The Last of Us Part II

Time Played: 38 hours 16 minutes

Aesthetics/Graphics: Very detailed and poignantly beautiful.

Gameplay: So well done. They took everything that worked well in the first game and then improved on it and added even better elements.

Story: Devastating. The reality of consequences was hammered home, and characters actually suffer PTSD from their experiences. Not what I wanted, not what I needed, but it did feel fitting somehow.

Soundtrack: Beautiful follow-up, gave me chills at the start. Also, the adaptive audio really got into my head (that's a good thing).

Language, Romance, Gore: Plenty of language including a lot of the f-word and occasional use of the c-word.

The main protagonist is either lesbian or bisexual. (I'm not entirely sure which it is, but I'm fairly certain she is lesbian.) Some homosexual romance including a frisky scene, and a heterosexual sex scene (it only lasts maybe 20 seconds, but the woman is shown from the front naked waist-up and the beginning of intercourse is depicted).

Lots of gore (on a new level this time).

Thoughts: If you want to play the game without any spoilers of any kind including gameplay, mechanics, abilities, etc. then just don't read this review. I will obviously mark any true spoilers, but minor, non-story related things will be strewn throughout.

Things I liked:

I love that they added a mechanic for smashing glass in the world around you. You can smash windows and doors on buildings and cars, and I may have gotten a little bat-happy once I found that out. You can also smash in the glass on vending machines and display cases in stores. In fact, all of this is encouraged. There are often supplies or extra areas to explore behind glass. Just don't forget that noise can attract very unwanted attention...( can also be used as a lure!)

Just like in the first game, there are safes full of the good loot. However, in this game, you have to actually input the code you find on a piece of paper or note wherever. AND, on top of that you don't even have to find the note. YOU CAN CRACK THESE SAFES. If you listen very closely the correct numbers will make a slightly different click as you scroll through. I realized this after finding the first couple notes and then very rarely even looked for the notes after that as I loved feeling like I was releasing my inner criminal by "cracking" the safes!

I love the increased abilities, means, and viability of stealth in this game. For instance, our beloved Ellie now has an unbreakable shiv (!) and can stealth kill as many people/creatures as she wants with it. I took full advantage of this. Honestly, if I could make it through the whole game by stealth killing everybody one by one I would probably do it.

Speaking of stealth abilities, I like how the two main players have different skill-sets and unlockable abilities that play to their strengths rather than just the same set of options for both. For instance, they might both have a stealth skill-set, but different options to unlock underneath that.

There were some areas that would remind me of particularly hard/scary spots from the first game. This was good and bad. It was a really fascinating effect and kinda gave me really neat videogame-PTSD vibes (I know PTSD is a very real, extremely serious, and horribly painful experience. I do not mean to diminish or demean that at all. I simply think that the skill and psychology involved, to evoke a sense of pseudo-PTSD from someone via videogame sequel was rather mind-blowing). I walked into one area that looked like the restaurant that Ellie had to fight David in, and just kinda went -

I moved through there SO cautiously.

The enemy intelligence has evolved enormously from the first game. Like, wow. If you are fighting a group of any type, once one person is alerted to your presence they are so quick to alert everyone else. And after that, well...Let's just say I like stealth for a reason and this really kind of encourages the stealth approach. But seriously, enemy communication, human or not, was a trickier aspect to fight or work with/around this time.

And speaking of enemies, there are now different classes of human enemies as well as zombies. Before, all the humans were pretty much the same in how they fought, their strength, abilities, health, etc. Now, we have the addition of what I would call tanks -basically human enemies that are bigger and stronger. They may not be quick, but when they hit you, they hit you hard and they take a lot more punishment before they go down, too. They also take a bit more to stealth-kill. On top of that, <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<NEW ENEMY SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> there are a few new breeds of zombies as well. We have Shamblers that are a bit similar to Bloaters but worse somehow. With Bloaters there was the trick of fire, whether in the form of a Molotov or the flamethrower. With Shamblers, well...good luck.

And the one that nearly killed me in real life...Stalkers. Ellie dropped down into a location where several zombies that looked like runners were feeding on a body. They heard her drop and ran away. That was my first clue that something was off. When she said "Stalkers." I freaked the heck out. Basically their whole point is that they sneak around hiding from you until they can get behind you and then they run up and attack out of NOWHERE. And the issue is that you can't hear them. When you crouch down and listen, they will only light up on the screen very rarely so you have no clue where they are. During that first encounter with them I spent quite a while backed up into a corner like -

Staring, listening, barely breathing. Every time there were Stalkers I was absolutely terrified. I swear they almost gave me a heart attack. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<END SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

There is a section during a very large thunderstorm. I LOVE storms and I just have to say that that storm was BEAUTIFUL. That is all.

I liked getting some diversity in this game, not only with characters but also with worldviews. We have several different worldviews/faiths and it was refreshing to get a bit more of a spectrum of representation. For instance, we learn that Dina has a Jewish background, although while she might still hold some of the beliefs it seems she isn't really involved with the faith anymore. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<SLIGHT SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>There is also a quasi-religious group that is quite brutal. And from that we also get a young child that turns out to have been rejected by the group and is being hunted for being a trans-male.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<END SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The things you become involved in, especially some of the fights you get into, often feel massive. Not that they are particularly massive, but they feel enormous compared to you as a single normal person. It's like sometimes you are just suddenly aware of how insignificant you are and you kinda go, "Whoa. I'm one person here and what have I gotten myself into??" I'm really not sure how to explain this, but if you play it and you get it, let me know if you can put it into words.

The story. Very well written. Not what I expected. Definitely not what I wanted. But very appropriate. Dark. Agonizing. Devastating. Left me feeling quite hollow at the end.

If there is a real-life application of something learned in-game, it's that I absolutely need a cute guy by my side at all times. Not to save me or anything, but just to give me encouraging comments and props while I stealth-kill bad guys with my bow from the tall grass like a total badass.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<MAJOR END OF GAME SPOILER LIKE SERIOUSLY THIS SPOILS NEARLY THE ENTIRE ENDING STOP READING RIGHT NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< The almost very end of the game. There were a few false endings first, but everything over the years has led to this moment. You think it will be some big fight or showdown or maybe a drawn-out torturous kill, felt eerily similar to the Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula. When Ellie finds Abby, Abby and Lev have been enslaved for months and at this point were sentenced to death for attempting escape. Ellie finds them tied to posts along the shore, in amongst dozens of other hanging corpses in various stages of decay. Ellie finds Abby and proceeds to cut her loose. Abby cuts Lev down. Abby leads them to boats. It is all very quiet and somber. At the last minute, Ellie decides she can't just let Abby go. But they are both wounded, exhausted. She forces Abby to fight her, and at this point it's more about the principle of the thing, as Ellie didn't really have a huge burning desire to continue this hunt anyway. But they fight. And it is quiet, desperate, pitiful, heart-wrenching. They fight in the shallow waves, shrouded in mist with Lev lying passed out in one of the boats. They circle and circle. And instead of a big, dramatic end with tense music and a lot of flash, it is quiet. It is very simple, brutal, and gut-wrenching. At this point, you hardly even have any desire to fight anymore. You just want to be done. But instead, you trade exhausted blows and spill each other's blood into the water backed by a subdued, emotional track that brings home the tragic grimness of it all. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<END MAJOR END OF GAME SPOILER<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Things I wasn't so hot on:

I was unpleasantly surprised that in starting this game it took a couple hours before I was actually playing. Very slow start with a lot of background/exposition for the years we've jumped from the first game to this one and setting up the story and characters of this game.

It often felt way too easy. I was playing on moderate difficulty, but there were supplies everywhere. I was always finding stuff that I couldn't take because I was full up already. I was never really worried about using things because I knew there would be plenty of more supplies and ammo right around the corner at any given moment.

The sex scene. It just seemed gratuitous. You could've done things differently and still gotten your point across just the same. But now I'm sitting here extra grossed out. (But I know this is a very personal opinion.)

The hints. They were SO PUSHY. I play completionist, so I'll start exploring an area and the hints start popping up like DO YOU NEED A HINT? A HINT? DO YOU WANT A HINT? HOW ABOUT NOW? DO YOU NEED A HINT YET? YOU'VE BEEN HERE 3 SECONDS TOO LONG ARE YOU LOST? DO YOU NEED WHAT I HAVE? I HAVE A HINT! I CAN GIVE YOU A HINT!! And I didn't want to just turn them off because there was the rare occasion where I did actually need a hint -but never as fast as it wanted to give me a hint.

The weapons upgrades sequences. I was a bit annoyed every time I upgraded anything, because each upgrade would trigger a little scene of the character "upgrading" the weapon and then would return you to the beginning of the upgrade menu again instead of just staying on the weapon you were currently working on. And here's the thing, the little scene was usually nonsense. A lot of the time the person's body would conveniently block the view so you couldn't see what they were doing and then often it would just be a super quick, shoddy attempt at cleaning the weapon. I have cleaned several guns in my day, and two swipes with a brush down the barrel and a slap with a rag ain't gonna do you no good, hon.

As I said earlier, I play completionist. I thought I did pretty good with my first playthrough, finished the game and checked the stats and my jaw dropped when I saw how much I was missing. I was dumbfounded. I thought I had been so careful to always check every single nook and cranny. Apparently that wasn't good enough. I spent so much time looking for collectibles and whatnot that I even got a bit tired of it. Me. So that was a bit frustrating. But I guess it is some incentive to keep playing it again... (I found 195 collectibles. There are 266 collectibles in all to be found within the game.)

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<SMALL GAMEPLAY SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> There are dogs in this game. And they die. More specifically, YOU HAVE TO KILL DOGS. I mean, if you can sneak around them then I applaud you, but they track you down FAST, and once they find you they attack you, and then everyone else hunting you attacks you and it is a whole, nasty mess. Also, learn from my mistake and don't use a Molotov on a dog. It is super sad. Also, if you kill the dog's handler the dog will get super sad and go lay down by their dead handler. DON'T LET THIS FOOL YOU. They will still spot you and attack you super fast. I was SO PISSED that they used dogs against me AND made me kill them. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<END SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<MAJOR GAMEPLAY SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> You play as both the Protagonist AND the Antagonist in this game. You are your own anatagonist. Oh. But yeah. It's hard on the emotions (if you are an emotional person). I had a really hard time because I was SO pissed at the antagonist and absolutely DID. NOT. WANT. to stop hating them. I knew they were trying to show both sides of the story and how both sides have motivations and emotions and hopes and dreams and friends and "good" sides and bad sides, but I wanted this person to die slowly and painfully and I did not want to stop hating their guts. So I worked really hard to hate them even as I played as them. And over the days of playing that really started to affect me, even outside the game. It was rough. And if you read the big end of game spoiler above then you know that I was not able to hold on to that for the long term. I held on by tooth and nail for a long time, but in the end I was tired of it and I was just so sad for both sides. But yeah, for days I was pissed as I was forced to play a character I absolutely hated.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<END MAJOR GAMEPLAY SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

And somewhere in the middle: Characters in cutscenes often fell into Uncanny Valley a bit for me as they were SO realistically rendered. Owen was the worst (best/most detailed). It wasn't necessarily bad or too unsettling even, just a bit weird.

The in-between periods where you revisit important moments in a character's past were interesting. Sometimes I appreciated the break. Sometimes I just wanted to keep moving.

There were several false endings. But I'm not actually sure that was such a terrible thing. Because, sure, maybe you didn't like the way it ended, but oh look now there's an opportunity for things to get so much worse. Are you sure you didn't like that "ending"? Are you sure you don't want to go hide under a blanket and pretend that was the real ending? I guess really it just adds to the reality of it, as, just like life, there is no "the end" where things are neatly resolved and you're done and can just move on...

Was it worth the money?: It was a gift, but I would be willing to pay $40 for this game. For the main reason why I wouldn't spend more, see the "MAJOR GAMEPLAY SPOILER" above.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Dark. Agonizing. Devastating.

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