At the hands of Naughty Dog American studios, in 2013 came what I personally consider as one of the best games that consoles (Playstation) had the opportunity to run: The Last of Us.
An adventure full of action, adventure and tenderness that put a hard and calloused man (Joel) in the role of protector of a delicate, fun and smart girl (Ellie), while insole a devastated land full of aberrations in search for salvation.
After seven years, The Last of Us 2 appears, and we’re back to finding Ellie and Joel.
When it was released in 2013, The Last of Us automatically ascended that imaginary pedestal that few games can aspire to and that even less can reach. You can read our analysis here.
However, a game so close to perfection has a reverse of the medal, which is to set the bar so high that it becomes risky to think of a sequel. But that’s exactly what happened… the Last of Us 2.
As in the original game, The Last of Us 2 should be interpreted in the form of an interactive narrative with a message rather than a simple game. It’s like a movie where we can control the characters and have some kind of freedom in the way we do it.
The first game was like this. However, there is a clear difference between the two, which completely alters the way we feel the game: Ellie.
While in The Last of Us, Ellie was a fun child, full of dreams and in need of protection, in this second game comes to us a woman made and stiffened (perhaps too much) by the events that have occurred over the years. This change is critical to the course of the game.
The story begins in Jackson, where Ellie and Joel found a quiet and safe refuge with Tommy (Joel’s brother). After a start that recalls some game mechanics, including encounters with the Infected, a crucial point of the game arises and marks the entire narrative.
This tragic event takes place at the hands of Abby, a highly angry and seeking revenge character (we’ll understand better later in the game). As we get to know Abby better, we will also realize one of the strengths of the game: the thin line between good and evil, and the fact that all our actions have a return.
Blinded by a thirst for revenge, Ellie leaves for Seattle after Abby accompanied by her friend Dina, where most of the game takes place. It is in this gigantic and frightening city that the story will unfold and we end up discovering the answers to almost all our questions.
Whether or not I agree with the story and certain narrative aspects of the game, I can’t help but mention that I really enjoyed the ‘new’ Ellie. Although more grown-up and stronger (physically and mentally), Ellie continues to possess the flashes of emotion and irreverence that she used us to in the first game. However, she is also tormented, not only by what happened at the beginning of The Last of Us 2 but also by another secret…
Ellie’s emotional depth expands to all the other protagonists of the game giving her impressive narrative richness, so Naughty Dog is again to be congratulated.
Ellie grew up and is now a mature and stiff woman.
Over the years, Ellie has acquired new skills. Already knows how to jump, crawl, shoot while lying down, or even produce various tools, weapons and ammunition (proximity mines are great friends).
As she advances through the ruins of the city, Ellie is also growing and this comes in the form of learning/improving new skills, such as perfecting her stealth, or becoming faster in creating tools and weapons.
Still in ellie’s learning chapter, some benches are scattered throughout the scenarios that allow Ellie (and not only) to upgrade her weapons. The arsenal is not very vast but it is enough: revolvers, shotguns, carbine, bow and arrow and even a crossbow.
However, and despite all of Ellie’s natural growth, there was something that made me a little uneasy. Regardless of whether or not she is a girl, and despite sometimes counting on the support of friends (Dina is the first), Ellie manages to leave a trail of destruction wherever she goes, killing everything and everyone. It’s forced…
Arriving in Seattle, Ellie encounters two distinct forces at war: the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) and the Seraphites (a religious fanatic group that uses whistles as a warning) with whom she will have to fight. Sometimes even simultaneously with the Infected.
These moments are delicious and open the door to a great freedom of action, because it is perfectly possible (and even advisable) to create traps that cause the Infected to attack the enemy military groups and thus facilitate our work.
During the Series Inside The Last of Us Part 2, Naughty Dog referred to their concern to give a certain humanity to our enemies. And their behaviors really convey realistic feelings and emotions, such as anger and revenge when they find one of their comrades eliminated by us. The very fact that they are treated by names creates a strong sense of camaraderie.
And this brings us to the combat system of The Last of Us 2. With the inclusion of new stealth mechanics (crawling among the tall grass, ability to climb, use of tricks), the combat has become much more diverse and with many more options (either to eliminate enemies or to pass through them unnoticed).
The attacks, especially the stealthy ones, are brutal. They’re visceral. Stab wounds to the neck, stab wounds to the head,… and even deaths from nearby mines, which cause rains from body parts. This is definitely a game for over 18s (so and by the language used by the protagonists).
An aside to mention that the game is fully located in Portuguese and with one of the best representations I’ve ever seen in video games. If The Last of Us had a luxury cast that gave much of itself to the game, in The Last of Us 2, their performances are at oscar level. Again, Joana Ribeiro, Marcantonio Del Carlo, Pedro Laginha and company meet to be congratulated, because much of the beauty and immersion of the game depends on how they interpreted their roles.
Returning to combat, I would like to mention the inclusion of dogs that brings a new level of difficulty with which the player has to worry. It sometimes becomes desperate. Even crawling in the tall grasses, the dogs’ sloof pick up our scent and, with their trainers around, it’s extremely complicated to escape.
Despite aberrations, the Infected have a more pointed behavior compared to the first game. Their behaviors are less repetitive and more random, as well as they continue to have “herd” reactions when they notice the presence of humans.
And there are new classes that make the challenge even greater. I’ll just mention one, which is deliciously complicated to eliminate: Trôpegos. Decidedly, in addition to ugly as the machete, the Trôpegos have the ability to drop clouds of poison. They’re definitely not the best company to have in a dark hallway. But there’s more… Don’t worry about it.
And speaking of dark areas, Naughty did a good job of switching between bright areas and dark areas. This alternation is quite balanced and helps to replenish the heartbeat (these dark zones become claustrophobic).
The scenarios are simply fantastic and I dare say it will be one of the best that the Playstation 4 has ever had the opportunity to run.
As I mentioned above, nature has claimed Seattle for itself and the city emerges as a ghostly array of dilapidated buildings surrounded by bush and water. There are interesting and credible details everywhere you go. Rundown houses, collapsed subway tunnels, flooded streets, an abandoned Comic Book seminar… all with a simply amazing visual depth.
A piece of advice I give to anyone who wants to accept: as scary as sometimes the path becomes, waste some time to investigate every corner of the scenarios. You’ll see that in addition to finding important (scarce) items and resources, you’ll also discover wonders naughty dog has put into the game.
And the sound too. The details such as the mere fact that we run up some escalators and heard the metallic steps, the water running down the flooded streets,…
The game offers us a narrative about decisions and their repercussions. A decision, regardless of whether good or bad for someone, always has an impact on something or someone else, and The Last of Us 2 reinforces precisely that.
I remember when I finished the first game I kept having a good time looking at the screen, in a mixture of joy and sadness, and thinking to me “So! What’s next? What about Ellie?” And that absorption that the game had in me, was my miracle of The Last of Us. It is to be praised when a game tells us a story with which The Last of Us has told in this way so immersive that it effectively transports us into its narrative. The Last of Us 2, will do the same to you… Believe!
As you’ve noticed, I’ve intended not to unravel much of the story or the protagonists of The Last of Us 2, because I believe that this discovery should be in the hands of all who experience the game. And believe me! You’re going to want to try this game.
After The Last of Us, I believed it was very difficult to emerge a successor who could reach that level of excellence. In fact, after that masterpiece, I couldn’t believe naughty dog (or whoever) would be trying.