6 years, that’s how long we’ve been waiting to get our hands on the sequel of a game that many including myself consider to be one of the best video games of the last decade.
It’s been a long road to get here that included delays and leaks. While millions of people have to wait a couple more days to get their hands on The Last of Us Part II, early reviews for the game are officially in. Let’s just say that the opinion of the majority of the press is unanimous based on the Metacritic Score alone.
The Last of Us Part 2 is a masterpiece worthy of its predecessor. Taking strides forward in nearly every way, Ellie steps into the spotlight and carries the sequel in a manner that feels like the culmination of everything that’s made Naughty Dog’s blockbuster storytelling so memorable since the original Uncharted on the PlayStation 3. It delivers a layered, emotionally shattering story on top of stealth and action gameplay that improves the first game’s mechanics while integrating a bit more of Uncharted’s greater mobility and action. But while Part 2 is a thrilling adventure, it still makes time for a stunning, nuanced exploration of the strength and fragility of the human spirit. The PlayStation 4 has one of its best exclusives in one of the generation’s best games.
When the credits rolled on The Last of Us Part 2 I was still buzzing from the excitement of the final few hours. My loyalty shifted between characters. I grew to love who I hated and dislike who I loved. I laughed, I teared up. I felt anger and elation. It’s the new high water mark for video game characters and I can’t wait for everyone to see just how special it is. As soon as it ended, I booted up New Game Plus and I’m experiencing it again with my eyes open, the context of the finished story imprinting new meaning into those early scenes and characters. I’m not swiping in the dark anymore.
The Last of Us Part 2 depicts individual people who are instead ruthless, capable, yet self-absorbed, and whose perception of violence is limited to how it affects them and their chosen family members. They are almost unbelievably unable to see the bigger picture. Part 2 ends up feeling needlessly bleak, at a time when a nihilistic worldview has perhaps never been less attractive. Its characters are surviving, but they’re not learning, and they’re certainly not making anything better.
Maybe the most surprising thing that The Last of Us Part 2 offered me was the surety that, while the game was made with great skill and craft, we are actually much, much better than Naughty Dog thinks we are.
That deviation from its narrative focal point is rare at best, and doesn’t undercut the impact of what is otherwise an incredibly powerful cautionary fable, but the game’s layered, prestige television-style structure is excessive to the point of exhaustive at times. Relatedly, if the ending of The Last of Us was controversial for all the right reasons, Part 2’s doesn’t quite land with as much subversive tact, though does nothing to undo the resonance of the journey leading up to its final scene.
But no masterpiece is perfect, and The Last of Us Part 2 is absolutely a masterpiece, have no doubt. There is so much more about this game that I’m desperate to sing its praises for, but simply can’t without spoiling anything beyond what’s already been shown. Daring, uncompromising, and unlike anything I’ve played in a long, long time, Naughty Dog has created its most progressive interactive adventure yet.
The Last of Us Part 2 not only justifies its existence as a sequel most didn’t think was necessary, supplementing and elevating the timeless qualities of its predecessor, but stands confidently apart as an entirely different beast, one bearing its own fangs that bite with just as much force. The lasting achievement is nothing short of extraordinary, and a game we’ll be looking back on for decades to come.
I’m happy to report that my first impressions were wrong. Unfortunately, I can’t and shouldn’t fully explain why. I’ll limit myself to this: Druckmann and his team have a grand plan that rests on a radical structure for the game which isn’t initially apparent. Once you finally understand it, it’s still a slow burn, as the writers’ delicate character-building – the dialogue is wonderfully understated and naturalistic – needs time to do its work. So it isn’t until the game’s final stretches that it gathers its true power, as you approach a point that is all the more horrifying for its total inevitability.
It’s a huge roll of the dice from the developers, but it works, and the pay-off is almost indescribable. It would be too much to claim that you will never feel the same about video game violence again, but the shock is profound and discomfiting. It’s gut-wrenching stuff. There’s more to come as the game approaches an ending that is just as affecting and emotionally complex as its predecessor’s, if not, perhaps, as ambiguous.
The thing that really struck me – and pleasantly surprised me, coming as it does from a developer so transparently in love with the language of cinema – is that The Last of Us Part 2’s power is wholly unique to it being a video game. There is a special kind of empathy that develops between a player and a game protagonist that no other medium can reproduce. It’s this bond that Druckmann and his team have exploited to such devastating effect. It is a sad and timely reminder of the simultaneous importance and impossibility of living someone else’s experience. Play it, and listen.
By the time I finished The Last of Us Part II, I wasn’t sure if I liked it. It’s a hard game to stomach, in part because so much of who Ellie is and what she does is beyond your control. She is deeply complicated and flawed, and her selfishness hurts a lot of people. At times, the pain you inflict feels so senseless that it can leave you numb. It’s all messy and bleak and made me profoundly sad for myriad reasons, but the more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate the story and characters at its core. I wanted almost none of it to happen the way it did, and that’s what’s both beautiful and devastating about it.
The Last of Us: Part II adds a couple more inches to the already outrageously high bar that Naughty Dog has set for itself. This is the developer’s crowning achievement to date, expanding and improving upon the concepts that it’s been iterating on for over a decade now. Unparalleled presentation combines with an engaging gameplay loop that puts you in the shoes of its characters – and forces you to feel all of the tension and misgivings of its cast. It’s uncomfortable and not everyone will necessarily enjoy its direction, but that’s ultimately what makes it so essential.
The Last of Us Part II presents an absolutely crucial and challenging narrative about love and hate. Characters have convincing motivations that leave you thinking about more than what’s in front of you. The places it takes you to are awe-inspiring to explore, with unrivaled attention to detail, and although the combat is somewhat forgiving, it remains thrilling throughout much of the harrowing journey. The Last of Us Part II leaves a deep, emotional impact, and this unforgettable continuation should not be missed.
I can rave about the attention to detail, the world, and the combat, but the story is where The Last of Us Part II sets a new bar. It is more about challenging your heart than your reflexes, and I simply cannot recommend it enough. There is much to be said about this game that can’t be said here due to spoilers, but you should play it as soon as you can with as little info as possible. But you don’t need to know specifics to appreciate how the gameplay and environmental cues all play into a single purpose: They make you feel the choices, helplessness, and the violence at the heart of this world and its characters. I can safely say this is the best narrative game I have played. I felt the loss. I felt the confusion. It is a game that turned me inside out with each twist of the screw.
The Last of Us Part 2 is a masterful swansong for the PlayStation 4, and arguably the finest, most accomplished project Naughty Dog has ever embarked on. It’s far more than a traditional sequel, taking the original’s core message and expanding upon in ways that will be looked back on as brave, ambitious and undeniably controversial.
It’s an empathetic emotional journey that recontextualizes the idea of the hero at the center of the story through new perspectives and unique methods of storytelling that only video games are capable of. It’s a multi-faceted experience with symmetry, details, and layers that players will be discussing for years. Polish and production values not only meet but exceed the level of Naughty Dog quality that players have come to expect. The Last of Us Part IIis an era-defining game, a perfect companion to the first that harmonizes with, rather than smothers, that original pivotal ending, crafting an unforgettable and emotionally challenging narrative with these beloved characters.
The Last of Us Part II is a remorseless epic delivering in its masterful storytelling, nail-biting gameplay and unrivalled production values. Naughty Dog have truly surpassed themselves yet again, crafting a heartfelt sequel that will leave you gasping as they continue to raise the bar for the video game industry. It’s yet another must-buy for PlayStation 4 owners, supercharging Sony’s unstoppable stable of exclusives.
In the end, it really comes down to the experience of playing The Last of Us Part 2 – of jumping into these characters’ shoes and confronting a world that feels both foreign and oddly familiar. In that regard, the game is in a league all its own and there are simply too many adjectives to describe the range of emotions that the game will make players feel, and many of those emotions are not positive ones. But much like the real world is about facing harsh truths and uneasy situations, The Last of Us 2 forces its characters to confront grim realities in a world torn apart by a viral outbreak and where violence is second nature. It is quite simply a masterpiece – an experience unlike anything in video games.
It’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of reviewers absolutely loved The Last of Us Part II.
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