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Gaming Review

The Last of Us 2: Intense to the Last Play

Release date: 9 June 2020

Platform: PS4

Developer: Naughty Dog

Publisher: Sony Interactive

The good:

  • Powerful, provocative plot
  • Fierce, intense combat
  • Breathtaking, highly realistic universe

The bad:

  • Ambitious narrative that occasionally loses its focus

 

Revenge is a dish best served cold. With a side of zombies. Intricately nuanced and exquisitely designed, The Last of Us 2 is a game that hooks you easily and draws you into its world. Pure misery porn — it’s dark, densely-packed, stunning, and unsettling at times. There’s a sense of empathy even for your enemies, and each play will have you seeing the game in a different light.

Back with a vengeance

If 2013’s The Last of Us was Ellie’s coming of age story, The Last of Us 2 sees Ellie coming back for revenge. Taking place five years after her adventure across a post-apocalyptic United States with Joel, Ellie is now on a warpath to take down those responsible for an unforgivable crime. And this witch-hunt takes her from the outskirts of Jackson County right into the middle of Seattle, as she battles to endure and survive the threats that come along the way.

Seemingly simple on a surface level, the story gets increasingly complex, surprising and sinister, compelling players to evaluate and assess the decisions they make for Ellie, as well as deal with the discomfort and distress that come along with them.

It’s about a day of gameplay, filled with many poignant moments along the way that will leave you deep in thought for the following days. In this exploration of the human psyche, you’ll find yourself treading the fine line between retaliation and restoring balance. It’s violent. It’s nihilistic. And it’s filled with moral ambiguity.

On a deeper level, this third-person action-adventure also traces Ellie’s personal journey, particularly her struggle with hatred and humanity. One which you’ll find yourself being drawn into just by her body language and facial expressions — all thanks to Naughty Dog’s groundbreaking facial animation technology.

The world is highly realistic accompanied with an equally compelling cast, including new additions like Dina, Jesse, and many others that prove to be as well-rounded as its returning cast. And if you enjoyed the giraffe scene from The Last of Us, you’d find some treasures in this latest instalment as you’ll get to see sides of Joel you’ve never seen before.

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Big on the little details

A game that sees the big picture, and pays attention to the little details at the same time, Naughty Dog has stretched the parameters of its linear game design in this one to create an immersive world that is filled with many details waiting for players to pick up on.

Despite spending hours scavenging as much craftable material as Ellie can carry, you’ll find yourself enjoying every minute of it poring over the details in every building, forest, and even cavern. Each of these — a story to be uncovered, and a world to be discovered which will be revealed naturally through artefacts and clues that bring the space to life. And the best part about these places is that they are oddly familiar, yet foreign at the same time.

In The Last of Us 2, each mission adds a new dimension to the game. And while you’ll find yourself being guided on this journey, this exploration seems to occur organically because of its flow and pace, which makes it unpredictable and utterly compelling.

You’d also find that Ellie is also now much more capable in navigating terrain. Smashing windows, abseiling off walls, jumping from precarious heights, the game has definitely got much richer in terms of combat and exploration. Though these gameplay mechanics may be hardly novel in games from the same genre, Naughty Dog executes this skilfully with precision and perfection that would make you find it original and fresh. Quite possibly PlayStation’s best looking and most visually impressive title yet, the amount of detail put into crafting beautiful sun flares and the stunning skyline of Seattle during sunrise definitely warrants the same amount of attention.

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Combats that pack a punch

It’s the same guerilla-style combat, only faster and more intense. Naughty Dog’s most advanced enemy, AI, will keep you on your toes for sure. Fortunately, Ellie can now also float between stealth and open combat mode more easily, using post-apocalyptic overgrowth as natural cover, and manoeuvring between small gaps just to evade enemies.

And if you’re caught, you’d best be ready for gunfire and explosives. Be prepared for things to get intensive as you engage in close combat, as you’ll never ever be conditioned to the raw violence in the game. The Infected are also more terrifying than ever. Clickers will still send shivers down your spine. And don’t even get us started on the Shamblers, which we’ll leave you to find out on your own. Naughty Dog has definitely played up on the fear factor that will surprise, impress, and spook you out in equal measure. That said, you can now arm Ellie with new craftable tools like trip mines and explosive arrows, as well as equip her with new skills from the addition of skill trees unlocked via Supplements and Hobbyist Magazines found across Seattle. The combat has also become more realistic, with more opportunities for collateral damage. Naughty Dog has also paid extra attention to the details of weapon workbenches, which is back in Part 2, along with new firearms. Just like clockwork, these systems and mechanics operate seamlessly in The Last of Us 2, which has been impeccably designed.

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Flawed, but fantastic

Some may find its plot overwritten and convoluted, which can feel a little excessive at times. And though this is rare at best, it still doesn’t undermine the gameplay. The story’s ending this time round is great too, but one can’t help but feel that it fails to match up to the ending of The Last of Us.

That said, The Last of Us 2 is still a masterpiece. But no masterpiece is perfect. There’s so much more we’d like to share about this game, but we figure it’s best to leave you to figure it out for yourself. It’s daring. It’s uncompromising. And this progressive and interactive adventure would be unlike anything you’ve played before.

The Last of Us 2 has definitely taken the story to the next level and proven itself to be a sequel that is necessary. Yet, its story still has the ability to stand by itself, and we are certain it won’t fall short of your expectations.

4.5/5 stars

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