Finally. A fat, juicy AAA title to sink my teeth into that wasn’t a reboot. Sure it is a sequel but that can be forgiven as it is a sequel to one of my previous Game of the Year winners. Let us re-join Joel & Ellie in their post-apocalypse fight for survival in The Last of Us Part II.
Just before you proceed, thought you ought to know There will Be Spoilers.
So we start the game with the ending of the previous game conveniently retold to us by Joel and the massacre he made of the Fireflies in order to save Ellie from being dissected in order to find a cure for the Cordyceps fungus pandemic. Fast forward 4 years later and the two have settled down to life in Jackson, Wyoming. During a scouting mission Joel and his brother Tommy rescue a survivor Abby from a hoard of infected. Abby takes the two back to Abby’s group who unknown to the brothers are remnants the Fireflies who ambush the brothers. Ellie finds Joel just in time to watch Abby beat Joel to death for killing her father, one of the surgeons who died in Joel’s massacre. Ellie swears revenge against Abby and sets out to Seattle in pursuit of Abby and her gang.
Now I like to think that someone somewhere at Naughty Dog read my review of The Last of Us and thought “Yes, we must fix those niggles for our next game”. I think this because that’s exactly what they did. Unlike the first game I really managed to get absorbed into the game and feel immersed into the world. The stealth aspect that felt as thought it was at times either too sensitive or not sensitive enough has been evened out too. The game looks and feels superior to it’s predecessor.
From the very onset of the game the visuals are absolutely stunning. The detail of the environment and the fluidity of the characters movements and facial expressions show that a lot of time and effort has been spent polishing the game to such a finish that even Rhianna would complement it’s shine. This enforces the immersive capabilities of the game. You can’t help but feel tense as you sneak up on an enemy as you hope to your preferred flavour of deity that the poor bastard doesn’t turn round.
The immersion is also helped by the depth of the characters in the game. You get a sense that these are real people, feeling real feelings and having real struggles. However, I failed to sympathise with either Ellie or Abby during the game. Ellie’s sole goal is Abby’s death because she killed Joel, but Joel did a shitty thing and kinda deserved what he got. On the other hand Abby did a particularly shitty thing in killing Joel so kinda deserves what’s coming for her. All my sympathy was spent on the horses having to stay out in the cold as long as they did and later on getting blown up and shot, despite the fact they never killed anyone (that we know of). This makes the message of cause and consequence in regards to revenge and taking a life that the game is so obviously wanting to portray somewhat weaker with each enemy Ellie makes new neck holes for.
So we have established that the combat is good (actually looking back I haven’t, btw the combat is good, done, moving on) and the story telling is good. However, the parts in between them are a bit of a slug-a-thon. These are the parts in films that are usually skipped over, like how you never see James Bond browsing through duty-free as he waits for his flight to be called to continue to where the rest of the plot is happening. Usually these parts consist of move in said direction for a while, except for the little open world bit where Ellie must roam the central district of Seattle looking for gasoline.
So if Naughty Dog are reading this (as we’ve already established, they are) recommendations I would like to make for The Last of Us Part III are in short: a) More open world explore and b) A bit less Ludo-narrative dissonance please. Aside from them just do more of the same please.