The Last of Us Part 2 is a good game. Spoiler-Free Review

This will be a spoiler-free review of The Last of Us Part 2, after my first playthrough. I’ll be posting a spoiler discussion afterward, but since it's only been a little over two weeks since its release, I want more people to finish the games themselves first.

For this review, I just want to preface it by saying that I avoided all major spoilers, especially the leaks that came out a couple of months ago in May. Even the official trailers leading up the game’s release spoil parts of the story, and after reading the leaks after I beat the game, I don’t think they were even that bad. But I understand why the developers wanted to keep some things hidden story-wise. I can’t emphasize this enough because most people have already made their mind up about the game, even before playing it. And it’s a fact that if you go into an experience with a negative mindset, and looking for flaws then it's more than likely you will not enjoy the experience. I’m also a huge fan of the first game and have been looking forward to this game for years. I didn’t think the game needed a sequel and knew Naughty Dog was in a tough spot to fulfill the hype.

I can tell you that this game is not bad, but at the same time isn’t a perfect game either. I did enjoy it a lot and would say it is a great game worth playing now but not a 10/10, or on the same level as the first game which was near perfect as you can get in my mind. I am going to highlight a few high points and not so great parts that may help those on the fence looking for a spoiler-free review.

First off starting with a point that is not controversial is that the graphics and sound of The Last of Us Part 2 are the best the PS4 has to offer. There is a variety of different environments from snow-covered mountaintops to spore infected basements. There are a variety of old and a couple of new enemy types, and like the previous game you will face both infected and hostile human enemies. Also a main feature taken from the first game, you can hold down R1 to listen to footsteps allowing you to see locations of enemies through walls when they are nearby. Enemy and friendly AI, scavenging, crafting, and difficulty felt perfect on the hardest setting. I encourage everyone to play on “Survivor” on your first playthrough also for the best experience. You can also adjust the difficulty at any moment in the game’s option so no need to worry about getting stuck and starting a new save file.

For those that are worried about the low Metacritic user ratings and review bombing. Those concerns are unwarranted, and mostly have to do with complaints about the sexuality and genders of the characters. While you may have seen outraged comments of people saying the game is virtue signaling or SJW propaganda, this is from the small vocal minority that always gets a lot of attention. For those that played the first The Last of Us, especially the Left Behind DLC, everyone knows that Ellie’s character is gay and if you have a problem with that, then you shouldn’t pick up the game. While I strongly believe that you can’t generalize gamers and say they are terrible, racist, homophobic bigots, there is a vocal minority of toxic players which is evident for anyone who has played a multiplayer game with voice chat. There is even a group of angry gamers sending death threats to the voice actor from the game. Of course, this is the most extreme and there should be some consequences for these people since you never know how serious some of these threats can be. Some people are just crazy, just like those in The Last of Us Part 2, but you don’t need an apocalyptic event to bring it out of them. You’ll see more videos on YouTube criticizing the game, just because controversy, drama, and extreme opinions tend to get more views on the platform.

While not revolutionary in its gameplay, like going from God of War 3 to the new God of War (2018), The Last of Us Part 2 reuses a lot of features that worked in the first game. Game is also more refined and builds upon the solid foundation of the first game. The stealth is much more enjoyable, and being able to go prone in short grass and utilizing the different levels built into many of the stages to go around the enemies are things that put the gameplay above the 1st game. You still collect medicine to unlock skills, and weapon parts to upgrade your weapons at a workbench. You won't be able to fully upgrade your skills or weapons during your first playthrough. There are collectibles and things you can discover that will award you not only with additional information about the lore and world of the game but also with points to unlock concept art and 3D models.

If you are looking for action, this game takes action from Naughty Dog’s work on the latest Uncharted game and makes firefights just as satisfying as the stealth. You won’t be swinging from ropes, but you can flank your opponents to get a clear shot, use hand to hand combat, melee weapons, and dodging attacks can be utilized seamlessly. There are a few action set pieces, and boss battles that have you running around trying to take down multiple enemies in confined spaces, where you can't slip back into stealth, that were some of my favorite parts. If you don’t like the over the top action scenes from the Uncharted series you may feel it a bit out of place in this game, but the lighting, sound, and amazing graphics just had me in awe of all the stuff going on at once.

The game is dark and downright brutal at times, with some things you would never see in Uncharted or even other horror games. I would wince seeing all the different ways my character could be killed and felt conflicted when prompted to follow the on-screen commands to execute an enemy. That’s one area where I wish the game included more player choice and could have added much more replayability and weight to your choices if there were alternate scenes or multiple endings. This is not a negative to the game, as I tend to think that branching paths or choices don’t work well in a narrative focus game that already has good writers.

Scare resources, replaying some sections, and taking more damage which gives you a real sense of danger is another reason why I highly suggest playing this game on the hardest difficulty. Not only does crafting, stealth, and scavenging become more important, but rationing bullets, healing items, and melee weapons play a greater role. I loved replaying sections of the game and not being able to shoot or punch my way through all encounters.

There were only a couple of bugs that I encountered in my playthrough, as the game is very polished overall. There was one bug where my character’s hand got stuck pointing to a drawer, another when a character’s head got twisted all the way around like in a horror movie, and a little texture pop-in from time to time. But there was one issue, maybe only occurring in the hardest difficulty that did bother me. During a couple of larger encounters I would have a couple of enemies remaining, and getting killed would then reload the game with all the remaining enemies gone. I’m assuming that is a result of more enemies in the hardest difficulty that isn’t present in lower settings.

Similar to the first game, The Last of Us Part 2 has a frequent autosaving feature so you don’t have to replay much of any section. There are even autosaves in between larger encounters after losing the enemy, which made it easy to make sure I had plenty of health and resources after every encounter. I tried to fight the urge to restart every time I wasted a bullet or took a little damage. Even though I felt the bullets and resources were scarce on the hardest difficulty, after about 5-10 hours you rarely feel that you are low on resources and max out on most resources and ammo, especially if you enjoy searching all the nooks and crannies of empty buildings for collectibles, and aren’t just moving straight to the next objective. I tended to switch from stealth to full out firefights when I noticed I started maxing out my ammo and consumables.

In this section, I will talk about some of the weak points in my opinion. While this will be general and not contain specific spoilers, please feel free to skip this section if you don’t want to have my opinion make an impression on you before you get to experience the entire game yourself.

For me, the negatives, and the majority of the complaints about the game come into play with the direction of the story. While feeling more like an action game, and needing to rely more on the suspension of disbelief for parts of the story that seem like plot holes. Another weak point is the introduction of new characters. While one or two will stand out, and the game does a good job of portraying multiple points of view, you don’t get as strong character development as Ellie and Joel in the first game. Completely new factions are introduced and all of them and their leaders are weak, even though many in-game notes try to flesh them out a little more. The story relies heavily on flashbacks, with key moments being withheld till later or end of the game. These ultimately raise more questions than being completely satisfying or lead to huge revelations.

Another aspect that a lot of people don’t like about the game is the portrayal of Ellie’s character. While she was a quirky, and likable kid in the last game, now many years later she is in her late teens and her personality isn’t as endearing compared to the first game. Not only that, but the game focuses on the complexity and internal struggle of the characters that sometimes doesn’t seem logical, especially for Ellie. This has you not feeling as much sympathy for Ellie our main character.

Going into this game without any spoilers is the way to go. Not only from story spoilers but also expectations from the tone of the trailers that have been released. The game is much longer, about twice as long as the first game, and the game does an excellent job with level design, weapons, abilities, and enemy types to keeps things fun throughout. But if you're trying to rush it, I could see some people arguing that some sections tend to move a bit slow.

So in conclusion, I thought that the game is excellent but not perfect or as good as the first game. I would give it a solid A, or 9/10, and recommend everyone to play it before the spoilers ruin your experience. The gameplay and graphics are amazing, but characters and story were on the disappointing side. Time will tell if the game is looked upon more favorably, or become more divisive.

I hope you all enjoyed this quick review, stay tuned for my spoiler discussion coming soon where I can go into more detail about the story and character elements I didn’t like as much, or defend the game against criticism I feel is unwarranted. Drop a comment below with your impression of the game, but like this review try to keep your comments spoiler-free. I appreciate all comments, but I will monitor and delete those that have spoilers and we can use the next post to share those ideas.