TSJ Reviews THE LAST OF US PART II (No Spoilers)
Title: The Last of Us Part II
Game Developer: Naughty Dog
Director: Neil Druckmann
Console: PS4 Exclusive
Release Date: 19 June 2020
The Last of Us Part II is a visceral and harrowing journey into the darkness and horror of a post apocalyptic world following a pandemic that has left the Earth populated by zombies and monsters. More dangerous, however, as in TV show and graphic novel The Walking Dead, are the humans who threaten moral/ethical people attempting to survive in the savagery of this new world. I found the first iteration of this game to be immersive and gripping (find my review here) and I’m happy to report that The Last of Us Part II continues the trend. This is next-level storytelling, amped to the max. It will leave you breathless and wanting more. There are few answers provided, relationships are strained to their breaking points, and this is no world for Hollywood happy endings. It is a perfect game that left me sad when it was over. It is simply that good.
Ellie and Joel are living in Jackson following the events of The Last of Us Part I. They are trying to survive in the community with some familiar faces from the previous game, like Tommy and Maria. People spend their days patrolling the surrounding areas to clear away the infected, maintain security, and simply attempt to coexist with neighbors. At the same time, Ellie and Joel are suffering from previous events. The father/daughter relationship between the two is beyond realistic, frustrating at times but also filled with joy and heartbreak. Ellie is struggling with her past as well as with peer relationships. She is conflicted about decisions that Joel has made, which he did with the best of intentions, but with which she disagrees. Soon after setting up the world, events thrust Ellie into a desperate mission across the country. She must journey to Seattle to deal with a new threat, and the events take place over three days interspersed with flashbacks of her life in Jackson. There are new characters to play, new stories to learn, and new enemies to tackle.
A Powerful Emotional Journey
Naughty Dog and director Neil Druckmann have nothing to prove. They are more than capable of creating a narrative that is both heart-wrenching, gripping, and terrifying. But in this game they have taken it to a new level. I don’t want to say more about the story here — there are plenty of spoilers out there already — but the narrative matches the world the characters exist within perfectly. It is not happy. Tragedies happen daily. People die. People suffer. Humans are both kind and evil. The infected creatures have become a part of nature, and people must either learn to handle them or die. Other survivors are also dangerous, and we meet new characters with nuanced and multi-layered motivations. These are not cardboard cutouts. Abby, Owen, Lev, and Yara are newcomers to the franchise, and each is a fully realized character with complex character arcs. The gameplay is magnificent, the graphics beyond incredible, and the situations and obstacles are monumentally emotional.
In fact, the story quickly drew me in and I found it to be absolutely inclusive. The characters here represent a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures. There is a strong LGBTQ focus, which was refreshing, including a trans storyline. The Last of Us Part II, while presenting a future speculative tale of a pandemic apocalypse, showed strong representation of our current society. I appreciated this. The game is a work of art, and reviewers rewarded it with some of the best reviews of any game, period. The narrative took me on an emotional roller coaster, with some of the most electrifying storytelling I’ve experienced. Abby in particular, a character I hated at the beginning, became important to me halfway through, and by the end I was rooting for her. I believe this is what director Neil Druckmann was hoping for, and he succeeded.
Kudos to him and the entire team at Naughty Dog. Craig Mazin, director-creator of the HBO series Chernobyl, is currently adapting The Last of Us to miniseries format, and I hope he can take the emotions so important to this game and successfully apply them to television.
Another Sequel Coming?
I hope for more games in this series. I have written about video games many times on my blog. The storytelling in this format can achieve levels of immersion impossible in other forms of media. This game is proof of that. I would put The Last of Us Part II on the same level as The Last of Us Part I, Alien: Isolation, and Red Dead Redemption II. The Last of Us Part II is a completely immersive, gripping, and emotional experience. I highly recommend it. I want more. Please take me to Catalina Island with the Fireflies and continue this remarkable journey.
TSJ’s Rating of The Last of Us Part II: 10/10
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