A story that challenges traditional storytelling

User Rating: 9 | The Last of Us Part II PS4

The Last of Us is one of gaming's best-told stories. Naughty Dog's original IP came out 7 years prior to this game's release, and many thought we would never see the sequel. The original game ended on a cliffhanger. Joel took Ellie out of that hospital and "rescued" her for his own selfish purposes. Did he doom all of mankind from a cure? Will Ellie ever find out what he really did? Those questions play a back seat in what is probably one of the best revenge stories I've seen in a single-player game.

The story is the best part of this entire game outside of the visuals and voice acting. There is so much packed into this 20-hour game that despite it taking place only over the course of three days (for the bulk of the game anyways) it's almost twice as long as the first game. We finally get to see what life is like for humanity thanks to the four-year gap from the last game. Ellie is now of age, has love interests, and life seems to be going well until a shocking tragedy occurs that causes Ellie to seek blood-searing revenge. Risking her life, relationships, and mental well-being by tracking someone across the country and spending three days in Seattle to hunt this person down. We get the perspective of Ellie during the first third of the game and Abby during the second third of the game. Abby is a great character who has just as much depth as Joel or Ellie, and I love that the story doesn't stick with the tried and true cliche of a good guy and a bad guy. The game shows that anyone can be the bad guy if you look at them from a different angle and vice versa. The Last of Us' story is bout survival. Not good vs. evil and I love that so much.

Having lived in the Seattle suburbs for the last four years I was excited to see where I live to take place in a game, but it's not completely accurate. There are no real-life building names or anything like that. It's more the overall Pacific Northwest aesthetic than anything super accurate. The only distinct thing about the recreation is highway numbers, street names, the Space Needle, Pike's Place Aquarium, and the Ferris wheel. There's also a lot of rain and green which the PNW is famous for. The beginning of the game takes place in Jackson, Wyoming which is another area I grew up as a kid. Not Jackson, but Casper which is mentioned in the game. I spent most of my life south of Santa Barbara where the last couple of hours take place in the game. Ventura to be exact, and it's pretty crazy that all three areas I grew up or lived in are in the game. The change of settings and scenery is really nice, however, Seattle does get old after a while as you revisit some of the same areas multiple times.

A couple of new factions are introduced in the game. The Washington Liberty Front, The Rattlers, and Scars are a cult refusing to use old-world tech. You befriend new people and run across a lot more. People die and tragedy hits nearly everyone around you. I don't want to talk too many specifics on the story and spoil everything, but it is insanely detailed and it makes you keep playing. When it comes to infected there aren't any new enemies introduced outside of a new crazy boss character, but that's okay really. They do play a smaller role in this game as the story is more about human vs human now that we've cleared out a good amount of infected in areas that have been settled.

Sadly, outside of the story and characters not much else is new gameplay-wise. It's almost the exact same game. Stealth still isn't the best. Enemies seem to randomly walk around and it's nearly impossible to stealth kill everyone in every section. There are some new weapons that are exclusive to Abby and Ellie. Hunting pistol, crossbow, sub-machine gun, double-barrel shotgun, and many more. We get to use trip mines and pipe bombs as well. There's more to craft such as silencers for your pistol, arrows, explosive ammo, and many more. The entire weapon and crafting system was expanded a lot as well as upgrade branches which are only found in hidden training manuals sadly. If you miss these you miss out on upgrade paths. You can still find workbenches and upgrade weapons, but parts are more scarce and harder to find this time around.

There are still many quick-time events during scripted scenes such as mashing the square button, holding triangle to open doors, and of course, a few on-rail shooting segments which are fun. These are spread pretty far apart so they aren't abused. I hate to say this, but the game does get repetitive. You just go through beat after beat of either humans or infected and each area plays exactly the same. Try to stealth kill as many as you can, get caught, shoot the rest, scrounge for parts, and move on. This goes on for 20 hours, and while the gameplay itself is good, I'd rather have the stealth be completely cut. Yes, ammo is scarce and there are times when I found more ammo than I could carry, but the shooting is insanely good. I'd rather shoot more. The gore is awesome, and the death animations and physics are some of the best I've ever seen. This includes screams of pain and agony. It's a very visceral game bound by realism. However, sometimes I just wanted to explore more or just shoot everything and move on. There were some areas that were well-designed and it was satisfying when I could nail everyone silently, but it rarely happened.

I highly recommend playing this on a PS4 Pro or mostly the PS5. I played this on PS5 only and it looks amazing at 60FPS. I can't imagine playing this sub-30FPS on a base model PS4. With this being the last Sony exclusive on PS4 it looks stunning. Almost as good as The Last of Us Part I on PS5. There are some spots of ugly textures and the textures in the far distance look pretty ugly, but everything up close looks so good. The facial animations, motion capture, and everything else are amazingly detailed. There is so much content packed into this game that you will walk away satisfied.

Overall, The Last of Us Part II tells a controversial yet compelling story with likable new characters and challenges the typical storytelling tropes of good vs evil with perspective. There are plenty of new weapons, upgrades, and items to craft, but it's exactly the same as the last game otherwise. With the extended length area after area of killing enemies gets old and stealth still isn't the greatest. I do love the visuals, but Seattle does get old after a while due to playing it twice over with another character. This is easily one of the best single-player games ever made and is a masterpiece in storytelling.