Almost exactly seven years ago, gamers were counting down the days to the release of the PlayStation 4, which was still about five months out at that point. The long wait for the new hardware was made a bit more bearable by the release of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us.
This summer is a complete déjà vu in that regard: we’ve just seen Sony announce the first slew of games for its fifth home console, and the wait is once again made a little bit more manageable, thanks to the upcoming release of The Last of Us Part 2.
The Last of Us is a fan favorite for many reasons. It combined everything the game development community learned making games for that generation of consoles into a beautiful, cinematic survival horror masterpiece.
It told the story of Joel, a man who lost his family in an apocalyptic viral outbreak, tasked with escorting a girl named Ellie to safety. The story took the player through a post-apocalyptic America, fighting off zombies and other survivors along the way.
The Last of Us used several tropes of the genre, like scarce resources and deadly enemies, but elevated the experience to a new level with its amazing writing and cinematic storytelling. Every encounter felt dangerous and risky, every cutscene was emotional and gripping. It was the best last first-party hit the PlayStation 3 could hope for.
Now, The Last of Us Part 2 is tasked with giving this generation of gaming hardware a proper send-off, and I’m happy to report that it does so phenomenally.
It’s hard to talk about what makes this sequel so great without getting into spoilers, which I won’t, but trust me when I say that Naughty Dog improved on everything that made the first title great.
The Last of Us Part 2 is extremely polished in every aspect. Its visuals are breathtaking, both technically and artistically, its storytelling and writing sets a new bar for this type of video game, and it plays like a charm.
Naughty Dog hasn’t revealed how big the budget for The Last of Us Part 2 was, but my guess is it was likely far higher than most Hollywood movies. The sheer amount of meticulously crafted environments and the hours of brilliantly enacted character performances hint at investments of money and effort that we’ve never seen before in a video game. This is one of those games you’ll keep showing your non-gaming partner, just because you keep being blown away by how good it looks.
The game uses all that visual prowess to tell a story that is mature and horrifying. It has scenes that are brutal and heart wrenching, but it earns it with its writing. I’ve never experienced dialogues in a game that felt as real and emotional as I have in TLOU2.
Unfortunately, it does not make the same leap in the gameplay department. TLOU2 delivers a more refined version of the well-crafted survival horror combat the first game introduced, but the parts where you’re sneaking around hordes of enemies to get to the next cutscene weren’t my favorite. But that’s not a knock against the gameplay, it’s a testament to how perfect the rest is.
If you played and loved the first game, you’ll absolutely adore its sequel. I could go on and on with a laundry list of superlatives, but what’s the point? You either loved The Last of Us and will love its sequel, or you didn’t and you won’t. If you’re still on the fence, I recommend you pick up the PS4 remaster of the initial game so you can roll right into Part 2 later this month. It’s so worth it.