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The Last of Us Part II: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Last of Us Part II is a brutal display of violence, astonishing graphics, and exciting gameplay. Still, this is the kind of game you won’t replay anytime soon.

The Last of Us Part II is PS4's Masterpiece
The Last of Us Part II is PS4's Masterpiece
4.8Brutal

Nevertheless, it’s an easy pick for one of the best games available for the PS4. In fact, I’d say The Last of Us Part II is a must-play if you like single-player campaigns.

But much has been said about The Last of Us Part II since its release last June. Sadly, most reviews are tainted by today’s political views and the dangerous lenses of correctness. We, the true consumers, the true fans, have already suffered substantial losses to the hands of corporate agendas. Primary examples include the Terminator franchise, upcoming all-female Marvel movies, and, of course, Star Wars.

This is an honest site, though. We are making this for the true gamer, the gamer at heart.

That’s why we’re coming forward with an honest review of The Last of Us Part II. And this is coming from a gamer, a YouTuber, just a guy with an avid passion for video games, computers, and music.

If you haven’t played The Last of Us Part II just yet, beware, as there’re going to be a few spoilers up ahead. However, if you think you won’t get the opportunity to play it for a while, I think this article will ease up your passions.

The Last to Us Part II Review
The Last of Us Part II is a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It will probably work on PlayStation 5 as via retro-compatibility.

For now, let’s see what The Last of Us Part II brings to the table…

The Last of Us Part II Review: is this PS4’s masterpiece?

This game released as a follow-up to 2013’s masterpiece. The Last of Us Part I is part of the reason why the PS3 was so successful, and the promise of a sequel is also the reason why so many of us bought the PS4 in the first place.

Finally, after 7 in the waiting line, we’ve got a sequel that pulls off the feat of reaching such high levels of expectations effortlessly. Let me be honest with you: if you liked it the first time, you’re going to like it again. It only expands on the original subjects and gameplay without wandering too far. In that regard, this is a PS4 masterpiece. Maybe The PS4 masterpiece.

If this is your first time, though, then maybe the Last of Us Part II is a skip kind-of game. I’ve been playing the Last of Us Part II for the past month on my PlayStation 4 Slim and, to be honest, I’ve had a blast. The original title is part of my beloved collection of treasured memories, and the second installment didn’t disappoint me. Even when I can’t review this game as a first-timer, I’m going to do my best to help you understand if this is a must for you or not.

I think the game improved over the original subjects, ideas, and gameplay, although it adds quite a confusing mixture of messages. So, overall, I find the sequel of Naughty Dog’s apocalyptic franchises is an emotional game with deep themes and violent scenes.

Here’s what you’ve got, in essence:

The Good

  • Outstanding visuals;
  • Refined gameplay;
  • Beautiful original soundtrack;
  • Narrative-driven plot;
  • Amazing voice-acting;
  • Fully developed characters;
  • Immersive interface;
  • High level of in-game options.

The Bad

  • Not a true open-world game;
  • Stagnated path inhibit exploration and the illusion of free well;
  • Exessive violence is contradictory to repetitive moral discussions and decisions;
  • You can’t decide the path of your characters.

The Ugly?

  • Action sequences might get repetitive;
  • Players are going to feel disconnected to the main character’s motivation and desitions during a portion of the game;
  • The main characters are a lesbian couple, a decision that has detracted many from the actual game itself;
  • The story is so sad and difficult to see you probably won’t want to replay the game for a while;
  • The presence of LGBTQ+ characters is probably a last-minute corporate call

The Last of Us Part II Overview

I’ll be discussing all of these points in detail below. As of now, you might think the cons are not cons, just things to expect out of a Naughty Dog title. And that’s exactly what this is: a Naughty Dog title, so it packs everything that has turned this game studio into such a legend. It has the music, the voice acting, the character animation, the environments, and the cinematic action to make you want to say until the end of the story.

For now, I’m leaving you with a score you can hear on some of the harsh moments of The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us Part II Gamer’s Experience

Let’s forget about what The Last Of Us Part II is trying to say and focus on what’s important for us gamers, which is the experience we have with the titles we play.

Any AAA game must offer an immersive, even addictive experience. Either its multiplayer features or single-player campaign should be able to keep you in you at the edge of your seat.

That’s exactly what The Last of Us Part II accomplishes. Playing this game feels like watching a Hollywood movie, only that you have a controller on your hands to experience what most of us are seeking on pricy titles like this, which is…yes…explosions and death. Who are we kidding?

The minute we hit the “New Game” option, we enter a stunning world in every sense of the world. Either on FullHD, HD, 4K, or just your grandma’s old TV, this game looks astonishing. It flows, it feels alive, and it gives you the sense of a fat-budget Hollywood movie. I’d say The Last of Us II by Naughty Dog packs some of the most beautiful environments ever created for a videogame. Only Detroit Become Human can truly compete against this visual masterpiece.

As story unwraps in front of you, you’ll uncover the phenomenal writing that already took The Last of Us’ creative director Neil Duckman into HBO‘s HQ to work on the game’s upcoming HBO TV series.

It’s also a game about moments, which is, in my opinion, the best thing that can happen. The story is emotional, the writing is phenomenal, and the stakes are personal. If you have any feelings at all, it will bring out some tears.

Likewise, exploration, combat, and survival are as much of a challenge as it was in the original game. Each bullet counts, each hideout serves a purpose, and each killing spree is as exciting and the last, and everything flows inward graciously with Gustavo Santoalla’s atmospheric music.

But that’s just my experience, though, as many have said before me the gameplay may become repetitive and numb halfway through the game.

So, from a gorgeous and detailed world to gut moments and riveting action sequences, The Last of Us Part II is one heck of a 30H plus gamer experience. In fact, for a single-player-only game, this game is impressively long.

Let’s get into detail.

A story about revenge and redemption

(Spoilers ahead)

The Last of Us Part II is a dance between brutality and mercy, just like its predecessor. But instead of hope vs. despair kind-of-quest, the second installment is about revenge vs. redemption. In that regard, it’s a great example of how to address mature subjects on an action/adventure game made for adults mostly.

Here’s the thing. The game is set five years after the first journey. Ellie and Joel have been wandering around a violent and virulent United States. Now, both characters have settled in Jackson, Wyoming, where there’s a constant threat of infection, hunger, and death.

Nevertheless, Joel’s past actions (and how he betrayed Firefly) are not forgotten, so the consequences of his acts have unforeseen events.

Jackson is a little community of survivors thriving for stability. Soon, a violent spree destroys the elusive peace and takes a huge toll on both the player and Ellie.

With your wide-open eyes, you’re going to see one of the most impactful moments in videogame history: Joel’s murder. Such an event sets you, as Ellie, to a path of revenge, justice, and closure. But as she hunts down the ones responsible for her suffering, she faces the toll of her actions, both emotional and otherwise.

“Is this how it really goes?”

That’s exactly what you’re going to think during most of your playthrough.

The Last of Us Part II review
The Las of Us Part II is a game about revenge and redemption…but mostly about revenge. Source: Polygon.

If you’re already familiar with The Last of Us, you already know a dark plot awaits your command. It’s a game packed with hurting twists, hard choices, empathy for your enemies, and hatred for yourself.

This is a revenge story. This is a revenge story where you are Ellie, now telling her first-person narration through her actions. Sometimes, you will believe she’s right. Even when she’s ruthless, you’re going to see how it’s justified, how she’s not naive, and weak like during her first rodeo.

But you’re also going to feel Ellie is wrong, offensive, merciless. You may say to yourself that you’re one of the good ones, but, in reality, you’re just out there looking to do some bad to ease your suffering.

Violence has a consequence in The Last of Us

What happens on The Las of Us Part II is a ripple effect of Joel’s rampage to save what he sees as his “daughter.” Back in the first game, Joel had a quest to turn Ellie into the “Firefly” organization, a group of doctors trying to find a cure against the “fungus” that turns people into zombies.

Ellie was immune, so Joel was led to believe her blood would be humanity’s salvation. After a long travel and after defeating death itself, Joel found out Ellie was just one of the various immune kids found by Firefly, so she was only going to be subject to further experiments. That means that attempting to find the cure meant Ellie’s departure.

Joe lost her daughter right when the plague began. He then learned humanity had no hope, and an idea he reassured multiple times during the game. Naturally, then, Joel decided Ellie’s life was above humanity’s survival, so he killed the guards and the doctor, and took her away.

Because there’s no choice mechanics in The Las of Us franchise, there was no way to win the game without murdering the doctor. The doctor wasn’t selfish, cruel, or “wrong” in any way. He had spent most of his life finding the cure, and his downfall was his willingness of sacrificing Ellies life for the sake of hope.

Years later, whilst Ellie is on her patrolling duties on Jackson, a young woman named Abby murders Joel. And as the game goes by, we’re going to see how the doctor and Abby are connected. Just like Joel choose to save Ellie over humanity, Abby chooses to murder Joel for the loss of his father and not because of the loss of humanity’s last hope.

It’s all very personal

Ellie is the hero, the villain, and none at the same time. You, as Ellie, are just looking for revenge, even if redemption seems like the better option later down the road.

So, the first half of the game, you’re going to seek & destroy the ones involved in Joel’s murder. The game turns into a violent spree of murder, revenge, blood, screams, explosions, shotguns, zombies, and punches. In The Last of Us Part II, it’s all very personal. There’s no world-ending conflict, much less a world-saving solution. Instead, it’s a basic motivation that speaks about the game’s narrative engine: human relationships and family over everything else. And there’s no end to revenge. Joel killed the doctor. Abby kills Joel. Ellie kills someone Abby loves, and so it goes…

Ellie’s Journey

You, as Ellie, are going to feel all of this very personal. You’re also going to see how much Ellie has grown from the first game. Whereas she’s still fearless, loyal, and honest, she has traded all hope for a ruthless attitude. She’s now a jaded survivor hunted by memories of her past failures. She wasn’t able to find the cure, and she wasn’t able to keep Joel alive either.

She’s also a lesbian character, which is something we already knew by the first trailers. When The Last of Us Part II promotional materials first appeared, it seemed like her sexuality was going to be a big part of the game. And it is, but it doesn’t undermine the story. I think it makes it better: she’s an angsty teen growing on a post-apocalyptic world without her “father,” Joel, and she still struggles to tell Joel’s ghost about her first girlfriend and companion, Dina.

Her feelings and relationships are explored and brought forward in every way. Even her relationship with Joel becomes deeper via flashbacks. Still, she struggles with Joel’s destroyed vaccine, which makes growing up in a world full of infectious bites a guilty sin. Her journey, then, is not only about revenge. It’s also about forgiving herself, forgiving Joel, and accepting where her past actions have taken her. And humanity. Is a sad story, but beautiful from a narrative perspective.

The Last of Us Joel
The Las of Us sequel puts you in the shoes of Ellie. Source: EssentiallySports.com.

The Last of Us Part II makes you play as the antagonist

There’s an old saying in movies explaining how a movie can only be as good as his villain. A good movie should flush out the antagonist just as much as the protagonist. It should make the audience wonder if the villain is right.

Following that train of ideas, Naughty Dog delivers the game’s first big and cynical twist. But it’s only logical, once we understand how revenge is just a non-stop wheel.

After the first half of the game, you get to play as “Abby,” the villain, which is something Sony and Naughty Dog wanted to keep secret for a while.

Here’ where we discover she’s trained for many years to avenge the death of his father. She believes her actions are justified.

The first portion of their playthrough, which is the second half of the game, is about seeing how most of her friends (which includes a pregnant woman and a dog) are killed by Ellie’s group. In her mind, they are the villains.

Soon enough, she finds Ellie, another young girl she believes has part of the reason for her father’s murder. So she takes it back by the means of the only justice that exists in this ravaged land: blood.

And just like Ellie, Abby is nor the villain, not the hero, nor both. Both of them are just two sides of a conflict, only that we’re more familiar with Ellie. Only that the story started with Ellie, which is why we tend to believe she’s the “good guy.”

It’s all about perspective

Here’s where we find the kind of violence that may be exhausting for most. The Last of Us Part II forces us to play through Abby’s eyes and see her go through similar experiences as Ellie: horror, trauma, violence, loss,… And then, you’re forced to fight against Ellie.

And I say force because you can’t make any choices within this game. You’re just playing a movie. Even though you have the controller in your hands, you’re just exploring a narrative and a discussion that’s not considering you.

That’s a cruel approach, but, then again, this is not a Bioware game. You’re just here to have an experience, even when that experience requires you to punish the game’s “hero” to win. You are just a witness to everything the characters are asking you to do with your PS4 controller.

From Abby’s perspective, though, Ellie’s the villain. Maybe if you had seen her point of view first you could understand better. And that’s part of the problem many people are seeing: the game’s message about violence and revenge is constantly beating you up in the head.

From Abby’s perspective, you’re also a good person. Abby helps people along the way, saves a close friend, and feels empathy for her enemies. So when it’s time to push the trigger for the due punishment, you’re going to do it.

The “controversial part”

Now, many discussions about the game were guided by the fact The Last of Us Part II includes an LGBT+ character (Abby’s trans friend Levi) plus a lesbian couple (Ellie and Dina).

This is part of the company’s ongoing diversity politics.  The thing is these kinds of subjects always brings out a discussion that has not much to do with the game itself. Once you start including “diversity,” there’s never going to be enough diversity on your products. There’s always going to be someone who feels offended.

That’s just how it goes. Me? I just think it was a last-minute inclusion to fit modern political agendas. Maybe it’s also the reason why the game took so long. And I don’t know, but 3 out of 4 main characters members of the LGBT+ community seems like an odd statistic.

In the end, I do feel the diversity made the game better, and I’m happy about that. For example, Ellie and Dani’s relationship was pretty engaging, whilst Levi’s story was pretty harsh.

Your Last of Us gameplay won’t be easy

Not only The Last of Us Part II follow the same hard survival approach of the first. It also adds the human relationship factor that’s there to make you feel uncomfortable each time you kill an “enemy.”

That’s also part of the problem. You’re going from interaction and bonding to scavenging, hunt, and kill. And then, each time you finish one of those action sequences, your character (as well as the others around you) is going to feel sorry and guilty about the violence. Over and over again.

On top of that, there are different factions in the game that react differently to these kinds of situations. For instance, some characters will pray for your forgiveness as you’re about to kill them.

It gets more visceral than that. You get to see Ellie’s face as she kills an enemy from the back. You get to see how your enemies’ last gurgles of blood taint Ellie’s clothes and face. Moreover, you get to hear how enemies plead for their life, whilst the game has no option of forgiveness. Playing The Last of Us Part II is accepting the path of all violence, even when the game is constantly telling you…”hey, this is wrong, and you just killed Sharon.”

And for the sake of the message, Ellie’s desition making is constantly poor and brutal. As this is an action game, the act of killing is just part of the fun, so why spoil it?

So when the perspective changes one last time towards Ellie’s eyes, we’ve already seen her as a selfish killing machine. Joel doomed everyone else because he loved Ellie, but Ellie burns it all down because she’s in pain.

She’s in such pain that she hates Joel for saving her life at the same time. Her own life has no meaning other than suffering. She knows the world could have been better with the cure. But the impact of Joel’s selfish reasons doesn’t slow her own. By all means, she’s forcing us to witness some very nasty actions.

That’s not easy either. Your growing hate for both Ellie and Joel are not easy. And you don’t even have a choice. Is there any redemption for this?

Can Ellie redeem herself?

The wheels of revenge go on and on all over the game until Abby decides to let it go. A few years later, though, Ellie gets a hint on Abby’s location. Her newfound family is not reason enough to let it go, though. Love was not enough to heal her wounds, she needs some murder.

We’re used to seeing our characters progress on a story. Seldom times we see a regression arc like this.

So, during the last part of the game,  The Last of Us Part II leads you to a sad and boring fight against Ellie, and you lose. Such selfish boring revenge won’t make you root for any character.

Whereas The Last of Us Part I made us understand and even justify everything Joel did, Part II falls flat on this department. But it seems like that’s part of the point. Her pointless fight against Abby left her without two fingers. Then, she returned to an empty home. Her revenge gave her nothing. Her revenge made her lose everything.

And there’s no redemption for that. So, in the end, your hero is a broken person, but not a broken character.

By the end of the game, Ellie’s not even able to play guitar. Her pointless quest left her unable to play the instrument Joel taught her how to play. And her home, empty. A missing family she struggled to find, as she grew up as a homosexual teenager on a post-apocalyptic and homophobic United States without a father.

Ellie The Last of Us Part II
Joel was Ellie’s guitar teacher. He’s the reason why Ellie can play. Source: Flipboard.

The Last of Us Part II is a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It will probably work on PlayStation 5 as via retro-compatibility. This review is part of our on-going series detailing the best games of 2020. We already reviewed Valorant, go check that free-to-play FPS if you’re looking for some quick, non-demanding fun. If you’re looking for a single-player experience for the PlayStation 4 as well, we also reviewed Final Fantasy VII Remake.

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In Summary

As I said, it’s just about the experience. It’s about seeing how Ellie’s regression arc unveils and have an immersive experience in the process.

The experience, though, is not like your typical AAA game. It’s nor heroic, neither heartwarming. It’s brutal, tiresome, and difficult.

All things considered, The Last of Us Part II is the PS4 masterpiece you need to play. Nonetheless, it’s also the kind of game you won’t be replaying anytime soon. Final say? Sit down, take your controller, and enjoy this very long movie.

What do you think about The Last of Us Part II? Please leave your comments below! That said, my avid readers, welcome to our site!

Please, stick around, as we’re going to be posting every week.

The Last of Us Part II is PS4's Masterpiece
4.8Brutal
The Last of Us Part II is a brutal display of violence, astonishing graphics, and exciting gameplay. And it gets the message home, so much that you won't be replaying the game anytime soon.

Positives

  • Gorgeous looking game
  • Fine-tuned mechanics
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Fully-fledged characters
  • Evolving plot
  • Professional voice-acting
  • Immersive in-game options

Negatives

  • Action might feel repetitive
  • Straight-path kind of game
  • Moral discussions contradict constant violence
  • No ability to make choices

Breakdown

  • Brutal, cinematic, gorgeous 4.8/5
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