My relationship with The Last of Us franchise has been pretty weird. When the original game came out in 2013, it blew everybody by surprise, here was this game, at the end of the generation, a new IP, which instantly became not only the greatest game of the generation but one of the best games of all time. The game helped revolutionize the industry in many ways, the storytelling of the game still remains unmatched, and it still has one of the most heart-wrenching stories ever told through the medium of a video game. Naughty Dog managed to create something epic, and even though there were technical limitations at the time, the game still looks beautiful and has a unique art style that still holds up till today. When the game first launched, I did not own a Playstation 3, I was an Xbox gamer, so I did not get the chance to play the game at launch, but I was so intrigued by the game, that I decided to watch a walkthrough of the game on YouTube, and this is one of the very few times, that I regretted owning an Xbox. As I watched the walkthrough, I found myself being more and more immersed in the world of Last of Us. Joel and Ellie were not characters anymore, they became a part of my life, and I got to experience their journey, and during this journey, I fell in love with the characters, and till today, they are some of my most favourite characters, so much so, that in 2017, I had shifted to Playstation, and the very first game that I played on the system was The Last of Us Remastered.
When you make a sequel to a game so beloved, a game that the fans basically worship, and regard as one of the best games of all time, there’s certainly quite a lot of expectations on your shoulders. And how do you justify a sequel to a game that already had a perfect ending? All of these questions got answered when The Last of Us Part 2 released after 7 years of a long wait. Does the sequel live up to the expectations of the first game? Or does it tarnish its legacy?
First things first, this is going to be a spoiler review of the game, and I’ll be discussing story spoilers. So, if you have not finished the game, I suggest that you turn away from this article because I will be spoiling the game. This is your Final Warning, Go.
Let’s first talk about the graphics of the game. Regardless of your thoughts about the story or the gameplay, there is no doubt that Last Of Us Part 2 is the single most beautiful looking game of the generation. Naughty Dog have outdone themselves and created some of the best visuals ever seen in a Video game. Everything from the character animations, environments, to the grass is a league above other games. The characters move so fluidly, and each animation feels so realistic that when you engage in a fight, the movements almost look scripted. In many ways, The Last of Us part 2 delivers a next-gen experience, which many thought would be impossible to achieve on a seven-year-old machine. What sets Last of Us part 2 apart from many other games is the lighting engine of the game. The lighting is done so beautifully that it enhances the visual quality of environments. Also, the attention to detail in the game is insane, There are thousands of tiny details that you’ll easily miss in your playthrough, but these details are what that makes the game much more immersive and impressive. I’d also like to point out the fact that the game runs phenomenally well on both Ps4 and Ps4 Pro. It’s amazing that Naughty Dog is able to push the PlayStation to its limit, without compromising on the performance. Whether you decide to play The Last of Us Part 2 on the base console or the pro version, you still get a beautiful stunning game, that will blow your mind. Both the consoles have consistent framerates throughout, and very rarely do you see frame drops. The Last of Us Part 2 is so stunning, that there were several moments throughout the game, that I had to stop what I was doing, just to take everything in. Take the introduction scene for example, where you play as Joel. As you ride back to Jackson at the beginning of the game, you come across lavish fields, and take a look at Jackson out from far, as the sunlight shines on you, the game looks so incredibly pretty, that instead of following Tommy and going to Jackson, I took my own sweet time to just stop at stare at the game. The Character models and cutscenes are very well done too, I don’t think I have seen a game where the characters look this realistic, and all these factors make the game so much more immersive, and make you feel as if though you’re a part of this universe.
So the game is undoubtedly pretty, but how does it play? While the first game was awesome, it did have somewhat of clunky controls, and after completing The Last Of Us Part 2, I went back to revisit the first game, and it took me by surprise, compared to the sequel, The controls of the first game just felt bad. This is in no means undermining the game, the first game is still fantastic and controls well, but when you compare it to Naughty Dog’s latest instalment, there’s a clear difference, and that just shows how good the gameplay of The Last of Us Part 2 really is. The way that Ellie controls is a breath of fresh air, she’s much more agile and quicker than Joel, this makes for exciting hand-to-hand combats, and several scenarios where you can attack the enemy and then use your agility to run away from them, and repeat the process. One thing that I absolutely loved about the game is the fistfights. I think Naughty Dog has mastered the art of close combat in their games, and that is evident in The Last of Us Part 2, every encounter feels personal, and you feel as if though you were a part of the fight. Every punch, every dodge feels so satisfying to execute that if the game just had hand-to-hand combat, I wouldn’t mind at all. On several instances, I actually avoided using guns, because the close encounters were so much more fun and satisfying to pull off. But the game has a lot more things up its sleeve. Yeah, Ellie is faster and more agile now, but her enemies are smarter and more vicious. One of the most important things about the game, and one that the developers stressed on was that every enemy on the game now has a name, and enemies react differently and get much more aggressive when you kill their companions, and I am happy to say that, Naughty Dog does manage to pull this off. Every character has a name, and as you hide in the bushes or behind cover, you can hear them talking to each other about the things they’ll do once they get back to camp. Some have families to get back to, and some want to take a vacation. This makes the game much more personal and almost makes you feel bad for killing your enemies. I don’t think any game has come close to what Naughty Dog has managed to accomplish. And due to this, each kill feels real, whether you sneaking up behind an enemy and stabbing their necks with a shiv, as you see blood spitting out of them, or you dismember the heads of your enemy with a headshot. Each kill takes somewhat of an emotional toll on you, and I have never experienced this feeling in any other game. There were several instances where I was surrounded by several enemies, and my heart was pounding, but finding a way to kill them all off was incredibly satisfying. Stealth is your best option, and I’ve had the most fun while playing the game this way.
The Last of Us Part 2 also tries shaking up things by introducing new enemy types into the game. You have Dogs in the game Yayyy, Oh wait, I have to kill them? Shit. One of the new enemy types are dogs, that can track you by smell, meaning wherever you go, you leave behind a trail of smell, that the dogs can follow and compromise your location, meaning to continue playing stealthily, you have to take out these little buggers first. Playing against the Human enemies is perhaps the most fun you’ll have while playing The Last of Us Part 2.
There are also Seraphites, a cult that believes in tradition and use whistles to communicate, and bows to hunt you down. These enemies offer variety to the game and are different enough to separate them from other enemies. Though, some Seraphites can be seen using rifles, shotguns, and handguns, they usually are more stealth-reliant than the WLF, and use the environment to their advantage.
There are also Infected in this world, and they are much more aggressive and intense than in the first game, infected charge at you with more intensity, and are extremely dangerous. Stalkers are much more silent, and jump on you when you least expect it, offering a sense of horror element to the game. Then there are bloaters from the first game, who are more of the less similar, and you can usually take them down pretty quickly. One new enemy type introduced in The Last of Us Part 2 is Shamblers; These creepy looking fat dudes are an alternate fourth stage of the Infected that look quite similar to their ugly brothers, the bloaters, but are far more dangerous and aggressive. Shamblers spray gaseous acid when they get near the player and take massive damage before dying. Encounters with Shamblers are great fun, and some of the most intense battles in the game. They take a hell lot of damage before dying and are extremely powerful and fun to take down.
Overall, the gameplay of The Last Of Us part 2 is brilliant, and the most fun I’ve had playing a video game. All the encounters feel realistic, and take some emotional toll on you. Though I finished the story of moderate difficulty, which was quite challenging, I recommend that you play the game at a harder difficulty, as when I replayed the game at a harder difficulty, there was a clear difference in the intelligence of the enemies, they were far smarter, and were constantly looking at ways to flank me out of cover. The ammo is also scarce on harder difficulties, and you have to crawl and claw to find ammo and items, which makes the game much more intense and satisfying. Every kill on the harder difficulties feel earned, and considering the fact, that the game goes out of its way to make the encounters feel as raw as possible, playing the game on harder difficulties really adds up to that feeling.
Sound and Music
Sound and Music are pretty important for any game, and though I am not some music expert or audiophile, I think the music of this game is absolutely phenomenal. Gustavo Santaolalla returns as the lead composer for the sequel, and knocks it out of the park and delivers a background score that is both tense and adds up to the tension of the gameplay. The sound is fantastic too, every gunshot feels authentic and powerful, and the environmental noises add to the immersion of the game. Casting once again sets up new standards for voice acting in games. Troy Baker and Ashely Johnson bring so much emotion to the scenes, that it is hard not to appreciate their work. The supporting cast too is phenomenal, and the voice actors do a good job of getting emotions out of the characters. The game also features a full-blown guitar system, where you can play covers of all your favourite songs. If you are talented that is. I found myself loving the music of this game, more so than any other game I have played, The music plays an important role in the story too, and makes for some emotional moments, that only get better, thanks to the brilliant music selection. Songs like ‘Take on Me’, and ‘Future Days’ have become some of my most favourite songs ever, and I cannot stop myself from tearing up a little, every time I hear them. This is what great music does, it brings feelings and emotions out of you, and in that department, the music of The Last of Us part 2 is simply a foot above anything else we have seen in recent times.
So, we finally come to the main reason why this game is so polarizing and divisive. The story of the game takes several bold decisions, that have divided the fan base into two, with many hating the game with a burning desire due to these decisions, and this was to be expected. When you make a sequel to a game as beloved as The Last of Us, few choices are going to piss off fans, and pissed off fans are never a good thing. The situation got so bad, that the game was review bombed on Metacritic, bringing the user rating down to 3.4 out of 10, which is devastating for any game. And though the rating has since gone up to 5, there are still several people that are hating on the game.
One of the main reasons, the game has gotten fan backlash, is due to the death of a beloved character. Abby (a new playable character) ruthlessly kills Joel, after he is captured and is beaten to death in front of Ellie. This starts the quest of revenge for Ellie, and also the disdain of many fans. This is the moment where many fans decided to turn on the game and label the death of a beloved character as bad writing. Things get even worse, as halfway through the game, when you finally confront Abby, you are left on a cliff hanger, and are forced to play the rest of the game as Abby, telling her side of the story. Yes, You play as a new character, that brutally murders perhaps one of the most beloved characters in the history of gaming. This pissed many fans off too, and that explains the negative reviews that the game has gotten. However, I am going to justify both these points in the Review:-
The backlash against the death of Joel was severe and huge, and the fact that the major story spoilers were leaked before the launch of the game didn’t help the matter either. When you decide to kill one of the most beloved characters in the history of gaming, there is going to be a major backlash, and I think that Naughty Dog knew of this, and still decided to take this bold step, and I appreciate their decision because, in my mind, the death is justifiable. Not only in a moral sense, but also for the narration of the game. How do you make a sequel to a game, that seems to have a perfect ending? The story should be justifiable, and Joel’s death justifies the sequel and gives the story meaning. I don’t think anyone would have cared much about the story If it was Dina, who was killed. This is because, she is a new character, in which we have not invested our time in. There would be no emotional connection between what we feel and what Ellie feels. To create this emotional connect, and to give the story a meaning to exist, Joel had to die, as much as I hated seeing him die. His death was the only thing that could justify this sequel being made.
When Joel dies, you feel exactly what Ellie feels. You feel devasted, exhausted, hate, despise and anger. This wouldn’t have been possible with any other character. Joel is a character that we invested so much of our time into. We saw him change, from a loving father, who had to go through his daughter dying in his arms, to a man who would do terrible things to survive in the post-apocalyptic world, to him slowly regaining his conscience and care for another individual. We see him and Ellie go on this emotional journey across America, where he finally opens up and starts caring for Ellie like his own daughter. This emotional journey is what made the first game so beautiful, and Joel so beloved. And when he dies, it feels as if you lose a part of yourself, and it hurts, and it supposed to hurt, and that’s the beauty of this franchise, the fact that a virtual character can make you feel these many emotions, and the fact that his death could mean so much is a feat of its own. I think in many ways, the same anger that consumes Ellie, also consumes many of the fans, and they fail to see anything else, as they are too blinded by the hate and anger, that all they want is to get their revenge and kill this bodybuilding freak off, and you are supposed to feel that way, that is the intention of the game, and I think it achieves all of this. Another reason why many fans were pissed is because of the way Joel died, and to some extent, I do agree with them. Joel in the first game trusted nobody, and was always cautious, and never told his real name out to strangers. For him to go out this way, seems a little out of character, but to call the death cheap is just absurd. People wanted Joel to go out and die a hero’s death, where he would sacrifice his life to protect Ellie, with perfect lighting and music, and in a perfect world, that would be ideal, but the world of Last of Us is not pretty, it is ugly, and if Joel were to indeed die that way, that would contradict the entire setting of the world. Things aren’t always pretty, especially in a post-apocalyptic world, things never happen the way that you would want them to happen, this is what makes Joel’s death realistic and appropriate. I think Joel’s death was well executed, and it succeeded in getting the reaction it set out to get.
If the fans were not already pissed by Joel’s death, what’s a sure way to piss them off even further? Make them play as the person who killed Joel. Bravo Naughty Dog, you seem to have pissed everybody off. I have to admit, that I was pretty annoyed at the switch too, I did not want to play as this buffed up psychopath who just killed Joel. I wanted to kill her, not kill others using her. I was angry, irritated and annoyed at this decision, and you are supposed to feel that way. Naughty Dog wanted you to feel disdain for the character, they wanted you to hate her, and feel what Ellie is feeling. And to force players to play as her might be the boldest decision since Metal Gear Solid 2, where you play as Raiden, but Raiden did not kill one of the most beloved characters, fans were still pissed, and the game got a lot of backlash due to this. Fans do not want to play as other characters, especially the ones that kill our favourite characters, but as they say, there are always 2 sides to every story, and to understand Abby’s side of the story, it is important that you play as her. Though the switch pissed me off, Abby’s character slowly grew on me, and as we went through her story, and found out her reason for killing Joel, I understood her. In the world of Last of Us, there are no heroes. While Joel might appear as a hero in the first game, by rescuing Ellie from the hospital, if you really think about it, or see the act from Abby’s perspective, this is what you see; You finally have the cure to save Humanity, and your father is going to make a Vaccine that might stop the Apocalypse, and you’ll finally be able to go back to living a normal life. Here comes this guy, who shoots your father, massacres your clan, and leaves with the only hope that the world has at making a vaccine. I think that would devastate anyone too, and even if you don’t agree with the decision of killing Joel, you are at least able to understand the reasoning behind it. The longer you played with Abby, the more you understand her side of the story, and start feeling for her. Everything that she ever believed was taken from her, from a man that she did not even know. That justifies her quest for revenge, She is so consumed by revenge, that she builds her body up like a tank, in hopes of someday exacting her revenge. And when she finally does get her revenge, what does she feel? Not satisfied. Not only does she not feel satisfied, but she also loses her friends, and feels extremely guilty for what she did, and despises the person she has become.
Abby’s redemption starts when she decides to help Lev, she even admits that the reason she helps Lev and Yara is because she feels guilty. This showcases that revenge never satisfies, it only leads to more suffering. If you can keep behind the fact that Abby kills Joel, and approach her story with an open mind, you would too start to emphasize with the character. The journey of absolutely hating a character, and then being forced to play as her, and trying to understand her actions, and feeling for her is one of the things that I will never forget, and this is what makes Abby’s arc so much more interesting and unique. The fact that you come to love a character, that you despise so much, is an accomplishment that has never been achieved before, and one that I applaud Naughty Dog for. Naughty Dog could have easily gone for a cliché revenge flick, featuring a one-dimensional villain, and people would have been happy and given the game a good rating. But they decided to make a bold decision, where they let you play as Abby, and try to make you understand her actions. This for me made the game even better, as I found myself stuck in a dilemma; On one side, I hated Abby for what she did to Joel, and all I wanted was for Ellie to get her revenge, But on the other side I grew to like Abby, her character grew on me, and I understood what she did, and why she did it. Never have I ever felt this way for a character, and this just makes Abby’s character much more memorable and unique. My advice would be that you should allow yourself to look past Joel’s death, and not be blinded by the hate, this is going to make your experience much better.
The final act of the story sees Ellie moving on with her life with Dina and her baby, JJ. They live together in this beautiful farmhouse, that Dina had previously dreamed of having. They seem to be living a perfect life, but Ellie is unable to shake off the visions of Joel and suffers from PTSD. Enters Tommy, who shows up with rumours about Abby, and is still not able to move on with his life. This is where you can see that the thought of revenge has completely taken over Tommy, and destroyed him, he loses everything on his quest for revenge and is not able to move on with his life. Ellie is hesitant about going after Abby but ends up leaving anyway. The scene that shows Ellie leaving is extremely powerful and is a decision that you might not have wanted Ellie to take. She is living a perfect life, has everything that she could want, but the idea of revenge occupies her mind, and she is not able to live with the fact that Joel is no more. I, at this point, did not want Ellie to go after Abby, I’ve had enough of the violence, and watching Ellie leave behind Dina was heartbreaking. I was also scared that Ellie might die at the hands of Abby. We find out that Abby and Lev have been captured by some rattlers, and are on the verge of death. We make our way across the rattlers, only to find Abby crucified, tortured, and left with no energy what so ever. Ellie decides to cut Abby down, who at this point of the game is a former shell of herself. Abby cuts lev free and decides to leave the island. Ellie still not able to forgive Abby for what she has done, forces Abby to fight her, by threatening to kill Lev. As the battle comes to the end, Ellie overpowers Abby, and attempts on drowning her, as Abby is about to drown, Ellie spares her and lets her go.
The Ending too has divided many fans and is one of the major reasons why many people hate the game. I think the only reason you can hate the ending of the game is if you’re still not over the death of Joel, and you can’t find yourself in able to understand Abby as a character. The point of the game was never revenge, It was forgiveness. And by forgiving Abby, Ellie can break the cycle of revenge. When she drowns Abby, she gets a flashback of Joel, and this flashback is different than other flashbacks, it not the Joel that you see being beaten up to a pulp, It’s the Joel playing the guitar, and at that moment Ellie realizes that Revenge is not going to bring her any satisfaction or closure, just like it did not bring any closure to Abby. After the final fight, we get a flashback of Joel and Ellie, when Ellie says that she’ll never be able to forgive Joel for what he did but would like to try. The flashback explains the main theme of the game perfectly. Are you able to forgive someone, who has caused you so much pain? If you are able to look past Joel’s death, and actually try to understand the characters, there is no way, that killing Abby would have made sense. I started caring for both the characters, and it did not want either of them to die, at this point of time, I’ve had enough of the violence, and did not want both the characters to suffer any further. I was reluctant attacking Abby in the final fight, I understood her reasons, and had grown to like her. And even though she killed Joel, I was able to forgive her, and seeing Ellie spare her was the same exact thing that I would have done. The ending in no way is a happy one, it is sad, both the characters lose everything in their quest of revenge and are left with dead companions and loneliness. If Ellie were to kill Abby in the final fight, the entire session that you played as Abby would’ve made no sense, the fact that game goes out of its way to make you understand and emphasize with Abby’s character makes the ending of the game much more impactful.
The Last Of Us Part 2 was an emotional game for me, that took me on one hell of a journey full of tragic events, and moments that made me feel a little reluctant and uneasy. The fact that the game is so divisive makes the game much more unique and better in my opinion. Naughty Dog took some really bold decisions when it came to the story, and I for one enjoyed those decisions, and never did I think that I would play a game so personal, or would end up loving a character that I despised at the start of a game. The character development of Abby was one of the best things about the game, and this is where the game either makes or breaks for people playing it. If you are able to understand the character of Abby, then you are going to love the game and the choices it makes. But if you keep the death of Joel in your head, and refuse to let go the idea of revenge, then you are not going to enjoy this game. I think that the quote ‘There are no heroes in the world of Last of Us’ perfectly describes this game for me. It’s all about perspective, and the way you interpret the story is what makes all the difference. Yes Joel was a beloved character, and yes his death was painful, but the game needed his death, and I don’t think, Naughty Dog could’ve come up with a better story to justify the sequel. The Last of Us Part 2 is different from its predecessor, and is much more divisive and makes a lot of questionable and bold decisions, and these decisions are what make the game so appealing and unique to me. The same reason might lead you to hate the game, and that is completely fine. Art is meant to evoke feelings out of you, and just like every other good piece of art, it is polarizing. This is what makes The Last of Us Part 2 a masterpiece in my eyes. Naughty Dog have really outdone themselves and created a game that is so powerful and emotional that the story will stay with you long after the credits roll. The Ps4 has seen many great games during its life cycle, but I think that The Last of Us Part 2 will be forever remembered as a Masterpiece that did not shy away from doing things differently.