In less than three weeks we’ll finally have our hands on what is perhaps one of the most anticipated video game sequels of all time. Sony’s recent lineup of PlayStation exclusives has been nothing short of stellar, yet none have really garnered the level of hype or expectation surrounding The Last of Us: Part II.
Ahead of its release on 19th June, we’ve been journeying through the game and working on our review, which will go live next Friday. However, we’re allowed to give you some early impressions of what we’ve played.
Before we dive in, let’s quickly clear up a couple of things. This quick preview will not reveal any spoilers regarding the main story or its characters – this is gameplay focused and based solely on a section some way into Part II.
At first glance, Seattle may not look all that different from some of the locales Joel and Ellie explored in the original game. It’s yet another ruined city slowly succumbing to desperate violence as the verdant tendrils of mother nature look to reclaim her territory.
However, the sense of scale has been dialled up massively since The Last of Us. Seattle feels way more like a huge urban sprawl instead of a tightly constructed network of streets and storefronts trying to giving the illusion of a city.
There’s a depth here that gamers will appreciate, too. While you can follow the critical path to your objective, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself exploring every side alley, checking every door, and climbing every ledge. Part II’s environments are teeming with little nuggets to discover, whether they be valuable resources, collectibles, or intriguing side narratives.
Seattle’s post-apocalyptic beauty hides peril around every corner. Although survivors are few and far between, this city is a warzone and not all of its combatants are entirely human.
The biggest change to combat in The Last of Us: Part II is the amount of versatility that you have in navigating each carefully crafted skirmish. Being able to lay prone, climb, jump, and hide in tall grass gives players way more options when tackling these encounters. Pairing this with broader environment designs and more dynamic AI, each gunfight turns into its own unique showdown.
Whether you want to go in all guns blazing, take enemies out one by one, or evade them completely, all are viable options. Even if your cover is blown, Part II’s stealth mechanics build on those found in Uncharted 4, allowing you to disengage and regroup as long as you’re able to break line of sight.
The shooting here will feel instantly familiar. Guns have a little bit of heft to them and ammo is scarce, meaning you can’t simply spray down waves of incoming foes. This only adds to the satisfaction of popping that long range headshot or double-tapping an enemy about to close the distance.
Melee is an even bigger focus here than in the original game. Ellie can dodge attacks at the press of a button, adding a little back-and-forth to these close quarter fights instead of letting you simply whale on nearby targets. Of course, many of these combat scenarios will feature Infected which we’ll discuss more in our full review next week.
This is by far Naughty Dog’s best-looking game to date. Next to Uncharted 4 the two appear evenly matched in terms of visual fidelity when comparing still images, but that four year gap has allowed them to flex, especially when it comes to character animations and the sheer amount of tiny details. If bloody violence is your bag, you’ll revel in how enemies can be torn apart, limbs flying and heads bursting like watermelons.
In short, Naughty Dog have made sensible yet inventive refinements to that core gameplay from The Last of Us. What’s particularly interesting as a fan of their work is seeing how design choices from Uncharted have clearly bled into Part II, lending that same degree of immersion of experimentation that manages to feel fresh and original.