us to a constant movement on the field, because only then our trail will disappear before the canine nose.
The hand-to-hand combat has always been quite intense and now there is the possibility of dodging the enemy attack, resulting in an opening to escape or counterattack. This is a mechanic that, when used well, can give a huge advantage in encounters. The earlier you get used to it, the greater your chances of surviving some more personal confrontations.
The game offers several ways to approach combat. Whether you’re going full stealth or louder, the tools and weapons at our disposal are more than enough. As I said before, there are many weapons hidden in certain places that can slip by if you don’t explore everything. Some of them give a huge advantage in combat, but that advantage can also be gained if we manage to elevate ourselves on the ground, with the new transversal movement.
Something I really liked were the moments where I was able to start a fight between the infected and the humans, without even having done more than throwing a brick and a Molotov. The infected were all running to the scene and suddenly there was chaos in a very dark area with a chilling red glow. Chaos was happening before my eyes while I was just standing there for a few minutes with an evil smile, as I watched my plan go smoothly.
TLOU 2 is a highly concentrated product of visual violence. Without even mentioning the moments when we are killed by some infected and the extremely violent animation, it was also the hand-to-hand combat with other humans that made me open my eyes with such brutality. From the intense execution with axes, to the quietest with knives, everything is loaded with extreme aggressiveness and it is impossible to remain indifferent. I even dare to say that this is one of the most violent games I have ever played, emphasizing that it is not at all a game for a younger or more sensitive audience.
The enemies are everywhere
The danger is always lurking in TLOU 2 and this new game adds a considerable amount of spice to the recipe. The narrative brings us new enemy factions as well as new types of infected. One of the new factions is “armed to the teeth” and has dogs to attack us, or even track us down more easily, a situation I mentioned before.
The other faction is more focused on long distance combat, with its flawless bow and arrow attacks, but their hand-to-hand combat is no less intense, using huge hammers and weapons of the same kind. It is a faction that uses whistles to communicate with each other and this is an aspect that is very well implemented. I confess that I even felt some disturbance when I first heard them, because the ideal scenario to panic was in place.
The infected remain as lethal as before, but the presence of a new type eventually forces us to readjust to some of their behaviour. This new infected projects some kind of “poison grenade” and the same happens when he dies, exploding and releasing a nearly deadly toxic smoke. These enemies are larger in size and can take a while to get defeated.
Overall, I found most fights always very intense, especially when it involved infected, where the terror aspect was always much more present, essentially in closed areas with reduced visibility. In some of these places, the flashlight was the only light in pure darkness, creating an authentic atmosphere of terror, anxiety and panic. At certain times, I felt I was playing something totally different from TLOU. It was more like a terror game to be precise. This means that these parts were very well thought out and executed, resulting in the survival horror experience that the game can be associated with at certain times.
A very immersive visual experience
TLOU 2 is visually amazing in so many ways. The scenarios are as real as you would expect and you can feel that in every new place you explore. Whether it’s a commercial establishment, an apartment, a basement, or any other place we’re allowed to enter, the details and decoration of these places make them as real as possible.
You feel you are standing before something that was inhabited by someone more than 20 years ago and that there were routines that no longer exist. This helps tremendously in the experience and the way we let ourselves be swallowed by world almost absent of humans, but so rich in details and information left behind.
But if the inside of the buildings is extremely well executed, the same applies to outside scenarios, because that is also where we spend most of our time. There are views to enjoy, whether macabre or filled with greater beauty, a bit like certain moments of the first game.
The nature of TLOU 2 is superb, as are all its components. The variety of scenarios is as wide as possible and there is room for everything. The vegetation present in the game has an enormous importance in the gameplay, but also in the way it makes the scenarios much more alive and dense. It’s impossible not to enjoy the moments when it rains and enjoy the sound of it falling on the different types of surfaces, because the work on this field is incredible. Jackson is made up of white cloaks where silence reigns and Seattle ends up maintaining that silence, but it is contrasted by all the green mantle covering the huge concrete structures.
As you would expect, the animations of the game are superb, but I want to highlight something in particular. The animations for the weapons improvement are incredible, where everything is very well detailed, either in dismantling the weapon and applying improvements, as well as in cleaning and turning off the lamp of these tables where the work is performed. I’ve been able to do improvements many times and there hasn’t been a single time that I haven’t had my eyes glued to the screen trying to appreciate all that art.
If the characters are as real as possible, this is also due to the excellent work of voices and how convincing they are. The soundtrack continues with the expected quality, having been composed again by the Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla. The sounds of the infected remain terrifying, especially at unexpected moments. No less creepy are the random noises inside the buildings and for several times, they left me quite terrified. Playing with headset doesn’t help with that… In general, the sound aspect reaches the perfect decibels when it comes to execution.
Apart from a few initial loadings that took longer, I never felt any kind of problems in the performance or even bugs. It was worth waiting so many years for a product that in the end, positively justify the delay in its development.
After almost 25 hours, I finished what I consider to be one of the best video games ever in the most varied fields. The excellent narrative, filled with captivating characters, and the way it’s structured, results in constant anxiety about wanting to find out what will happen next. As if this wasn’t enough to encourage us to continue, the incredible world full of desolation, death and mystery, eventually fits together perfectly resulting in an experience that will influence many other games in the coming years. In this world, nothing is perfect, but The Last of Us Part 2 is close enough.
Close combat more intense than ever
Detailed and vast world
Release Date: 19 June 2020
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Playstation Studios
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platforms: Playstation 4
Review copy provided by Playstation Portugal.