The Last of Us, a game developed by Naughty Dog that was, and still is, highly praised by gamers from all over. Ever since the ending, fans have been waiting patiently for the possible sequel, and now, after being revealed in 2016, we are finally able to experience the continuation of Joel and Ellie’s story. However, due to some serious backlash from fans, I felt that I should bring some positive feedback, to show that the game isn’t as bad as many claimed it is. Because of its playstyle, I decided to take the time to watch someone else (Jacksepticeye) play The Last of Us Part 2, that way I can really analyze everything about the game. Please note that this analysis will be spoiler-free, so I’ll be very vague about a lot of things that occur in the story (out of respect for those that have yet to play the game). One last thing that I want to talk about, before moving on, is that the only knowledge I have about the sequel is the first two trailers that were released. Please keep this in mind as you read this article.
The World and The Game’s Graphics
One of the first things that stood out at the start of the game was the major improvement in graphics and the changes in the world. Looking back at The Last of Us, it’s very noticeable with how much the graphics have aged. I wouldn’t say that they look terrible, they just don’t look as good as they did back in 2013. Despite this, the game is still enjoyable and it doesn’t take away the beauty of the story. Fast forward to 2020 with The Last of Us Part 2 and you can tell that Naughty Dog has really upped their game. Long story short, this game is gorgeous to look at. The amount of attention to detail with the characters and the environment is mindblowing, even small things that wouldn’t seem important were given plenty of love. The way the blood dilutes in puddles of water, the way that nature is reclaiming what human civilization took away, and the different types of reflections from different surfaces were some of my favorites. I also found it fascinating to see the actual changes that your character’s weapons, since I have little to no knowledge in that area of expertise. Even if it was something small, like adding a handle to a crossbow for more stable aiming, it added more to the weapons/equipment.
Despite only four years have passed in the story, the world has definitely gone through changes. Remember how much vegetation was growing everywhere on the buildings and roads in the first game? Well, that has increased when you travel to Seattle, which is where most of the game takes place. There are trees and grass growing in places you wouldn’t even imagine being a possibility. It’s not just the vegetation growing in unexpected places, the destruction that the buildings have gone through over time is absolutely mindblowing. While I have never personally been to Seattle, a ton of research and attention to detail was put into recreating a destroyed version of the city. While not every building is shown (due to copyright with different businesses), the people responsible for recreating Seattle did a phenomenal job. The craziest part is how much is surrounded by water. Hell, the famous Space Needle and the area around it is surrounded by water and has become an island. Because it’s Seattle, it rains ALOT in this game, which constantly made me concerned for the characters’ health. Despite there being so much rain, the rain is very beautiful, especially when you watch the drops hit the puddles. There are sections of the city where you have to travel by boat, and personally, those are some of my favorite sections along with the village area much later in the game. While you only spend the very beginning of the game in this setting, the winter setting is beautiful and brutal. When you’re traveling on foot and by horse, you can actually knock snow off of the lower tree branches, which is so much fun to watch. There are a few moments, however, where the textures don’t fully load and slight glitches, but other than that the game is like walking through a beautiful art gallery. The only warning I have is if you’re afraid of heights, there is a section where you climb up to the height of a skyscraper and the details make the scenario more intense.
The Story and Characters
As the title of the game says, The Last of Us Part 2 is the sequel to the massively successful and award-winning game of 2013 The Last of Us. The story takes place 4 years after the events of the first game, which means new characters and new settings. As previously mentioned, Seattle is where most of the story takes place, but you start the game in a little town as part of a community. Let’s just say that things get intense fairly quickly, which isn’t surprising given how The Last of Us started. As much as I want to go into detail, that is an immensely difficult thing to do given the landmine field of spoilers I’m tiptoeing over. In a nutshell, the story revolves around Ellie and her growing up into an adult. There are some intense lessons that she learns and how her choices can lead to serious consequences. You also get to see the world from different points of view, since there are a few other main groups that you come across throughout the story. Unfortunately, that is all I can really talk about without going into spoiler territory.
With new sequels, comes new characters and there are a number of new characters in this game. There are some that you’ll love, some that you’ll hate, and then there are those that some of the fans will either hate during the entire game or grow to understand and enjoy. Joel, Ellie, and Tommy (played by Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, and Jeffrey Pierce) return with some interesting development to their characters and have grown with age and experience. Like the first game, Troy, Ashley, and Jeffrey absolutely killed it with bringing their characters to life. Honestly, with all of the characters (old and new), their actors and actresses didn’t hold back, which is a great reflection on how hard the directors pushed them. When I’m talking about the director pushing the actors and actresses, I don’t mean in a bad way. There are negative ways for any director to push their actors and actresses, but with both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2, you can tell that both sides worked together as a powerful team to effectively bring the characters and powerful scenes to life. While it took time, I really loved Abby’s character and Laura Bailey was phenomenal in every second of screentime she had with bringing Abby to life. While I personally can’t think of any characters that I hated the whole time, I know that there were times where I didn’t like Ellie (I know I’m going to get some hate for that), Abby, Tommy, or even Owen. It was mostly due to the choices they made and how they treated some of the other characters.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the previous game, although there are a few minor additions to the sequel. You spend a large portion of the game exploring the area and searching for ammo, supplements to help you gain new abilities, parts to upgrade your weapons, and supplies to craft items (there are a handful of new items to craft). Along with these, you also find notes (which give you more lore of the world) and cards of superheroes and villains (maybe Naughty Dog will make a game revolving around those characters). You also occasionally find coins, but there don’t appear to be as many as the cards, not sure why. Super listening and brick/bottle-throwing return in this game, which always comes in handy with using stealth to sneak past humans and the infected. Speaking of the infected, there are about three new infected, which makes adapting to various scenarios more interesting and intense. Remember those tense and spooky sections where you explore dark, spore-infested buildings filled with the infected? Yep, those sections are back and they’re just as intense. There are a few sections where you ride a horse and (as previously mentioned) you can also drive a small boat through the flooded areas of Seattle and there are small “puzzles” that you have to solve in order to get to other sections. Speaking of puzzles, there are a number of puzzle-like sections where you carry ladders and/or planks to reach your destinations. There are also moments where you need to wheel pallets of stuff in order to block gates or climb up to new heights. You also can use ropes or chords to climb up to or swing across to a different spot. Let me tell you, the physics of the rope and chord is one of the detailed parts of the game that has so many people talking (not sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing). A new mechanic that is super helpful for stealth moves is being able to crawl on you your belly and using the tall grass to hide from your enemies. Of course, the grass can’t help keep you hidden forever, since the human enemies have dogs that can track your scent, which is a cool addition. The only thing that myself and other gamers hated about that is…..you have to kill the dogs in order to move forward. Even if you take out the other humans, the dogs will keep on coming after you. While that is a hated thing about the game, it’s a very real thing that would happen in that world and our current era. Sometimes we have to do things that go against our morals in order to survive and The Last of Us Part 2 doesn’t hold back with the real and serious topics.
Like The Last of Us, Gustavo Santaolalla (joined by Mac Quayle) created another soundtrack full of human emotions. This game’s soundtrack both blends in well with the gameplay and adds that sense of loneliness you might feel in a post-apocalyptic world. Along with the sense of loneliness, there a peaceful wonder, and this intensity, that fits perfectly with a number of scenes. You can tell that they went above and beyond to bring you another special collection of music that can be listened to on a variety of occasions. This probably should be discussed in the “Gameplay” section, but because of the brilliance of it, I felt that it should be mentioned here. Ellie does have some sections where she plays and sings songs on the guitar, but the most impressive part is that, with enough practice, you can have Ellie play a variety of songs on the PS4 controller (thanks to the touch-pad). There’s even a moment where Joel performs a song for Ellie at the beginning, which is an incredibly touching scene. All-in-all, even if you don’t care for the game, the soundtrack is well worth listening to.
What I Enjoyed About Jasepticeye’s Playthrough
Since I mentioned watching Jacksepticeye’s playthrough for research, I believe that it would only fair to create a spot to discuss the parts I enjoyed the most. First things first, I really enjoyed how much genuine passion he had for the game and the positivity he expressed towards the game. With the way the internet is destroying this game, this sequel that we’ve waited so long for, there needed to be someone to give some positive and constructive criticism. Sure, there were parts he didn’t enjoy, there were certain mechanics and parts where the story could’ve been told in different spots. Despite this, Jack made some good pointers as to what could make those parts better. Watching his playthrough was not just entertaining, it was also very informative in both graphics and story-telling. As a writer, this game and his playthrough commentary really gave me some good pointers on how to write certain themes in stories. When I get more serious with my writing and write one of my stories, this is one playthrough I am definitely going to look back on for guidance. If you haven’t Jacksepticeye’s playthrough of The Last of Us Part 2, below is a link to the first episode, if you’re interested
All-in-all, despite the issues with the story’s pacing and the repetitiveness, I believe that The Last of Us Part 2 is worth giving a chance. Honestly, it’s not as bad as numerous people claim it is. Is it a perfect game with a perfect way of telling the story? Well…no. It has its flaws and some parts could’ve been done better with the pacing and deciding when to end. I whole-heartedly agree that chunks of it could be used for a third game. There were multiple times where it could’ve ended in preparation for The Last of Us Part 3. Despite this, it’s a visually stunning game with a decent story, a beautiful soundtrack, a powerful cast, and fun new additions to the roster of creative monsters. Personally I would give this game a 7/10 maybe even a 7.5/10, mainly due to the pacing issue.