The Last Of Us Part II – A Miserable Masterpiece

The Last of Us on PS3 was the nothing short of a masterpiece in storytelling; so much so that even the thought of a sequel didn’t really make sense. Seriously, how could anyone top something so heartfelt and genuine and beloved by so many fans? This seems like an impossible task.

Yet, somehow, Naughty Dog delivers what is absolutely their best work to date. Despite the negative criticisms about The Last of Us Part II, I found the game to be something quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I feel that this review is neccessary, as with all of the negativity in the world today, we could use some positivity.

If you’re still skeptical, give it a chance. Don’t judge the game without playing it for yourself. I will avoid any and all spoilers for those intending on picking this game up in the future.

Personal Overview

I should mention that I personally saw the leaks before the launch of the game. I’d say this hindered my experience to some degree. I had my speculations, so much so that I actually downgraded my collector’s edition to a standard edition, as if anticipating disappointment.

However, after about 15 hours into the game, I realized how silly I was by listening to criticisms about the game. I quickly got on OfferUp and found someone selling the Ellie Edition of the game. Yes, I forked out $300 for a game I already owned plus additional collectible merchandise, and no, I don’t regret it.

Story/Plot

This is the aspect of The Last of Us Part II that is dividing the fanbase. Arguably the most important aspect of any game is it’s story. Consistency is vital, pacing is crucial, execution is significant. If you don’t have a well written story, you don’t leave a lasting impression on the player. Believe me when I say this game leaves it’s mark, in more ways than one.

Without delving into spoiler territory, I can say that this game will trigger your mind into thinking more critically. It will show you different perspectives from different points of view that seemed insignificant at first but ultimately makes you reevaluate what you’re doing. Is any of this worth it? Is what I’m doing actually meaningful or simply unethical? These are the questions I was asking myself while playing this game.

I won’t mention specifics, but I don’t agree with really any allegations made towards this games narrative structure. I found The Last of Us Part II to be a gripping story from start to finish. I felt joy, anger, disgust, sadness, man oh man, lots of sadness. There were so many thought provoking scenes that had such an emotional impact on me that I even tear up while writing this review.

If I understood one criticism about the story, it would be the ending. I can see how it can leave a little more to be desired, but I think that’s the point. The path of unnecessary violence and negativity will lead to you a future that’s seemingly bleak and miserable. This is art in it’s rawest form.

Characters

To mention specific characters I’d be leading myself into an array of spoilers. What I will say is that each character is well written and the voice acting is amazing. The motion capture they did for this game is simply astounding. The details in character models really shine through in an impressive fashion.

Every character you come across, even side characters, added some kind of meaningful dialogue to the game. Lighthearted conversation between characters while traveling together will really immerse you into this world as you grow strong bonds with them.

The best part about this cast is that they make you question your morals. They blur the line between protagonist and antagonist. These actors put on some really great performances that I won’t forget any time soon.

World

The world of The Last of Us Part II is beautifully destroyed. There’s a significant amount of detail in the environments here. Graphically, I must say that this is the best looking game on current generation hardware. Naughty Dog pushed the PS4 to it’s limits and it paid off. The lighting effects and visuals are phenomenal and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

While this is a linear and story driven game, some areas of the map opened up a little bit more and allowed for exploration. While exploring every nook and cranny of these bigger environments were optional, they did have a worthwhile payoff. You could find crafting materials or upgrades for your equipment, or even just hidden easter eggs worth discovering.

My favorite aspect about this world design was the sound. I have to gush about the sound here. The infected enemies in this game were menacing enough, but having headphones on and listening to them come from every direction puts you in a terrifying state of panic. Listening to a Clicker that’s around the corner fills me with dread as I know I will have to head towards it to complete the objective. Aside from that, weapons sound realistic and the music is top notch and even rivals the first game.

The first game may not have been known to be a horror game; it had it’s moments, but overall it wasn’t too scary. Make no mistake about The Last of Us Part II though, this is a seriously terrifying game. As I previously mentioned, the sound plays a huge role in this. Not only do enemies sound horrifying, they act and look the part too. Some infected enemy types look so frightening from a distance that when they rush you, you instantly look for an escape route to avoid battling that hellacious enemy. This is a horror game through and through.

Gameplay

The gameplay in The Last of Us Part II is engaging and intense, perhaps too intense at times. Kill animations are gruesome and sometimes gut wrenching. You can’t help but feel bad for your own actions, justified or not, as enemies will scream their friends name in grief when they find they’ve been slaughtered. AI is extremely intelligent and often unforgiving as well, especially on higher difficulties.

There were a few new additions to this series such the ability to leap across gaps or use ropes to scale walls. This adds a level of verticality to the game and makes puzzle solving a little more in depth. They also added a prone mechanic which helps in various combat encounters as you can hide in tall grass and take out enemies.

One feature that stands out to me was the inclusion of dogs. Dogs are a unique enemy that act just like you’d expect; they can sniff out your scent and alert the enemies in the vicinity. What you may not expect is that if you kill that dog’s owner, the dog will whimper and cry next to it’s owner’s dead body. Talk about heartbreaking.

The adrenaline fueled combative gameplay coupled with the emotional storytelling was enough for me to need a break from the game altogether. Multiple times I found myself putting the controller down for a few hours, even a couple days. The game is ruthless and aggressive and will challenge your intestinal fortitude. Coming from someone who adores horror movies, specifically the Saw franchise, this game is brutal.

Summary

The Last of Us Part II isn’t a fun game, and I mean that in the best way possible. The gameplay is engaging, but the story will destroy you and challenge your mindset. This is undoubtedly the game of the generation and a must play. As I mentioned before, this isn’t just a game, this is art.

Verdict: 10 – Masterpiece

What are your thoughts on The Last of Us Part II? Let me know in the comments below!

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