The past 20 years in gaming have seen the means of storytelling advance — visuals improve, voice acting reaches Hollywood quality and game mechanics become more sophisticated — but without a commensurate will to tell stories. AAA budgets are sometimes used to spin a meaningful tale, but only rarely.
The Last of Us Part 2 is one of those exceptions. You only need to see Ellie and Joel’s character models, for which the adjective “lifelike” is a more literal than figurative, to appreciate where the seven years and who-knows-how-many millions Naughty Dog invested in this game went. But as you play, it becomes clear that Naughty Dog’s true ambition lies not in cutting-edge visuals or set pieces but in the story it attempts to tell.
In this regard, Last of Us Part 2 is a success. It’s a game worth playing, with a story you’ll remember long after you lay down the controller.
It is 2038. Twenty-five years ago, a fungal brain infection spread across the globe, turning the majority of its population into “The Infected”. Zombies, basically. Five years ago, in the events of the first game, Joel treks across the country with 14-year-old Ellie, who’s immune to the infection. Joel was meant to hand Ellie over to a researcher who could study her to create a cure or an antidote but, upon discovering Ellie wouldn’t survive the process, instead kills almost everyone in the hospital to save her from the operating table.
As The Last of Us Part 2 begins, Ellie and Joel live in Jackson, Wyoming, within a settlement (reasonably) safe from Infected. Their relationship, we find out, isn’t what it used to be. Misadventure soon strikes and you, as Ellie, find yourself traveling to Seattle to strike back.
The Last of Us Part 2 is dark — this time both figuratively and literally. As you travel through apocalypse-torn Seattle, you’ll visit sites infected by an unimaginable horror and read written accounts from people who were there when it happened. Like its predecessor, Part 2 portrays a ruthless “kill or be killed” atmosphere. It asks questions about our worst traits, without resorting to cliche.
Major of the game takes place in shadows, from underground environments to abandoned buildings with zero lightings. Yeah, this is why this game is “dark”.Compounding this, Naughty Dog populates these haunts with just the right amount of danger. Infected are not so plentiful you expect some around every corner, but plentiful enough that you know they might be around any corner.
That’s much worse. You’ll think twice before entering each building, opening each door and crawling through each crevice. That’s a problem since you’ll get most of your essential supplies from scavenging — that is, entering buildings, opening doors and crawling through crevices.
Mainly the game is less adventure type but more likely to be a survival type. But hunting for supplies is not only you have to do for survival but also means killing a whole bunch of infected and a bunch more humans.
There are multiple types of each with different strengths and weaknesses like Infected can be Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, Bloaters, or Shamblers, representing humans at varying stages of infection. While Clickers are blind but kill you instantly. Stalkers inflict relatively small damage, but don’t show up in Listen Mode. Humans are either Wolves or Scars. The former is a small group of Seattle-based military will use dogs to sniff you out and to kill you. This game is not going to be easy which makes it interesting.
That last point seems small, but it’s the most jarring. For a game about monsters that eat your face, The Last of Us Part 2 has an admirable sense of realism. It’s small moments like that which crack the suspension of disbelief.
The game is kind of futuristic, thrilling, you have to think twice before any move, and yes you would be traumatized.