The Last of Us Part 2. A Brutal Masterpiece

Before reading please note the below is completely spoiler free. I have intentionally stayed away from story elements and specifics to be sure you have the same opportunity to experience The Last of Us Part 2 as I did. 
Be sure to keep an eye on our YouTube channel for a review from Lucas on release and keep tuned into the podcast for updates. 

For many years now Naughty Dog has been the pinnacle studio on the Playstation platform. Their games have always pushed the boundaries for console hardware to its upper most limits.

Seven years ago, they released a title that has been heralded as one of their best. That was of course The Last of Us, a story about hope in a time of infection and the relationship that forms between Ellie and Joel as they travel cross country. The story was perfectly crafted and the way in which the characters grow as the story progresses had me in tears by the end, an ending which made me mad yet weeping.

A story so perfectly crafted and executed is going to have a following. The idea of building on that story is a touchy subject, one that Naughty Dog would have been forgiven to leave very much alone, yet in true Naughty Dog style, in 2016 they announced The Last of Us Part 2.

The Last of Us Part 2 (TLOU2) is set five years after the original, Ellie (played by Ashley Johnson) is now a 19 year old woman living in Jackson County Wyoming in what is now a walled community free from the Cordyceps virus that has decimated the population of the world. Helping Ellie is once again the ever watchful Joel with Troy Baker reprising his role. Neil Druckmann returns as creative director and writer however shares writing duties with Halley Gross.  

TLOU2 is a third person action adventure game with elements of survival horror. You utilise firearms, weapons that are improvised from what is found in your environment and your biggest weapon is once again stealth. Gameplay has been expanded upon from the original with you now able to traverse the environment, climb, swim and jump to gain new vantage points and crawl to fit through tight spaces or hide from enemies. While TLOU2 is still a linear game, there are more options for ways to approach a situation. Plenty of cover in the grass or decaying buildings to crawl through popping out at the precise moment to take down your enemy or use the returning “listen mode” to keep an eye on where they are to completely avoid any potential problems.

Visually The Last of Us 2 does what Naughty Dog’s previous titles have all done. It has pushed the PS4 Pro with a steady 1440p but only at 30 frames, but that 30 frames were solid. At no stage did I receive a deviation from that whether traversing an open area at speed or an action packed scene. One thing I wanted to highlight is the fan noise or should I say lack thereof. For some time, the Playstation in standard and Pro variants has been rightly criticised for its noisy fan. TLOU2 is perfectly optimised to utilise the power of the PS4 Pro without the heat. It still spools up, but I played the entire game without headphones on and not once did the fans make excessive noise, funnily enough, until the credits rolled just after midnight.

I’ve purposefully stayed away from the story which is the hardest part of TLOU2 to write about and review. It is by far its most striking feature yet one that I cannot shed any light upon as you need to experience it for yourself. For this section I will use the words of Neil Druckmann, “The Last of Us was about hope. The Last of Us Part 2 is about hatred.”

TLOU2 is a bloody, violent and brutal tale about life, love, family, loss, grief and how much of a driving factor hatred can be and is. It does a perfect job in engaging you as a player in what is happening on screen to the characters and how they are affected ultimately affecting you in the process. While the hatred is real and present, TLOU2 does a fantastic job in humanising your enemies in ways that I did not expect. I, as in me as the player had moments of weakness towards the enemy, I had moments where I could not wipe the smile off my face and I had moments where I was absolutely gutted needing some time to sit and quietly contemplate what I had just experienced.

The Last of Us Part 2 is Naughty Dogs biggest game yet and one that I cannot fault. Questions were asked all the way throughout and overall, it is a feast for the senses and emotions. A story told in a depth that you can only experience from gaming in a true showcase of what an art form story telling in gaming is. The actors have once again delivered performances to rival any screen and brought the story to life giving the characters a permanent place in my heart.    

Review code supplied by Playstation AU
Reviewed on PS4 Pro & 4k TV
Reviewed by Pat Clifford (Snoogs)

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