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REVIEW: The Last of Us Part II — Striking all the right chords


Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developed by: Naughty Dog
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre(s): Action-adventure, survival horror, active cinematic experience
Mode(s): Single-player
Game Type: , ,
100/ 100

User Rating
1 total rating



The apex of video game storytelling. Unprecedented level of polish and care. Lengthy campaign.


Multiplayer was scrapped.

Posted June 12, 2020 by

Seven years ago, I thought my time of shedding tears over videogames were done. Then the first 20 mins of The Last of Us on PS3 happened. Fast forward to about a week ago and I thought I was over that, too. Suffice to say, The Last of Us Part II had me in snot and tears. From beginning to end, it tore me to pieces.

  • This review is spoiler-free, so read as much as you want without fear of getting your experience sullied.
  • We highly recommend you experience the first game before jumping into Part II.



In the end, nothing about my disposition could change any of the outcomes…

The Last of Us Part II picks up roughly 5 years since the events of the first game. The story now follows a 19-year old Ellie, who’s been living in relative peace within the walls of the settlement in Jackson. It’s a thriving community, one that has prospered enough to enable a life that resembles that of the old world. This peace is short-lived, however, when certain events lead Ellie to give up the comforts of Jackson in pursuit of bloody vengeance.

The setup up was simple, yet effective, and the motivation is clear. I wasn’t just playing through the levels. I was carrying with me the same conviction as Ellie’s. I was sucked deep into the narrative of retribution and justice, but as I got deeper, other themes start to unfold. The game gets you thinking. It gets you to reflect. But, in the end, the story is linear, and nothing about my disposition could change any of the outcomes. Even then, I didn’t hesitate. I found myself subconsciously holding off on my reflections and pushing on. It becomes an obsession. But, how far will Ellie take it? How far will I take it? Ellie… I have to see it through.


But, the story doesn’t only focus on Ellie. There are other people involved in all this, too. And, for some of them, it’s as much their story as it is hers. All these characters feel like real genuine people. Individuals with their unique temperaments, convictions, and flaws. It’s in these varying perspectives that the story explores all of its themes. It’s all very grounded, tense, raw, brutal, and incredibly well-written.

There are plenty of games that rely heavily on story, but, very few works on a cinematic level. For Naughty Dog, presentation has always been as important, if not more, than the telling of a story. With The Last of Us 2, they’ve really doubled it down. In terms of visuals, the game doesn’t just pump in graphics the way other high fidelity games do. They’re not just cranking up textures or beefing up resolution. It does have all those things, but for The Last of Us 2, the devil really is in the details.


Presentation has always been as important, if not more, than the telling of a story. With The Last of Us 2, they’ve really doubled it down.

It’s astonishing, the amount of effort and care that was put into all the minute details. On one level, I had to throw a power cable over a fence for it to reach a generator. The power cable was a physics-based object, and so it was dangling over the fence and into the socket. Whenever I would pass under it, Ellie would tilt her head down as to not get caught on the cable. Other games would’ve had the character clip through the cable and we wouldn’t care. And yet, here it is, along with hundreds of other seemingly useless little details that, together, make up an immersive and believable experience.

Ellie’s journey will take you to lots of new locations with varying seasons and climates. Each of them is crafted and rendered with such meticulous detail, bringing unprecedented levels of quality. What’s more remarkable is the scale of it all, which is beyond anything we’ve seen from Naughty Dog so far.


This level of detail isn’t just found in the world, but in the characters, too. TLOU2 has perhaps the best digital facial expression I’ve seen to date. Again, it’s not so much the graphical quality but rather the level of detail. Countless little moving parts in each character’s face make their expressions look very convincing. This allowed the stellar performances from the motion and vocal talents to be captured spectacularly. Some in ways that could rival, in all seriousness, even the best performances in Hollywood.


From a gameplay standpoint, The Last of Us II still has the original formula at its core but is now more expanded and refined. The goal has always for gameplay to be very tense and dynamic. The first game nailed it but Part II had these elements greatly elevated, delivering some of the best stealth and action sequences compared to even the most prominent names in the genre.


It’s all about survival. You’ll have to actively scavenge for parts, supplements, and ammunition if you aim to survive. You also can’t really hoard resources as you can only carry so much. Workbenches are scattered across the many areas you’ll visit which allows you to improve your weapons; upgrades that manifest into the weapon’s appearance as you unlock them. These upgrades are fewer, more impactful, and cost a lot of spare parts to unlock, so you’ll need to carefully consider which upgrades to take. Character skills also make a return. This time you can gain access to new skills by finding training manuals that cater to specific playstyles. The amount of resources needed to purchase skills and upgrades forces you to prioritize ones that compliment your playstyle the most, effectively creating a very custom experience depending on how you choose to play.

The gameplay depth in TLOU2 is truly remarkable, and it does really well to stay woven into the narrative.

Managing your resources and how you tackle each encounter requires careful consideration, and you often don’t get that luxury. Thankfully, you have access to a few new tricks to deal with the challenges ahead. For starters, you can now go prone. It’s simple, but opens up a few new options for Ellie, especially during stealth. You’ll be able to crawl through tight spaces or use tall grass as cover while prone. This gives added cover but doesn’t make you completely invisible, so you still have to think on your feet, especially as enemies get closer. Additionally, you can now jump small gaps and make use of the occasional ropes, which adds a new layer of verticality to each encounter. The rope isn’t something you have access to at all times, though, and it did feel like it’s applications were few and far in between.


Given her age and size, naturally, Elle’s a lot more nimble. Now, you can perform a quick dodge in any direction by tapping the sprint button. This works great when dealing with melee attackers or when getting swarmed. Ellie also fights with a switchblade that, unlike shivs, do not break upon use. When push comes to shove and stealth becomes less of an option, frantic combat ensues. And in my experience, combat encounters felt more dynamic and personal than ever before. In one instance, I found myself trying to get enemies to lose sight of me. As I turned a corner, I came across a grunt who had the same idea. We both got startled but I more so than he. He gets the drop on me with his gun but only grazes me by the shoulder, dropping me on my back. I knew if I tried to get up, he’d finish me off, so I instinctively aimed my gun as quickly as I could and shot him dead whilst still on the ground. Before I could even let out a sigh of relief, another one shows up by the far end of the corner. I threw a brick at her as I sprinted, giving me time to close the gap and jam an axe into her center mass. Her ally sees this and yells out her name. These were people, but I put one between his eyes before I could process any of that and move on to the next kill.

Managing your resources and how you tackle each encounter requires careful consideration, and you often don’t get that luxury. 

Plenty of non-scripted encounters play out like this, but it’s the scripted encounters that were no doubt the most adrenaline-inducing of all. One sequence early on had me fight off a couple of infected runners. They were easy enough to dispatch, but then another came along, then another. Soon I was getting overwhelmed, and with only one bullet left in the barrel, it was clear I had to run. The farther I sprinted, the more the infected start to pour in. I had no idea where to go or if I was running into a dead-end. There were so many close calls and the entire time it was a rush of heightened senses. Story sequences were exciting, but encounters were no less so.


Ellie might’ve upped her arsenal, but so have her enemies. There are two human factions you’ll face, both very distinct from one another and thus, require different approaches. On one hand, there’s the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), which is a more military-oriented faction with lots of firepower and employs the use of attack dogs. Ellie leaves a trail of scent, which these dogs can follow to snuff you out, even from complete cover. You can use listen mode to check your trail and cause distractions to keep the dogs off of your scent. These dogs force you to be on your toes, preventing you from taking too much time in stealth and increasing your risk of fumbling into a full-on encounter. On the other hand are the Seraphites (Scars). They’re religious zealots that utilize stealthier tactics to fight. Taking on Scars are vastly different from how you would WLFs. Its usually a battle of stealth, trying to get the jump on them whilst making sure they don’t get the jump on you.


There’s then, of course, the infected, who are far less subtle and more chaotic to deal with. There are quite a few new classes of infected out there but what stood out to me the most where the Stalkers. They aren’t technically new, but there are a bunch more of them this time around. They sneak, hide, wait and ambush, and worst of all, they’re very quiet which makes them near impossible to spot using listen mode. This really ups the challenge when dealing with infected groups if a few of them are added into the mix.

Sometimes these different factions are thrown at you simultaneously, which are designed to add a level of challenge but also opportunity.

These varying enemy types are sometimes thrown at you simultaneously, designed to add a level of challenge but also opportunity. When infected are mixed in with WLF’s or Scars, for instance, you can kinda sic infected onto them then take advantage of the situation. When WLF and Scars are mixed, they’re going to fight each other for sure, so you can either slip past them or oversee their fight and help thin out the dominating force so that when it’s over, there are fewer stragglers to deal with.

The gameplay depth in TLOU2 is quite remarkable, and it does really well to stay woven into the narrative. Encounters aren’t just generated at random. Better (or worse) still, each person and dog had actual names that they use to call each other out or scream of in agony after you’ve killed their friends. It’s an attempt to put more weight into your kills and succeeds; They were people, too, they’ve got their own lives and stories. It links tightly with the game’s overall themes, as does everything else in the entire game.



The Last of Us Part II is a remarkable achievement. Not just in games, but storytelling in general. It tells a thought-provoking story that tackles themes of morality, tribalism, obsession, empathy, love, hate, and so much more. It does so using multiple perspectives without leaving any obvious answer. Subtle techniques in storytelling and game design weave a narrative that is felt deep. The insane amount of detail in the entire package sets TLOU2 as the new gold standard for what makes a modern blockbuster game.

Dian Raval

Dian is a writer for Flipgeeks who, in his spare time, stares at a wall in his basement. If you'd like to discuss music, video games, or the infinite wisdom of concrete, follow him on twitter @iburnandfume or subscribe to his YouTube channel @iburnandfume. He's pretty much iburnandfume in everything. Apparently he... burns and fumes.


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