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To say that it’s been an eventful last few weeks for The Last of Us Part II and Naughty Dog would be a huge understatement. From leaks to controversies, overwhelming critical reception to middling user reviews, review bombing to record sales – The Last of Us Part II will forever be etched in videogame history as one of the most polarising games ever released. There is no doubt that the game will surely become a precedent in the future design philosophy of Naughty Dog.

I was never a huge fan of The Last of Us. Sure, I acknowledge the impact the game had on the industry and how it became a benchmark for cinematic storytelling. But everything past the prologue and right up to the second half of TLOU felt clichéd and average to me. The fact that I played the game 6 years after it came out may have something to do with it. But I have to admit that the second half was nothing short of exceptional. Regardless, I honestly wasn’t all that excited for TLOU II, and reviewing it never even crossed my mind.

However, my social media feed has been recently bombarded by deconstruction theorists throwing around big phrases like ‘SJW propaganda’ and ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ like candy. Being the curious fellow that I am, I went ahead and bought the game on an impulse. After spending a whole week playing the game, here are my thoughts on The Last of Us Part II.

Story & Narrative

There have been more spoilers for TLOU II floating around the internet for the past few weeks than any game in 30 years. If you are someone who somehow managed to sidestep them, kudos to you.

The gist of the story is that it’s been five years since the last game and the consequences of Joel’s actions have finally caught up with him. Something tragic happens and Ellie, along with her lover Dina sets out for the ruined remains of Seattle to find answers and seek revenge. The game mostly deals with themes like the cost of revenge, its futility, the price of one life vs many, redemption, letting go, and beginning again. These are the usual existential and humanitarian tropes but it’s the execution that counts. Or more precisely, how the narrative addresses these themes in a convincing and gripping way.

The Last of Us is a hard act to top. No one is more aware of this than the writers. But instead of playing it safe by standing in the shadow of its predecessor, TLOU II risks it all to tell a more somber and personal tale that can sometimes be hard to digest. This is 100% a director’s game and each scene, each turn of the cog in the long and winding story beats reflects this approach.

TLOU II‘s story is in no way a masterpiece. Since the story is much longer and spaced out in-between long gameplay sections, the pacing can feel very slow, especially compared to the tight narrative of the original. Some scenes in the non-linear narrative feel as if they are out of place and can suddenly take you out of an enjoyable scene. Contrary to the first game which mainly revolved around Joel and Ellie, TLOU II has an expanded main cast, most of whom are not given the limelight they deserve. Characters are introduced and killed off even before the player has a chance to get invested in them.

The writing also feels a lot more ‘pedestrian’ this time around. I don’t get why Ellie has to cuss every fucking time she brutally murders someone. Then there are some minor plot holes, numerous instances of plot armor being handed out, and aspects that don’t make sense, which are all synonymous with every video game narrative. Nothing a little suspension of disbelief can’t dispel.

Yet, it was when the final scene came to a close, that I realized the subtle brilliance of the narrative. The unconventional ending that subverts the revenge power-fantasy trope nails the themes the writers wanted to portray and brings the two games full circle through the brilliant, and yet, easily overlooked metanarrative. Confucius’ “Before You Embark On A Journey Of Revenge, Dig Two Graves” might be one of the most overused sayings ever, but The Last of Us Part II goes one step further to say that just two graves will not be enough.

Whether or not the cycle of revenge can truly be broken in such a world is a valid question and the story tries to provide an answer by having the player experience both sides of the coin through the rich and offbeat narrative. Whether it’s visualizing a downtrodden world filled with savages, factions, and their opposing ideologies or controversial aspects like representation, Naughty Dog pulls them off gracefully and organically.

Enriching the cinematic narrative is the spectacular world-building in the form of environmental storytelling with each and every ruin of the old world telling its story and that of its inhabitants, as well as the organic banter between the characters that serves to fill in backstories without them being complete exposition dumps.

While the flaws in TLOU II‘s story are not as cleverly hidden as its predecessor’s, it definitely is a praiseworthy endeavor that gets a lot of things right.

Gameplay & Mechanics

The Last of Us Part II doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to the gameplay. However, the sequel does everything the first game did, better, to the point of near-perfection. Levels are much bigger though not fully open. Each area is connected with the subsequent one in such a convincing manner that it stimulates the feeling that you’re playing through one giant seamless level. I just wish there were more open areas like Downtown Seattle further down the way.

The same goes for combat and stealth. They are also expanded and improved, with the game giving you more tools and abilities to take down the infected as well as human enemies. This includes but is not limited to tighter controls, the ability to go prone, the expanded arsenal and weapon upgrades, more unlockable passives, etc. The beefy sound effects and impactful gunplay make the combat encounters as chaotic and adrenaline-pumping as the original. The gore system, which is the best I’ve seen this year after Doom Eternal, makes the shooting all the more fun.

The last of us part II

While there are some cool features in the game like enemy callouts, calling in reinforcements, enemies genuinely panicking when their comrades are taken out, giving up arms on being overwhelmed, etc., they’re let down by the terrible AI. The AI is as consistent as the banana shake my sister makes (which is to say, not at all). Sometimes they are able to spot you from a mile away like the enemies from Far Cry 2, other times they’ll just pretend to be blind while you’re taking a shiv to their friend’s exposed throat.

The sequel is also way easier than the first game. On finding the normal difficulty insultingly easy, I switched to ‘Challenging’ and still had an easy time. By the time the finale came around, I was running around gunning everyone down like a commando. This is coming from someone who sucks at using a controller. To be fair, the game does offer an overwhelming amount of accessibility and difficulty options to tweak as per your wish, but they don’t improve the AI in any meaningful way.

Aside from the AI, TLOU II improves on all the gameplay mechanics from the first game. It may not be revolutionary or nuanced but works well in favor of the game.

Visuals, Performance & Sound

I don’t think there is a need to say much about the visual fidelity and optimization prowess of Naughty Dog games. These guys are especially experts in squeezing out every bit of power from the aging PS4. The only negative I can think of is how the daytime lighting can look a bit flat compared to the night time, which is when the game truly shines. From crumbling office buildings that reek of decay to lush overgrown vegetation to muddy swamps and overcast skylines, Naughty Dog once again proves that they know what they’re doing. The attention to detail in crafting the environment, character models, and animations, the decision to not overuse the same assets, and the immaculate quality of the cinematics are mindblowing at a time when Ctrl+V is the best friend of many developers (you know who you are).

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II runs as good as it looks, even on the base PS4. The fps pretty much remains a stable 30 for the majority of the game with dips being very few and far between. Contrary to what the internet says, my PS4 Slim didn’t sound like a jet engine while running the game. Maybe it’s time to clean out your PS4?

Much like the first game, TLOU II‘s sound design is nothing short of amazing. Voice acting is top-notch with Troy Baker as Joel Miller stealing the spotlight once again, even if he has little screen time. If you present just the cutscenes alone to a non-gamer, I’m sure they’d mistake it for a big-budget animated featurette. It’s that good. Music, is, once again subtle and not unnecessarily in your face. The music shifts from somber strings to creeping dread as the situation demands. And I’m sure you guys have listened to, or at least heard of the various guitar sequences present in the game.

The Last of Us Part II

Gun sounds contain enough bass to rock your eardrums; the undead sound spooky and Clickers, as always, creep me the hell out. However, I did notice that while playing with headphones, the audio cues were inaccurate most of the time. If an infected is in the room in front of you, it sounds like their sound is coming from two rooms behind. What’s up with that, I wonder.


From a purely critical standpoint, The Last of Us Part II is a good game. The story is engaging, the gameplay is satisfying and the level of polish sets a new standard for the industry. But, as I stated above, The Last of Us Part II is also a director’s game through and through. Story beats and character development may not go the way you want all the time and that can be a little hard to digest for many. Your enjoyment of the story and the characters Naughty Dog has expertly crafted will depend upon whether you’re willing to accept this aspect, or not. As long as you go in by setting aside prejudices and with an open mind, the game may legitimately surprise you.

  1. the ending is reasonable it teaches us that by taking an act of revenge we totally ignore the people who are still with us and that happened when Ellie returned to the farmhouse and finds no one except her son in the lure of revenge we lose everything that’s why Ellie let Abby alive

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