The Last of Us Part II (2020) Video Game Review

details
Title: The Last of Us Part II.

RELEASE DATE: 2020.
Mode(s): Single-Player.
GENRE(S): ACTION, ADVENTURE, DRAMA.

Director(s): Neil Druckmann, Kurt Margenau & Anthony Newman.
Writer(s): Halley Wegryn Gross & Neil Druckmann.
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla.
Voice Actor(s): Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Derek Phillips, Jeffrey Pierce, and many more!

My Overall Rating:★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10).

thoughts

A loss can be deadly. It can strip you of hope within an instant. It can blaze through your consciousness and lead you down a dark path with nowhere else to turn. It can destroy you and turn you into an unrecognizable monster. But how do you do deal with loss? How do you overcome such emotions to move on and reconcile with yourself? To not waste the life you still possess? Some would look into forgiveness. Others will prefer revenge. Following the critically-acclaimed success of The Last of Us, the developers over at Naughty Dog set their eyes upon creating a sequel that has awoken both praise and controversy from fans all around the world. As expected, they’ve decided to deliver a challenging and morally-ambiguous narrative centered around the cycle of violence and its destructive nature.

What is The Last of Us Part II about? Set five years after the events of the first game, the story reveals the new life built in Jackson, Wyoming for Joel and Ellie where countless survivors of a devastating pandemic have now built a peaceful and thriving community. While the two of them go through a rough patch, it is during a patrol mission around their camp to eliminate any Infected that things go south and a tragedy falls upon our heroes. Driven by an unquenchable thirst for revenge, Ellie, with the help of some allies, sets out for Seattle to find closure for a loss she could never truly accept and justice she never got. Throughout her journey, the truth is intermittently and masterfully unveiled as we discover the yearning for truth, the chaotic darkness within us, and the complexity of pain through loss.

Here's 37 Glorious The Last Of Us Part II GIFS To Blow Your Mind

Despite my unconditional love for the games developed by Naughty Dog as well as their irrefutable masterpiece that is The Last of Us, I came out of this second game feeling cheated. I avoided all of the trailers following their E3 announcement a couple of years ago, allowing me to be spared of the publicity manipulation that was accomplished (if you’ve played the game, see the trailer below) but the aforementioned manipulation was omnipresent, especially through the narrative structure of this game. This simply made it too difficult to appreciate the story for what it is.

What am I talking about? The major death revealed early in the game to launch this quest for vengeance has a lot of shock value and isn’t a bad move as it remains your primary fuel for the remainder of the story but once you hit the halfway mark of the game, the story forces you to play that one character that you sought to kill, making it near impossible to accept, forgive, or desire any exploration of that character’s background, motive, and personality. At this point in the game, it is basically shooting yourself in the foot to ask of the player to invest themselves in someone that they have simply hated from the very beginning of the game. Exploring the other side of the coin isn’t a bad idea, but the execution here is a devastating blow at the story’s chance to grow on you. The strategy used here to tell this tale of vengeance ultimately made everything you do as a player void of authenticity.

Here's 37 Glorious The Last Of Us Part II GIFS To Blow Your Mind

This could’ve worked wonderfully if it simply had been done differently. Maybe if they had made us discover this villain without knowing what they’d do in the end, before making us go on a quest for revenge, there might have been a chance for the narrative to compel the player into further exploring the story and grasp the theme at the heart of this game. Instead, throughout the game, you are forced to kill major side-characters only to destroy a protagonist that you have grown to love with the first game. In the end, there are no choices left in the hands of the player, everything is destined to play out the way it was designed.

And that is the fatal flaw in the story that killed it for me. The complete disregard for player agency. I believe that no matter what game you play or what story is being told, everything you do within a video game should be willing. We should believe that the action we’re doing is logical with the character we’re playing. We should be convinced of clicking the buttons required for the story to progress. In this case, you’re often put in critical story-telling moments that allow none of that for the player. From the absence of choice and unwieldy genuineness to a complete disregard for previously established characterization, this tale of revenge suffers enormously in its ability to tell a story that can be appreciated for its exploration of the cycle of violence.

Here's 37 Glorious The Last Of Us Part II GIFS To Blow Your Mind

Although the story remains its most controversial element, the same cannot be said for the rest of this video game. Developer Naughty Dog continues to push the limits of the current generation console with what might be the best visuals, score, motion-capture video game acting, and gameplay of all time. Polishing everything that was already perfect in the first game, they upped their game in this sequel in unimaginable ways. From the moment you enter this world, you are instantly immersed in a post-apocalyptic world where happiness rhymes with survival and danger lurks in the shallow corners of nature and ruins. There isn’t a moment throughout this game where you don’t drool over the meticulous detail put into every inch of this universe.

With what might be some of the best graphics to have ever been created on the PlayStation, you cannot help but feel a sense of awe at the gorgeous environment as your characters squint into the horizon to appreciate those seconds of calm they can find amidst all the chaos and bloodshed. The details are also conveyed through the incredible number of ultra-violent animations that take into context the dynamic environment. These executions are simply not for the faint of heart but will appeal for those who believe that violence is cathartic, especially within a video game. The side-objectives focused around picking up written letters from strangers to discover various sub-plots and around opening safes are also brilliant and allow for additional world-building that helps the player understand the complexity of this post-apocalyptic universe.

Last of Us 2' Release Date, Trailer, Rumors, and Everything Else ...

And this brings me to the second fatal flaw in this video game. There’s a significant disconnect between the main narrative focused on the revenge tale and the actual gameplay. I believe that everything you do within a game should reflect or be considered in the evolution of your character and, by consequence, the evolution of the story. In this case, the revenge plot suffers immensely in a dual-narrative story that stretches out for countless hours on top of the aforementioned side-objectives that players will likely want to pick up along the way. There’s simply no sense of character development incorporated within the gameplay as players are falsely led to believe in personal growth and introspection through manipulative quick-time events and cutscenes.

Throughout the game, you’re savagely killing people in ways that only a deranged psychopath would have pleasure in doing, yet in the main story, this genocide isn’t reflected in the character. The main character continues to feel things that shouldn’t even be considering that they should’ve been completely desensitized by the numerous deaths executed through their own hands for the past years post-pandemic. Based on the gameplay alone, this character should’ve grown to blindly desire death to others or themselves and not be subject to the numerous moments of regret. Their suffering should’ve been a testament to their loss of hope while the villain should’ve offered us a look at the subtleties of forgiveness. While the game does confusingly explore the cycle of violence through vengeance and redemption, it fails to deliver its message by the end of this adventure.

The Last of Us Part II (2020) is a visually-stunning revenge tale with ingeniously-creative gameplay that, unfortunately, suffers from a controversial narrative structure and a disregard for player agency.


EXHIBITA
The Last of Us Part II is one of the best-selling PS4 Games AND the FASTEST-SELLING platform exclusive.

Have you played this game?
Will you? What do you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!

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36 comments

  • Oh, that does not sound good. I don’t play much any more, but when I do, one thing is the most important factor in how I rate a game – story. It can be a story of building an empire in Civ, winning a II World War in one of many WWII strategies I play, or, on a smaller scale, a plot of RPG game. But story is my focus, not graphics, not even gameplay…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely understand your stance there, Piotrek. It’s what I hunt for too. As a reader, I think video games are very capable of achieving great story-telling if they care enough. Sometimes the gameplay dilutes it, but when done right, they both work hand in hand and that’s what I love the most. Here… It just wasn’t the case hahah

      Liked by 1 person

      • Games are not a new medium any more, after 40 years, and they are more and more often becoming art 🙂 I have great hopes for Cyberpunk, and there’s a new game in the Civilization genre, called Humankind, that has a potential of telling a very interesting story on a much bigger scale… now I only need to find time to play 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • I am with you 100%. It’s what I’ve been telling people for years now. Especially naysayers who hate on video games (e.g. those who think that video games are the cause of violence and whatnot). It’s an art in itself and it has so much to offer if you allow it to!

          Same here for Cyberpunk. The delays have been cutting into my expectations though but I hope they know what they’re doing. That Humankind game by SEGA looks indeed very, very promising. I hope it delivers! And yes… Time is always the big question mark on anything fun huh? 😛

          Liked by 1 person

  • Ha dang Lashaan! That’s too bad. But I am no gamer at all. Though I agree with you the art and how they made it is stunning. Games look so realistic now! One of my kid has a friend who is studying to make these kind of games and I had a hoot asking him tons of questions about their making of!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right? I’m amazed by how far we’ve come with video games today. Some of them have achieved incredible levels of detail that almost feel like we’re playing a MOVIE and I love that! The making of a game is even more fascinating, especially when you realize just how much work and how many people are needed to achieve this kind of quality! 😮

      Like

    • Hahahaah it would’ve indeed been banned for so many reasons years ago! I’m convinced that your son has already heard of this one though. It’s one of those games that everyone has heard about because of its controversial success! 😀

      Like

  • Oh yikes 😬. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first game’s ending, but it’s still a bummer to hear how disappointing the story was in this game. I guess this is just another sequel I can forget exists hahaha. Really great review, Lashaan 🙂!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh, that’s interesting! Not many people dare say that actually hahah Well, the second picks up on the narrative that was left of at the end of the first one. Maybe this one will surprise you. 😉 If you ever end up giving it a try, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading, Belle! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • Well, that sucks. I know you were looking forward to this one. And even all that amazing work on visuals can’t make up for major problems with story or gameplay. I don’t really play videogames anymore, at least not in quite some time, but those I enjoyed were always the ones that felt most open ended, that had a story but let you adapt it, that gave you some freedom within it, not those that forced you down a specific road. So I can understand some of the frustation you mentioned. Do you have another game to look forward to next?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, it was a bit sad that the change in directors and the shift in writing gave us a sequel that could’ve been spared on fans but I’m still glad to see them work hard to make such a polished game. It could only mean that future games are very likely to blow our minds even more! 😀 I agree. Manipulating players into feeling things is not a path that any developers should go down and hopefully they learn from this and not see all the high praise from critics as a thumbs up to repeat this… I am indeed looking forward to plenty of upcoming new releases but I’m currently going through a recent release called Ghost of Tsushima with a Japanese/Mongolian historical samurai lore to it. Having fun with it but taking it slow till the next big release which be after the Summer!

      Like

      • Just watched a gameplay demo of Ghost of Tsushima. Wow, that looks awesome! I’ve never played a game quite like that. And, of course, what feature immediately stood out to me? Photo mode! I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • This made me giggle hahahah But yes! I think you would’ve had a blast with the photo mode as the game really strives from its environmental design and visuals. Getting that perfect angle just feels so satisfying! Thanks, Todd!

          Like

  • I loved the first The Last of Us game. Played through the PS3 version multiple times, and the remastered PS4 version once. I rarely find the time to replay games these days. But as of right now, I have no interest in playing The Last of Us 2. I know enough about the story to know that it leaves you feeling empty, not to mention the entire story is a revenge plot. I have no interest in playing a revenge game that leaves you feeling empty, nor do I have interest in playing a game that kills off the first game’s main character in the first hour. The relationship between Joel and Ellie, and the masterfully written character development behind that relationship, is what made the first game so special.

    When I do find the time to play games, I’d rather play something fun, or at least has a hopeful ending within a darker story. That is if I don’t spend my precious little gaming time playing online with friends I haven’t seen in person since February.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you on TLoU and I can’t blame you for not wanting to try out the second game for yourself. It’s unrewarding if you disregard the visuals/score/gameplay and that’s not always what players are looking for at the end of the day.

      Same here for gaming time. A lot of it is just our nightly Call of Duty online sessions that have been a habit since High School for us hahaha Those sessions are most of our socializing time too anyways.

      Like

  • Uugh this for me is an unforgivable presumption on the developer’s part. What’s the use of playing a game if all your choices have basically been made for you already and worse, you don’t agree with them? Sorry to hear it was such a disappointment for you, Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well put. I think the fundamental issue is that there’s an overlapping between creating a video game and creating a movie. Naughty Dog have been known for making games where their stories take the lead and I think they took that too at heart while forgetting that it’s a video game where players are supposed to be in control. Thanks for reading, Ola! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • That intro?! KILLED IT! AWESOMEEE😍😍😍😍

    Okay now…real talk..right now I feel exactly like I felt back when I read my first ever comic book review. It was by you, of course, and I had no idea what was going on. The only thing I DID know was I appreciated how beautifully and thoroughly you phrased it. AND THAT IS TRUE HERE AS WELLLL!! I LOVED READING IT! But I just…*sobs*….I dont know what you are talking abouuuutt!! 😭😭😭😭 Well, I will know more once I read one or two more – appreciate what it is you are soooo upset about with this video game!

    BUT AS ALWAYS – I LOVED IT. YOU ARE AWESOME! Keep the amazing posts coming! 😇🦋

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahahaha I can’t tell if it’s because I wasn’t clear enough on the various aspects I wanted to talk about or it’s just really abstract to people who don’t play video games at all! 😛 I usually try and make it as accessible as possible just so anyone can understand what’s going on hahaha I guess the next time I decide to do one of these video game reviews, your reaction will decide on how interesting those posts are for my followers! 😛 Thanks for reading anyways though! 😀

      Like

  • I was looking forward to this review since your post regarding the collector’s item.
    I’m sorry to hear that you, like many others, did not enjoy the game. I almost thought of getting into it for a moment (have not played part 1). But I guess there’s no point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can only HIGHLY recommend the first game, the original on the PS3 or the remastered one on PS4. I am, however, happily surprised to hear that you play certain games too??? You own a PS4? You play in-between writing stories??? What does the Great Goldie play in their free time?! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am more of a PC gamer. Or at least I used to be… Nothing really catching my interest as of late. But yes, I do have a PS4 and think about getting into it…

        Great Goldie… I like it!

        Liked by 1 person

  • Too bad that it did not live up to your expectations Laashan. I do not play video games, but my son sure does. I will have to ask him if he has heard of or played this one. It sounds pretty violent though, so he might not with the kids around all the time. It is disappointing when you wait for something and it does not measure up, especially when it is a sequel and you loved the first one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Carla! If he plays games, then there’s a good chance that he’ll know what this one’s about and all the controversy that surrounds it. And yyyeeees! Unnecessary sequels are a bit scary but also exciting. I just wish it didn’t go the direction it did here…

      Like

  • Whew, man I got the impression from our previous exchanges that you were a lot more positive about TLOU Part II – sorry to hear that wasn’t the case but I totally take your viewpoint and you make some good arguments my friend, which obviously depends on personal tastes.

    I’m completely in the ‘other’ camp, TLOU2 is a 10/10 masterpiece for me – yes it’s tragic, brutal and bleak but there are certainly moments of hope and humanity in there, even if they can be bittersweet. This is the story Naughty Dog wanted to tell and it worked for me, since completing the game I’ve watched and read several creator interviews (mainly with Neil D, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker) and it’s only enriched my appreciation for the game and what the intentions were.

    I don’t think this takes anything away from the first game, which I also adore (side note: some are upset by the violence in Part II but after another recent playthrough of TLOU, it’s far more violent than I remember – I mean those moments as Ellie when you sneak up to an enemy and knife them…wow!). I know the second half of the game is a make or break moment for a lot of players. Man, I really want a Part III! Sorry if this seems rant-y I just couldn’t be more passionate about this game and disheartened by it’s divisiveness…got to point out there’s been some really sickening and unnecessary vitriol (i.e. Laura Bailey receiving death threats which included her kids!).

    Phew, take a breath Chris hahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha I probably kept my thoughts at a minimum so that you could finish up the game without any kind of influence from my end! But I appreciate that you took the time to read this review that offers my honest take on my gaming experience with it.

      I am happy that you got to go through it completely impressed by what they had to offer. I did love everything else about the game and it’s probably why I could replay this without throwing a tantrum or something about the story. I’ll still end up supporting all of their future projects though but I do hope that they’ll move on from TLOU and work on something completely new for the PS5.

      And I’m with you. It’s a big no-no to go ahead and send death threats to voice actors and whatnot. Video games are an art form and it should be expected that it might sometimes not be perceived the same from one gamer to another!

      I honestly could see how they might have set up the story in Part II for a sequel too… They could make a “futuristic” post-apocalyptic story within TLOU with a whole new cast or even an older Abby + Lev combo. They could even bring back Ellie in her old age, sort of like Sarah Connor too! 😮

      Like

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