The Last of Us Part II
Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey
…isn’t always a good time – hell, sometimes it’s genuinely harrowing – but it’s also an engrossing experience that interrogates the very notion of revenge and personal narratives.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge,” the old saying goes, “dig two graves”. In the case of The Last of Us Part II, that should probably be amended to “dig about three thousand bloody graves because you are going to be killing an absolute shitload of people, monsters and dogs.” Yes, the sequel to Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece The Last of Us is here and it’s every bit as dark, violent and nasty as you’ve been led to expect. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a matter of personal taste, but even hardened apocalyptic veterans should know, this is at times a very rough ride indeed.
The Last of Us ended on a beautifully bittersweet, ambiguous note. Joel, our main protagonist, decided that instead of sacrificing Ellie to cure the virus at the core of the story, he’d kill to keep her alive. Later, she questions Joel, who lies to her face. Does she believe him? We don’t know, because that’s where our story ends. It was a near-perfect conclusion to a beautiful masterpiece of a game. The Last of Us Part II opens four years later, reintroducing us to our beloved characters for the first couple of hours and then… well, something happens. An event that is so savage and shocking, it’s had gamers and journalists incandescent with rage and chucking a massive sook respectively.
After said event, Ellie is ready for revenge and sets off on a bloody journey through post-apocalyptic Seattle, killing infected and human alike to reach her final goal. If the original game was an occasionally grim road trip, Part II is a nihilistic wallow in mankind’s darkest nature featuring some of the most realistically portrayed, horrific violence in video game history. This title earns every scrap of its R-rating and then some. However, around the halfway mark the game makes a story choice that we won’t spoil, but it is designed to make the audience question everything they know. It’s smart, subversive, perhaps a little oversalted – and not exactly brimming with subtlety – but it’s a bold and unexpected move in a AAA game, which is an arena not exactly overflowing with risk-taking creative decisions. Although it’s one that has proved extremely divisive.
Story aside, The Last of Us Part II is possibly the best looking game currently on the market, certainly the PS4. The animation, character models, environments, motion capture, music and voice acting are some of the best ever seen, and the immersion you’ll feel in the 25-30 hour journey will be total. Yes, there are some clumsy moments in this grim pairing of The Road and 28 Days Later, but there are also giddy highs, soul-shattering lows and moments of pure, genuine terror.
Ultimately, The Last of Us Part II isn’t quite the perfect experience of the original (which you can grab for a song these days, if you’ve not played it). But it’s a bold, nasty, and uncharacteristically risky undertaking for an AAA studio, and an absolutely unmissable video game. If, that is, you can handle the gore, horror and heavy-handed nihilism.
The Last of Us Part II isn’t always a good time – hell, sometimes it’s genuinely harrowing – but it’s also an engrossing experience that interrogates the very notion of revenge and personal narratives. If you’ve got the stomach for it, and can deal with a story that may not go the way you’d hoped, The Last of Us Part II is a bloody, body-filled grave that you’ll very much dig.