The Last of Us 2 Review

A review

1: Gameplay

The Last of Us 2 is a brilliant survival-horror game with staples to ofthe genre such as scavenging for supplies and crafting. Supplies are limited and, depending on difficulty, hard to find. Each encounter with enemies is a balancing act of conserving supplies and survival. Each enemy can be dealt with in a unique way. The player is encouraged to experiment and will be satisfied with how much freedom there is to deal with enemies. For example, Players can eliminate a room full of enemies or sneak around them. After all the enemies are dealt with, characters will give the player feedback, either verbally or in posture, so the player is able to explore and scavenge for supplies again without fear. That’s not to say the player can sit comfortably. There are enough surprises to keep players on their toes, even when they think they are safe. While the controls are similar to the previous version before, they are familiar and intuitive.

2: Location

The game is dripping in mood and atmosphere. Mist coils through thick greenery, hiding both player and enemy from easy view. The skeletal remains of buildings stretch up into the fog. Rain pours down and through broken roofs. Torrential rivers run through devastated streets. Sealed buildings areovergrown with fungus. Each location feels unique, owing especially to the brilliant sound design. Trees give low creaks and groans contrasting with the sharp sound of shattering glass. Enemies shout and scream during combat. There is a new tension from encounters with Infected as the chattering screeches of clickers mix with the gurgles of shamblers. Even human enemies are given distinction as the Seraphites creep around the map, communicating through whistles. The WLFs patrol the map with military precision and trained dogs ready to hunt the player down.

3: Horror

It is undeniable that the Last of Us 2 stands firm in the horror genre. Terror follows the player through encounters and lingers long when the action is over. Infected shamble with broken and overgrown human bodies. Clicking, screaming, and burbling echo through shadowed buildings. The violence is intense and bloody. Bodies are scattered in explosions and blood sprays freely. There are times where the gore feels overwhelming. Characters fight for survival with desperation. Each strike with a melee weapon or fist feels weighted with that desperation. Enemies are cruel and allies sometimes crueler. Brutal conflicts between enemy types crash down like storm waves, making the player feel small in the wake of the on screen barbarity. Players with weak stomachs or lack an appetite for violence will likely be put off by the sheer volume contained within chapters of the game.

4: Characters, but without too many spoilers

The Last of Us 2 centers around two characters. Players are familiar with Ellie, having grown to love her from the first version ofthe Last of Us. They now follow her spiralling journey of revenge and hate through the winding streets of Seattle. With each choice she loses more and more of her innocence and joy, contrasted heavily with flashbacks of her and Joel. Both their time together, and her relentless pursuit of vengeance have hardened her into a ruthless killer. Each death weighs heavily on her shoulders and she leaves scenes visible shaken by what she’s done.

Abby is introduced to the player at the beginning of the Last of Us 2 and it’s her personal revenge that puts her in direct conflict with Ellie. At the midpoint in the game, the clock turns back to Day 1 in Seattle and Abby becomes the key protagonist. The player follows her journey through her personal conflicts and the complicated intrigue that mires the city’s brutal civil war. Each step with Abby follows her struggle to protect the people important to her while also staying true to herself. She is tough, brutal, and no-nonsense. Her violent surroundings have shaped her into an effective tank.

Both characters are contrasted and highlighted by the supporting cast. These characters breathe fresh life into the sometimes overwhelmingly grim story. Familiar characters return from the first game much like a hug in their warmth and concern for Ellie. New characters highlight her growth. Dina is delightful both with her charm and her impressive capabilities. Abby and Lev’s interactions bring out a familiar dynamic that some players will remember from the first game. Her friends are strong and nuanced. Each character’s relationships feel well realized with a few cases of some feeling weaker than others.

5: Story

The cold pursuit of revenge follows both the characters as they spiral into conflict. Both Ellie and Abbie lose the most important person of their lives.\slkfjdlksjjfdskljds

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When I first played the Last of Us 2, I hated it. One week later, I love it. It was not an immediate process, as my feeling of disappointment and even outrage took days to cool and even longer to process. The game is a masterclass of immersive storytelling.

At the beginning of the game, the player is immediately introduced to the conclusion of the conflict of the Last of Us one. Joel confesses what he had done to save Ellie: a brutal murder of the Firefly surgeon. Gradually, the player is introduced back to Ellie and sees the struggles and joys of her day to day life. Players settle in to hunting down the Infected and meet Dina, the love interest of Ellie. The horrifying sound design and ambiance of each dilapidated building is highlighted and contrasted by Dina’s upbeat and unflappable will. The player, like Ellie, grows to depend on her.

The story of the Last of Us 2 is not told in a linear timeline nor does it keep to Ellie’s point-of-view. The players are introduced to Abby. She is immediately shown to be physically strong and capable. Immediately, the player speculates on who she is and how her story is tied to Ellie’s. Her life is saved by Joel but doesn’t react to this kindness in kind. Despite Ellie’s attempted intervention, Joel is brutally killed in front of her. This is the catalyst for the rest of the conflict.

Rage. Hate. Revenge.

The player follows Ellie, who survives the encounter, as she tracks down and hunts Abby in Seattle. The city is a sprawling labyrinth of crumbled buildings, river filled streets, and mobs of wandering Infected. The player is encouraged to explore and scavenge for supplies all while balancing the risk of an encounter with enemy survivors or Infected. Dina again helps Ellie and the player navigate enemies, traps, and offers emotional support. Each step of the way, Ellie would find another one of Abby’s allies and attempt to force information from them. At the time, I felt Ellie’s rage with her and the desperate pursuit of revenge channelled that rage into unreilding violence. Time and time again, Dina tries to cool down and reason with Ellie as the stakes continue to climb. Rationally, Ellie agreed with Dina, but in the heat of the moment, her hate outweighed all else. 

Gameplay aids in the storytelling. The player is given choices on how to navigate through Infected, patrols of the local militia, and invading cultists called Scars. Stealth is fleshed out with crouching and crawling keeping the player from being seen. Melee attacks are visceral and feel weighty. Weapon use and upgrades are intuitive. The player is helped in navigating a conflict through audio cues from the enemies. Some enemies plead for help or downed allies while others communicate through sharp whistles. Through it all, Ellie’s course is unchanged. 

Rage, hate, revenge.

Violence upon violence, Ellie continues down her rage-filled spiral, killing and torturing anyone in her way. Even with the aid of allies with cooler heads, she is unrelenting. As a player, I was unnerved with her path, even if I shared some of the same rage. In my mind, Ellie was justified but some of the things she was doing were too far over the line. Of course, I’d heard and watched stories that say things like, “Revenge bad. Don’t get revenge.” Was this story the same as all the rest? 

In an explosive twist, Abby tracks down Ellie in her hideout and confronts her directly. The two come into conflict, but there the story stops and rewinds to the first day in Seattle.

From here on, the player controls Abby. Initially, I hated Abby. Her story was not Ellie’s. In fact, it wasn’t just not playing as Ellie, it was playing as the very person who had killed Joel. Abby was supposed to die at Ellie’s hand and she needed to die quickly.

But then, more and more of Abby is revealed through her involvement in the Seattle civil war between WLFs and Sarephites and in flashbacks to her past. Abby is revealed to have been a firefly from the very Firefly hospital that Joel saved Ellie. Not only did many of her friends die at Joel’s hand, her father the surgeon, was killed in trying to create a cure. The player sees the humanity and warmth drain from Abby. Her warm, joyful childhood is replaced by cold military drills.

Through Abby’s time spent in Seattle, she is shown to be loyal, determined, and fiercely powerful. Her strength translates into the gameplay. Instead of using a knife for melee, Abby punches and strangles. She uses different weapons from Ellie, although stealth can still be a player’s greatest asset in preserving resources. She fights for a military she clearly doesn’t believe in with allies who barely trust her. The only thing that seems to be keeping her in Seattle is Owen, a childhood friend and ally from her time as a Firefly. The player follows their story through the present time in Seattle and in flashbacks developing them from day to day.

Still, I had this overwhelming sense of resentment for Abby. I wanted to play as Ellie. I wanted revenge. Even as Abby’s story took more and more nuance, still I fell back on the same emotion.

Rage, hate, revenge.

All of that changed when Abby was captured by cultists. There, she is saved by two runaway cultists. The three escape capture and avoid being killed by infected. Abby relies on them to save her. Like a switch was flicked, her character came to life. Her no-nonsense demeanor blended perfectly with the quiet, almost uneasy calm of the two escape cultists. Her time with them brought life back into Abby, revealing more to her than tough words and brutalistic violence.

At the time, I thought she was mirroring Ellie, with revenge twisting her into a more hateful version of herself. It wasn’t until after she is traveling with Levi, the escape cultist, that I realized she was actually more similar to Joel. 

Abby, in saving the cultists, betrays the military WLFs and chooses to save one life. Similar to Joel saving Ellie, Abby is forced to fight through perceived allies and enemies alike, all while guiding Levi to safety. Her fights are hyper brutal to the point of being unbearable. The war between cultists and military escalate while the two flee back to her safe haven in the aquarium. 

 

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The last of us 2 is a game about hate, self destruction, and finally forgiveness. These themes are explored through the protagonists; Ellie, who returns from the first game, and Abby, a military woman from Seattle. Both characters have lives filled with complex social turmoil, on top of living in the apocalyptic ruin of a post zombie outbreak world. 

With the sequel taking place five years later, Ellie has grown and matured. Over the course of the game, she hunts down Abby in a desperate pursuit of revenge and justice. Unfortunately for her, Seattle is a maze of zombies, referred to as Infected, and an escalating war between survival groups. Abby fights in this war, but is not so naive to believe everything the zealot leader presents. As she struggles through the war and with her ideals, Ellie is constantly one step behind, doggedly pursuing. 

Ellie and Abby both play distinctively, with weapons and attacks fitting to their personalities. Ellie’s attacks are usually precise and focused. Using everything from her small knife to shotgun, to bow and arrow, Ellie is a force of brutal, creative violence. She creates traps and even a silencer for her pistol. Quiet, deadly, and filled with hate, she cuts her way to her intended prey. Abby is more straight forward. She uses more heavy firepower and her craftable weapons are grenades. Her most notable asset is her raw muscle. As a gifted fighter, Abby will use her fist almost as often as her gun. She is unyielding and stubborn. 

Seattle is a sprawling city and the outbreak changed it from navigate-able roads to a labyrinthine jungle. New growth has covered the city in green foliage and, without human interference, water flows to create rivers between buildings. Mist hangs heavy and rain deluges, often turning to violent storms. Traversing even small portions of the city is fraught with danger from both the environment and the Infected. Their location is distinct, with molding fungal growths and  spore filled air. The sound of the infected is also distinctive. Rasping clicking and groaning from mutilated lungs from familiar types of Infected. New sounds as well in the form of burbling, strangled gasps. These are not the only dangers of the city. Two waring groups dominate opposite sides of the city. Each group has a calm, farming based center with most of the violence taking place at the border between them. 

The last of us 2 presents the story of Ellie and Abby in a raw, emotional light. They are brutal, unyielding, and terrifyingly human. The game is about people, more than about zombies, and people are complicated. Both characters make hard decisions and, whether the player likes it or not, the characters are true to themselves. Themes of revenge, horror, and hate are fully explored through these characters. As well as a shred of hope, forgiveness, and rebirth. The game is good. Play it.