The Last of Us Part II: Does the sequel live up to expectations?Published January 26, 2021
The Last of Us Part II is the highly anticipated sequel to 2013’s original from developers Naughty Dog. Exclusive to Playstation 4. Is it the masterpiece we were expecting? Read on to find out.
The Last of Us Part II is one of the most controversial games on the market. The producer of the game, Naughty Dog, focuses on telling really powerful stories that video games have not yet seen.
It’s not uncommon in the world of creative arts to fall flat on the “difficult 2nd offering”. What I mean by that is you see a band have a really successful first album or a movie is a blockbuster hit. So it makes some important people a lot of money and they want a second helping.
But it’s not that easy to just snap your fingers and recreate the magic that resulted in the original being so well received. There’s a bunch of reasons why this is commonly the case but I think it’s probably got a lot to do with inspiration.
Original movies, albums, games, books, etc are created initially because someone had an idea, they thought of something that they wanted to express in their medium of choice. The process of getting that inspiration into whatever form they’re using is what results in the masterpiece.
The Last of Us Part I was a masterpiece. No one can deny that. So, naturally, a few years down the line, we have The Last of Us Part II. So is it a success or failure? Well, the answer isn’t that straightforward. Let me explain for you.
A Beautiful Apocalypse
This video game is absolutely breathtaking in its visuals. The world is super high fidelity. The colours, lighting and textures make you want to just stand still and look around at all the magnificent views. Beautiful.
It’s not just the environment that deserves special mention. This is a character driven story you’re playing through. Special attention has been given to the characters themselves. I can’t think of another game that has more realistic looking characters. The models, textures, hair simulation, clothing, weapons, all amazing. The facial expressions you see on the characters faces are a key hook in immersing you in the on screen action. You feel like these are real people you’re dealing with.
The Sound of Immersion
The sound design is also excellent. Sound is a very important part of traversing this dangerous post-apocalyptic world.
Firstly the immersion is compounded by the sounds of the environments you’re in. From the sounds of a howling blizzard to the eerie almost silence of an abandoned city. The game sounds set an amazing scene. The sounds of the infected also add to their terrifying demeanor.
Sound is one of your biggest tools in combat, or avoiding combat if that’s your chosen playstyle. You can “listen” which will show you the approximate location of enemies that are close by through walls and behind doors.
Setting the scene
Being a linear story-driven game the world is quite small. However Naughty Dog hides that fact very well. The areas you find yourself in always feel big. You always have the feeling of wanting to progress to your goal so you never really get the urge to go off and explore too far from your path. Having said that there is a fairly large city hub that you are free to explore on your own. There are also multiple ways to tackle the various situations that you find yourself in so you’re not so restricted by the environment.
Environments include snowy mountainous regions, lush green forests and overgrown suburban areas, the city centre of Seattle and a few other biomes.
How to survive
In most areas you’ll find a mix of enemies, obstacles, puzzles and loot.
The enemies, as in the first game, are a mix of human and infected. There are different types of infected who have their own strengths and weaknesses that the player must exploit.
Sneaking around, not drawing attention to yourself and utilising stealth kills are all key to ensuring Ellie stays alive.
Traversing the environment often requires you to spot routes that are not immediately obvious. Utilise jumping, crouching, crawling, and manoeuvring to reach your goal. You can also make use of parts of the environment to help Ellie such as cables or rope lying around, or something you can move to stand on and reach a new area.
The loot you can find around the game is split into 4 different uses. Upgrading/modifying weapons, crafting weapons and consumables, increasing character skills and healing.
A core part of the last of us’ gameplay is resource management. It’s always worth taking a good look around to see if you can find something that might help you.
Controlling Ellie is pretty straight forward but one thing you need to do is stay composed. That can be hard to do when you have a horde of infected running at you and trying to tear your face off. The aiming in the game can be challenging at the best of times and even with aim assist you can end up wasting a lot of ammo in the panic of trying to hit an infected charging you.
There’s no GUI when you’re exploring the world and it’s very minimalistic when crafting or aiming. This is an important and correct design choice to keep the player immersed
The Telling of a Controversial, Powerful Story
So far you’re probably thinking “this all sounds great, is it just The Last of Us I with better graphics?”
Well, in the way it plays, yes. There’s not much to write about when it comes to differences in that area. But the gameplay wasn’t the reason The Last of Us was such a big success. It was the journey. The relationship between Joel and Ellie. The compelling, gripping, twisting and turning events that lead to a very special bond that every player was invested in. It wasn’t a game. It was an interactive masterpiece that engrossed almost all who played it.
The Last of us Part II is set a few years later. The first game’s main characters Ellie and Joel are living in a large town with other survivors. Their character arcs have progressed since we saw them last. They have grown apart a little as Ellie has gotten older. Joel keeps himself busy with his duties in town making sure the community stays safe. Ellie is struggling to find herself but nevertheless becoming an independent young woman. Infected and other human groups are still a threat so external patrols are a common occurence to ensure the town’s surroundings are safe. This is where your quest begins so I won’t say any more.
So will The Last of Us Part II manage to capture your attention in the same way? Well, it will definitely capture your attention. But not quite in the same way.
The Last of us Part II is a revenge story. It is harrowing. It is brutal. It is full of violence. The first game had moments of brutality and violence sure. But part II goes a step further, it gets under your skin. The voice acting, visual fidelity and facial animations really drive home the gravity of what is happening on screen and make you feel every second of it. It’s not always comfortable, it’s not always enjoyable, but my god it is powerful. Powerful in a way very few, if any, video games will affect you.
It needs to be respected, less as a video game, and more as a piece of art. A beautiful creation of video game storytelling. The emotions it is able to stir within you are normally reserved for other forms of media. Think A Clockwork Orange and Stanley Kubrick’s use of violence from the 1970’s.
The Last of us Part II is gameplay-wise, nothing new to go wild about. It’s solid with no major issues in that department. But that’s not why we play it.
The interactive storytelling is what sets this apart from every other game, including the original. It is admirable that developer Naughty Dog’s writers have been able to capture people’s attention to such a degree yet again. As mentioned, it is not always “enjoyment” that you will feel playing the game. But you will always be enraptured by it. You will never get bored of the narrative and you will always truly care about what is happening on your screen. One of the best video games of recent times.
Sony Interactive Entertainment and PS4 players will be very happy that this remains, and likely always will be, a Playstation exclusive.