Release Date : June 19, 2020
Developers : Naughty Dog
Publisher : Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms : Playstation 4
Joel didn’t hesitate to refuse Marlene’s request when he learned that the cargo he was supposed to smuggle is a young fourteen years old girl, perhaps the apparent reason for his refusal was to avoid traveling with an easy goal unable to defend himself in a lonely world where only the strongest survive without any other considerations, but in fact, Joel tried to get away as much as possible from the repetition of his daughter Sarah’s death scenario again which had the greatest impact on the disastrous situation that he reached and the person he became.
But he eventually accepted the mission and later he found in Ellie the daughter he missed and she also found in him the father that she’s never met. Through an exhausting and dangerous journey across the United States, we got one of the best and most connected stories in the gaming industry.
The second part came after 7 years of waiting, and the events here take place from the last point Joel and Ellie reached on the Jackson city border.
Life in Jackson is completely different from what we saw in the first part, different groups of people were able to settle down and cooperate together to ensure survival in this lonely world, and they realized well the need to use the resources they have and recycle them to provide for their basic needs instead of following the law of survival of the strongest which makes no difference between them and wild animals. They constantly patrol the surrounding areas to secure their city from bandits and infected and spend their free time celebrating, sharing memories, and predicting the mysterious future, Ellie tries to integrate into this new situation by all means whether by participating in daily tasks or making new friends and strengthening her relationship with others.
Five years was not enough to strengthen the relationship between Ellie and Joel as it was supposed to, but rather unexpectedly weaken by the urgent desire that dominates the young girl to know the truth about what happened at the end of the first part, and why a vaccine was not invented to save humanity as the journey was intended from the beginning.
Although Joel’s answers seem convincing and decisive, his lips didn’t match the expressions of his face trying to hide something, so she took every opportunity to find any proof that she thought about what had really happened, and even she did her best to forget the stressful situations that almost cost her so much, things suddenly turn upside down to find herself embarking on a mysterious journey that shows the brutal side of her personality that she had tried to hide all that time.
The main reason for the success of the first part was the perfect story, the unique narration style, and cinematic moments presented by the development team with complete professionalism which was better than hundreds of movies, not to mention the perfect design of the characters who have clear motives and they develop their relationship with each other over time in a logical and believable way that makes anyone fully aware of the actions of each character in certain situations.
But here this part of the game abandoned the basics of the first part and tried to go in the opposite direction by relying on new characters, some of whom had no refinement or charisma to explain the long hours spent with them, not to mention their illogical actions that make the whole story incoherent and suffer from gaps that clearly and shockingly appear in the second half of the events.
Yes, there are still exciting and immersive moments that force you to interact with some scenes with all your senses even if you are not convinced of what’s happening, but relying on brutality, exaggerated violence, and unexpected surprises to end the lives of some characters without any chance to interact with those situations negatively affect the course of the story more than serving it, leaving the player always wondering about the reason behind these illogical and contradictory behaviors in most situations between the character orientation and motives that are trying to justify everything that happened in the first part of the story, and between the decisions that are made randomly and completely unconvincing in the second part and the prolongation in showing side relations with the purpose of sympathy with some of the characters, even if the character himself had done everything in his power previously to be contrary to the idea that the development team tried to present.
The development team is absolutely free to choose which direction it sees the best for the artwork, and this should not negatively affect the player’s opinion as long as there are logical motives and reasons for the decisions made by the characters even if the user prefers different events, but what happened in The Last Of Us Part II is the exact opposite, where the story is presented to clarify the repercussions of the decisions made by the characters in the past and at the present as well, which intrigued me at the beginning, especially since the development team has the ability to formulate interesting events and exciting situations that make you eager to know what will happen in the future, but in the second half of the events these characters did not find the logical explanation of the decisions they made previously, and therefore this resulted some unpredictable actions that controvert from the character’s personality and the main lines of the story that speak of a revenge journey.
In addition, the game focuses entirely on the current situation and the division of human beings into different groups fighting bloody wars to defend the areas they control, neglecting the part concerning the expansion of the virus and the spread of infected people in every place, which is the basic concept of the game and the main idea on which the world of The Last Of Us was built on, It’s as if all humans have given up on what happened without looking for any solution, even as more information has been spread more than ever about an unaffected girl who possesses the antidote and lives among them without revealing her true identity.
This strange inconsistent rhythm made the story lose all the elements that were the cause of the interconnection of events in a special way in the first part and working on more than one side without affecting the dramatic plot, whether the brutal events of the world’s hard time period and the outbreak of the pandemic, or the complex human relationships that have been brilliantly presented, which is the main reason for the game’s amazing success, and it totally contradicts what happens in the second part and the superficial ending built on previous events that didn’t make sense in the first place (I wish to explain that part explicitly but it’s a spoiler to the story and its details).
The real journey begins from Seattle when Ellie arrives in the city whose became difficult to recognize after all this time, the largest city of the American West that has always known for its skyscrapers and non-stop cultural and artistic activities throughout the day turned into something like a ghost town, nature swept every inch and covered the main roads with trees and grass, concealing within them the appearance of a great civilization that ended forever, starting with the cars left behind by their owners in the middle of the road and rushed to save themselves, and through shops, theaters and public gardens that turned into graves and nests for the infected, through to residential communities and homes that reflect the level of luxury that humans reached before the situation worsened and things turned upside down, and they lost all of this overnight.
The Last Of Us Part II doesn’t take much time to show Naughty Dog’s ability to surpass all expectations of delivering a stunning virtual world full of details that no one can miss at any stage, what’s truly impressive is the studio’s ability to deliver this amazing graphic level on a console that completes its seventh year in the market this year. Wherever you go, everything you step on is affected by what you do, whether the long grass that stretches along the way and provides the opportunity to hide from your enemies, the swamps formed by the constant rain that reflect the details of the surrounding buildings with precision, or even the shelves of the malls that I found myself always wandering in them looking for resources and supplies that would later help me develop more weapons and tools.
The details of the game world and the stunning graphic level that the game offers will force any player to spend a longer period exploring and wandering around all available areas, where this game can be considered a significant jump in how to formulate a uniquely linear game that does not take away the freedom that the player is looking for as if he is in an open-world game. and at the same time, everyone who spends their time in exploration is rewarded satisfactorily and simply for every moment they spend searching in those ruins, whether they find a secret message hidden in someone’s bedroom who lived hoping for help arriving to save him from death before he finishes his life himself out of despair, or finding secret numbers for safes hidden in one of the luxury houses that contains many important elements for upgrading tools and crafting weapons. It’s all up to the player himself to decide his fate, either moving from point to point directly or enjoying the special designs of the indoor and outdoor environments and spending his time capturing the amazing details of the world through the PhotoMode that provides countless options to modify the image the way he wants.
Just like the first part, the game offers the player the possibility to follow the method he prefers in dealing with his enemies, you have many tools and weapons that help you reach your target without being exposed and kill him in a few seconds without anyone realizing that you’re there, these options include the usual methods from the previous part such as hiding behind abandoned cars and walls of buildings, moving slowly and carefully until you surprise your target from behind and end his life, or direct engagement and openly shooting and fighting with your weapons whether you’re holding a baseball bat or a machete or other weapons that you can find during your exploration in the game, you can also use bottles and bricks as in the first part to stun your enemy and hit him with a deadly strike to finish him, and by choosing the direct combat you’ll have to face the consequences of your decision.
The gameplay has not seen major changes, which is expected, but a series of improvements that made it more detailed and accurate, like the ability to prone and move under trucks to surprise enemies from unexpected areas, or jumping that made no significant difference in the battles themselves, and there are other improvements including smashing the glass to break into locked places and using ropes to reach different areas that cannot be accessed on foot, and also there are a bunch of weapons that make each engagement different and unique and provide a feeling of satisfaction as if you have accomplished something important.
You can rely on smoke bombs to block your enemies’ vision and move more freely, bombs that are planted in different areas and end the life of anyone who enters their range, or famous Molotov cocktails that provide the opportunity to get rid of more than one enemy at the same time, on the other side fans of shooting battles will find a bunch of weapons, pistols, and shotguns, each one of them provides a different feel and effect on enemies when used, and can be upgraded by items collected through the exploration to become more effective and powerful.
The ability of the development team to design different levels and stages in a larger, better, more accurate and diverse means made the gameplay looks in the best possible way more better than any previous game they have offered throughout their history in the gaming industry.
Whether the player decides to hide in the long grass and hunt his enemies from a safe distance or constantly moving around to make it difficult for enemies to track him and escape from the unforgiving dogs that follow your smell and track you wherever you go, you will always find many options in front of you to move more freely and try to take advantage of any available opportunity to get rid of your opponents. But at the same time, the artificial intelligence of the enemies has become better and more difficult, because humans exchange patrols continuously and cover large areas by moving randomly and constantly changing their course, which makes predicting their actions extremely difficult, and even if you managed to eliminate some of them without being seen, enemies use different ways to communicate with each other continuously either through the whistles that each person makes to reveal his area of presence or the use of real names, and in case someone loses his friend or his dog you will find him crying and screaming with all force to express his anger and deliver a message to the player that he will face a worse fate if he got caught.
Despite the variety of gameplay and the presence of a huge arsenal of weapons, the best moments for me were those associated with facing humans face to face and using melee weapons to get rid of your opponents in bloody way that significantly surpasses Joel’s physical abilities in the first part, here the animation is better and more realistic. The battles last for a few seconds, but they are enough to raise the adrenaline, where you can dodge the opponent’s strike and then launch an aggressive counterattack and with different finishing moves in each situation directly affected by the environment around you and the exploitation of available elements.
And with the skill tree that can be developed over time which it’s divided into Survival, Stealth, and Precision, the player can enjoy greater confidence in any battle, despite being side developments that help to listen to the steps of enemies from further distances, craft items faster, increase the character’s health, and create new types of ammunition that are more lethal than the basic ones that you already have in the game.
On the other hand, the infected have limited but more effective senses, starting with “Runners” who will start running behind you for long distances once they see you, or “Clickers” with frightening sounds that alert you from long distances to the coming danger that awaits you, add to this the “Shamblers” that appear for the first time and they release an acid spray that damage you if you near them, the negative point of the game here is that there are no new types of infected besides the “Shamblers” and basically they rely on the same creatures that appeared in the first part with very limited changes.
Instead, the studio focused its efforts on conflict with humans and different groups fighting each other with all their might, which makes you wish in some situations that the pandemic had ended life on earth completely, rather than repeating the same mistakes that humans never learned from, and fighting each other to impose control no matter what the circumstances.
It’s obvious that The Last Of Us Part II offers a stunning level of detail and highly perfect graphics that show the end of the world with realism and precision in terms of artistic designs, character models, facial expressions, and animations, the development team has been able to provide an amazing diversity in the design of environments whether open areas were waterfalls can ravage everyone who thinks about penetrating their high waves or the big tall buildings that have been destroyed but still standing to reflect the image that humans thought would never change or snowy mountain tops that obscure the long-term visibility, and even the wide fields, and the heavy rain, which made each season with a different appearance from the previous one, and also the interiors of abandoned apartments and posters spread in teenagers’ rooms, showing the musical and artistic works that humans have been associated with decades ago.
On the other hand, the game offers great soundtracks that are no less exciting and fun than the first part thanks to the composer Gustavo Santaolalla, fit into every situation the player goes through and sharpen in the stressful moments, with a special and unsurprising vocal performance of the same characters that starred in the first part whether Troy Baker as Joel or Ashley Johnson as Ellie but unfortunately this description does not apply to all the other characters.
I spent almost 30 hours to finish the game completely and explore every area around me to get to know this amazing world better, the first 12 hours is considered the best despite some situations that some may not accept but give a glimmer of hope for the next being better, but in the other remaining hours of the game, I was kind of bored by the incomprehensible and contradictory events of the story, and also by the stages that could be considered excessive stuffing, whether in terms of the story itself and the sequence of events or even the gameplay that had nothing new to offer in that period, even though the player had some tools and weapons that serve the same purpose without having any big differences worth mentioning compared to the first part.
And finally, I can say that The Last Of Us Part II is amazing when it comes to the details of the virtual world, level design, artificial intelligence of enemies, and scary moments that the player will face when fighting with infected, the game has seen some good improvements in terms of gameplay and the ability to deal with your opponents more freely with more effective tools, but even those upgrades didn’t remain with the same excitement and fun when it was repeated over the full gameplay hours, especially in the last part of the story, which witnessed the stuffing and the prolongation that hasn’t been seen in previous studio games.
It is truly unfortunate that the key elements that contributed to the success of the first game such as the exciting events and characters to which players were attached were turned into weak points due to the gaps in the story, irrational actions, uninteresting new characters, and the frustrating ending of one of the best game stories ever presented.