Continuing the story from the masterpiece that was The Last of Us (2013), Naughty Dog sends us on a dark, depressing tale of revenge that you can’t help but keep playing.
Firstly, if you haven’t played The Last of Us, what are you doing here? The Last of Us is highly regarded as one of the best games that ever came out on the PlayStation 3, and the remaster for the Playstation 4 is praised for being one of the best games on the console too.
The Last of Us 2 continues about four years after the events of the previous game, wherein Joel and Ellie are living in the small town of Jackson, alongside many other survivors of the mutant fungal outbreak.
While The Last of Us was mostly centred around Joel and his relationship with Ellie as they trekked across America, The Last of Us 2 is entirely focussed on Ellie. Shortly after the first hour or so of the game, Ellie sets off again across the country with a list of names in hand, and because there are no spoilers here, you can guess what she’s planning to do. Tip, it isn’t very pleasant. (Queue the Game of Thrones music and a shot of Arya Stark).
If The Last of Us is a story about the bonds we form together on a long journey, filled with “Yay! Teamwork!” moments and a slight glimmer of sad moments, The Last of Us 2 is a story about how having something precious taken away can break you, leading to an absolutely torrential storm of anger and sadness. Naughty Dog magnifies this by sprinkling in flashbacks to happier times, reminding us of a simpler and better time. It is heartbreaking to watch Ellie’s journey. If it isn’t abundantly clear,The Last of Us 2 is not a happy game. After each session, I came out a little bit sadder than when I was at the start.
Gameplay wise, we’re playing the same 2013 game with some decent quality of life improvements. You still sneak around dark and decrepit areas, killing off the infected and “bad guys” alike. You still hunt for crafting materials to build arrows, first-aid and such. You’re still hunting for collectables and random pills and screws. However, one of the biggest improvements from the previous game are the new exploration areas. In The Last of Us, the game felt pretty linear and the playable areas seemed small. Now in The Last of Us 2, the areas which you can explore are massive. One of my favourite things to come from this are the little stories sprinkled throughout each area, told through notes left behind by other people. Confessions of love, information about the area, a dying person’s last words. All of these little things help build on the fact the area you are in, is or was populated with other people just like Ellie, all just trying to get by.
The new and improved enemy AI is clearly apparent in the new combat encounters. It’s always been a long standing joke in the gaming scene where if a guard is suddenly taken out, his friends are never worried and will continue about their day as if nothing has happened. In The Last of Us 2, now these people notice and care if someone goes missing. They’ll call out their names and alert others around them that “John” has gone missing. They’ll even react and sob if they find a slayed friend. Of course Naughty Dog takes it one step further and mixes guard dogs into the mix… Oh boy, killing guards or someone shooting at me, easy. But killing dogs… I did say this isn’t a happy game.
Each encounter is so intense. The feeling of being hunted is constantly over your shoulders, adding to the already emotionally driven story. It’s such a sigh of relief when you’ve cleared an area and can just go back to exploring again, but even then, who knows what you’ll find.
The Last of Us gave the PS3 one last ‘hoorah’ as an absolute visual and story-telling masterpiece. The cycle repeats again on the PS4. As one of the last exclusive titles for the PS4, Naughty Dog hits it out of the park once again in terms of visual prowess and a powerful story. I highly recommend this game to anyone who has played the first game and enjoyed it.