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The Last of Us Part 2 review: A powerful, graphically stunning game which gives way to a tedious slog halfway through

Sophia Narwitz
Sophia Narwitz

is a writer and journalist from the US. Outside of her work on RT, she is a primary writer for Colin Moriarty's Side Quest content, and she manages her own YouTube channel. Follow her on Twitter @SophNar0747

is a writer and journalist from the US. Outside of her work on RT, she is a primary writer for Colin Moriarty's Side Quest content, and she manages her own YouTube channel. Follow her on Twitter @SophNar0747

The Last of Us Part 2 review: A powerful, graphically stunning game which gives way to a tedious slog halfway through
Following up one of the most acclaimed narrative action games ever is no easy feat, but for its first 12 hours, ‘The Last of Us Part 2’ hits lofty heights. Due to an awful final half, though, it all comes crashing down by the end.

‘The Last of Us Part 2’ is a game of two very separate identities. The first is a well-executed and emotional trip as players are forced to cope with the harshness of a chaotic and cold world, something accomplished through wonderful pacing and a story arc that ups the ante of what came before. The other is a sloppy morality tale that drops the ball on multiple occasions. This, in large part, is due to a character whose story is forced, and gameplay that becomes a slog. 

Without delving into spoiler territory, the game picks up four years after the dramatic conclusion of the first title, with the main survivors living within relative safety at a settlement in Jackson, Wyoming. Yet when tragedy strikes, beloved characters travel to Seattle, Washington in an effort to seek murderous revenge.

A specific narrative choice early on will be earth-shatteringly divisive among gamers, but I loved it. If this game was rated solely on its first half, it’d be a top five favorite of this console generation. It’s not that anything here is particularly new – in fact, combat and gameplay has barely evolved since the previous title – it’s just that a combination of elements make the experience very easy to get immersed within. 

The graphics are by far the best to ever grace a console, and the details and animations are truly astounding on a technical level. Playable characters feel lifelike, and minor touches, like the way a backpack shifts around, seem true to form. It’s this push for realism that, for the first 10 hours or so, made combat such a blast. There’s a heavy weight and visceral gore that makes what’s happening on the screen almost appear outside the game itself, and that helped cover up some of its shortcomings. 

While facing threats of death it felt as if I was the one fighting for my own life. And that immersion kept me on the edge of my seat. Eventually, though, that did wear off, and by the end of the game, when combat scenarios were endlessly piled on, the immersive aspect eroded and fights became stale. Such staleness also pushed me to change how I played and I began to rush through combat just to get it over with, which opened my eyes to seams I hadn't noticed before, such as its laughably poor blocking animations. 

Not helping combat feel fresh in later sections are mechanics that are quite basic. There’s some wiggle room for variety, but with enemy AI that isn’t anywhere near as advanced as the rest of the game, fights begin to blend together as they all feel the same. Which is a shame, as I have fond memories of some of the earlier encounters. 

One of my most memorable moments was during a shootout in a gas station. I’d recently acquired trip mines, and I’d placed one in a doorway to my left to guard my flank as I covered an opening in front of me. I was low on crafting supplies and ammo, and enemies were swarming all around with nowhere for me to run. Suddenly I heard someone coming towards me from the direction of my trap, and before I could fully turn around I heard the explosion and just barely witnessed the poor sap getting obliterated. Blood and body parts went everywhere, and it was the detail of gore actually dripping from the ceiling that wowed me. It was a visual that stuck, and the intensity of that moment was hammered into my brain. The event was made all the more lifelike as another enemy gave their position away to call out in horror the name of their friend who’d just died by my cunning trap. 

Throughout the first half, it was small details like that which kept me engaged. More so as I was really invested in the story. There are some phenomenal character moments, and the personalities are wonderfully brought to life by voice actors who turn in some of their best performances to date (with the exception of one, which I’ll get to soon). 

So with so much going for it, it’s an utter shame the last half of the game is almost completely unbearable.

Being mindful not to spoil too much, the first half sees the player primarily taking on the role of Ellie as she spends a handful of days searching Seattle for a person she wants to kill. As a main protagonist of the series, this is very much her game and her story. Just as her narrative is amping up towards its conclusion, however, players are left on a cliffhanger, before being forced to take on the role of a new character to the series named Abby. 

Given the plot, this character shift could have worked, but instead of continuing on from where the first half left off, players must replay the three days in Seattle from a different point of view. It’s a detour that takes roughly 12 real-world hours, and it adds very little to the narrative.

It’s during this extended section that the game beats the same drum over and over and over again. The idea is to make you sympathize with someone you may otherwise not want to sympathize with, but it’s completely forced and overly long, with zero subtlety to boot. 

Further adding to the chore that is Abby’s story arc is voice acting that doesn’t at all match the character’s design or personality, and it kept pulling me out of the experience. Abby is a massive gorilla-sized brute, and her body movements are imposing and masculine – yet her voice is feminine, and her dialogue delivered in a way that doesn’t look like it’s coming from the behemoth of a woman on screen. It’s jarring.

The disinterest I had in Abby’s character and plot created a huge disconnect for me in how I went about playing the game. As Ellie, I would carefully navigate environments, making sure I saw and found everything. I carefully plotted out how to take out groups of enemies, and I would engage in stealth and strategy. With Abby though, I just wanted to push through her chapters to get back to the stuff I cared about, so I mindlessly rushed through combat, forced my way through environments as quickly as I could, and generally just sat in front of my screen annoyed at the waste of time her entire existence proved to be. 

It was while stewing in frustration that other shortcomings started to become more noticeable. The combat, as mentioned, was too basic to sustain its length, but even things like the core gameplay loop of scouring the environment for necessary crafting supplies got old. It was fine for a 15 hour game, but not one that hits 30 or so. On the same hand, the environments themselves got borderline exhausting and repetitive. By the time you’re traveling through the 50th building overgrown with trees as nature reclaims a civilization lost, the effect wears off, and it just becomes yet another similar-looking place you could've sworn you traveled through not five minutes ago.

There are some surprises up the game’s sleeve, but I can’t help but walk away from the entire experience disappointed by what it ultimately became. The first half was becoming an all-time favorite – a massive surprise, as I’m actually not too fond of Naughty Dog’s previous work – but by the end it crashed and burned under the weight of poor narrative choices and gameplay that fails to sustain its length.

If you’re looking to jump back into the world of ‘The Last of Us’, you’re better off just replaying the first one. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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