With just a few bullets, I aim for the soldiers swarming in my position. On second thought, I run and go down to an abandoned building before hearing his orders to surround it. Why didn't they get up and flank me? Then I hear: the click. I am trapped, outnumbered, with fewer weapons and looking at a group of infected people in the face.
The Last of Us Part 2 is full of these little stories, each more desperate than the last. If Naughty Dog's work in the Uncharted franchise appeals to the fantasy of the power to take down bad guys and take the girl, The Last of Us Part 2 is the antithesis of that very idea. It is almost always uncomfortable, tense and unshakable in its brutality. It is also the Playstation 4 best title yet.
Taking several years from the original game In the ambiguous ending, Joel and Ellie settle in Jackson. Against all odds, the city is thriving; free from infected and having tired travelers. This is where our story begins, but it didn't take long for the past to reach our dynamic duo.
It didn't take long for the cast to charm you. Ellie is blatantly impulsive, as always, but now she is more sure of herself than before. Love interest Dina has a sharp tongue and an intelligence to match, and other newcomers appear, written and skillfully presented.
What begins as a revenge story is constantly surprising, up to the 25 to 30 hour mark. It is undoubtedly the most accomplished writing by Naughty Dog so far, grounding believable characters in an unbelievable world and throwing its core into the head more than once. While many post-apocalyptic works of fiction point to those who do "bad" things to survive, The Last of Us Part 2 seems more introspective: why do these characters do these terrible things and what is the end of such methods?
Soon, we are going to Seattle. Here, nature began to recover the urban landscape. Just as the skyscrapers rise through the clouds, the vines and the flora break on the floor of the café and in the beauty salons. Every building has a story to tell, both in terms of its own visual cues or notes left behind by a collapsing society after hatching.
In the ruins of Seattle, two factions are locked in conflict; the well-organized and militant Washington Liberation Front and religious seraphites. The contrasting motivations and approaches to each existence in the post-apocalypse are emphasized throughout history, and I took the chance to learn more about both sides.
The city itself is full of interconnected rooms, shops and houses. While it is not an open world at all, it is more open than any of Naughty Dog's previous works, and the secrets range from tangible objects, such as weapons-improvement benches, new skills to learn and weapons that would otherwise be lost or experimental rewards, such as sincere plot moments that enrich the character's development in a way that lets you know more about Ellie.
While the first games it was as focused on stealth as it is on action, the sequence opens up Ellie's crossing and combat options to an impressive degree. While Joel's controller was largely built around flat environments, Ellie offers a newfound verticality. There are stairs to climb, balconies to jump, tall grass to crawl and windows to break, which means that you can approach the same enemy encounter in half a dozen different ways.
Intelligent control encourages experimentation, and that's a big plus, because some of the game's combat scenarios are delightfully difficult. Areas with various types of enemies are common, and planning a route to avoid conflict (and save ammunition) is essential. Offensive craft options, like Molotov cocktails, return, but, as in the first game, they require the same ingredients as the healing items. The game is at its best when it offers enough tools to navigate an area, but offers little guidance on how to use them.
If things go wrong, and they will, retreating is always an option. Being able to dodge in any direction and escape from enemies is not only suitable for the topic of futility, but also for moments like movies, like the one I described earlier. Naughty Dog combines the main gameplay and the script pieces so that they become indistinguishable, in addition to ensuring that no two plays from an area are exactly the same.
While the bow-wielding Seraphites and the WLF, which carries weapons, swept through much of the city, those infected still remain more numerous than ever in many areas. Standard runners return, as do horrible clickers, but they are no longer the scariest types of infected. While the new Shamblers (pieces of meat and armored, acid-throwing fungi) are bad, the new Stalkers are worse.
These infected, nimble and nimble, move on all fours, hide in the darkness and emerge from the shadows when Ellie approaches. As stressful as the game can be, its appearance pushes things firmly into the territory of horror, and there are even more terrible surprises to discover.
This is not to say that the human enemies you will face are not a challenge on their own. They will keep in touch and check in to make sure no one is missing, while the dogs manage to track Ellie until they get distracted or find her. This, intelligently, puts the impetus to maintain momentum, pushing our heroine into increasingly tense situations, while a four-legged sentry has been pinching his heels.
Fortunately, she is more than capable of controlling herself, with her pocketknife capable of dispatching enemies from behind. In fact, it is in the heat of combat that you can firmly understand the dark details present in The Last of Us Part 2. The way an enemy falls after a club on the head or the way his blackened blood flows from the neck the wound looks like real and upset in the stomach. A single shot to the head can kill an enemy, knocking the skulls off on impact. Sometimes it is difficult to watch, and not for the faint of heart.
It is not just the violence that brings the quality of Naughty Dog's animations. The way Ellie swings before falling off an edge or opens a drawer to fetch supplies, seems pulled out of reality. Combine that with the facial animation that shows all the little wrinkles on your face with all the actions taken, and honestly it looks like the next generation can wait a little longer.
The Last of Us Part 2 didn't have to exist. The first game was almost perfect and wrapped in a note so appropriate that I don't think many would have called for a straight. And yet, I am so happy that Naughty Dog took the risk. The Last of Us Part 2 is the new PlayStation watermark, and the developer’s best work so far. Forget about leaks, delays and drama: if you can stand your unwavering commitment to violence and despair, it is likely to be the best thing you will be playing all year.
The Last of Us Part 2 is released exclusively on PlayStation 4 on June 19