Editors’ Choice: The Last of Us Part II

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Editors’ Choice: The Last of Us Part II

A masterwork in emotional storytelling and technical craft, this is action adventure at its finest. 

It’s now well over a month since Naughty Dog’s sequel launched worldwide. Enough time for the game to be completed, its heart-pounding events absorbed and mulled over. If you’ve yet to watch the credits roll though, an obvious disclaimer: heavy spoilers from here on in. 

If the 2013 original focused on the bonds that connect us, this sequel is a study on the cycles of violence that can drive us. Director Neil Druckmann in the foreword of The Art of The Last of Us Part II book asks: “how far would you go to bring justice to the ones you love? How would the experience change you? What kind of repercussions would follow?” 

Naughty Dog’s answers to those are as disturbing as they are fascinating. They’re also uncomfortably, instantly, familiar. The story may unfold in an alternate, ravaged modern day America; the circumstances that drive these characters extreme. Yet their motivations and responses are soaked in realism and easy to empathise with. No less realistic yet infinitely harder to achieve is understanding another’s perspective: which makes the surprise dual narrative such a masterstroke. 

It’s tough, that slow realisation that the whiplash switch to Abby isn’t a brief mid-story intermission but in fact the start of the other half of the game. Yet, for me, by its conclusion the studio had achieved its goal: I was as fully invested in her story as I was Ellie’s. And I was now terrified — riveted — as to what would result when these two finally collided. 

The Last of Us Part II

The soundtrack is stellar throughout, be it helping propel the on-screen action, harmonising with character body language in a particular scene or surprisingly pivoting into a touching rendition of an 80’s pop classic.

Maybe you were as conflicted as I during that tense theatre fight or the final, desperate shoreline clash. Perhaps you remained ever a staunch defender of one perspective, or found yourself switching loyalties. Ultimately it provoked deep, genuine discussion — at least amongst those I’ve talked to — on themes I would never have expected to have faced in, for all intents and purposes, a summer blockbuster. Unsettling? Definitely. Important? Absolutely.  

That investment was made all the more easy by one of the most impressive, realistic renderings of video game characters I’ve seen to date. 

I’d continually fire up Photo Mode and pan in to examine facial reactions. A quiet moment of reflection during Abby’s hunt for Owen. Ellie’s emotional exhaustion evident on her sun-burnt face as she fought for survival once more. It’s the first game I’ve felt like I could see each character internally processing the events around them just by looking into their eyes. If you want to see for yourself, load up the Model Viewer and unlock Ellie and Abby’s first and last character models. Zoom in on their faces: it’s not just the physical scars. The emotional fallout of their respective, twined journeys are wrought there. 

The Last of Us Part II

Sandbox environments pack upgrade secrets and offer multiple approaches to threats. They’re also a visual treat. Most times I explored just to savour the quiet beauty of the ruined cityscapes. 

Realism permeates the combat system as well. Refined from the first game, the system can sublimely switch from tense stealth to all-out action in a heartbeat. Perfecting either approach takes time though. 

You’re no better equipped than those you face and the odds are seldom in your favour. As with any title, clumsiness precedes mastery as you settle into its gameplay rhythms. That period of adjustment nicely plays into the sense of panic I’d have in these situations: shots missed as I flinch from fire returned, punches failing to hit their mark as I flailed wildly, struggling to combat my own fear. 

Crucially the game never glorifies the violence inherent to surviving a post-apocalyptic world. Showstoppers featuring the original’s headline horrors there are (from the simple terror of a wire fence collapsing under the weight of a horde to the gut-clenching dread of the Rat King faceoff) but in Part II, Naughty Dog favours human conflict. With it comes names and faces and tense situations and difficult decisions. 

Fitting for the game’s narrative, it also allowed the studio to effortlessly play (prey?) on my emotions, sweeping me through the powerful waves of blind revenge and depositing me onto a shore of questionable accountability as anger receded. Joy replaced with revulsion and eventually resignation at the needs for survival. At humanity’s natural schism, tribalism.   

There is a power fantasy here. You can’t knock out a Clicker with a single punch or stealth past a patrol unnoticed without feeling a thrill. But there isn’t the expected catharsis, as XP unlocks and perfecting combat are carefully juxtaposed against a growing dread of powerlessness. Being — if not fully complicit — at least involved in two destructive paths of vengeance and the unrelenting cycle of violence they unleash. But messaging the tragedy inherent in that is an important one, the hope of self-realisation apparent. For Ellie, Abby and us. 

This is storytelling at its best and action adventure at its finest. 

See more Editors’ Choice picks on PlayStation Store. European players head here, and American players here.

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  • I loved what i played, and it truly is the finest game production off all-time imo. The attention to detail is unlike anything i have seen on console, but the only glitch i encountered in the game crippled my progress. Courthouse elevator. I’m curious if they patched it yet?

  • Één van de beste Game’s dat ik ooit al speelde. De details waren ook super. Misschien 1 min puntje voor mij. Dat de gezichten van de bendes bv niet veel verschillen in zaten. Trokken allemaal op elkaar. Hoop echt dat er nog een vervolg op komt! Ik geef dit spel 9 op 10. Geweldig Game!

  • This was an exceptional, concise assessment of the game.

  • Abby mentions: 4
    Ellie mentions: 4
    Joel mentions: 0

  • Overall I really liked it, I have hang ups about the second half of the game. The ending was really weird, but other than that, it was a really well made game.
    Still was nowhere near as good as the original though. Felt the original dealt with relationships between people a little better than Part 2.

    • It was vastly superior in terms of design and on a technical scale.

      Gameplay is superior, levels are much larger and more open, and traversal is hugely improved.

      You can dodge and jump, there are more skills and better AI all around.

      The game has more depth everywhere. I know ppl loved the cliche story of Joel and Ellie in the original, and it was a truly great experience, but imo The Last of Us 2 is a much finer production.

      TLOU feels like a beta by comparison. I have never seen a game as detailed as TLOU 2. The glass and rope physics, how pools of blood flutter from the wind blowing . The way Ellie’s jacket ripples in a storm.

    • @ iamtylerdurden1 – More depth?…LMAO what do you know of depth saying the story of 1 was cliche and that 2 had depth?…of course 2 is far superior in gameplay and tech,a baby knows that.

  • A beautiful game with amazing graphics and game play. The most fun I have ever had this year. That’s why I believe Ghost Of Tsushima should be game of the year.

  • It’s a mental and moral conflict constantly happening to the player’s mind. And the details in concept art and animation so smoothly and carefully done. Masterpiece 10

  • Awesome gameplay,best tech and best details ever in a game that even PS5 games will struggle to achieve but that’s that…and thats actually nothing when you have poor writing and a trash story followed by shady tactics to impose agendas down your throat and biggest fan disrespect ever in the game industry as far as I know.I used to say gameplay is everything on a game but TLoU 2 proved me wrong…TLoU 2 is the living proof that you can have superb everything but with poor writing,story and characters you get nowhere but of course thats because TLoU 2 had a prequel with superb writing.I hope this disgrace doesn’t even make it to the contenders for GOTY but considering how dumb game awards always is I honestly expect anything.

    It’ll be funny if this wins GOTY as no TLoU 1 fan will ever vote for it so maybe Sony will buy the award too lol…both game and ND deserve all the bad things they can get.Worst money I ever wasted in ma gaming life,imagine paying to see the characters you love being treated like trash and the game you love destroyed ha thank you ND.

    • Shady tactics to force and agenda? What agenda? What did they force on you?

      It’s a story, and it’s just that. I loved the stories and the gameplay in this game. I’m a fan of the first one too. So many memorable experiences in the game, definitely worth my 60 bucks. So far the best game I’ve played this year.

    • Welmosca I can’t agree more brother. Thats exactly how i felt. You summed it pretty well

    • @Melmosca

      The game also was crying out for Branching options. I can’t believe Naughtydog never implemented this feature.

      Seven years in the making for poor writing, terrible story, and just a drag to play a second time.

  • At first I didn’t even wanna touch this game after all the hate I head it got all the spoilers and twist and turns happening in the game, but then I saw the metacritic review scores and it was a 94 and I was generally confused I also saw It on the ps Store at a 4.5 out of 5 Stars so I bought the game Played the whole entire game about 35h, and all im going to say is that this game Theres nothing that can Top this game in terms of story telling except Last of us 1 and Maybe God of War. Playing the Last of us 2 was crazy even tho I knew everything that happened it still leaves me shocked angry sad Happy A bit teary at times, and the ending it is one of the worst and best endings ive ever seen it gives you that final thought like “Holy **** What Just happened” trust me i played it like 2 weeks ago and I still Think about it to this day.Yall can argue all you want call it trash and just say Ghost of Tsushima is better or any other game this year but The Last of us Part II is still going to be my favorite game This generation hands down ill put it beside Spiderman cause that game was literally 11/10 loved it.

  • Ha!

    Naaaaaawwwww I’m good of that.

  • I am not happy with the story, but man, it’s such an impactful game. It’s been almost 2 months and I keep thinking about it.

  • Shady tactics to impose agendas? What agenda? What did they force on you?

    It’s a story, and it’s just that. I loved the stories and the gameplay in this game. I’m a fan of the first one too. So many memorable experiences in the game, definitely worth my 60 bucks. So far the best game I’ve played this year.

  • Yeah completely agree. TLOU2 is a masterpiece. A great story that I couldn’t ‘put down’. Gameplay was great too. Loved it!

  • sorry your agenda and anita always lying sleezkisin made that such a poor game.

  • How dare you

  • 6/10. Hire a writer that knows how to write videogames next time, it is abundantly clear it was written by someone different to the first game.

  • The game has now been kicked out of the UK Top 10.

    This game was crying out for Branching choices. I can’t believe they never implemented this feature in a game like this🙄

  • Yeah the game is a 6/10 and thats being generous.

  • 9.5/10 – One of the Best Games Ever Made.

    For me, I was extremely excited at first…then I didn’t like it…then I’ve come around and appreciated it more in hindsight. It’s only been during my second playthrough that I’ve noticed the magnitude of small details in the storyline and the incredibly tense and thrilling cat-and-mouse gameplay. These guys (Naughty Dog Studios) are masters of their craft, just flexing on everyone else by deftly weaving a variety of complex sub-plots within the broader narrative.

    Is the storyline a little less straightforward than the original? Yes. Does the story feel a bit overburdened at times with the amount of narratives it needs to tell? Yes. But is each storyline told exceptionally well, with an attention to detailed character growth and connecting the dots between key moments? Absolutely.

    I see why the player base is mixed on this title, but I genuinely think that upon reflection, this will go down as a landmark moment in video game history. If TLOU 1 was an exemplary masterclass of telling “simple stories, complex characters” and written in the format of a classic novel like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, TLOU 2 is an emotional tour de force exploring core themes of duality, empathy, and the dangers of both hatred and love, expressed in the winding format of a groundbreaking movie.

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