It's been a long wait of seven years for fans of The Last of Us. The original was an action-adventure that balanced a fine narrative within the context of "zombie invasion", and was met with universal acclaim. Now, Ellie and Joel return to write a new chapter in their history — and in bloody letters, too.
Here is our verdict on The Last of Us Part II, available June 19 exclusively on PS4.
- Context: We finished The Last of Us Part II on difficult mode in 28 hours. This review covers the essentials and does not contain any spoilers, so that you have the opportunity to discover the game for the first time as we did.
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Release date: 06/19/2020
- Platforms: PS4, PS5
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Publisher: Sony
- Price: US $69.99 / €69.99 / £54.99 (as of June 11, prices from PlayStation Store)
- Tested on : PS4 Pro
Plot and Characters
Discussing the plot of The Last of Us Part II without embarking on a spoiler fest is a balancing act we are not going to attempt. We'll keep it general as a result.
As we all know, Naughty Dog have great pedigree in telling great stories, with careful staging and writing that knows how to get to the point — all in a story that moves at full speed without ever neglecting the empathy we are supposed to have for the characters.
With this new title, Naughty Dog pushes the boundaries even further, precisely tweaking this formula they have perfected over the years. The result is a long game, full of twists and turns and one which doesn't hesitate to burden its characters with a dose of despair.
The Last of Us Part II also has fun with the player progression side of things, sometimes dangling the carrot of freedom only for it to be quickly taken away. These surprises could easily be taken for those like in a novel — the universe is certainly rich and consistent. We can easily understand why HBO has taken a keen interest in the series.
Let the doubters be reassured — Part II is an essential chapter in the world of The Last of Us, even if it will leave some fans on the floor. Through Ellie's eyes you'll see a new stage in the evolution of a world plagued by the infected and the madness of men.
To bring this universe to life, the game pushes Joel's protégé to rub shoulders with a cast of characters who have all benefitted from some careful writing. There are almost no false notes, and everything is highlighted by a sober staging.
While the superlatives escape us, we will say that the plot of The Last of Us Part II really hits the nail on the head.
Bloody Blues and Dry Guitar
Gameplay and Progression
We'll start by rambling a bit, summarizing what we explained in our preview a few days ago — the gameplay in The Last of Us Part II takes all the good parts of the original, consolidates them, then adds a whole new dimension through more complex and vertical level-design.
To help Ellie navigate these larger arenas, she has access to a wide range of actions that allow her to easily escape any tense situation by creating new passages or by crawling in the tall grass. Infiltration becomes much less frustrating than in the first game, and we really take pleasure in developing a 'perfect' plan that avoids the need to fire our weapon.
Playing on Hard difficulty offered us an excellent compromise between exploration (necessary to recover resources) and challenge — faced with certain groups of tougher enemies, setting traps and proper preparation became a necessity.
It is in these moments of pure tension that the gameplay really expresses itself, even if the enemy AI doesn't always remain serious. In any case, it is much better than in the first game.
When the time comes to shed blood, Ellie lets her dark side speak by becoming a predator without feeling. We also mentioned this in our preview, but the violence in The Last of Us Part II, while ultimately very realistic, is just a bluff thanks to the plethora of visual and audio details that reinforce the consistency of each exchange of fire.
All the weapons picked up during the adventure pack a punch, and are upgradeable in the workshops scattered along the long road that awaits you. There's nothing new to note on this side — you'll continue salvaging parts from the environment to make what you need.
On the other hand, skills have been completely redesigned — you'll now need to go find and unlock skill trees. It's a very good idea, since it encourages you to dig through everything from top to bottom, and it can even be an opportunity to witness new and well-thought side stories.
Thorough exploration of the streets is highly recommended if you plan to enjoy all that the game has to offer. All your finds are then put to use in the crafting system, which is well thought out improved with a desire to be even more reactive.
It's up to Ellie to adapt to the many factions she would encounter — with specific behavior patterns for each — and to the Infected, who have increased their ranks with a few new specimens.
Finally, how can we not mention the enormous effort made on the accessibility side? More than 60 options are dedicated to 'playing comfort for all', a particularly appreciable example from a studio of this scope. These numerous adjustments compensate for various handicaps, while more general aids mark the way forward for all players.
Do we really need to tell you that The Last of Us Part II jumps out of the screen? The trailers speak for themselves — it's a true showcase of what the PS4 can achieve at the end of its life, and it's enough to leave us optimistic for the future.
Tested on a PS4 Pro in 4K with HDR enabled, certain panoramas were like a slap in the face — yet again, Naughty Dog have treated us to a visual feast. The Last of Us Part II is ultimately a continuation of all their visual work, pushing the limits of what the console can do.
All you have to do is take a look at how the game environments, which are varied until the final hours, manage to offer sublime panoramas throughout. We may have overdosed on basements and other disused buildings, but hey, it's the era that warrants it.
This amazing technique combines wonderfully with the setting evoked at the start of the review. The soundtrack is very restrained, in order to deliver a unique experience. We could talk about it for hours if the risk of spoilers was not as great.
The adventure is long and beautiful, full of surprises, and we can't wait to be able to talk about it more freely when people have completed it for themselves. In the meantime, all we can do is confirm that this latest Naughty Dog title is a masterpiece.
To put it simply, The Last of Us Part II succeeds in achieving excellence in everything it does. The story is well-paced and poignant, allowing its strong themes to shine. The gameplay has been thoroughly reworked, allowing the heroine to express her rage. All of this is wrapped in the most elegant of bows. Far beyond the simple, unfounded sequel that some feared, The Last of Us Part II is an emotionally charged continuation of a challenging quest that expands Ellie's universe. This latest Naughty Dog title undoubtedly ranks among the best titles on the PS4.