Considering the powerful finale of the original The Last of Us, many players questioned whether Joel and Ellie’s story even needed a sequel. After reaching such unprecedented heights, some people assumed developer Naughty Dog had nowhere to go but down. That assumption was wrong; The Last of Us Part II climbs even higher than the original, pushing boundaries and defying expectations to create an unforgettable and heart-wrenching look at the things people do in the name of love.
From the emotional story to the immersive world, The Last of Us Part II is astounding on every level. It picks up five years after the original, with Ellie and Joel settled into a relatively harmonious existence. They live in a commune among family and new friends, attending parties, going on patrols, and surviving in a world still ravaged by the deadly Cordyceps virus. But despite the legions of infected, humans remain an even more dangerous enemy. We won’t spoil any specifics here, but a tragic event upsets Ellie’s new life and sends her on a quest for vengeance.
Revenge stories are common in all kinds of media, but The Last of Us Part II differentiates itself in how it leverages players’ familiarity with Ellie; the young, joke-loving girl from the first game has transformed into an almost unrecognizable storm of recklessness and violence. She sneaks through Seattle and hunts down the people responsible with brutal efficiency. The game asks you to perform actions as Ellie that can be uncomfortable and infuriating, which is all the more effective because of how much it makes you care about her as a character. Even if you don’t agree with all of her choices, Naughty Dog skillfully helps you understand them in the context of Ellie’s grief.
You can scout areas and take down foes quietly, conserving ammunition for unavoidable encounters full of armed soldiers and horrifying monsters. This immersive mix of combat and stealth creates an exciting push-and-pull that takes you through high-stress pockets of action, then gives you time to breathe and regroup. The downtime also allows you to absorb the artistry of the environments; the carefully crafted world tells compelling stories through countless little details, including everything from written notes to the arrangement of furniture in a room.
The Last of Us Part II revolves around Ellie’s journey, but Naughty Dog also explores its complex themes by asking players to consider events from different perspectives. This adds surprising ambiguity and nuance to a fantastic cast of characters who are brought to life through stellar performances. With bold narrative ambition, intense gameplay, and meticulous technical execution, The Last of Us Part II doesn’t only distinguish itself as Game Informer‘s Game of the Year for 2020; it’s one of the defining experiences of the outgoing console generation.
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