Releasing a follow-up to a highly admired game is overwhelming and can easily disappoint fans. The Last of Us Part II pulls off the challenge easily.
This sequel grows on a well-crafted story and hones it. It does justice to the first edition, building on the original without straying too far, which might alienate fans hoping to get a taste of what they first enjoyed. If you haven’t encountered the original check the link below.
The Last of Us highly depends on this entry, as Joel’s behavior consequences have widespread, and history is not unforgettable. Ellie and Joel made a new start in Jackson, Wyoming, but the game shows players that moving on isn’t that easy.
The story is bleak, but never edgy. There’s a sense of empathy sometimes for your enemies. The game packs lots of unexpected twists making The Last of Us Part II feel mentally and narratively polished. Easter eggs and quippy jokes, but it’s a revenge story. That’s not forgotten.
The Last of Us was praised for its dramatic storyline that left players stunned, and Naughty Dog’s sequel discovers a way to build on that. The Last of Us Part II is better as a gut punch.
I can’t recall the last time I wide-eyed at the screen, thinking, “No. That can’t be true. That can’t be how all this goes.”
First-game players already know and love Ellie, so buying into her story is easy. That said no happy story. Fans probably expect that as Sony called the plot one of a revenge quest. But Part II’s Last Us takes many dark turns. It twists, twisting your expectations and with it, your feeling of comfort.
And though I feel Like I know Ellie, it feels like walking into an old friend I grew apart. Sure, that’s her—but she’s older and has grown from a vivacious, tough kid to a jaded survivor.
Ellie is still incredibly loyal and courageous, but she lost her hope since the first game. That’s possible because Ellie was on her way to finding a cure in the original. The failure of that project took a piece of her hope and has not helped her grow up in a post-apocalyptic world while still struggling with the torturous stresses of becoming a teenager.
We see her getting out and her grief asking Joel about her first girlfriend. This storytelling piece is particularly beautiful, and I was pleased to see Ellie’s feelings expressed with the same honesty as heterosexual relationships.
Her friendship with Joel also deepens as they establish a new life after first-game events. In one of her birthdays’ flashbacks, where time they spend bonding is a potent reminder that family isn’t all blood relatives.
Ellie’s still older. She has queries and wasn’t one to steer away from challenging authority. And after her and Joel’s unsuccessful vaccine search, it becomes harder to see people transform from a bite.
Ellie’s sometimes barely recognizable, even to herself.
The incident that sets Ellie off for vengeance takes everything from her.
Our protagonist is even unrecognizable to herself. Watching her journey—active but unwilling to change course—is difficult. The stories make The Last of Us Part II one of my best gaming experiences ever. It reminded me of the games that my mom, who just didn’t fully understand my obsession with video games, would watch over my shoulder. Those who quit telling her, “Are you not tired of playing that? “Sit next to me instead. That made her comment to my stepdad, “It’s like a movie.”
Like The Last of Us, the story will remind players why they enjoy playing and birth a young generation of gamers.
Although Ellie’s star, the story stretches beyond her. In the lives of characters I’d never know, some dead, some still out there. You’ll find documents and memories, just like the last game. But this time the game generates stronger stories that can last the game span. An early-area document connects to one later-level. A person in one note is another’s writer. And in the moments when I came across an unknown character’s final note near their body, or worse in a room with an infected, I was heartbroken.
It’s been hinted that Part II is darker, and I wasn’t prepared.
Again this goes through Ellie. The world conflicts with itself. Different factions suffer from dissipating a ceasefire on both sides, one for which no party takes responsibility. There’s also the deep, moral issue of which side’s the right side. People previously allied with the government-sanctioned FEDRA, the Fireflies’ counter-movement, or chose to speak for themselves. But it’s not just life. It’s about what culture looks like when human civilization’s remnants desperately hold on.
When you kill an enemy, their friends will mourn for them. All have titles. Their allies would be saddened to find their dead bodies, not because they are in danger. It’s a heart-wrenching yet practical detail, making the game shine while leaving you in your stomach with a pit.
Again, The Last of Us Part II is a sequential game, and gating — where you’ve been prohibited from returning to a previous location — eliminates any illusion it could be a true sandbox title.
When it comes to game elements, what isn’t broken isn’t fixed. It works like the first game, but perfect combat. Stealth gets better, there are new enemies, and you can spend resources based on your chosen combat style. I found it simple and enjoyed the additional features.
Visuals and details
The Last Us Part II visuals are simply magnificent. Environmental detail and artifacts are phenomenal. I played with HDR on a base PlayStation 4, and I was astounded I wasn’t playing in 4K. It looks perfect. Textures look incredibly precise, and landscapes look amazing. This is especially important considering the time spent outdoors.
The character description could be even more spectacular. There’s a small section where Ellie looks in the mirror making various faces, and it’s not a cutscene. The animations look so fantastic, it looks like the creators are showing off.
Of course, not to mention the crunch that went into this game will be remiss. Naughty Dog has faced criticism for its tradition of having its squad put in the grueling time to finish this and other games. It’s an utter shame that someone would work under those circumstances, and they are the real heroes that make this game as good as it is.
And so many intricacies to discover. The options menu helps you to adjust the difficulty of items like enemy health or the number of resources you find.
More notably, players can alter the controls to make it more usable in several ways. Visually, adjustments may be made to allow reading of subtitles or essential information. There’s also a text-to-speech choice and motion sickness settings. Players may also adjust how to play the guitar or drive a boat. These options are also revealed with on-screen updates, and other usability options are revealed at the start. It’s a brilliant decision to see in more titles
All these details render The Last of Us Part II unbelievably strong.
Broadening the game to add too many features means opening the map. While not an open-world game, some levels are wide and complex, and navigating them is worth your time.
When it comes to game dynamics, it doesn’t fix what isn’t broken.
I was happy to find Easter eggs, uncover a story by notes left behind and clues, or find a useful equipment pickup by going out of my way.
There are also occasional moments that trigger cutscenes and seem optional. A few bits were adorable, but some added a strong emotional layer. I strongly recommend checking it out and I’ll probably start running myself on another completionist.
Part II’s Last is a tour de force that takes the best aspects of the original into its finest forms. The plot will leave you reeling, and some surprising twists will keep you all invested. Detail and quality level of development and story building in the world are at the top of their class.
How long will this last?
The campaign takes 30 to 40 hours, quickly hitting the latter if you want to explore and find anything available. If you just want to get through the story, 30 hours is closer to accuracy, but some extra exploration will help even narrative-driven players.
Should you buy it?
Yeah totally. The Last of Us Part II will go down as a classic game for years to come, not unlike the first version. The idea that this title builds on what went well makes adding it to your library easier to justify.
Is there a better alternative?
There’s nothing like The Last of Us Part II, let alone a better option. Gameplay and battle aren’t new, but the tale about those elements is unique. It’s also why people bought so heavily into the first game.