The Last Of Us 2 developed by Naughty Dog is now available on PlayStation 4.

For a few days I was debating whether to do a spoiler free review or one with spoilers or even both, I don’t think I can quite convey my emotions about the game without talking about the story. If you don’t want to see spoilers, don’t go past this paragraph.

The Last Of Us 2 puts you in the shoes of Ellie, 4 years after the events of the first game Joel and Ellie have settled in Jackson and made quite a life for themselves. Everything is going pretty well until a then-unknown group of people are on the hunt for Joel. Sadly after some quite exciting moments playing as the new character Abby, Joel is brutally murdered in front of Ellie and his unconscious brother Tommy. Being a massive fan of the first and following their journey from Ellie just being a package to be delivered to the Fireflies to it blooming into a wonderful father/daughter styled relationship, this was hard, it was emotional, but all I felt was anger. At the time I was distraught, I tried to find who I should blame for this, I grumpily walked around the house pining about one of my all-time favourite game characters being brutally murdered but Naughty Dog did what many don’t risk and that is making their characters vulnerable. Later on in the game though, a friend brought up a trailer that featured Joel later in-game, now I didn’t know what to make of this, sadly the game had been spoilt for me due to a troll in a comments section, I’d hoped it was wrong and this trailer would confirm that. Sadly no, the trailer was doctored to take us off the trail and I wasn’t very happy about that, I understand it but I feel that we should go into this with the truth on the table. That said though, I continued with the game, how could I not? Naughty Dog has still crafted a game that does feel like a piece of art in every way, despite this though, I still had moments where I’d question things and even feel a little bit disappointed. There were flashbacks to fill in many of the gaps during Joel and Ellie’s life in Jackson and it really brought home the feelings of sadness but also brought joy to see them together again. I felt these moments were great at picking you up in the games depressive themes.

The first half of the game is all about Ellie and her lust for revenge while also trying to manage a brand new relationship with Dina a new character in The Last Of Us Universe. Ellie and Dina are on this journey together to kill Abby and get revenge but along the way, many hardships are faced between the two and the way Naughty Dog portrayed the relationship was fantastic and very real. As the game continues Ellie goes to many extremes to get the revenge she’s looking for but also starts stooping very low in her obsession and is often then plagued with guilt and regret, this didn’t truly feel like the Ellie we got to know the first time around but I slowly learnt that this game is nothing like the first. If you’re going in for something as emotionally strong as the first, you’re going to be getting a very different string of emotions, I felt a lot of anger, hatred and even found myself shouting at the TV screen because some of the decisions made. This thirst for revenge turns Ellie into a very twisted individual, I found her moves very selfish, I understood them truly I did, Joel was her father, but you saw her unravel more and more and not giving one damn about anyone she killed. Ellie by the end of her half is broken, caught in a standoff with Abby. Honestly, in the end, I was confused, I was distraught with emotion, I’d seen enough murder now to last me a while, but what Naughty Dog hid from us was a huge second half.

Players are now in the shoes of Abby, it starts in an abandoned zoo while she and her father are searching for some of the animals, I can only assume the giraffe from the famous scene in the first game came from here as the city you’re in is Salt Lake City, the one in which Joel murdered all the Fireflies to save Ellie from being used as a cure which would cause her death. I understood his move, I get that, I don’t think I was ever angry at him, it was stupid but we all saw him lose his daughter, he couldn’t lose Ellie as-well. Well, it turns out that one of the murdered surgeons is Abby’s father which fills in the gap of why Abby beat Joel to death. I couldn’t be mad at Abby after that, I wanted to hate her, she killed my man Joel, but it felt completely justified. Her father wasn’t a bad man, you see them in a conversation struggling with the possibility of ending Ellie’s life to cure humanity, this wasn’t a cold and horrible act. I felt sorry for Abby, also obsessed with revenge, she was in Ellie’s shoes. Fast forward a while we see Abby’s life play 4 years later in Seattle, she is part of the WLF and they seem to have quite the community going. While there are a few bad apples like the leader Issac who partakes in a bit of torture, you start coming across NPC’s you’d killed as Ellie, except they didn’t feel like NPC’s, damn Naughty Dog gave them all unique personalities, even made us meet dogs we had to kill because we had no choice, thanks for that guys. As Ellie, these guys are your enemy, you have to take them down, as Abby, you see them just trying to live, Naughty Dog is showing you things and making you think about your actions, boy did it work.

The story was an emotional one, there were parts I didn’t enjoy, parts I questioned many choices and a couple of bits were slightly boring, the game is around 25 hours to 40 hours depending on how much you want to see, but I was hooked the whole time. Writing like this is incredible, I felt so many emotions towards characters and in the end, I honestly felt more for Abby than I did Ellie. Ellie had murdered all of her friends, taken everything from her, yet Abby’s friend Lev told her to have mercy before Abby murdered Ellie and Dina. Abby had lost her place in the WLF, her father, her best friends, everything. For Ellie it was never enough, she was twisted with hatred when I felt in the end that it was her guilt and obsession with thinking revenge will kill her and I started to dislike a lot about her. Abby was a twisted individual but she tried to redeem herself through-out the play-through and I admired that. Naughty Dog has achieved a lot with what they did, I found the LGBTQ+ inclusion to be done perfectly, it was wonderful seeing such stories play out so well and I’m happy that they did do all of this, hopefully, more writers will take an example from their book and have more inclusion in other titles.

The Last Of Us 2’s gameplay is beyond perfect, Naughty Dog has added new mechanics to make the characters more acrobatic meaning exploration is extremely rewarding. Traversing new environments and seeing a crumbling Seattle with absolutely beyond beautiful level design is something I couldn’t stop gawping at. So much is hidden in this game and to reach certain places you’ll need to use the game’s systems to achieve it. Also rope physics, wow, the rope sections were so much fun to goof around with. The brutal violence in the firefights and infected showdowns were incredible to witness, NPC’s would call out to each other, act as if they would in real life and react emotionally to what’s going on around them. It could all get quite disturbing. I didn’t want to stealth every section and bypass people or infected because so much effort had gone into making these situations terrifying, I just wanted to keep going. Everything about the combat is amazing, the customisation of weapons makes them more effective as you go, the game encourages experimentation with little open areas for battle so if you want to snipe people off from a distance, do it, you want to machete that man over there, do it! you’re in control. Not only was the combat immersive but the whole city felt really quite interactive and I just loved every second of it. I felt that the gameplay design was done so well, in the first game, I felt some sections dragged a bit, there wasn’t as much to it as there is here in the sequel.

I must say a huge thank you to Naughty Dog for there accessibility options, never have I seen a game have so many options for everyone and anyone to change so they can have a comfortable time with the title. More companies have to take this on board, many disabled people love video games and it’s about time that we’re seeing more of it. I truly hope it sets the bar for the future because The Last Of Us 2 shouldn’t just be remembered for its gameplay, story and what have you, but also for letting everyone have a chance to play and for those people to feel like they haven’t been forgotten. Bravo Naughty Dog.

The design of The Last Of Us 2 is breathtaking, how they got an apocalyptic city to look that good and run on the PlayStation 4 is amazing. Every tiny little detail unique from the rest, every new section I had to explore I spent time in and truly enjoyed it so much. Seeing nature take the city back, buildings collapse, infected nests and underground sections filled with horror and dread, it was all beautiful. The rain storm sections as-well, never have I seen it look so true to real life, this is a game that you could just stroll through and take in the sights, my words don’t fully measure up to what I got to experience. It’s the most beautiful game on the PlayStation 4, up there with Red Dead Redemption 2. The infected have been improved with more detail and animation, it is truly horrifying in certain sections of the game which is why I love it even more. Each human AI felt unique and also had so much animation to make them act as if they would in real life. It’s beyond what I’ve seen in many other titles. The voice acting is beyond great, you can truly convey the emotions in the voice alone. The music suits each scene perfectly, every scene is just crafted to perfection and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing the whole time.

Verdict

The Last Of Us 2 is massive beyond what I could have ever anticipated. There were moments I was disappointed and moments that I’ll never forget because of how well done they were and how much I loved them. For many, I think we expected to go in expecting something like a true follow up to the first game and I don’t think you should look for that here. It is a sequel yes, some of the same characters are back but this game has a heavily different theme. The first one felt like love, redemption and hope, this one felt like anger, revenge and obsession. I will not forget the experience I had with this title, Naughty Dog is one of the masters of design, I didn’t like how I felt slightly lied to due to certain trailers but I understood why it was done, I don’t think the game is perfect but it’s up there with one of the greats, I’m hoping to experience more during my new game+ play-through when I have a quick break from all those feelings I felt.

9/10

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