An Unneeded Sequel - But a Welcome One
In my opinion, TLOU was a perfect game that never needed a sequel, it is without a doubt one of my favourite games ever made. Consequently I was very skeptical of TLOU2, but for the most part was proved wrong. It is a stunningly gorgeous game that touches on some of the darkest parts of the human condition.
The Last of Us 2 largely follows the story of Ellie, Joel’s companion from the first game, as she comes to grips with her new life and events that occurred in the first game. There still is a zombie fungal plague affecting most of the world, and Ellie is still immune. The narrative isn’t as cut and dry as the first game, and is mostly about the interactions and tensions between each main character. It’s hard to go too far into depth about this, as the story is so central to the experience of the game, but suffice to say it is good. It is probably not what you expect or even want the story to be, but it is a very good tale that needs to be told.
Gameplay is very reminiscient of the first game. A mixture of stealth, survival, and action while facing off both against the dregs of humanity and zombies that have infested the world. The zombies are largely blind, finding prey by sound, and encourage quiet movement around areas. Humans are smart, engaging in flanking maneuvers and coordinated strikes to flush you out of cover. The game provides you numerous ways to deal with these enemies that all feel effective based on playstyle; stealth, guns, traps, or explosives. Where the combat in the game really shines is situations where you have three parties involved. Sometimes there are you, enemy humans and infected all in the same area. Figuring out how to draw both enemy groups to deal with each other can feel extremely satisfying.
Start to finish, TLOU2 is full of narrative tricks that help to draw you into the world and make it feel that much more visceral. This is readily apparent when fighting human enemies, as they will call out to each other by name. That sniper you shot down wasn't just a generic baddie, that was Jane. Her teammate call out in horror as you kill her, and you feel legitimately like you did something extremely weighty. It is a nice little touch that isn't huge, but really does serve to draw you into the world around you even more.
TLOU2 is a masterpiece in making you feel strong emotions, but sometimes that can simply be a lot to handle. There were days I just…didn’t want to play it, because it is so emotionally draining. Other times I had to take a break and go for a walk to clear my mind, because it is extraordinarily dark. Given that this game came out in 2020, a pretty dark year itself, I do not begrudge anybody passing on TLOU2 until they are in a better emotional space. TLOU2 will probably make you cry, and will absolutely make you feel depressed. This is intentional and if you don’t feel comfortable with that right now, I recommend waiting to play this until then. While I still feel that the first game stands entirely on its own and doesn’t need a sequel, TLOU2 delivered the best followup they could have to that absolute work of art.