Naughty Dog has proved that not only they’re one of the best developers out there but also earn the trust of gamers for the past two decades, which has shown us, especially in recent years, that an action-adventure can aspire to everything without giving up anything, offering great gameplay, a good story while being spectacular, fun and a visual masterpiece. After offering us the memorable The Last of Us seven years ago, a surprising leap in quality and maturity, now comes its long-awaited sequel, The Last of Us Part II, which is exactly what we expected: a work that once again raises the bar for great video game productions, in every way, and that conceived to sell millions of units, without a doubt.
An action-adventure with stealth mechanics, practically impeccable, and visually as well as in sound section, dazzled us, taking to the last limits and beyond the hardware of PS4, it is in the narrative where it has most impacted us. A story and characters that many days after finishing it, we cannot get out of our heads, being one of the best-written games ever made, a quality in writing that leaves 99% of triple-A titles behind and its sophisticated animations.
Being more ambitious than the first installment in all aspects, from its improved and expanded playable mechanics to its structure and extension, it has seemed less round, and surely it will not cause the same impact by not having That surprise factor is still a sequel that continues a story and evolves a formula that we already knew. But beyond the hateful and inevitable comparisons, it has seemed to us an unforgettable, shocking and even at times uncomfortable adventure, which is not satisfied with meeting high expectations and always goes one step beyond what we might expect. An admirable path that I wish they dared to explore in other blockbusters, which in their quest to please everyone usually get very little excitement.
A history of violence
The Last of Us Part II takes place shortly after the events of the first game, with Joel and Ellie living in a stable community of survivors, where they have finally found some peace in this ruthless post-apocalyptic world. Violence breeds violence, and its brutal acts will haunt them, beginning a bloody story of revenge, which talks, among many other things, about how hatred can destroy people.
Without going into more detail, Part 2’s argument may sound a bit topical or hackneyed, but it is here where it is shown that many times the virtue of a great story is not what counts, but how it tells it, using intelligently resources narratives such as analepsis and points of view, the latter something that video games can do especially well but that is rarely used. But the most interesting thing is how they convey these ideas because there are many games that touch interesting topics, but few dare to develop them at all or not at least until they reach extremes, which they may become uncomfortable or unpleasant for the player.
Although Naughty Dog is not afraid, they show themselves as a studio with enormous confidence in what they do, without fear of bothering or not pleasing the players, and we think it will take years to see a darker and more consistent triple-A game again, surprisingly uncomfortable and challenging, and therefore tremendously interesting. And surely many of you are wondering, does it have an ending as memorable as the first? In our opinion, yes, although for completely different reasons, as you will discover, with a much more complex history and that is why it will be more polarizing. And if you accidentally seen any of the spoilers that leaked a few weeks ago, do not worry, although it may surprise you, they were not as important as they might seem, in an adventure full of twists and surprises, the most important thing is the way you have to tell us your story and to build and develop the characters, of a humanity that we rarely remember.
A playable delight
The Last of Us Part II, like the previous one, is a linear development action-adventure, with a great narrative load and with exquisite rhythm control; There is never too much action, exploration or history, everything is perfectly mixed in its right doses, and it is always varied and exciting so that you never want to let go of the control, wanting to discover what will surprise you next. It offers a great balance between all its parts, and by highlighting both its narrative -very well above the average- it seems that we are saying that its gameplay is not a big deal, when it is possible in the purely mechanical one of the best games of action and stealth of the entire generation. Exquisite control, an enormous amount of possibilities, a great level design, a very careful artificial intelligence of the enemies and above all, some superb animations, which elevate this title easily become a GOTY.
Whether against humans or terrifying infected, the starting point is always to try to go unnoticed and play stealthily; enemies always outnumber us and resources like ammunition or medicine cabinets are limited, and all this helps to generate tension, to feel that we are a survivor. Now with Ellie, a character more agile and smaller than Joel, we have new, very interesting actions that surprisingly improve the playable proposal. We can dodge, something very useful in the very best hand-to-hand combat, crawling on the ground, which is used to hide in the grass or get into tight places, swim and dive, something that we can use in some scenarios in our favour, and we can even jump when we want, something that takes advantage of the greater verticality of the scenarios, much larger and more complex than the first, while still having a linear development.
This coupled with new weapons and resources means that we can express ourselves in much more creative ways in stealth and combat, both aspects perfectly mixed and very natural, always being an intense, spectacular and exciting game, even terrifying, for a lot of aspects that come together and that demonstrate the quality of this study: perfect control, incredible animations, great level design, a superb setting, artistically, technically and sonically, and an admirable rhythm management thanks to the fact that they carry many years honing his cinematic action-adventure formula.
The broader scenarios enrich not only the combats but also the exploration, since if we are curious enough we will find more resources, with some optional puzzles and more narrative pieces, in the form of documents or optional dialogues, in a similar way as seen in the last two Uncharted. Even at a particular moment in the adventure, there is a small open world, perfectly designed and that fits into a game that, like the first, remains linear, despite this refreshing dabble. They also understand that we players love the feeling of wonder, that as we reach certain technological limits, it seems increasingly difficult to achieve, but that Last of Us Part II achieves not a few times throughout its epic and dark journey.
Huge, for better and for worse
The way how the narrative is told, the action and the exploration is just perfect and manages its first-half(part 1) take about 15 hours – to always be varied and surprising, constantly introducing new elements such as weapons, types of enemies and situations. Different because of the design and circumstances of the scenarios or the threats we face, all with a story that captures you from start to finish while enjoying its excellent dialogues. This is the duration of the first installment, but as it already seems that it is a mandate in large Sony productions, this sequel should be more extensive, and lasts between 25-30 hours, depending on the difficulty chosen and what you spend exploring.
And this length ends up turning against it, because it is in the second half or last third when situations that we had already experienced in a fairly similar way begin to repeat during the first hours, and that without failing in their quality, they do not contribute anything substantial in the playable, beyond lengthening the duration. And beware, this second act makes all the sense in the world in the narrative. It seems to us a real genius -we can’t explain the reasons because it is quite surprising-, but it is in the playable where it feels elongated, with a few walks and scenes from redundant action, which do not contribute anything relevant to what was previously seen.
Some will think that it has 3 hours left, others more, others less, but it seems quite obvious that it lasts longer than it should, and this causes it to leave the feeling of not being as round like the first, when really if you analyze its sections separately it exceeds almost everything. Sometimes less is more, even if contemporary games insist on the opposite, and here we see a very evident example of this. For many players, this will not be a problem, and they would even like to stay in their world not 30, but 40 or 50 hours, but the first half of the adventure is so resounding, so perfect, always varied, exciting and surprising, that it bothers us that in your last third leave that feeling of being artificially lengthened.
Another detail that has not convinced us, considering that they are small drawbacks to excellent work in everything it does, is that part of the great daring that it has in the narrative field, we would have liked to see it also in the playable design. And not for having to offer revolutionary things that we have not seen before, or because it needs to be more complete, but on the contrary, for not getting rid of certain video game conventions, which remind you that it is earthly, something that on other occasions is able to make you forget.
With this, we mean for example the collectibles, an outdated distraction in a game as cutting-edge as this, or its unnecessary weapon improvement system, or the improvement of the character’s abilities by collecting some pills that we find on stage, that they were already in the first one, but that since they were brave, they could have discarded -and not enhanced, as they have done-, or even dispensed with the listening mode, which with such a visual and sound design is not necessary. If, as their history shows us, they have really done what they wanted, they have been so daring, they could also have gone a little further in the playable, leaving behind certain common systems in other video games, but that Last of Us Part II did not need.
Fumito Ueda, the creator of Shadow of the Colossus, to explain the design of his games a few years ago coined the term subtraction design, to focus on what is truly important, which connects us emotionally with it, with its ideas, with its subjects, and dispense with everything that is not strictly necessary for that purpose. And if a game called for shouting to bet on something similar, that is The Last of Us Part II: its narrative and a playable proposal are so bright, so intense and exciting, that it deserved more confidence, it did not need additives or distractions to be interesting from the beginning to the end. The end, or to have to justify its price.
Naughty Dog become real experts in squeezing hardware from Sony consoles, and if the first The Last of Us took juice from PS3 in its last months before the arrival of its successor, the same thing happens again here, surprising with what they have managed to do with PS4, being one of the most visually impressive games of all time; for its animations, for its artistic direction, for its technical solidity, for how it takes care of all the details, for its invisible loading times and for its impressive cinematics and facial animations. You know, those faces with a cartoon touch that they are the house brand, that makes the characters sometimes more human than if we were seeing real actors, a feeling difficult to explain, which is exemplified like no other in Ellie’s face, of a literally chilling expressiveness.
With scenarios that, in the way they are illuminated, become photorealistic, with a variety of environments and locations much greater than in the first installment, and with some moments so spectacular, Naughty Dog do not believe that a Such a dramatic and intimate story is at odds with offering epic and visually stunning moments; They love to amaze players and show that they are capable of what no one else does, and boy do they do it.
Like everything in this game, which is sublime, so is the sound, amazing, of the best that has ever been done in terms of the forcefulness and realism of the effects, its usefulness in the gameplay, and everything mixed to perfection with a subtle but superb soundtrack. Composed by Mac Quayle ( Mr. Robot ), focused on moments of action, who deals with the most intimate moments, and together with its superb visuals they elevate all the scenes, from the most dramatic to the most terrifying, in an adventure with exemplary sound design.
The Last of Us Part II is one of those games that advance the medium, raising the quality standards of what we should expect from a triple-A, especially in the narrative plane, really shocking, which is perfectly linked with an excellent and an exceptional audiovisual section. There only a few studios within the industry that can deliver such a level of excellence in every respect, Naughty Dog surpasses themselves again with a memorable adventure that any gamer should try, and which achieves what we hoped for: that we will never forget Joel and Ellie, who become two eternal characters in the history of video games.
We prepared this review with a digital review code for the PS4 Pro version provided by Sony.