The Last of Us: Part II (EN)

REVIEWED ON PS4  

Coins have two sides.

Coins have two sides.

Coins have two sides.

Over the last years we have seen a lot of controversial releases and Sony has already one this year with Death Stranding. The Last of Us came at the end of PS3 life-cyle in 2013. The Last of Us: Part II also comes at the end of PS4 life-cycle, but is also the subject of controversial criticism. Of course, the best criticism is made only if you finish the game and judge it to its full extent.

In the original The Last of Us, we lived an adventure with 44-year-old Joel and 14-year-old Ellie, in a post-apocalyptic world, specifically in America, where the cordycepts virus transforms people into zombies. Now, in the sequel, we are five years later where things have not changed much, aside from the characters' ages...and of course the protagonists.

A new hero arises
Ellie has matured and now at 19 she doesn't behave like an unprotected little girl. As the protagonist of the sequel, she has become a strong warrior and you will see this in practice. In The Last of Us: Part II there are many references to the events of the original game, but even if you have not played it, these references will help you understand exactly what happened. If you plan to play the original game and do not want to see spoilers, then you better play it first and then play The Last of Us: Part II.

Joel and Ellie are tied to each other but after the events of the first game, Ellie has complaints towards Joel. Some unpredicted events also lead to unfortunate circumstances which you can not change. Joel always wants to have the role of the teacher towards Ellie but now that our teenager has grown up, she wants to draw her own life cycle. Both of them are different characters, they go through disagreements, awkward moments, but in the end they support each other. In the new chapter of the series, Naughty Dog puts a lot of characters in the script, who are strong personalities, just like the two beloved protagonists of the original game. So, we do not have just two heroes to stand out, as in the past, but many more and so the scenes are aptly alternated in order to keep your interest undiminished.


The endless alternation of scenes helps you to always stay awake. Our beloves heroes will face their fears, anxiety, hope, courage and many more feelings. Sometimes they fight without knowing if they will make it through the day. In terms of screenplay, Druckmann wrote a masterpiece and I say "almost" for two reasons. First because the script has its ups and downs depending on the time, especially when your character moves slowly, explores the space and sometimes listens to other people. Nevertheless, the duration should be less, with a more focus to Action and Horror elements.

The second thing that makes The Last of Us: Part II script be noticable is the controversial nature of it. Naughty Dog tries to constantly force a "politically correct" agenda, in a way that it simply dones not fit in the scenario. Surely Druckmann can express himself through a script, but the thing is here that he is trying to make politics in a distinctive way, which makes a good script like this become controversial. They use subconscious messages discreetly, with the presentation of several characters, love affairs and a bit of storytelling. Sometimes this is presented well and sometimes not. 

Stealth is the key
Let's move on to the gameplay. The Last of Us: Part II world has the usual infected called clickers. They are the most dangerous creatures and can kill you instantly with a bite if you do not have a blade with you. Bloaters are an even more advanced form of creatures as they serve the role of bosses, while also there are a couple of new types of mutant enemies of various sizes. The variety of human enemies has also increased and same goes with the weapons. The variety of enemies could surely be even bigger.

The map navigation is easy. Every time you just need to go from point A to point B, depending on the mission that you have. There are a;sp narrow passages in which you pass with side steps, bend or climb. Most of the time the doors are locked and you should think of alternative ways to enter buildings, such as using stairs, ropes, breaking windows or dragging boxes to climb on them. It is also worth mentioning that your missions often look the same. For instance, one very common type of mission is to find someone located in a building. This repetition is one of the disadvantages of gameplay.

Controls are pretty much the same in terms of logic, combat system and resource gathering. It looks like Naughty Dog took the code from the first game and has built upon it. Your goal is once again to collect resources that will be in front of you, to craft items and to kill your enemies with the least possible use of ammunition so that you do not run out. In most battles there is a possibility of avoidance, ie. you just find a door which allows you to leave and if within a few seconds you are not touched by an enemy then you avoid the battle and continue in your journey.

Stealth is the best method of battle. You can throw bottles and bricks to distract the enemies and either escape or make stealth kills from behind. Although this method requires trial and error, because you will die many times, it still works in your favor, since the A.I. of enemies has remained the same as in the first part! Unfortunately, your enemies have a sight range of about 30 meters. Even when being in the middle of a fight, you can hide and they will behave like you disappeared in front of their eyes.

Furthermore, fighting in grass terrains makes your life as easy as you can't imagine. You just kill an enemy in front of other enemies and then if anyone tries to shoot you, you dive on the grass, crouch, hide and after a few seconds the enemies will surely lose you! This is unrealistic as the grass movement should reveal your position. What stands out from the A.I. is the dogs that can smell you and if you move slowly with stealth they find you and so you are exposed, plus the fact that they can rush and bite you. Unfortunately, dogs turn out to be much smarter than humans because they have a good smell and in most cases you will have to kill almost all of them to move on.

In battles your heroine will play either solo or with friends. If you have company then things are a little easier because your comrades get kills as well. Your enemies are very slow when it comes to noticing your presence and then shoot, so this allows you to either crouch or prone and then perform a stealth kill, while you can also grab one enemy and threaten an other with your pistol. Also, in the Hard difficulty level, resources are less than in Normal level, but crafting a medkit or basic supplies is easy. So you can sacrifice to receive more bullets and prefer to go stealth or melee than to waste your bullets. Last but not least, you can always press R1 to see where your enemies are, so you can stealth even easier.

Gameplay also includes several quick-time events, which are either needed in certain cases or are causes when an enemy attacks you. Clickers are killed if you have spare knives, otherwise you die instantly. When an enemy approaches you, either simple or boss, in some cases you will have to spam the square button or in melee battles you can press L1 constantly to avoid being hit

There are also a few'epic boss fights. Their behavior is almost predetermined and predictable. You just need to be quick and have proper timing. In addition to bosses you will meet and use boats, jeeps and horses. The usefulness of animals is a pleasant addition, either when you ride them or (in other cases) when you pet them. Naughty Dog did an excellent work in terms of script, in a sense that you will have your emotional ups and downs, depending on the situation. 

Gameplay also contains a few puzzles, where the solution is usually close to you. You just need to observe the objects around you and use them. For example, you may need to find the right passage to tie a rope, or you may need to push an object and run to open a gate to go through it. You can also interact with the environment and various objects, like for instance play with your guitar using the analog stick and the touchpad. If you practice enough, you will be able to even create full songs, even if you don't have guitar knowledge! The guitar is an important part of the game and contributes to emotional feelings, although it doesn't appear often.

Arsenal and crafting
Following the well-known weapons that we met in the first The Last of Us, Part II now has a bigger variety but the same types of weapons. You will handle pistols, rifle, shotgun and even more which you will find in your journey. The weapons are scattered, as well as belts that increase your capacity. Those will help you to have access to more weapons using the d-pad without navigating around menus and wasting time. Crafting allows you to create medkits, bullets for pistol silencer, special bullets, bombs, mines, etc.

The Last of Us: Part II is full of (unpleasant) surprises and plot twists, which could be also used in Hollywood movies.

There dozens of skills to unlock, divided into five categories. Skill points are acquired as resources (symbolized by pills). You will acquire skills that consist of Survival (faster stealth movement, faster medkit building, bigger health bar), Construction (upgrade melee weapons, build weapons faster, better medkits and bombs), Stealth (find enemies, move better prone, quieter kills) Accuracy (Weapons targeting) and explosives. New skill categories are unlocked when you find books.

There are also weapon modifications. For these upgrades you will find screws scattered on the map and you can upgrade your weapons in workbenches, which can be found in various places. Weapon statistics that can be upgraded include speed, stability, recoil, capacity, damage and so on. Pretty much what we had in the first The Last of Us, with the only difference that there are a couple more options and detailed animations when you upgrade. You can even put a scope in your sniper for easier head shots. Fun fact: While you upgrade your weapons watch out, as enemies can attack you (it happened in my case) which will eventually need to extra jump scares. So make sure to clear the rooms around you! Jump scares are generally a well-known tactic of screenwriters and play an important part in the game. Mutated can attack you through walls, clickers will kill you instantly, even when in stealth mode and bosses are scary, especially when they chase you. Low light rooms can also cause a bit of panic, especially to players that haven't played the first game. Either way, it's an 18+ rated game, so these should be expected.

Apart from the modifications, safes also reappear in the sequel. They contain very good loot, such as weapons, bullets, pills for upgrades and so on. The codes are usually a few meters away from each safe, so you just have to observe the environment around you, sometimes with one and sometimes with two notes that give a hint of the six-digit code. If you don't find the password, then you can use the headset to listen to the click of the safe and stop it at the right number to discover the password yourself.

The balancing and damage of the weapons appears to be realistic, either with or without modifications. They have the right recoil, they create the correct amount of damage depending on where you aim and of course getting a headshot is not easy, due to the targeting system and the enemies that are constantly moving. Your opponents can easily shoot you and will also try to circle you when you are in cover. Oddly enough they rarely use bombs, with a few exceptions at the last stages of the game. Any experienced Third-Person Shooters gamer can easily beat The Last of Us: Part II in Hard mode.

An unexpected journey
The difference that makes the new The Last of Us stand out is the fact that it has almost double duration that the original game. My save recorded 27 hours of gameplay and I played in Hard mode (the 2nd most difficult mode from a total of five). If you are going to play it in Normal then you will probably need less hours. In addition, when you finish the game, New Game + is unlocked. You can not unlock all the skills during your first playthrough, so there is a replayability factor. Also, cutscenes are plentiful and consist of around 10-15% of the forementioned duration.



Graphics have levelled up
Naughty Dog artists are some of the best in the world and The Last of Us: Part II is just the proof of it. Character design is marvellous, facial expressions are detailed and the whole quality is a masterpiece, both in terms of cinematics and in-game engine. There are only a few mistakes in animations that have to do with collision. My favorite part is when you add a mod in a weapon when using the workbench. The whole movement of the characters looks totally realistic. The visual effects of explosions are also surging. Perhaps the weakest part of graphics has to do with the downscale of the environment resolution. Nevertheless the loading times are big, especially when you first load a save, but unnoticed along the way.

The highlight of Naughty Dog's work is the awesome visual effects, especially when it comes to splatter. For instance, mutants are trying to...eat your organs! Several other enemies can decapitate you and send you to the nearest checkpoint. There are also several creepy blood scenes. The new The Last of Us is the definition of 18+ and has plenty of inappropriate scenes and kills to see, which require strong nerves. In a few parts of the game, we could see inside graphics and also encountered a few bugs and texture popups, but luckily those were very few, minimal and fortunately do not particularly affect the overall experience.

In terms of voice acting, both Ashley Johnson as Ellie and Troy Baker as Joel do a great job. Also, Shannon Woodward as Dina and Jeffrey Pierce as Tommy, have great performances as well. The translation in other languages is excellent. Even swears or jokes are represented accurately. Actors who have small roles don't perform that well. Sound effects are excellent and contribute to the creation of a good atmosphere, although the music has an almost non-existent role and rarely appears.

Life lessons
The Last of Us: Part II gives exactly what we expected in terms of gameplay. It is completely based on the foundations of its predecessor and builds upon them. The new range of skills and the modifications have been vastly improved. The new version simply relies on the same values, i.e. the collection of resources, stealth kills, jump scares etc. What is essentially absent from the gameplay is the variety of activities. In other words, such a large-scale script should definitely have less unnecessary dialogues or explorations and more intense action.

Beyond that, in terms of the script, Naughty Dog gave us a well-structured screenplay that will leave no one untouched. It will even touch you more than the original game and make you think several things differently. On the other hand, the diversity that Naughty Dog wants to highlight may be discussed. It is important that as a triple-a production, The Last of Us: Part II will surely please you.

Pros:
- A well-written script, full of twists and emotions
- More options in skills and crafting
- Jump scares give a bigger sense of terror
- Plenty of splatter
- The strong personalities of the characters
- Excellent cutscenes quality
- Larger variety of weapons with proper balancing
- Neat voice acting
- Realistic weapons modification
- Long duration with replayability

Cons:
- Same handling, battle system and resource logic with the original
- A.I. with stealth problems (excluding dogs)
- The repetition of the same actions in several missions
- The action drops in favor of several boring exploration moments

Rating
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Scenario: 9
Duration: 8.5
Overall: 8.8

An epic adventure in which you will be driven by your feelings.

Manos Gryparis

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Score 8.8
9 User Score
(2 votes )
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Genre: Action/Survival Horror
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Διάθεση: PlayStation Greece (210-6782000)
Players: 1
Official Website: Κλικ εδώ
Release Date: 19/6/20
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