I am very hesitant to talk about the Last of Us Part 2. In the last few months, between the leaks and the uproar of both positive and negative backlash, game journalists call it a masterpiece of game design and story, while casual and hardcore gamers call it a shell of itself. As I played through the Last of Us Remastered with the Left Behind DLC, there was a built up feeling of excitement and worry in equal parts. True, I bought the pre-order just so I could experience the new chapter but was it worth it? Was a story that was rich in character and personality- both horrific, bittersweet, yet lighthearted and ultimately human would be replaced by a terrible revenge cycle story?
So, what do we make of the game itself? In short, The Last of Us Part 2 is a sequel that is bogged down by old gameplay with minimal changes, polarizing story beats, and is split between two stories for a bloated run time.
Without spoiling, I will give you my best description of the story. You play as Ellie, now grown up and worn down by the years of living in the Cordyceps apocalypse. The world is almost close to completely taken over by nature and you are holding out in the last civilized area of Jackson, Wyoming dealing with relationship issues and doing what you can for your settlement. On one of your scouting missions, a chance meeting with a group of mercenaries triggers a winding journey to find the leader, Abby, and make her pay for what she did.
The Gameplay in this game is nearly the same in concept. You play through semi-linear levels where either stealth or guns are viable options depending. The world has limited resources for you to collect, like the last game. Bullets are sparse, so stealth is the better option. Two major gameplay changes are the jump button and prone action. While prone is more useful to get under trucks and hide, the jump button is derivative; the gameplay already has an interaction button to get over gaps, so why have a jump button at all?
New crafting items are available with new resources; Cannisters are used for Gun Suppressors or for Stun and Smoke Bombs, Trip Mines, and there is more focus with Training Manuals to get a limited skill tree for whoever you’re playing as. Weapon parts can help improve your weapons with larger clips or Other than that, there is hardly any variation on crafting. Between the two characters, the weapons are mostly the same. From single shot weapons to pistols, the only difference is the skin, from Rifle to Crossbow, hunting pistol to revolver.
There are some stories that shouldn’t have a sequel; if there was a chance to get a sequel, then it would need to have the same lightning in a bottle experience. Take the Last of Us. Sure, it was dark, but it had its small light moments. Comedy could just as quickly turn to tragedy. No one is safe in the apocalypse- from men, women, and children. Yet, there was always light at the end of the tunnel. It was a complete journey from beginning to end between Joel and Ellie- you can see their relationship grow and change as they backpack across the nation. When you play the Last of Us Part 2, you don’t have fun with it. It’s roughly 25 hours of an emotional roller coaster with 10 of them playing as a character who most people don’t want to play as. The point of this story is that there are always two sides and what you do on one can impact the other.
When I booted up The Last of Us Part 2, I thought I would get a game that fit its legacy. It is a continuation, but as fans would agree, it stumbled when it should have shone. Regarding the major controversies for this game, I will say this. Representation is appreciated in games; it’s a reflection of our time and current events; I support all kinds and creeds of people in my games. But when you build a game around a checklist of representation, it tends to fall flat and garner negative criticism. Then again, you can make anything political, even on a fledgling video game journalism column. Maybe most of the magic was put into Uncharted 4 than in this sad game.
Last of Us Part 2 is rated M for Mature. It is a Playstation 4 exclusive and priced at $49.99 at retail.