“The Last Of Us Part 2" by NaughtyDog Studios is the sequel to the critically acclaimed PlayStation game “The Last Of Us” released back in 2013. The original game was a monumental success winning several accolades at the same time setting the bar quite high in terms of graphics, sound design and overall game-play.
So naturally, this sequel is the highest anticipated game of 2020. And with huge delays and postponements several times, this game was finally released in the end of June.
Since its launch, this game has been getting quite a lot of back-lash, I have seen the IMDB rating at 6 after launch which is way too low for a game coming from such a reputed gaming studio who have been churning out amazing games until now. So, without delving into all that hate which the game is getting, I am going to give my honest opinion not only as a fan of the first game but also as a fan of such games in general where playing them is more of an emotional experience rather than just getting your gear-on and shooting at things or getting in a car and keep driving.
Naughty Dog Studios proved that they are the masters at the craft of giving us amazing games with engaging story-line, lovable characters, massive set pieces and brilliant cinematic moments with adequate dose of emotional quotient. With the first part of The Last Of Us, they cranked up the emotions and gave us a very strong and compelling story about a girl and her companion, this father like figure. If you payed that game, then you know that their relation braves through hordes of infected entities, gangs of thugs, a harsh and unforgiving landscape and the primal urge of survival. As the game progresses you will develop a strong liking to these characters and their story-line thus making them one of the most lovable and iconic characters in gaming history.
And when the squeal was finally ready for pre-order after massive delays, I jumped right in. And then 2 amazing weeks of game-play later, I successfully saw the game through. Was it everything I was hoping and eagerly waiting for, well read-on to find out. No spoilers in this review.
First is the game-play, if you have forgotten the first one, then here’s a reminder. Your beloved characters, Ellie and Joel return and you get to play as Ellie and another new character called Abby. The game controls are not fluid as the Uncharted series, also developed by the same game studio NaughtyDog. Instead they are meant to mimic real life actions and movements. For instance, if the main character is running for a while, then you will feel her getting out of breath, you will feel her shiver if it is cold outside, you can sense the delay in clocking or reloading a gun and when you duct to hide and peek to see, it feels like how you do that in real life as opposed to Uncharted game series, where it is done for convenience rather keeping it close to real-life actions.
The game is divided into two story lines — In the first one, you play as Ellie and the second part, you play as this new character Abby. Most of the action within the game relies on either stealth, where you can lurk in dark corners or tall overgrown grass and take down both zombies and soldiers alike, or go guns blazing causing noise and attracting lots of attention. If you go guns blazing, you need to note that Ammo is very scare in the Last of Us world. So you need to use your bullets wisely as running out of ammo when needed and relaying on hand-to-hand combat can result in brutal/bloody outcome.
You do get a decent selection of guns right from the standard pistol to more powerful shots gun and semi-automatic shooters. Everything can be upgraded via scrounging. Actually, you do a lot of scrounging throughout the game searching for weapons, health packs, ammunition and bits & bobs which help in upgrading your weapons. The upgrade bench where you can improve the performance of your weapon is brilliantly done, almost real-life like. The way the characters upgrade weapons by attaching scopes or barrels to them is brilliantly detailed.
Difficulty wise, there are various levels, I played at the lowest level and still found it quite challenging. You can quickly get overwhelmed by the enemy, may it be the zombies, humans or even their trained dogs. I found it easier to take the dog out first as they are faster and rip you into bits before you figure out which direction they are attacking from.
A side-note here, in the game they don’t use the “Zee” word, instead they call them as Clickers, Runners, Shamblers, etc.
Next lets talk about the environment, again, this is brilliantly detailed. From ruined buildings covered with over-grown flora to rusted cupboards and doors, everything is so minutely detailed that I can only imagine the countless number of hours that would have gone into its creation. Graphics-wise, NaughtyDog always pushed the boundaries and with this game, I think it is at the peak of what can be achieved using the PlayStation 4 console.
Then sound design, this is wonderfully done. The score keeps your deeply engrossed and the zombie-noises are truly terrifying. One thing which these type of games usually do is inundate us with jump-scares. Thankfully, this game does that tastefully and when you come across such jump-scare moments, you really, really feel it.
And lastly, lets get to that controversial story-line. Even the first one ended on a strange note about the father figure deciding to save the girl instead of saving humanity, this game also takes some complex decisions making us wonder if that is the best possible direction for the story-line. I cannot mention much here without giving away spoilers so I will restrain myself from doing that. (Maybe I will write another spoiler filled version of this review and talk about everything to my heart’s content).
Now coming to the entire setup and story, you cannot play this game even for a second without having that déjà vu feeling. Problem is that the first Last Of Us game came out in 2013 and in the seven year time-gap between the first and the recent game, Hollywood has really done this Zombie genre to death. Don’t think there is even a single Zombie setup which they missed. We have walking zombies, clever zombies, fast zombies, zombies and scouts, zombies in water, zombies at work-place, zombies falling in love, zombies on beach,zombies on an island, zombies on ships — wow, they did not leave even a small nook of it uncharted! And the other major-major zombie show which is chugging along for 11 years, The Walking Dead, covers every setting which is shown in The Last of Us 2 game. Even the shocking twists that are common with The Walking dead TV series are borrowed here as well along with that non-linear story telling. It isn’t as bad as the TV series but still makes things confusing about the mixed-up timelines.
And coming to story itself, it is about Ellie seeking something very intensely and Abby doing the same. Both their story-lines clash giving us an ending which keeps on going even after we get scenes that suggest conclusion. Talk about Peter Jackson and his middle earth saga reference, this game feels the same when it comes to stretching the ending. I was all ready to settle down with an ending after which point, the game continued for 2 more hours moving things to a different setting. I think the creators were having so much fun that they lost track of time and forgot to conclude the game at the point when it was logical to do so.
Coming to my opinion about the story, partly, I do relate with the decisions which the characters take whilst some, it does not make any sense. Especially at the ending point where you feel like the characters attain certain closure, only to be short-lived making the whole episodes which preceded that loose its purpose.
But, by no means this ruins the experience. This game is still brilliant and will take your on an emotional roller-coaster ride filled with equal doses of action and sentiment along with some cinematic cut scenes and heart-warming moments. If you want my honest opinion, hit that buy button and get this game as this is one of those which totally justifies purchasing a gaming console in the first place.
Negatives wise, besides the story-line and the ending which I covered above, the other things which I did not like are first — there is a bit of repetitiveness. When you first play as Ellie, you go through the whole process of scrounging and upgrading and scrounging again, but when it comes to the turn of Abby’s game-play, you have to do that all over again. When the second story arc commences, they should have either skipped it or made it less relevant as you have already done it for the entire first half of the game.
Next, the action points. Nothing in this game is straight-forward. If you are after something, NaughtyDog makes you jump through hoops and hurdles in the most excruciating way even when you have just done that in a previous chapter. Things you need are always behind some twisted paths making you take on challenge after challenge. Don’t get me wrong, this does offer more game-play but at times, I felt that I’ve just been through hell, why can’t the game make the next bit simpler.
I think that’s it when it comes to negatives. This game does offer you the amazing gaming experience which you are looking for and despite what others have been saying, I can confidently say that you’d be glad that you played it.
Rating wise, I give The Last Of Us Part 2 4 out of 5 stars.