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Shagger Says: It took me a while, but I finally found the time to stitch this review together. This isn't an easy one, not just because I'm keeping it spoiler free, but this game has divided opinion so much since it launched that it's hard to say weather or not you trust yourself and your own views any more. But I thought about it, and decide to go for it as it's impossible to avoid invoking somebody's ire with ones view on this game anyway. So my disclaimer is, take it, or leave it. I also do this on the assumption that whoever's reading this has played the first game, so even though I wish not to spoil The Lust of Us: Part 1 or 2, there may be references to The Last of Us part one that may include spoilers for that game. If anyone is interested, please check out my synapsis and analysis review on the first game here. As usual, I apologise for any typo's and such. I try my best, but it's not easy for me. So let's get to it. What did you see? What did you hear? (Graphics, sound and voice) The developer Naughty Dog is a well funded developer, one the largest and most reputable game studios in the world, working under the banner of Sony Interactive Entertainment, one of the most dominant conglomerates in the entertainment and electronics business with may decades of experience and even more billions of dollars at their disposal. So yeah, it's hardly surprising the game looks like this; (The first two screenshots are from the net as I never thought to take any envirmoental shots while playting, but the last one is my own.) Yeah, you can spend a lot of time gawking at the photo mode. Graphical fidelity and the insane attention to detail really help this game come to life. Everything, the tracks left in the snow and mud, the blemishes and imperfections on people's skin, dirt and marks on clothing, the weather, the discarded bullet canisters flying out guns, blood splatters that appear on the characters when you attack close, the natural and varied ways bodies fall and rest, the way foliage and branches are disturbed as you brush past them, the difference in appearance between wet and dry cloths, I could on forever, but what this building to is a game that pushes the boundaries of graphical fidelity and attention to detail unlike any game I've ever seen. Even by Naught Dog's own impeccable standard, this is impressive. I'm on an original PS4, not the Pro, and I was still blown away. I've played games on $6,000 gaming PC's that don't look half as detailed and rich as this. A great looking game isn't just about graphics, in fact it's not even mostly about graphics. Art style and design also come into it as well. Obviously, The Last of Us is meant to simulate our world... twenty or so years after a cordyceps pandemic that wiped out over half the world's population and forced who was left to abandon society as we know it to survive, but the point is it's not going to be the most unique nor creatively adventurous game in the world. Not to mention it's a sequel, so has a base pattern to follow. Despite that, this does have an instantly recognisable visual identity, and with this identity still intact, I'd say that Naughty Dog have improved the way this game looks a surprisingly large amount from the first game. The environments, especially the cites, feel more overgrown, a greater scene that nature has taken over. Human character models are nicely detailed and look like they belong in the environments they preside with exceptionally well animated faces, especially on the main characters. The infected, especially the Clickers, also look more detailed and less like each other than in the original. They're also naked now, and I thought it was odd for them to be wearing cloths in the first game. Feel free to laugh on you own time, I'm actually being serious, why would someone who's been wondering around pretty much mindlessly for years with fungus growing out their walking remains still be wearing their cloths? Fabric would get worn, torn and ripped over time and it's not like a clicker is self conscious or has the wherewithal to find something else to wear. So I like that change.... … SHUT UP!!! I do NOT enjoy looking at naked clickers! Anyway, this is a visual masterpiece and anyone can appreciate the time and effort put into the fine details. You get you chances to appropriate the beauty of this game and revel in it. There's even a bigger variety of environments to explore in this as well, so the game can look very different from one part to next. The more fundamental things are also well done. I like the new layout of the in game menus, I like how the weapon upgrades now both a cosmetic and visual change (that may have been in the first game, but if it was, it wasn't nearly as noticeable) and the new animations you see as you upgrade them. The death animations are also more numerous, savage and brutal that ever. I just love it. I don't what that says about me, I just appreciate the effort that went into this... NO!!! I DO NOT LIKE LOOKING AT NAKED CLICKERS!!! SHUT THE HELL UP!!! Sound design can also make or break immersion in a game. This was of my favourite things technically about the original. I loved the soundtrack and the sound effects really do their thing to make feel the environments and action like you are really there. This isn't really an improvement as such, like I said the first game was superb with this as well, so what they've really is the same. Nothing wrong with not fixing what isn't broken. The one thing that did annoy was the sound cue that game gives to indicate an enemy is about to see you. They used the same sound cue in the first game (difficult to describe, kinda sounds like a build up of wind) , but this time it felt a lot louder and more, let's say, paranoid than before. I kept hearing it when I knew the enemy in question was miles away and/or not a threat in that moment and that's annoying. One thing that was not gonna go wrong was the acting. Honestly, there isn't even much to say. It's still at same industry changing standard it was in the first game. All the main performers, new and old, offer memorable and pitch perfect performances. I'll talk about the improved AI in a later section (spoiler alert, the AI has improved), but this improvement asks a lot or out of the VA's doing the smallest roles, like your human friends and foes out in the field. Communication, coordinating (in the case of the Seraphites/Scars, that involves of whistling in some some kind of code, an interesting touch) and even getting upset, screaming their friends names when watch them get killed and standard does not drop at all in the voice acting in these moments. You wanna take The Last of Us Part II on? Don't bother. It doesn't matter what systems you have or what games you have played, even by the standards of their own day, when it comes to presentation, this is the best game to date. Beyond any question or shadow of doubt. “You wanna fuck 'em up?” (Gameplay) First off, there's a guitar playing mechanic; Now onto the rest. I need make it clear, gameplay has improved subtly in certain areas, but has not fundamentally changed. Like the first game, The Last of Us Part 2 is a linear third person shooter with a strong emphasis on stealth, exploration and survival balanced to offer the player a choice in the moment on how to get past a section based you current resources and play style. So really, this about where it's changed and how it's changed since before, and that gives me an idea. What I'll do quote from the other post I made on the first game about the gameplay and then describe the differences because I think that will be more informative than simply “Telling you what it's like”. “Stealth feels dynamic because of the various ways the enemies in the game react, especially the infected runners and clickers. Runners can see and the can move fast, but take less damage than clickers and can be taken out with your fists. Clickers “see” using sound and if alerted, it’s a one hit kill if they get to you, so use stealth tactics whenever possible. Larger enemies called Bloaters you engage as bosses. They take a beating, attack at range and deadly up close. Avoid them if you can, but big weapons, Molotov cocktails and nail bombs will get the job done.” I mentioned how the AI improved early in human characters. Well, as strange as it is to say, the AI powering the infected has also an upgrade. Runners and Clickers behave pretty much the same, but Bloaters feel more dangerous now. As well as the long ranged acid balls, they can now charge at you, powerfully enough to smash through walls and destroy your cover, forcing you out in the open. I don't think there was ever a point in the first game that ever encountered or fought a bloater alone, you always had a partner in combat, but the enemy AI would definably pick on little old you. Irritating would be the word. Now, though, you can duck out and let your partner (if you have one) take some aggro whilst you find an angle, and the enemy AI does respond. As of course, so does you partner, who feels feels mare capable in this game and save saved my useless ass a few times. It's so much less predictable and fun to do play with than it was in the original. Moltov's have definatlly been nerfed in this game though, I don't think they should have been. There's other things to. In my quote up their I didn't even mention one of the infected types, the Stalker. Why? Because there was no point. They had a different visual design, somewhere in between a Runner and a Clicker, but they behaved pretty much as the same Runners did. Not this time though. They're slightly harder than runners to kill, but more importantly the name “Stalker” has purpose, because these things are silent and can't be detected in the “listening mode”. They silently crawl and clamber around like Gollum on mission to eat, well, your head I suppose. They game also come along with a new infected type, between a Clicker and Bloater called a Shambler and, unfortunatly, I feel this is a miss step. Don't get me wrong, I love the design... … but they suck. All they do charge at you and grab you like most infected do, but then produce a cloud of acid that can drain your health before you have chance to fight free, it feels cheap. They're pretty tough, but not much more than a Clicker, so they're not actually that hard to take down at a distance, the only safe way to fight them because, unlike Bloaters, they can't attract at range, but also can't be taken with stealth. So basically, they exist to bleed you ammo. The “best” thing though is, after you take them down, they explode in a cloud of acid hurting you badly if you are anywhere near them. It's a complete beginners trap and hate it when games do cheap shit like that. I was looking forward to seeing a new form of infected and was very disappointed to see what Naughty Dog came up with here. There is one other new infected in the game, but I'm not gonna say anything, just tease you instead... (That one is also one of my own) “The human enemies are OK to fight with, but are only varied by the weapons they carry and certain very enjoyable set prices the game has to offer and, at times, armour, but the level layout helps make engagements enjoyable enough. The AI is not that sophisticated , but it’s adequate and does offer enough sentient behaviour, opposing tactics and challenge to suit in this game. These sections I’d say weren’t quite as much fun as battling infected, but still very good.” I'd say there's more of an emphasis in combat against people in this game than before. I said that the “AI is not that sophisticated” in The Last of Us Part One, but it's all change here. I touched on it earlier that the AI is more communicative and emotional. They're also much more effective, and you can find yourself out flanked or even surrounded very easily if you don't position yourself well and anticipate their tactics. There's now brutes that can't be stealth killed in one hit, making stealth more risky and less reliable than before. They find a body, they'll behave differently. More cautiously. They will also search more thoughtfully and in areas they wouldn't have in the first game. They tended to just wonder around before, but now they'll look under cars, check buildings, cover each other as they do and even sometimes have dogs to sniff you out. One of things I loved in The Last of Us: Left Behind was the opportunities to pit human enemies and infected against each other. It's such fun, and there's plenty of opportunities to do the same thing in this game. I'm so glad that happens here as well, and it's a more tense dynamic with that improved AI. “Resource management and exploration are critical as you use supply’s, scrap and what I think is medicine you find in the world for crafting items and upgrading weapons and skills. Again, it’s pretty light mechanics, but smart as crafting items use common ingredients and you only find so much medicine and scrap, so your choices really matter in the crafting. There’s also a limit to the ammo capacity, so you need to use your weapons wisely as well.” Pretty much the same, not much to say. You have to find manuals now to unlock new skill tree's to upgrade and there's the aforementioned visual improvement to the weapon crafting, but other that it is a slightly expanded version of the same system. You play as two characters in this game, Abby and Ellie, and what is cool is that they each have different load-outs and access to different crafting recipes the other doesn't. It can be annoying when, for example, have to make shivs as Abby when Ellie has her pocket knife, or if you are Ellie and miss the superior firepower of Abby's crossbow and hunting pistol, but that's the game. I'd say while both characters load-outs are different, they're well balanced and I didn't feel stronger playing as one over the other. The partner AI is also more reliable than before and actually, you know, does stuff. Like I said earlier, it saved me more than once. They still do that thing where enemy AI can't see them even if your parter passes right in front of them, but think about it. How annoying would it be for your cover to get blown because of something you parter AI did? It looks ridiculous, don't get wrong, but it's defiantly the lesser of two evils hear and helps with actual gameplay. “Allot of these games that focus mostly on single player have tacked on multiplayer modes that feel half assed and just not worth it (Dragonage Inquisition multiplayer anyone? What, wanna do something more fun like carve yourself a new, wider path for your bladder to empty? Can’t say I blame you.). The Last of Us actually had a fun and fresh idea that involved linking your Facebook account to import “survivors” from your real life friends list if you wanted the allying yourself to either bandits or the Fireflies to then go out and compete against other players for your clans survival. The crafting, focused hearing mechanics and of course combat were taken from the main game and implemented well in a very tactically focused team death-match. Of course it wasn’t as extensive as other more multiplayer-centric games, but for a side dish it was a very tasty and surprisingly substantial part of the meal.” No Multiplayer in the The Last of Us Part 2. Yeah. I get it, they wanted to focus more on the single player game and that's the real point of the franchise, that's fine, but to see multiplayer disappear is a bit of a shame, especially when it was so unexpectedly good in the first game. There is a number things to talk about in gameplay that I didn't mention before. Movement has improved... in part. There more control options and ways to explore the environment including proning on the ground and using climbing ropes, neither of which you could do before and the natural cover feels a little easier to use. The one problem is sprinting. It feels slower than before and it's use is forced on you make jumps, and in that situation, it just doesn't feel intuitive at all. A lot of your movement is upgradable. This can be a good or a bad thing. It really depends of whether the character feels unnaturally slow and hindered without the upgrade, or it they feel normal without the upgrade and badass with it. In The Last of Us 2, it's a bit of a mix of both. For example, crouching whilst aiming feels terribly crippled until you improve it, whilst proning felt fast enough considering and I didn't feel the need to upgrade it. It's a similar story with the shooting. It's feels good with realistic weapons sway and recoil that can be improved through the crafting an upgrade systems, great sound to. Naughty Dog know how to make a 3PS. But yet, one thing was really annoying. I felt I got knocked down by enemy gunfire very easily, and natural instinct when I get shot is to keep my finger on the aim button to find my target, but when you do that you find yourself laying down on your back in a “reverse prone” position pointing the gun out in front of you completely out of whatever cover you were in. It takes a valuable few seconds to get out of this to get up and into cover and it happened all the time, really grating on my patience. Even got me killed on a few occasions. Overall, it's a very solid 3PS, and the enemy AI in particular makes up for some of the game's minor control issues. Another big part of the game is exploration. Now, people might be surprised to see somebody say this, but exploration is not Naughty Dog's strong suit. Not at all. In Uncharted 4, exploration was nothing more that vanity hunt to let the game laugh at people chasing a platinum trophy, and honestly, the only reason reason you strive to search every thing and look everywhere in The Last of Us is because you have to. You need the training manuals, you need to find the workbenches, you need the crafting resources, you need the pills to upgrade your skills, the parts to upgrade your weapons, but face the facts TLOU fans, it's a padded out chore and, deep down, we all know it. It's only made bearable buy the notes and some of the collectibles that can be interesting at times. I bring this up because I'm about to talk about one of the very real problems I have with the game. I talked about how in the original how the environment was actually a joy to explore because of how the environment itself told a story. This made the exploration mechanics themselves, even though they were a chore, easy to bear with. The Last of Us part 2 has a signifiant downgrade in the quality of this. This time the “environmental storytelling” as I called it is mostly done through the notes you find, so you have engage in the aforementioned “chore” to even get them, and it's mostly pointless, fairly forgettable stuff with only a few intersting finds along the way. The environments themselves feel larger with more in them than before, and whilst that's good for the gameplay, makes the environment feel more empty and less interesting to be in with less personality. It's not that game doesn't try, and in some sections really does well. The Hospital is Seattle is a fine example of this. Don't worry, I won't spoil, but the point is that's an environment that's fascinating and with a strong indigenous identity with it's story to tell just by being in it. The first game, I can think of several places like that. The Storm Drain where the inhabitants met a tragic fate, the University of Eastern Colorado abandoned by the Fireflies, The Ruins of Salk Lake City where escaped Zoo animals have taken over, Bill's town where he clearly dose everything possible to avoid anyone and everyone, the Hotel set up to host a high school prom, the suburb where the inhabitants clearly turned on each other with the ice cream truck and Ellie doesn't know what it is. In the sequel? Including the hospital, I can think of two, maybe three at push, environments that felt that way, and in a game that's twice as long as the original, that's a problem. Speaking of storytelling, it's time for the big one. “See, they should be terrified of you...” (The Story) Let me make this 100% clear. This is a Spoiler Free review, so I expect a spoiler free response section. I'll soon open up a discussion thread for spoilers, I even invite you do do the same thing if you wish, but please do not post any spoilers here. Update August 19nth 2021 The age of the game and the age of this thread is such that I've decided to open the comments to spoiler talk. Knock yourselves out. You may not know this, but The Last of Us's name has more significance than you might think. The original story was all about finding was left of humanity. Not humanity physically obviously, but our soul, our heart as species, as a people amidst the very worst of circumstances. An inspiring story of hope where it'll all bout finding the light in the darkness, telling us we could be redeemed. Again, if you wish, please go back to my other post on the first game to get the full scope, but this is a bit of I said at the time; “This has meant so much to so many and I for one, learned how important it is to embrace hope even when life is at it’s worst and life is only worth who you choose to share it with. We live in vain, materialistic world and ironically it’s a video game, a impractical indulgence that can only find a home in that world is what helped me see more clearly what is truly valuable. The Last of Us may have impacted you in a different way or even not at all, but whatever the case that experience belongs to you, so treasure it.” So I've been thinking, if this game, with it's tone and it's lesson had actually come first, what would they have named it to suit like the way “The Last of Us” suits the original? I think I've got it. This is not a story of hope, but hatred. Not inspired by redemption and love, but by darkness and revenge. A story of two young woman, corrupted by their own tragic pasts, driven into a new existence of violence and pain. This is, without doubt, the darkest, most shocking, provocative and uncomfortable experiences you can have playing a game. It's brutal, savage, unfeeling, upsetting, unapologetic and, quite frankly... ...Brilliant! Now, very many will disagree, and I completely understand... that they don't understand. It's upset them, pissed them off, but with all due respect, they have been too self centred to realise that's the point. This is not a shining smile meant to make you feel better, it's a dark beauty meant to be evocative and emotional in a very different way from the first game. I'm glad I took a few days before sitting down to write this because to really understand this, you need to reflect and, well, calm down. This game does rattle you, it upsets it makes you angry by design. It does what it set out to, and teaches you what it tries to teach. The story is about hatred and how powerful it is, but in the end only has the power to take, not give. To embrace hate is to embrace your own destruction. There's other things to live for, better things to live for. It's ironic how hatred and prejudice has driven the people who review bombed this because because of the strong LGBTQ themes in it, and of course it's a little sad, because they probably need that lesson more that the rest of us. Even so, this not for everyone this story. A plot this malevolent will not sit comfortable in righteous heart. A presentation this violent has no place in a civilised mind. Then again, maybe you need those things to come through it with anything resembling a positive outlook at all. It also makes the point that we're all the hero's in our story, that's the kind of selfish creatures we are, but it's possible we're the villain in somebody else's story, and who get's to say who's right? Do I like it, though. Well, too say like I like the story would be similar to “liking” somebody's obituary on Twitter or Facebook. You wanna express you sentiment, appreciation and respect, but “liking” it just feels...wrong. Now, dose it have problems? Oh, hell yes it does! Now, I already talked at length about the environmental storytelling has been downgraded, that's the first issue. No point going there again, but it's worth bearing in mind. The story in the original wasn't actually unique, not really, it's the way it was told that made it work. A liner, well paced tale that had it's life berthed into through progress and steady, well timed in game expositions and cut scenes. Now, for the The Last of Us 2, not only did they switch around the tone and message, they also swapped around the strengths and weakness of the storytelling experience. The last of Us 2 has more unique story, but it's not nearly as well told. These aren't spoilers, this right at the start of the game, this is just how it's set up. You start in Jackson, the town where Tommy and his wife Maria have settled. It's been five years since the events at the end of the first game. Ellie has grown up in service to the town, made a few friends and is now part of the teams that patrol outside Jackson to keep up observations on the infected. We also are quickly introduced to a new character Abby (that's the buff lady from the early trailer). Abby is also just outside Jackson with her own motives that, for reasons that become obvious, aren't made clear. One morning, Ellie heads out on patrol with Dina (That's the girl she kisses in the other trailer) and all seems well. That's when REDACTED happens, and the story begins in earnest. Now, you've most likely noticed something already, you play as two different protagonists. Abby and Ellie; Abby Ellie Now, this isn't a problem in itself, but it dose inevitably cause one. You play through the game with your time split between these two playing the same time period occurring after REDACTED. First one, then the other, to then switch again THEN again, for the final part of the game. Each individual story is also laced with flashbacks, that are playable, witch is cool, but fragments the flow of the story. The very fact you switch between the two characters also fragments the story. This does not flow very well and causes it's own pacing issues. So you end with is exposition drip fed to in chunks in whatever flashback or playible character you happen to be at the time. The character might know something that you don't or vice verser, leading limited understanding of the characters motivations or making some of the story after the switch kind of redundant because you already know, at least to some extent, what's going to happen. It feels a padded out as well sometimes because of this. As a result, it's more difficult to connect to the characters, especially the new protagonist Abby and those around her, until the later point of the game. Now, I get it, I totally understand why they did this, and if I'm honest, it dose actually work. You need to spend time with Abby to connect with her, especially after REDACTED and get to know who she is, but it does take some patience to get through to this point, and I'm not surprised to see some people just not have enough of it. So ultimately, that's issue. Not the story, but the way it's told. Like I said I understand, and I mean complexly understand why they told the story the way they did, and in many ways it works, but not without cost. “You really gonna go through with this?” (Conclusion) This is gonna sound like a weird question after all the time like question after you just spend all this time reading this idiots opinion for the last several minutes, but how do you review a game? Do you base it on did whether or not you enjoyed it, how adept it is technically and aesthetically, or whether it met the developers ambitions for it as a creative endeavour? Respectively, is it a Monopoly board, a painting or a book? As a Monopoly Board, there's not enough plastic hotels and a couple of chance cards have gone missing. However, it's still Monopoly damn it and the only reason you wouldn't like it is because you knew you didn't like Monopoly, and if so, why play it? As a painting, it belongs in the Louvre. An eternal and undeniable masterpiece that marks a precious and rare achievement. As a book, this is a novel that had the reader jump paragraphs back and forth, but it's still a good, memorable and evocative story that stays with you. You may be better or worse for it, but you are different. Looking back, despite the frustrations you had trying to get through that book, you did, and you were angry, even furious at times, but you were never, ever bored. My love for the last game made me hold this one to a higher stranded than I would do with most games and that may have helped what problems it undeniably has stand out, but this si still one the very best video games I've every played. Stronger that it's predecessor in so many ways, but also weaker in others, but one way this is better than any game I've played. It has courage. It takes a serious set to make a game like this in these days. The world is so self centred, entitled and opinionated that's impossible now to follow your own vision knowing it's controversial and stick with it, knowing you're about to piss a lot of people off. Love it or loathe it, this game needed to exist even if just to show important it is to stand up for your creative vision. It has it's issues, and they aren't minor, so I have to reflect that in the score, but it's still a masterpiece and well worth considering if you're willing to accept what you are in for. My Final Verdict.