When anticipating a sequel to a game as commercially and critically adored as The Last of Us, you can’t help but worry that any attempt at a follow up just won’t touch the original. Maybe you were concerned that there was a chance that it could undo your love for the original game. And while that fear in the back of your head isn’t an unreasonable reaction, I’m happy to confirm that it’s unfounded here.
The Last of Us Part 2 is every bit as good as its predecessor. Hell, in many ways it’s better.
This is a bold claim for sure. One that shouldn’t be made passively, but developer Naughty Dog deserves credit where it’s due. This is true for nearly every facet of the game, but what is sure to immediately grab players is the unmatched cinematography present throughout. As soon as The Last of Us Part 2 opens up, you’re drawn into the world that’s been created. Sure, graphically it’s a contender for the best-looking game on any current-gen console, but the way scenes are shot and the environment is set transports you to the world Naughty Dog has built.
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Despite taking place in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mushroom-infested zombies, the reality of that situation seems plausible. This proves true to the sometimes awkward nature of human beings, with a few cringe-worthy pieces of dialogue sprinkled in for good measure. Fortunately, you aren’t left longing for action for too long. Conversely, you’re never left waiting to see a cinematic featuring a genuinely raw moment between Ellie and the numerous others that she encounters on her journey. TLOUP2 strikes a rare near-perfect balance between narrative and gameplay that other story-driven titles have missed the mark on in the past.
With all of that said, man, is the gameplay ever an improvement over the original. I have to admit that I thought the first entry of this series was incredibly well told, but the levels and missions left something to be desired. While I grew tired of the repetition in The Last of Us – no, you no longer have to go on raft fetch quests anymore – I never found that here. Each environment is different but, in some of the larger areas, you’re free to explore and collect items that are scattered throughout.
I’d recommended that you scavenge for supplies and upgrades before progressing to a different location. In doing so, you’re guaranteed to encounter a number of enemies that you could have otherwise ignored, but the rewards and environmental storytelling are well worth the hassle and jump scares. It’s this freedom to explore and solve otherwise unnecessary puzzles that stands out as an immediate improvement with this sequel, but the aforementioned ability to upgrade your character throughout the story doesn’t hurt either.
As you collect parts and supplements laying around the in-game world, you can spend them on weapon upgrades and various abilities/improvements. There are several other specializations to be found throughout Ellie’s journey that further provide you with avenues for enhancements, namely Skill Trees that are unlocked via Guidebooks you may stumble upon. It’s worth the hassle to find these, as they make taking on enemies a whole hell of a lot easier as you progress through the game. Luckily, combat hasn’t been placed on the backburner during development.
The Last of Us Part 2 plays host to three core factions (one “faction” being a cordyceps-infected zombie horde, but you get the picture) wandering around. None of these groups get along with one another, so it’s actually possible to guide them to one another to provoke a conflict – provided they occupy the same general area. All of the enemies have names now too, which adds an, at times, uncomfortable-yet-real level of depth to particularly violent encounters.
You haven’t felt genuine horror until you’ve used a shotgun to blow off someone’s head to the sound of their friend screaming out their name in terror or murdered a dog only for their owner to begin frantically calling to their missing pet. The Last of Us Part 2 takes place in a brutal, unforgiving world and it features combat that matches. From the sounds of a knife sawing through flesh and cartilage (clashed together with the desperation of the victim gargling blood) after stabbing someone in the throat to wounded enemies pleading for you to let them live, it all brutally serves to the atrocities you are committing. All of this plays into the themes of the story. There is no turning away from your active participation in the dark side of Naughty Dog’s world.
Despite all of the doubts about this sequel leading up to its release, Naughty Dog has delivered another all-time classic that further cements the studio’s status as one of the greatest in the industry’s history. Much like the original, this game delivers something remarkable and truly incomparable to anything else on the market today. In short, the presentation, narrative and gameplay of The Last of Us Part 2 blend together to deliver a world-class experience that can’t be touched.
This is one game that simply cannot be missed by PS4 owners.
The Last of Us Part 2 is available only for PlayStation 4 consoles on June 19, 2020.
A copy of the game was provided to Okay, Cool for coverage purposes.
You can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle where he’s currently tweeting about PlayStation, but also sometimes about Super Smash Bros Ultimate.