A Beautiful, Brutal, Bloated Sequel

User Rating: 10 | The Last of Us Part II PS4

It's almost impossible to write a spoiler-free review about this game. I can say this: ignore the leaks, and experience it for yourself, instead of listening to other people. Naughty Dog put a LOT of effort into this, and it shows; TLOU2 is undoubtedly the best-looking PS4 game ever made, and even if you weren't a fan of the combat system last time, this one makes some vast improvements, making enemy AI smarter (as well as friendly AI). So what about the story and characters? From the very beginning, this feels like a natural way to progress the story of the first game, dealing with the consequences of Joel's choices there. Ellie has grown five years older in Jackson, and starting a relationship with a girl named Dina, and they are sent out on patrols. We also meet a new character named Abby, played wonderfully by Laura Bailey, who finds herself embroiled in a civil war between two enemy factions, the WLF (or "Wolves") and Seraphites (or "Scars"). Before too long, the tragic death of someone she loves sends Ellie on a bloody revenge spree that is so full of hate, suffering, and violence that it would make John Wick blush. Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker both bring their A-games as well, and Ellie's small stature allows her to jump higher and run faster than Joel. Apart from human enemies, we also deal with more Infected, and there are some new kinds introduced (including an effectively nightmare-inducing white-knuckled encounter). Unfortunately, where the first game's story was told in a more straightforward manner, the narrative choices made here create some serious pacing issues. Also, while I understood Joel's bad choices in the end of the last game, I was willing to make them right along with him; here, I sometimes just wanted Ellie to break free from the cycle of revenge. Of course, that IS the point, but giving your enemies names and having them cry out when you kill them doesn't change the fact that they are mostly just NPCs between you and your goal, and ironically very few of their deaths are actually reflected on. While the game attempts to provide you with some supporting characters, you are almost always alone in your quest for revenge, which doesn't help when you're up against enemies. But while it is a bit bloated, and maybe not worth the seven-year wait, TLOU2 is still a powerful, miserable, engaging, and exhausting experience.