Last of Us 2 Review: A Dark, Profound but ultimately Hollow Sequel

The Last of Us is one of the most influential games of the previous decade. As such, a sequel was highly anticipated after the first game ended in rather a vague state. Now, almost 7 years later, the Last of Us 2 is here, vaguely holding on to its fundamentals, not respecting the previous game and ultimately just not being a worthy sequel.

The Good

  • Incredible Visuals
  • Good Performance
  • Polished gameplay mechanics
  • Wide variety of customization
  • High level of detail in-game and in optioning
  • Good Script writing

The Bad

  • The core loop of Stealth-Loot-Shoot has not evolved
  • Not highly appealing or engaging than the first game
  • Minor to no changes in exploration, traversal, and environmental puzzles
  • Tired and Outdated gameplay
  • Messy story

The Breathtaking Visuals

last of Us 2 Visuals

The level design has exceeded any and all expectations I had. From the first gameplay trailer, it was clear Naughty Dog was creating each level to be vast and explorable rather than the arcade-ish stealth of the first one. The reclamation of mother nature in the first game feels all but complete.

Vegetations are seen splinting up from the hole. The remains of the big building busting through feels like the human civilization are holding on its last line of defenses. A final gasp begging for remembrance before the vestiges are forever vanquished. It seems as if we are on a tour of this beautiful but the deadly post-apocalyptic world that the first game doesn’t even come close to. These visuals are top-of-the-line and the best Naughty Dog has ever produced.

Not to be confused however the level designs are still very linear but in a rather good way. This is heavily reinforced in the first mission of the game where you are in Seattle’s ruins and free to explore at your will. A rather sleight of hand as you still need to explore specific places and find specific things. Still, it’s 2-3 hours of dalliance for what is to come is a 20 hour of linearity. Now, linearity itself is not a problem but I wonder what the game could have achieved had it endorsed itself into the freedom and exploration that comes with an open-world game.

The Outdated and Tiresome Gameplay

Last Of Us 2 Gameplay

The first game was reliant on scripted set-piece moments or environmental puzzles to make the gameplay more varied. Here in the sequel, there are fewer of these set-piece moments and far fewer environmental puzzles. Hence, combat and stealth work more as a pacing mechanism than anything.

Coming back to the point of environmental puzzles, I was extremely disappointed by how few there were and how phoned in they felt. The first game received criticism for it being too reliant on moving ladders and dumpsters to solve the puzzles, Naughty dog instead of improving upon those elements, decided to completely dump the puzzles this time around. There are maybe a few ropes or ladder puzzles, but other than that, there is nothing else to solve.
A good puzzle requires me to think and challenge my intelligence to solve it. In this game, however, the most challenging scenario arrives when you are trying to find the exit door after a mission is complete.

Minor Improvements to the Gameplay

Last of Us 2 Bosses

Heading into the second installment, I was looking for some major gameplay improvement over the first one. Now, although there are changes here, they are rather refinements and improvements rather than anything fundamentally new or redesigned. If you enjoyed the gameplay of The Last of Us, you’ll likely have a blast playing the second one too.
This game is still however incredibly capable of creating tense stealth moments. The intense environment is maintained here exactly how it was in the first game with the difference being that it has not at improved all that much from the previous title.

The infected have changed but the changes are mostly cosmetic. The same goes with the humans expect now that some have dogs with them. The dogs are a welcome addition and prevent the aforementioned linearity too much. It still starts to feel repetitive after the first few hours.

The stealth feels outdated for the poorly designed AI, the linear level designs, the static world, and the short amount of tools at your disposal. Playing in normal difficulty, the enemies are barely decent. Dozens of times enemies would just look at me murder their friends only to squint and look away as apparently they didn’t spot me. Piles of bodies on the floor also don’t deter them at all.

I will say though this game offers some of the best customizable difficulties I’ve seen in a game. It’s possible to tune almost any and all options for the AI.

Incredible Bossfights

Last of Us 2 Improvements

When TLOU2 does succeed, which is often, it’s incredible. The moment-to-moment action is tense and brutal. Even though it made me uneasy, I kept pushing ahead to see what would happen next, hoping to find one of those scarce moments of peace. One of the best parts of the game is the boss fights. There are a handful of pivotal conflicts throughout the story, but they don’t play out the way a typical video game boss battle does. It’s not about you facing the biggest, boldest enemy there is. (There are some of those, but the most memorable conflicts are different.) Often, you are the aggressor, the more powerful one, exerting your will on someone weaker or in a desperate situation. It turns the tables in a way that makes combat a key storytelling tool.

Verdict

Last of Us Verdict

Playing The Last of Us Part 2, a game that showcases how humans will enact violence upon one another to their dying breaths, is a very strange thing in 2020. Naughty Dog created a world in which people across America react to a massive structural crisis by dividing and disconnecting from others, rather than uniting together to demand something better — not just for themselves, but for the most marginalized people in their communities.

All of those terrible things in the game— the decapitated corpses, the bloody hammers, the dead dogs — had a price. And that fact that you’re directly involved in those moments makes it all the more heartbreaking.

By the end of a big blockbuster game like this, my mind usually jumps to what will come next or puzzle over some of the mysteries in the story. With The Last of Us Part II, I was glad it was over.

Just like Ellie, I was exhausted.

Score

7/10

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