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The Last of Us Part II: Three things that will impress and three things that will disappoint

A scene from The Last of Us Part II
A scene from The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II was quite possibly this generation's most anticipated game. After a long and tumultuous development cycle, the game is finally out for the community to play and so far, it has been a somewhat rocky ride.

Critical reception before the release of The Last of Us Part II was overwhelmingly positive, with critics giving it perfect scores left and right. However, as soon as the game was released, online trolls who hadn't finished the game bombed the reviews with extremely low scores.

The Last of Us Part II currently has a 3.9 User Rating on Metacritic, which is in stark contrast to the 95 critic score, based on 97 reviews.

The Last of Us Part II Metacrtic page
The Last of Us Part II Metacrtic page

In amongst the baseless hatred The Last of Us Part II received was some very valid and constructive criticism. A sizeable portion of the community had legitimate problems with the game, and have expressed the same.

Popular streamer moistcr1tikal, also known as penguinz0 on YouTube, reviews videogames and movies on his "Moist Meter" series, and explained his disappointment regarding the game.

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While the game ultimately does more right than wrong, there are significant flaws that need to be addressed.


Three things about The Last of Us Part II that will impress fans, and three that will disappoint


Positives

1) Technical brilliance

The Last of Us Part II is technically brilliant
The Last of Us Part II is technically brilliant

There are few games that look, feel and sound as great as The Last of Us Part II, which is a technical powerhouse. Every texture has been worked on tirelessly and never ceases to amaze.

Little details such as the character's faces changing while in combat, and blood splatter realistically spraying on characters, are both gruesome and visually impressive.

The sound design deserves a lot of recognition as well, as it is equally essential in selling the brutality of the world. Each gunshot is deafeningly loud, especially indoors, and has the necessary punch to it. Every sound in combat is heard clearly and drives up the tension drastically.

2) Improved combat mechanics

New Infected types
New Infected types

Combat in The Last of Us was simple but effective, and served its purpose both thematically and functionally.

The Last of Us Part II significantly steps up its game with regards to combat, and introduces more layers than just spamming the square button.

The dodge mechanic is a welcome addition, and the player will need to learn the enemy's attack patterns to counter them successfully.

The new Infected types, such as Stalkers, require a more tactical approach than just sneaking around and stabbing them from behind. The game keeps you on your toes and demands that you to learn the ropes the hard way.

3) Scale of the game

Gameplay screenshot
Gameplay screenshot

The Last of Us was a trek across America to get Ellie to the Fireflies in hopes of finding a cure. The game was a much more contained affair that still had its big moments.

However, those big moments came as a result of emotional story beats, and not big gameplay set-pieces. That approach worked very well for the first iteration, but Naughty Dog was ambitious and upped the ante in the second game.

The Last of Us Part II's scope is significantly larger, with not just larger areas that you can use to your advantage in combat sequences, but also semi-open world-style areas akin to Uncharted 4's Madagascar area.

The sheer scale of the story and gameplay in The Last of Us Part II is sure to impress a large section of the audience that demanded more set-pieces and larger areas.


Negatives

1) Lack of narrative focus

The game starts brilliantly but loses steam midway
The game starts brilliantly but loses steam midway

The game has an ambitious story to tell, one that spans across different timelines and different characters. Neil Druckmann's statement regarding the game's themes were the exploration of "hate" and its consequences, and in order to do that, the game seeks to drive home its point repeatedly.

The Last of Us Part II could have been a clear, simple narrative that emphasised on its main arc home by letting players experience the story. Instead, there seems to be a lot more hand-holding regarding the game's theme.

The game shifts its focus from the primary narrative quite often, which leads to players losing the sense of momentum that The Last of Us Part II builds up gradually.

2) Repetitive combat

Combat gets repetitive on longer play sessions
Combat gets repetitive on longer play sessions

Although the game has introduced several new combat mechanics that make the game's combat interesting and fun, it's repetitive nature soon bears down on the player, leading to game fatigue.

Although the game introduces a dedicated jump button, it has no use apart from the scripted sequences and a few rare opportunities. The game leaves so much to be desired in terms of enemy encounters.

While the Infected combat has seen vast improvements, along with human combat, it does tend to get a little tiring after maybe the third encounter with the same enemy type.

This is, however, no judgement on the pacing of The Last of Us Part II, which is done brilliantly. Breaking up the action with great character moments and conversations is a great way to keep the user engaged.

3) Scale working against the narrative

Downtown Seattle is a semi-open world, akin to Uncharted 4
Downtown Seattle is a semi-open world, akin to Uncharted 4

While the larger scale and scope of The Last of Us Part II will impress at first, it will soon dawn upon the player that the first game benefitted from a more tight narrative and scope.

While it was ultimately a good thing to expand the combat areas, the game's scale in terms of narrative takes away a lot of the focus and clarity that was in the first Last of Us.

It does feel from time to time that the game should have been a more contained affair, which would have resulted in the same emotional highs as the first part.

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Edited by Ravi Iyer
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