Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Last of Us Part II [PS4]: An post-apocalyptic action-adventure game


The Last of Us Part II key features

Powerful, provocative storytelling – Its densely packed story, and discovering the new world is exceptional to the gameplay. A deep story that builds upon the original.

High-quality graphics and animations – Immersive effects and superb graphics. Naughty Dog's cutting edge facial animation technology lets even the slightest change in body language speak a thousand words.

Combat is viciously satisfying and realistic – Players are challenged with more diverse environmental puzzles that enrich combat and exploration. Firing a weapon results in a bloody explosion of flying body parts and gut-wrenching screams, while each melee combat feels like a genuine fight for survival.

There are few games that come out in any given year that already have a ton of baggage coming with them due to the previous sequel's success. 

And even fewer gamers have the legacy of The Last of Us to live up to when it comes to the perfect mixture of gameplay, story, graphics, music, and overall presentation. 

Giving true physicality to the idiom “a tough act to follow,” The Last of Us was Naughty Dog‘s declaration to the broader world that, yes, video games can be compelling media content even on par with the best of Hollywood. 

But the question remained at the end of it all: What comes next?

The burdens of a sequel

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After all, a sequel risks diluting the experience. If done poorly enough, sequels can even make us question our love for the original source material. Yet none of those concerns matter when it comes to The Last of Us Part II because it doesn't just meet expectations or carry on an esteemed tradition: It stands on its own merits entirely. 

What and Naughty Dog have done here is no less than a hat trick in that they have made two amazingly iconic games. Yet The Last of Us Part II shouldn't be considered in the vein of the traditional blockbuster sequel. It does what others do not do. It takes risks, rewards involvement, and delivers a compelling experience from the beginning until the end. 

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Players often worry about picking up a game that is as story-heavy as The Last of Us Part II if they haven't yet played the first title. In terms of substance, and without giving away any spoilers from either game, each title is crafted in such a way so that, narratively, they can stand on their own. This story design is no easy task for creatives, and it demonstrates the time and care that Naughty Dog's team has put into this game. All of this is to say that new players shouldn't hesitate to pick up a copy while those who are veterans are in for yet another epic experience. 

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As a direct sequel to the first game, having familiarity with that title will give you a richer experience when it comes to the lore but shouldn't impact a player's ability to enjoy the game. We have a mixture of stealth, exploration, and even some platforming elements that give the world a depth of access that the first game didn't lack but certainly didn't sport in this way. 

What new players should know

The controls are intuitive and contextual in many ways, reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption II except for more polished – particularly when it comes to combat. For the vast majority of the game, the player will control either Abby or Ellie as they make their way through forests, urban areas, and other environments. Combat is weapons-based with melee taking a backseat due to the rigors of maintaining the tension and “realism” of the overall premise. Melee weapons have a limited lifespan and, as in real life, are quite brutal and visceral. 

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Ellie and Abby are no slouches in the combat department. A run-and-gun approach isn't impossible, but it would make the game that much more difficult. When it comes to combat gameplay, strategy, and handling situations in the most efficient manner often becomes its own kind of puzzle-solving and amps up the replay value immensely as situations are incredibly dynamic. Controls and the various systems that make environmental interaction work all come together in a seamless and beautiful symphony of harmony that makes everything in The Last of Us Part II, a fluid experience. Again, there is a cinematic element to everything that underpins the game's overall execution, and it is powerfully effective. 

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A living environment

Almost standard for this type of game, there is a vast and expansive crafting system that rewards gathering and hoarding supplies. And you will need supplies. The game employs a cool damage system that, again, hearkens back to realism as much as possible. For example, if you get shot with an arrow (and you will), then you will need to deal with that or else watch your health sap away over time. This is because your character slowly bleeds from an arrow wound instead of getting shot, which does much more immediate damage. 

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Remember what we said about stealth being a huge component of everything? You'll need to make use of environmental distractions and “silent” weapons like bows and arrows to take out large groups of opponents effectively. Again, combat balances the needs of the story and its overall drive towards some kind of realism with the need to make the game compelling and fun. Everything is tied together so that, if any one element were to falter, the entire facade would be shattered. 

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Even so, not everything is perfect in the gameplay department. As expected, platform elements are awkward and largely unwanted in a game that keeps everything grounded and realistic. Controls here are fine and don't present any added challenges but the whole interruption of on-the-ground stealth and narrative with platforming makes for a disconnected experience at certain points. Again, it's nothing big; it's just not a lot of fun. 

A gritty experience

That brings up yet another point you will often find yourself pondering about The Last of Us Part II, “Is this supposed to be fun?”

Delving briefly into the power of the narrative, you will have moments where you wonder what “exactly” the end-goal is here. As a game that takes chances and is happy to color outside of the lines, The Last of Us Part II does not hold back in the narrative department. Controversial for being unconventional, there are no sacred cows in this game. This kind of gritty narrative and presentation hearkens back to media such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, whereas the first game had more of a The Walking Dead vibe. In other words, this is grim stuff, but it's all done with such skill and mastery that you cannot ignore the core mechanics of a solid video game. Meant to be taken as a whole and not for its parts, The Last of Us Part II is, in sum, a masterpiece. 

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Vincent Wee
Vincent Wee
As a freelance editor at Tech Edition, Vincent brings a whirlwind of marketing expertise and data wizardry to the table. When he's not conjuring up digital magic, catch him geeking out over anime or levelling up on his Nintendo Switch!

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●  Introduction

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