In 2013 The Last of Us revolutionised gaming. Well this is not entirely true, but it did take a lot of common things and threw a new spin on them. Afterall, stealth, horror, scarce resources, crafting, linear third person action, and zombies are all common in games.
Their take on zombies as being people infected by cordyceps, like insects do in the real world which is horrifying, made it feel distinct from everything else zombie related. Then there is the story of a conflicted man wanting to survive and deliver a girl from one place to another. Eventually falling for her as the daughter he had previously lost while being a bit of an ass with sweet and humanising moments among the horror of the world, made the game hit home more than many can.
So can the sequel seven years later live up to the previous game?
The story of us
The problem with comparing the Last of Us and The Last of Us: Part II is it is set in this uniquely built world, with uniquely built characters, like its predecessor. What The Last of US: Part II does is tell another excellent story that develops Ellie, for better and worse, into the frustratingly real young adult dealing with this world.
The Last of Us: Part II kicks off five years after the first game with Joel telling his brother Tommy about the decision he made at the Fireflies facility. Soon after we are introduced to an older Ellie living in a defended community with Joel. Within this post-apocalyptic community Ellie still faces bigotry for her sexuality, because even when the world is destroyed and your life is at risk, people are still going to hate.
The ass of us
I am not going to touch more on the story because it is excellent and a journey worth experiencing as you go. I may dump my thoughts into a spoiler review after release, but for now know that things get worse and the game starting with that discussion is relevant. What I will mention is that Ellie is a bit of an ass like Joel in the first game, but we do learn more about why, and we see her be genuine with her girlfriend Dina as their story progresses.
There are flashback scenes that give enough information to explain how the team got to where they are at the start of the game which are long enough to flesh out Ellie’s character, but not long enough to overstay their welcome. They are the right amount, like Goldilocks’ third attempt.
The gameplay of us
The gameplay for the most part feels how I remember the first game, which given it is seven years old means they have polished it the right amount. Running and hiding in grass to take out enemies feels good. Crafting and upgrading is frustratingly scarce on harder modes, but I wound up changing to easy for story pacing. That and so I could hear enemies through walls.
The best change is the removal of the shiv. The first game had you crafting them so you could only take out limited numbers of clickers stealthily. Given the circumstances it makes more sense to keep a knife on you at all times, and so now Ellie comes with a knife for unlimited stealth kills.
The dogs of us
Killing runners and humans is still super uncomfortable thanks to the groans and screams. That and the movements as they lay on the ground dying which is haunting. I had to kill them for my safety, but it’s still not comfortable. The game also introduces new infected, as well as dogs to the fray. I won’t spoil the new infected evolution but they don’t suck as much as the dogs. Dogs will pick up your scent if they cross where you have crouched, and they absolutely suck.
I’m not sure if Neil Druckmann hates dogs, but he makes you kill a lot of them.
The menu of us
The sound and atmosphere is excellent. The cut scenes moving fluently to and from gameplay, packed with some excellent voice acting makes the whole game hit the feels. If you pause during a cutscene though, the default option is to skip the cutscene which is a massive pet peeve of mine, and I did miss a cutscene by accident which meant I started the game again.
Make the default option ‘resume’, game developers. Please.
The Last of Us: Part II doesn’t have the same punch that experiencing the first game did, but it is an excellent sequel. Ellie has changed so much since we last saw her, and she changes more in front of us as you make your way through this horrifying landscape again. Also clickers still suck and wusses like me may need to put the controller down from time to time.