- Total Score - 8/108/10
Excellent gameplay and visuals help elevate a bloated and poorly paced story.
Developer –Naughty Dog
Publisher – Sony
Platforms – PS4
My review of Last of Us Part Two is going to be a bit different.
Before it’s release, this game had over 100 reviews raving about the games incredible transformation from the it’s predecessor. The graphics and presentation of its story being an evolution in its approach. The growth of Ellie as a lead character, adding a new layer of depth to an otherwise bleak and dark world.
On the flip side, much of the games central plot and surprises had been leaked months before release. People online raged at the game and attacked it for decisions made without any context as to what they spoiled for themselves.
My experience with the game was a bit different. During the midst of our real life pandemic and the birth of my son, I was mostly absent during the leaks and all of the acclaim and fallout of users harassing and attacking the creators over the direction this game took.
What I didn’t see in reviews, or in the online attacks was much talk about what this game actually is.
The combat in general has been greatly improved, although its not a reinvention of the wheel. With the new, tight over the shoulder camera, guns and melee attacks are more visceral than ever. The movement, every dodge and a roll is extremely fluid. Outside of Phantom Pain, Part Two is easily the most smooth controlling third person shooter ever.
In terms of game structure, the changes become more minimal.
Outside of some light skill point usage, Part Two is never a game about stats or loot as the industry has favored as of late.
Every combat encounter is designed and balanced according to what you will have on hand at that moment in the game. Every enemy is placed with a purpose and as hard or impossible every battle seems you can barely get through it.
The game is a straight line, but that line can expand and become very wide. Outside of one brief open world chapter, much of the game is about forward momentum. Exploration is still fun to do, but no matter what you do it always seemed as if you have the right amount of ammo and health kits for the next battle.
The stripped down, sometimes simplistic nature of the gameplay systems does help keep the focus on the action at hand. Last of Us Part Two provides an intense, white knuckle combat experience. Combat depth is swapped out for pure intensity, and creativity in how you deal with your variety of enemies.
Every combat encounter can feel like a puzzle if you use stealth. Between enemy types, your weapon set and being able to execute and have the dexterity to manage the crowd and single out threats as you whittle them down and persevere.
Outside of the sublime combat, the visuals astound. Every single location is so vast and detailed it was hard to not think about how much work all of the studios involved did to bring it to life.
The story, is where things take a much different turn.
Despite this review being late, I don’t want to venture far into spoiler territory here. Suffice to say this game is divided into two very distinct halves.
Now, the general direction of the plot, I don’t mind. In television, movies, and novels, stories can change and characters can die at the drop of a hat. Game of Thrones almost built it’s popularity on the back of that concept, but most gamers are spoiled.
Much of the pre-release outrage was just nonsense. Even more problematic was the intense harassment and hate, clouded any real discussion over tangible problems the plot has.
My main issue with the story, is how bloated it is. An obvious plot twist at what seems like the games natural conclusion leads to an entire games worth of Tarantino style flashbacks.
The moment I’m speaking of is pretty great. It’s sudden, it raises the stakes and it has so much momentum.
The decision to throw in a flashback, then a ten hour plus sequence where we get right back to that same point in time absolutely kills all momentum the story had. Unfortunately the game never recovers after that moment.
It’s a shame, because the other side of the story is compelling in it’s own right, and if we were given more of that earlier it’d be much easier to appreciate the story it’s telling. It really reminds me of how gaming’s biggest fault is a lack of subtlety.
The story was nuanced up to that point, then it comes screeching to a halt while it feels like a huge sign is shouting “SEE IT’S THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN.”
Overall, by the time the plot catches back up, it becomes a struggle to continue with several more hours and an epilogue that tries to one up Red Dead Redemption 2’s ending.
It’s just too bloated, and the 30 plus hours of plot I waded through could use an editor with a hacksaw. Somewhere in the universe, this game has an absolutely incredible 15 hours of content waiting to be rearranged in the perfect order, unfortunately that’s not the game as it’s presented.
The previous games excellent multiplayer, Factions, is also missing in action. They said it has grown to become a more ambitious standalone experience, but it’s presence is missing none the less.
I really enjoyed playing through Last of Us Part Two, and playing it late after it’s release was an interesting experience.
It’s neither this incredible game with a flawless story as most think, but it’s nowhere near the travesty or disappointment bigots and petty people claimed the game was. It’s a solid game, with above average visuals and world design with below average pacing and story telling.