The Last of Us Part II Review – TheSixthAxis

The Last of Us Part II Review

Violent delights.

There’s an argument to be had as to whether The Last of Us truly needed a sequel. That ending, although divisive, felt refreshing in its ambiguity and though it left the door open for another instalment, Naughty Dog could easily have closed it and moved onto something else entirely. Following the game’s rampant success and with it now being labelled an all-time PlayStation classic, The Last of Us Part II was practically inevitable. Just like the original game, it’s utterly essential.

We won’t be going into any major story spoilers here. What we will say is that Naughty Dog clearly crafted this sequel with a real a sense of duty to the setting and characters they had so lovingly created, not simply out of pressure from Sony wanting to bank yet another commercial hit.

Having already built the fungal foundations of its grim post-apocalyptic world, The Last of Us Part II indulges itself when it comes to focusing on characters and galvanising their complex relationships. Needless to say the previous game’s ending has not been forgotten and the way this sequel deals with its rippling consequences will surprise you. By the time the credits roll, you may also surprise yourself in how you feel about this bloody continuation of this harrowing saga.

Mushrooms sprouting from faces and turning folks into zombie-like horrors is terrifying, yet this plays second fiddle to an even deadlier disease coursing through the veins of this sequel: vengeance. The way The Last of Us Part II explores this theme is surprisingly layered. If you thought Naughty Dog was about to drop the smart writing of its more recent work for a one-note bloodthirsty rampage, think again.

Although many will come to The Last of Us Part II for the story, the gameplay is equally as brilliant and refined. You know a game has a superb combat system when you will consider willingly rolling back to the beginning of its most challenging encounters over and over just to see how rewarding it would be to try a different approach. Admittedly, that can sometimes be because your first attempts went awry and cost too many of your painstakingly scavenged resources.

There’s a level of desperation and tension to each battle that you just don’t get from other top-flight AAA video games. We’d honestly recommend dialling the difficulty all the way up here as it showcases the clever network of systems ticking away as you transition between stealth, firefights, and those gritty close quarter slugfests.

There’s a freedom to how you approach most combat scenarios, quietly taking down enemies one by one, peppering them with bullets, and swinging whatever makeshift melee weapon you have to hand. Of course you can mix and match between these styles and the stealth system gives you the option to disengage, fall back, and rethink your strategy if things get a bit too hairy. You can even sneak past entire patrols if you prefer to channel your inner Solid Snake.

Whatever your approach, the gameplay delivers a satisfying smack with each crunchy headshot, shiv to the neck, or brutal finishing blow with whatever makeshift weapon you have in hand. The Last of Us Part II pulls no punches in its depiction of violence. We’re not just talking the occasionally bloody lip here – Naughty Dog has gone all out with heads bursting, limbs flying, and other gory details in a way that will surprise even the most desensitised of gamers.

At its core it mimics the frantic moment to moment gameplay of the original, but with some welcome improvements such as more ways to sneak around enemies. You can now go prone or use tall grass to better hide yourself, while the enhanced depth and verticality in Naughty Dog’s world design is aided by now having the ability to jump.

The Last of Us Part II has the trappings of an incredibly cinematic action game though this is still unmistakable as a survival horror. Resources are incredibly scarce and you’ll need to fall back on crafting makeshift gear in order to pull yourself out of perilous situations. Then there are the Infected who are just as eerie and lethal as they were in the previous game. Sometimes you’ll be facing them head on, but for the most part they serve as a kind of stealth-based puzzle, as you monitor their patrol patterns, judge their movements through jerky, twitching animations, and use items to manipulate their behaviour to either sneak past or take them out quietly.

Of course, these sections are strung together amidst lengthy cutscenes, plenty of exploration, and some of Naughty Dog’s wildest set pieces to date. It’s exactly the same treatment we saw them give Uncharted 4 and once again the results are phenomenal.

That goes for how the game looks and sounds, too. The Last of Us remains one of the go-to examples for demonstrating the raw calibre of this industry’s top actors, and it’s the same for the sequel. Once again Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson give us unforgettable performances, flanked by a cast of new characters who are all brought to life using cutting edge facial and motion capture.

The world itself is just as rich, dripping with tiny details that are made all the more impressive when you consider the sheer scale and density of Part II’s environments. Those gamers who fancy themselves virtual photographers are going to have sore thumbs from tapping away at that share button.

Summary
The Last of Us Part II is a remorseless epic delivering in its masterful storytelling, nail-biting gameplay and unrivalled production values. Naughty Dog have truly surpassed themselves yet again, crafting a heartfelt sequel that will leave you gasping as they continue to raise the bar for the video game industry. It's yet another must-buy for PlayStation 4 owners, supercharging Sony's unstoppable stable of exclusives.
Good
  • Gripping story that will leave you shaken
  • Rich, cinematic combat gameplay
  • Phenomenally detailed world and characters
  • Unbeatable character performances
  • Meaty 20-hour campaign with plenty of replay value
Bad
  • As huge fans of the original game’s Factions multiplayer, it's a shame not to see it return for the sequel
10
Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

16 Comments

  1. Sold.

    Shame its a whole week off!

    How many hours would you say it takes to complete?

    • We’d estimate 18-22 hours. Our playthrough clocked in at 26 hours but this involved LOTS of extra exploration and mucking about in photo mode.

      • Thanks for the reply Jim, I was expecting that sort of length, sometimes puts me off a bit though when a story based game is that long.

  2. Great review. I’ll be giving this one a miss though. You summed it up for me in the first paragraph Jim: I absolutely loved the ending to the first game and just don’t want to spoil it’s sheer awesomeness. It’s a story that didn’t need to be continued, it was ambiguous and ethically interesting. For me I never needed a sequel, the original was enough.

    • That’s completely fair and it’s something Naughty Dog has certainly acknowledged in the writing of this sequel. You may honestly be surprised just how much you enjoy the way they’ve continued the saga.

  3. What a fabulous idea Adrian. Miss out on potentially one of the best games ever made because you feel a sequel wasn’t needed.

    Clever indeed.

    • It makes total sense if you see the first one as a story on it’s own and not a product (“missing out on the greatest game ever made”).

  4. Also, I don’t like where this story and partially the gameplay is going, so I’m giving this a miss too.

    • Again, TLOU2 is chock with surprises. You may kick yourself for not taking the plunge ;)

      • “Like the nature consuming Seattle, or the outbreak consuming humanity, its ugliness overshadowed everything else.”

        “The Last of Us Part 2 depicts individual people who are instead ruthless, capable, yet self-absorbed, and whose perception of violence is limited to how it affects them and their chosen family members. They are almost unbelievably unable to see the bigger picture.”

        ” It sets out to surpass its predecessor, but the only meaningful contrast between them is in its even more oppressive bleakness and violence. It digs two graves, fills them with blood, and then just fu.king wallows in them.”

        Excerpts from the reviews of three other sites (I’m not challenging your review) that gives the impression I’ve had of this game for the past year or two. Druckman’s ‘cycle-of-violence’ concept in a game that last 20+ hours where a big part of it is about killing in a most violent way, is dead on arrival.

        The repulsion will simply wear off after a while and for many, the excessive violence is the main attraction of it. Such a concept only works in passive entertainment.

  5. Excellent review and thanks for making it spoiler free. It’s been a year and a half since I was last excited for a game, I’m glad the feeling is back and that this delivers on its promises too.

  6. Will almost certainly pick this up at some point when price has dropped a little and some of my massive backlog is cleared. Can’t recall story very well of the first one so likely I’ll wiki it for a reminder before jumping in to this one. No surprise to see it reviewing so well. ND are masters of their craft to be fair and have been since Crash days

  7. Sounds excellent, can’t wait to jump in!

  8. Really torn on buying this for 2 reasons, 1) the 1st games’ ending was perfect and like many great stories I didn’t feel it needed continuation and 2) is there going to be an ‘enhanced’ PS5 version just around the corner?

  9. This is one of the very few games I’ll play close to release, as it’s launch day is around my birthday, and I’ll probably get it on day one. Looking forward to this, it’s the type of game, why I play on PlayStation. I just hope they deal with the violence in an acceptable way, but based on past experience, I trust ND on this.

    However, this also shows how rare good story-telling still is in games. If one comes close what you find in a good movie, it instantly scores 10/10, and it’s exceptional.

  10. Would you recommend playing the Left Behind DLC? Is there any references or anything that will touch on left behind

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