How do you follow up one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made? If you are Naughty Dog, you break fans’ hearts even more than you did the first time. The Last of Us is already an emotionally devastating game, but it does not hold a candle to the non-stop highs and lows of its divisive sequel, The Last of Us Part II. With the HBO adaptation of the series officially getting a second season that will tackle the sequel, there has never been a better time to revisit The Last of Us Part II.
What comes next? — As television viewers are quickly learning with every new episode of The Last of Us series on HBO, this world is full of interesting characters with deeply emotional stories that more often than not do not get happy endings.
The success of the show has led to HBO renewing it for a second season, which means we will see the grander story of Part II put to screen with the same attention that the show has given the first game. In 2020 Part II was released to much praise, in addition to plenty of discourse over the game’s themes and story.
Set five years after the end of Part I, it follows Ellie on a new mission rooted in revenge. Sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes grueling, and always gruesome Part II told a story that many games never get the chance to. It asked the question of what happens after the story ends, and how the choices of Joel and Ellie impact the world at large.
A love-hate relationship — Without undermining the ambiguity of the original game’s ending and the morality of Joel’s actions, Part II focuses more on how these choices cost other people in the world and how they respond. Despite the horrible ruthlessness of this world, Part II shows the validity of both sides without judgment by introducing a second protagonist.
Ellie and Abby are on opposite ends of a cyclical conflict. Part II focuses on the theme of revenge and how these cycles hurt all involved. Both Abby and Ellie continue to sacrifice the happiness they have managed to find in their lives in order to fulfill some sense of obligation to an archaic idea of “eye for an eye” justice.
The uncomfortable nature of the story contains one of the most shocking twists in gaming that sent waves through the internet as people discuss the boldness of the narrative choice. Much like how the game tells a story from both sides, players soon created their own sides on whether Part II was a good or bad sequel.
Supporters lauded its unflinching depiction of the cost of brutality that made the player incredibly uncomfortable in the service of the story. Detractors pointed out polarizing real-world issues at play in the conflict with the Scars in Seattle.
Outside of the game’s narrative, gameplay mechanics are expanded upon in enjoyable ways. Levels are larger and more complex with roaming enemies and more verticality across swaths of forest, old neighborhoods, or even a multi-block square of downtown Seattle. Human and Infected enemies are smarter and sometimes grotesque in beautiful ways. Every shot fired and swing of a pipe feels good under the pull of the trigger with a more versatile combat system.
The over twenty hours spent playing Part II span beautiful vistas across varied landscapes and see a much larger part of this post-apocalyptic world than what was seen in the first game. For those who just can’t wait to see the continuation of the HBO show and where it goes next, the best option is to sit down and play Part II.
The Last of Us Part II is available now on PlayStation 4.