The Last of Us Part II is a difficult game to categorize. Coming off the massive success of Part 1 the game faced a huge problem, the game’s key narrative points were leaked prior to the game’s release and causing a huge uproar. This frustrated many gamers who felt that Naughty Dog betrayed them and I was one of them. However, after playing the title I can say that the game’s narrative evoked a lot of different emotions, ranging from anger, frustration, and sometimes glee. All pointed towards the new playable character Abby is introduced so poorly that it is hard to connect to her. Ellie remains a significant part of the story but adding such an unlikeable character to the mix definitely makes the experience less appealing than Part 1. The gameplay remains largely loyal to the original with improvements made to the game’s AI, the infected getting a terrifying update in both visual and sound design, and better level design that encourages exploration. The Last of Us Part II is a marvelous game but it’ll make you feel a lot of emotions that many don’t want to feel when playing a video game.

Everyone is Terrible and Compassion is Weakness

The Last of Us Part 2 takes place 4 years after the events of Part 1. Ellie is now living in Jackson and has matured as a person. She is no longer the quirky girl who occasionally told bad jokes. Instead, she’s a more hardened survivor living in this expansive community. Since the events of the first game, Ellie has developed strong bonds with the community, with Jackson teeming with businesses, people, and even children.

The people living in this nightmare have started to rebuild their lives but the fear of the cordyceps infection is still real. Regular patrols are made outside the walls and to lookout points to ensure the community is well-stocked and protected by both bandits and the infected. The 2 closest people to Ellie are introduced very early, Jesse a strong leader that puts others’ needs above his own, and Dina a charming girl who has a great romantic interest in Ellie.

Some of the previous characters do return but most of the focus is on the new characters. The biggest being Abby. This very strong woman commits a horrible act within the first chapter of the game. It’s such a vile act against those who played the first game that it leaves this permanent impression on the play. What follows is Ellie leading a covert operation to Seattle to take revenge against Abby and her people for this.

The Circle of Revenge

The theme of revenge is constantly hammered into the player’s skull. Not only is the main narrative about vengeance but plenty of optional documents and the human enemies you kill reinforce this theme. With enemies calling out for the fallen enemy by name or learning about how someone locked a bunch of people into a spore riddled area. The writings were not subtle about this in the slightest.

Perhaps intention or not Abby remains the low point of the story due to her debut. Since she commits such a terrible act not only to the main cast but those who played Part 1. Abby is shown to be another person surviving in this world. She has flaws but also has people she loves and cares about. Despite the developers trying really, and I mean really, hard to try and develop a connection between the player and Abby and it fails. Looking past what she did is near impossible. It didn’t matter that she loved dogs or that she lost someone, she was the one responsible for everything that is transpiring. Worse is that I have to control her.

Ellie’s part of this adventure is more or less what you would expect. With her hunting down these people throughout Seattle.

The Last of Us Part II’s narrative isn’t that amazing when you start to talk about it, the same can be said about Part 1. It was the incredible characters, writing, and choreography that made the experience so memorable and that’s still here. The voice-acting and character models are perfect, and coupled with each scene is a complementary musical score that heightens each moment and you have a recipe for some cinematic gold.

Each scene in this game is jarring from both a technical and viewer perspective. Naughty Dog went above and beyond with these scenes, with lifelike movement and gestures. The eye movement and body language in particular are eerie because it’s so lifelike. And that translates to some grotesque scenes of brutality as Naughty Dog animated and crafted such high-quality brutality that I cringed a few times.

That being said the story will not appeal to everyone, in fact, it has already caused a lot of vexation. The emotional rollercoaster that this story will take you on will not be easy especially for fans of the first game but one thing is for certain, you will feel something once you complete the 18-hour adventure.

Shoot, Sneak and Get Supplies

Much of Part 2’s gameplay remains the same from Part 1. Players sneak or shoot their way through various sets of enemies. All while collecting material to craft items and increase your character’s weapons and passive skills. Unlike Part 1 Naughty Dog added a lot more layers to exploration, combat, and stealth.

Now players can jump and go prone. Jumping allows you to access more areas and take better vantage points. It may seem small but Naughty Dog really took advantage of this new mobility. This can also be said about prone. When prone Ellie and Abby can hide in small patches of grass and crawl into small areas.

All of this is used in exploration as there are more opportunities to locate supplies. Like Part 1 you’re strongly encouraged to search for supplies to craft items but in Part 2 the options are much higher. There are optional areas that you can entirely miss that sometimes offer new weapons and upgrades. With safes having the best supplies and requiring you to search the environment for the code. Naughty Dog took reference from Red Dead Redemption 2 with characters picking up items directly from the exact position of the item instead of just reaching out in its general location. 

Both Abby and Ellie have unique options for upgrades but mostly similar skill trees. By obtaining pills you can unlock accessible trees but magazines are needed to access new skill trees. Scrap is used for weapons and you’re given a fair selection of upgrades. All weapons have 4 upgrades that increase capacity, damage, stability, and so on. Instead of just using a standard animation to upgrade the weapon like in Part 1 you see Abby or Ellie making the modifications which is a very nice touch. Overall the upgrade system is basic but it works.

The enemies you’ll encounter are varied and have unique fighting patterns. You’ll encounter both infected and humans, with most of the humans either being from the Washington Literation Front or the Seraphites. The WLF is a military-focused militia who overthrew the military and now scavenges Seattle. They’re organized and used similar techniques like the military such as dogs to sniff out the player’s position. 

The Seraphites are a cult that lives on an island outside of Seattle but enters the city for supplies. They believe that the infection is a response to humanity’s sin. They utilize mostly sneaky weapons such as bows and long-range rifles. They’re best known for their effective non-verbal communication technique of whistling to issue commands. 

Both sides hate each other and are fighting one another for control. Ellie is right in the middle and Abby is part of the WLF. The biggest threat is of course the infected.

Nightmare Fungi

Naughty Dog made the infected even more terrifying, with redesigns made to the character models to make them even more inhuman and their combat techniques. Runners, the first stage of infection, are still hyperaggressive but will now take full advantage of the new melee combat system. Now you can dodge incoming blows but it works both ways, with the player no longer able to spam melee strikes. This makes Runners even more threatening.

Clickers, the most notorious of the infected, now curl their arms to resemble a mantis while using a horrifying screech. They’re still blind but their hyper hearing makes sneaking up on them more difficult. Stalkers still focus on hit and run tactics, often hiding in tall grass and behind cover or even fusing into the wall waiting for a victim to pass by. Shamblers are the new infected made possible thanks to Seattle’s increased rainfall, filling the air with corrosive spores when near a target. Thanks to their heavy armor you’ll need to aim for the head to deal any real damage but they explode when killed.

The Bloaters have seen the biggest change. Now these heavily infected creatures act as a mini-boss with increased speed and defense. The creature can easily smash through concrete walls and like in part 1 if they grab you you’re dead. There’s one last infection that I cannot talk about but it was so gruesome that it looked like it came from the Resident Evil franchise. Overall I was incredibly impressed by how well Naughty Dog was able to recreate sensations found when playing a survival-horror game using the cordyceps victims.

There will be situations where you can pit everyone against one another. Leading to large calamities that give you the advantage of sneaking off.

Ellie and Abby can shoot their way through the horde of enemies but you can also sneak, which is strongly encouraged to save supplies. Active combat plays out the same as part 1, playing as a third-person shooter. Unlike most shooters, you actively sway your guns back and forth and recoil plays a larger role. Enemies will take notice when your guns are empty and charge your position when they hear that click sound.

That being said enemies tend to have incredible levels of accuracy when in active combat. In addition, it’s very clear all these enemies have fully upgraded weapons considering their rate of fire and stopping power, sometimes knocking Ellie off her feet. Killing enemies is very bloody, and if you cause severe damage such as a rifle shot to the arm the NPC’s arm will literally go flying from the point of impact. With some enemies even yelling out in pain before dying. It’s graphic. The blood patterns from high-explosive kills were disturbing as blood, guts, and sometimes brain matter would be scattered around. I don’t know what the developers had to see or research to replicate this and I don’t want to know. The violence here is disturbingly real.

Weapon variety is what you would expect. 2 pistols and a handful of more powerful weapons such as a bow, rifle, shotgun, flamethrower, and so on. You can upgrade each of these and pistols can be outfitted with a silencer but for some reason, you can only have 1 at a time and cannot swap out worn silencers for new ones. 

You can choose to sneak which is often the more ideal but comes with its own issues. First off enemies often communicate with one another, similar to Metal Gear Solid V, but unlike in that game where reports were timed to maintain fairness here it’s almost instant that an NPC notices another is gone. It didn’t happen all the time but often I would kill someone then another would call out that person’s name immediately wondering where they went. It can also feel very overwhelming as enemy counts get very high during the later part of the game. If you do happen to screw up checkpoints are fairly distributed and getting back to a recent encounter is quick.

Granted sneaking has been improved with new options. You can crouch and remain hidden in tall grass and short grass using prone but if enemies get too close they can see you. Sometimes you’ll be given a shallow amount of water where you can swim and avoid detection provided the enemy isn’t near you.

With infected these techniques work in different ways obviously. Since these creatures are primal Naughty Dog took that into consideration and often they’ll just violently charge your position or at the point where a sound is made. Both Abby and Ellie have distinct sneaking techniques with Ellie using her mother’s knife for quick kills but Abby having to rely on shivs and her powerful arms, making clicks more of a threat for Abby.

Many of the areas are designed with multiple avenues of travel. Yes, there’s still only 1 exit but how you get there is up to you. The developers provided many options for how you get there. Often you’ll have to make a quick decision when traversing the environment to avoid being boxed in as human enemies will try to flank and ambush you when spotted. Creating a lot of dynamic situations as you determine the best course of action. Getting to the exit point can be annoying as the game doesn’t always telegraph where you have to go. During my first playthrough, I got lost several times and became frustrated with sneaking so I just killed everyone and looked for the exit point that way.

Occasionally the game will pose some environmental challenges. The first being avoiding traps connected to explosives. At first, this seems challenging as you have to avoid the devices but you can simply throw bottles or shoot them with little consequence. This could’ve been an interesting section where you actively avoided detection but no.

New to Part 2 is boss fights. I mean you can technically say that David from Part 1 was a boss encounter but here there are some really challenging fights against deadly opponents. These encounters often require you to fully use all your skills evading being killed and dishing out attacks. I cannot say more without risking spoilers but these are large cinematic affairs and are extremely well done.

It’s equal parts challenging, fun, and frustrating. However, Naughty Dog has provided ample ways to adjust the difficulty instead of just standard modes. This extends to accessibility options which change the gameplay to adapt to a large amount of mobility or sensation limitation. 

Overall the gameplay for The Last of Us Part II isn’t flawless but it has a lot of positive qualities. I did wish the enemy count was a bit smaller to make sneaking a little less stressful and enemies were a little less aware.

Play Me a Song

The musical score for The Last of Us Part II is amazing but also forgettable. After replaying the game twice I didn’t remember a single track which is ironic because after completing the first game the opposite is true. The reason was that the music tracks played so well with the scene that I was often seeing everything combined as one. Instead of picking out certain aspects of what was happening, such as the character’s dialogue I instead was completely immersed in the scenes, whether gameplay or cinematic. It’s a strange balance that works in the game’s favor, I don’t remember any of the tracks because they merged so well with the scene that I didn’t take notice of one thing over another. It all just combined for something amazing.

That Lighting Look Good

Part 2’s most defining quality is the game’s technical systems. The game looks and plays amazingly. The sheer amount of detail in this game is staggering at times. Frogs jumping in watery areas, icebreaking at the point where your horse lands his feet, enemy characters crying out in pain when dying from a fatal wound, or how glass shatters. 

The visuals are amazing and the character models are so expressive even in-gameplay. With characters actively expressing their emotions in both their facial and body movements. This also goes for their health as their movements reflect how full your meter is. I’ve already expressed how grotesque the infected look as blood oozes down their misshaped mouths or the Stalker’s skin slowly peeling away as fungi sprouts from their backs. 

From a technical perspective, this game is a masterpiece with such attention to I was constantly shocked by how much the developers fit into this title. The only thing I can complain about from a technical perspective is the load times when loading into a chapter. It can take a long time but this is only from this selection, other than that load times are quick.

What Was It All For?

The Last of Us Part II made me angry, sad, disappointed, happy, and an array of other emotions during this journey. Perhaps this was all intentional. To make us hate Abby but to show that she’s no different from the other characters in this world. Either way, it felt forced and distasteful for this character to essentially take the place of someone more beloved.

The gameplay has its moments of extreme stress and challenge. As you fend off both infected and human enemies alike using unique techniques to take advantage of each enemy type’s weaknesses. Which has been updated to accommodate the new mobility and melee system. However, the overall concepts have remained largely unchanged and the removal of the nail bomb, which I loved, was particularly heartbreaking.

The Last of Us Part II is a dark and bloody take that will likely leave many with feelings of dread and anger in a way that video games can rarely accomplish.

The Last of Us Part II Review
Pros
  • Incredible Technical Design
  • Disturbing Violence and Blood Effects
  • The Infected
Cons
  • Abby
  • Questionable Story Structure
  • Inconsistent AI Detection When Sneaking
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (7 Votes)
2.7

About The Author

Adam S
Sr.Staff Writer

Adam is a Senior Staff Writer for GamerAssaultWeekly with over 5 years of experience in writing and is completely obsessed with video games. He holds a BA from Brooklyn College and lives in NY.