Five years after their dangerous journey across the post-pandemic United States, Ellie and Joel have settled down in Jackson, Wyoming. Living amongst a thriving community of survivors has allowed them peace and stability, despite the constant threat of the infected and other, more desperate survivors. When a violent event disrupts that peace, Ellie embarks on a relentless journey to carry out justice and find closure. As she hunts those responsible one by one, she is confronted with the devastating physical and emotional repercussions of her actions.
Huber’s been playing The Last of Us Part II for review and he sits down to share his thoughts on the section shown in last week’s State of Play.
The story will eventually speak for itself in the full context of the game, but as for the extended gameplay section we’ve played, it shows that in terms of gorgeous, terrifying spectacle and scrappy, panicked survival, The Last of Us is still unrivalled.
Most video games don’t ask you to think twice about killing dozens of gun-toting guards, but The Last of Us Part II makes the violence feel personal.
As I saw the extended trailer for Part II this week and played the scene, I felt a new appreciation for the difference between the old game and the new game in gameplay and graphics improvements. The story spans seasons and climates, including the snows of Jackson, Wyoming and the lush landscapes of Seattle. The shadows and lighting and attention to detail bring the cities to life, in all kinds of weather. This makes it perhaps the prettiest game ever created on the PlayStation 4 in terms of graphics, but it also has the ugliest fighting.
The melee combat feels incredibly good, but it’s hard not to wince when you slam a machete into a person’s shoulder or take them down with a knife to the side of the head. The damage modelling is satisfying, but there’s always going to be a shock when someone’s head shatters from a rifle shot or someone’s skin gets melted by a Molotov cocktail. And when other enemy characters cry out the name of the guard dog you just exploded in front of them in disbelief, it’s hard not to feel like a bad person. Whether this approach translates well to the rest of the game is something you’ll have to wait until June 19 to discover.
That The Last of Us Part 2 can create such complex emotions in the short segment I can discuss says a lot. But it’s how that plays out over the wider context of the full story that will really leave its mark. It’s a game that’s going to be discussed for a long time to come.
As Ellie holds her grabbed foes, knife thrusting into them, her face contorts in a way I’ve never seen a videogame character before. It’s desperation and hatred, it’s that feeling of having a nightmare and wanting to scream but no sound is coming out. I was warned that this game could get dark, and in the short slice of it I can share with you right now, all I can really say is that, yes, it will get dark – but I am ready to face the darkness.
Enemy encounters are frequent, but it’s credit to Naughty Dog that each one feels different to the last. Whether that be down to the variety in enemy type, items at your disposal, or your chosen playstyle, every fight feels dynamic. You can go in with a plan, but have to think quickly on your feet as Ellie’s cover is blown or a new threat enters the scene. The combat of The Last of Us Part 2 is constantly rotating between heart-pounding tension and brutal butchery and forms a circle of violence that is wholly unpleasant, but necessary for the story it is trying to tell.
It’s easily the best-looking game of the current generation, even more so than Uncharted 4, with the best foliage and facial animation we’ve ever seen. Playing on a PS4 Pro there’s been only a few brief seconds of slowdown, with performance otherwise exceptionally good for such a complex game…But as impressive as the technology is, it’s the story and characters that is most important to The Last Of Part 2.
To say that The Last of Us Part 2 is immersive is an understatement; I went in focused on linear progression and on-screen prompts about hints but that quickly melted away as I sat gripping a DualShock with my pulse racing, happy to have scraped by in a fight with the infected. In mere minutes, I stopped thinking about Ellie as a character in a game and started thinking about me — her — and my survival. Naughty Dog is great at character and equally as good as a compelling narrative, and what I’ve experienced is no exception.
Naughty Dog have made sensible yet inventive refinements to that core gameplay from The Last of Us. What’s particularly interesting as a fan of their work is seeing how design choices from Uncharted have clearly bled into Part II, lending that same degree of immersion of experimentation that manages to feel fresh and original.
From this chapter alone, The Last of Us 2 is an accomplished sequel in every regard. It feels marvellous to play, and doubles down on the thematic elements that helped the original shine. Ellie is a stunning, nuanced lead who is far deeper than her black and white tale of revenge would have you believe.