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12th Jun 2020

The Last Of Us Part II is an anxiety-inducing masterpiece

James Fenton

It is incredibly difficult to put into words just how close-to-perfect The Last Of Us Part II actually is.

Not just because there are some truly jaw-dropping, hand-over-mouth gasp-inducing moments that are essentially the final nail in the coffin for any arguments against video games being considered an art-form.

Instead, the problem lies with just how much greatness is on display here, that a single review won’t do it justice. But we’ll do our best…

It has been seven years since The Last Of Us was released on the PS3 and promptly invaded most people’s Best Games Of All Times lists, but inside the world of the game itself, the world is still struggling to survive from the devastating contagion that has wiped out the majority of mankind, turning many into a kind of evolved breed of hunting zombie.

We are controlling Ellie, still keeping the secret of being the one known person who is immune to the contagion, as she and father-figure Joel attempt to live a relatively normal life in a gated community. However, following a violent attack, Ellie sets off on a mission of single-minded revenge, forcing her to cross paths with the two factions fighting for control of Seattle: a military-trained group known as the Wolves, and a highly-religious, cult-like organisation nicknamed the Scars.

While the first game found Joel and Ellie traversing across the majority of the ruined states of America, the sequel manages to both narrow the focus down to pretty much one city, but also widen the sense of scale and scope. Ellie has learned some new skills since the first game – She can finally swim! – which add a sense of depth and height to the world, to a sometimes dizzying level. The need for stealth has also been increased, as Ellie doesn’t have the stamina or strength of Joel, so going prone or creating pistol silencers are massively important due to the new threats. Hearing the clicks of the mutated creatures attempting to use echolocation to find you is now as scary as hearing the Scars using whistles to communicate to each other, while the Wolves have trained guard dogs that can follow your scent trail and attack you once they’ve found you.

It all combines to a constant ratcheting of tension, keeping you on the edge of your seat and making sure you’re as quiet and barely-breathing a sound in real life as your character is on screen. The message of the cyclical nature of violence, as well as in a world of monsters you’ll find that man can be the most monstrous of all, is barely a new one. But rarely has it been told so well, with an overarching plot that a high-end HBO plot would kill for. Everyone talks about the beauty of That Giraffe Moment in the first game, but to list off the instantly iconic moments in the sequel would take all day. It is also unarguably a tremendously scary game, as you’re forced into some nightmare scenarios that seem totally inescapable at the time.

Every aspect of The Last Of Us Part II is astonishing, from the eye-wateringly lush visuals, to the tremendously detailed sound design, and the now immediately recognisable music themes that manage to get across both hope and despair simultaneously. The character work and story is on another level, taking some big risks that pay off in ways that most video-games wouldn’t even dare to dream of.

Approaching the end of its run, the PlayStation 4 has given us not only one of the best games of its generation, but one of the best games of all time. Darker, scarier, deeper, bigger, and better in every way imaginable, The Last Of Us Part II will go down in history as a landmark moment in the medium of video games.

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