As the credits finally roll on The Last of Us Part 2 you breathe a sigh of relief.
Clocking in at just under 30 hours, this is twice the original length. Still, in The Last of Us Part 2, age is not the only thing magnified. This is more demanding and harrowing than its precursor. When the final scene fades into darkness, you’ll experience the rewarding exhaustion that comes from having your feelings stirred well and truly.
That is not a feeling that can be applied to a lot of video games. The last 20 years in games have seen creativity progress — graphics are improving, the voice acting is hitting Hollywood standards and game systems are getting more complex — all without a desire to share stories. Sometimes, the AAA budgets are used to tell a compelling story, but only rarely.
The Last of Us Part 2: Every Detail
One such example is Last of Us Part 2. You only need to see the character models of Ellie and Joel, for which the adjective “lifelike” is a literal rather than figurative one, to appreciate where the seven years and who-knows-how-many million Naughty Dog invested in this game went. But as you play, it is clear that the true creativity of Naughty Dog lies not in cutting edge graphics or set pieces (although both are present), but in the story, it is attempting to tell.
Last of Us Part 2 is a hit in that way. It’s a fun game, with a story that you’ll recall long after you lay down the stick.
Can I have a light?
As Part 2 of The Last of Us begins, Ellie and Joel live in Jackson, Wyoming, within a (reasonably) safe settlement from Infected. Their relation is not what it used to be, we find out. Misadventure soon strikes and you find yourself traveling to Seattle to strike back, as Ellie does.
The Last of Us Part 2 is grim — both figuratively and physically, this time. You will visit sites plagued by unimaginable horror as you travel through apocalypse-torn Seattle, and read written accounts from people who were there when it happened. Part 2 like its predecessor exhibits a ruthless atmosphere of “kill or be killed.” It raises questions about our weakest characteristics, without having to succumb to cliche.
Most of the game takes place in darkness, from dark worlds to deserted, zero-light structures. Compounding this, these haunts are inhabited by Naughty Dog with just the right amount of danger. Infected are not so common that you foresee any at the corner, but plentiful enough to know they might be around every corner.
That is a lot worse. Before entering each house, you must think twice, open every door and crawl through every crevice. That’s a problem because you’re going to get most of your essential supplies from scavenging — that’s, entering buildings, opening doors, and crawling through crevices.
Kill Them All!
While The Last of Us Part 2 is certainly a journey, the game itself is more about survival and less about adventure. But supply-scavenging is just half of what survival entails. It also means killing a whole bunch of infected people and killing a bunch more people.
There are several types of each: Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, Bloaters, or Shamblers may be infected, representing humans at various stages of infection. Everyone has various vulnerabilities and strengths. Clickers are blind but instantly kill you. Stalkers do comparatively slight damage but don’t show up in Listen Mode (which helps you to see enemies through walls). Bloaters and Shamblers are tanks: Quick but difficult to destroy.
Fighting works out as an enhanced variant of the framework used in the games of Batman: Arkham. You’ve been given a sprawling area and have dared to see how many enemies you can kill before you are spotted, or one of your bodies. As you can collect pills that allow you to unlock new abilities, and screws that allow you to upgrade weapons, all of which slowly determine your playing style.
Gunplay is sometimes clunky but still respected. You are not allowed to knock a door down and fire anything in sight. The camera can rock as you’re fired, and red splatters in the uncertain direction of the explosion. As you can’t always shoot your way out of trouble, it’s disorienting in a way that discourages you from being circled.
The most reminiscent of sound is silence. Often you will be walking in cavernous areas, lit by your torch only. You know there’s Infected around but you’re not sure where. You’ll listen to them, but hear nothing but a door crack or surrounding dirt rustling.
Beating the Tropes
The war is not without question. Most fights exist in massive environments, with many stages. Often you will be faced with one competitor, who you will have to hunt high and low to find and defeat before you can go forward. As described earlier, the gunplay is not conducive to heroism, but there are times where the game needs you to enemy Rambo missiles, generating a square peg / round hole scenario.
You ‘re going to get a lot of stealth kills elsewhere — which means you sneaking up, catching and slashing an enemy — in the line of sight of other human opponents who surprisingly don’t see or respond to you.
The last statement sounds tiny but it’s the jarringest statement. The Last of Us Part 2 has an impressive sense of realism for a game about monsters chewing up your neck. It’s like that, little moments that break the suspension of disbelief.
While the second half of the game sounds formulaic, these mishaps precipitate brutal fighting sequences and intensify a feeling of danger. Yet all this just smacks of computer gamers.
Last but no least to assess Last of Us Part 2 as some kind of futuristic hybrid is not fair. It’s a challenge — one that’s exciting, challenging and reflective. Prepare for riveting, suspense and, yes, traumatization.