***Please note that while I try to remain spoiler free, there may be some minor spoilers contained within. ***
It’s been 7 years since we saw Joel bust into a Firefly operating room, shoot the place up and take Ellie off the operating table saving her life but possibly damning the rest of humanity in doing so. When he explains to her that there were whole lot more people with immunity none of whom were able to help create a vaccine for the cordyceps virus. He further tells her that they had stopped the research into a cure.
Fast forward 4 years after the events of the first game, the Firelies have disbanded and life in Jackson is going pretty well. They have a nice safe community with electricity, a large wall protecting them from the outside and life is pretty well back to a new form of normal for the survivors. It’s not long before we’re thrust back into action and thus really begins The Last of Us 2.
The Last of Us was for all intents and purposes the swan song for the PS3 lo so many moons ago and it’s no surprise to me that The Last of Us 2 is following in it’s big sister’s footsteps. Graphically this game is some of the very best there is to offer on the PS4. Even running on my tired launch system, the graphics are nothing short of stunning. I can’t lie, this game alone really makes me wish I had the PS4 Pro right so I could enjoy it in 4K HDR but alas, I think I’ll wait to see what that’s like when the PS5 launches later this year.
From a gameplay perspective, TLoU2 doesn’t stray too far from what made the original so successful. Much like the predecessor, Ellie has the same abilities as Joel and the inventory system is the same but now the playing field has been changed up a bit. Not only do you rely on the cover system and being able to use sound to ascertain where the enemies are, but now you can use elevation to your advantage and the ability to jump gaps, while it may seem strange, is extremely useful when trying to run away from the fight.
Some new additions to Ellie’s backpack of helpful items is her switchblade which she has on hand right from the beginning. Thank the developer gods for this. I can’t remember how often I had run out of shivs in the original game resulting in my demise. Furthermore, later on in the game she’ll be able to craft her own arrows, explosive arrows and even incendiary ammo for the shotgun. <— RIGHT?!?
The skill tree has changed up a bit now too. This give you greater flexibility on how you develop your character skills to align more with your own style of play. For me, since I sometimes struggle with the chaos of the gun battles, I tend to keep a low profile and remove all my adversaries before moving on… Most of the time… There’s a few times I kid and slunk my way as slowly as possible to not be detected and to GTFO as fast as I could cause I wasn’t having any of what I was starring at. I also found that melee combat had a bit more of a front and center approach this time around giving you the ability to build more melee weapons and dodging along with straight up fisticuffs.
You’ll encounter a few types of enemies on your adventure. The enemies will actively hunt you should they detect your presence and should the fit really hit the shan, then you best be prepared because they will work together to flush you out using everything at their disposal even looking to get an angle on you. I found the AI to be well scripted and more often than not they managed to get me to retreat and regroup for a new plan of attack. It kept the fights fresh and engaging.
The WLF (Washington Liberation Front) – a heavily armed military like group who patrol areas and now use dogs to help sniff out intruders. I found the introduction of the dogs to be most interesting and stressful at times. Knowing full well that the dogs can sniff you out and alert others to your whereabouts resulted in more than a few sweaty palmed moments. Being able to distract them is as simple as tossing a brick or bottle which will send everyone running to that direction allowing you a few scant moments to reposition yourself in a new location.
The other group is the “Death Cult” the Seraphites, or Scars as they’re so affectionately referred to by their enemies. These people are more primitive and employ the use of bow and arrows, guns and melee attack weapons and they communicate with different whistle sounds.
And then there’s the big bad… The infected. Back for another kick at the can and they’re scarier and deadlier than ever. Stalkers for example, now actually stalk and plan out their attacks. They also can’t be detected when listening to them if they sit still and quiet. Trust me when I say that being in a dark building in the middle of Seattle knowing full well there are clickers about AND a pack of stalkers are watching you, makes for some truly white knuckle experiences in the dark recesses of a building. There were a few times that I decided I need to decompress and step away to compose myself. There are also a few extra surprises that I’m not about to divulge as I really want you to learn as I did.
I don’t want to go into too many details but the story by and large is told across multiple chapters over a series of days. It’s about loss, vengeance, grief and ultimately the consequences of our actions. Each moment will leave you thirsty for more and kept me glued to my seat far later than I should have been up on a work night (one day I went to bed at 3 – had to be up at 5).
There’s very little I can say that can take away from this gaming experience. I would have liked to perhaps see some extra attention paid to the abilities, means of disposing of enemies and maybe the weapons. Perhaps certain parts of the game could have seen a greater departure from feeling the same as other. You’ll know what I mean when you get in.
It took me about 30 hours to complete the game from start to finish but I have to admit I was feeling some extra pressure to rip through as fast as possible so I missed out on many of the collectibles which is OK by me. When you finish the game, you can replay in a game+ mode and start over with the same skill sets you finished with, which, I plan on doing as soon as I’m finished this post. I would also like to note that the sound engineers deserve some real love for their attention to detail and the composer really delivered some incredible music that perfect fits the tone of the game.
The Last of Us 2 is nothing short of extraordinary. Right from the moment the game starts until the end credits I was glued to my seat. Every single pixel, word, action, in The Last of Us 2 is extraordinary. Naughty Dog continues to exude extraordinary in everything that they do. Buckle up everyone. This game is about to knock your socks off and without a shadow of a doubt – I think we have this years Game of the Year. It’s going to be a tough hill to climb to knock this one down and it will surely go down as one of the greatest games of all time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game+ mode to play.
Some of the best story telling in games and cinema currently
Expanded skill tree
About half way through the game I had a feeling of “this is too similar to” – that’s all I can say without spoiling things. It’s really just a small thing and I quickly forgot that feeling.