The Final of Us Part II isn’t fun. Over the game’s 20-hour runtime, I typically discovered myself eager to stop as a result of the violence grew to become insufferable. I didn’t need to bash that lunging canine with a hammer or slice at that defenseless lady with a knife. I actually didn’t need to watch a spiritual zealot’s head explode right into a grisly cloud due to my well-placed shotgun blast. There are scenes so upsetting that they didn’t simply make me uncomfortable; they made me query why I used to be taking part in this recreation in any respect.
But, I’m glad I pushed by way of — as a result of these darkish, disturbing moments are what make The Final of Us Part II so highly effective. It’s not only a recreation about violence. It’s one which grapples with the influence of that violence and reveals gamers the consequences.
The Final of Us Part II is a sequel to the acclaimed PS3 recreation, which remodeled developer Naughty Canine — then identified primarily for lighter fare just like the Uncharted collection — right into a studio in a position to sort out extra serious and resonant tales. On the floor, the 2 games are related. The unique starred Joel, a haunted man who latches on to 14-year-old Ellie as a daughter determine, in a quest that sees them traverse a post-apocalyptic America in the hunt for security. It ends with him making a devastating alternative to guard somebody he cares about.
The sequel is centered on Ellie, now 19 and settled in a game secure group in Wyoming. She has work, mates, a love curiosity. She struggles with Joel’s overprotective nature. Except for the common patrols to filter out contaminated monsters, it’s virtually idyllic. However a number of hours into the game — for causes I received’t spoil — she units off for Seattle with vengeance on her thoughts.
The primary Part of The Final of Us Part II appears like precisely what it’s: an upgraded model of the unique recreation. It’s nonetheless a third-person motion / journey recreation the place every part round you is harmful. Seattle’s many buildings are crammed with unsettling zombie-like creatures: ones which can be blind and transfer by sound, forcing you to be quiet and sluggish, others that scream in a horrifyingly human manner and can cease at nothing to kill you. Town is in a state of battle. Two factions — a militant group generally known as WLF and a spiritual group referred to as the Seraphins — battle consistently over conflicting ideologies and restricted assets. Ellie’s quest places her straight in the midst of this turmoil.
Enjoying The Final of Us Part II is paying homage to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s Finish. Each games are primarily extra strong and polished variations of their predecessors, and TLOU2 borrows liberally from Nathan Drake’s ultimate journey, from the wide-open however linear ranges to the mixture of gunplay and stealth. Even the way in which you decide up objects and switch them over in your palms is equivalent. The distinction is tone. Whereas structurally and mechanically related, the 2 games differ by way of how they make you are feeling. Uncharted Four is a sunny, lighthearted journey with the occasional emotional breakthrough. TLOU2 is its antithesis: darkish and oppressive with solely uncommon, all-too-brief moments of hope.
IT’S DARK AND OPPRESSIVE WITH ONLY RARE, ALL-TOO-BRIEF MOMENTS OF HOPE
A lot of your time is spent stalking round areas stuffed with enemies, and these encounters differ fairly a bit relying on who you’re up towards. Preventing towards zombies is demanding — the sound design makes the monsters notably scary — however killing inhuman creatures by no means made me really feel responsible. Individuals had been a special story. Possibly it’s as a result of I performed TLOU2 as stealthily as potential, however I by no means grew to become comfy with the way in which Ellie would seize victims from behind, inform them to be quiet, after which stab them within the throat. It felt shut and private in a manner I didn’t like, regardless of seeing it occur dozens, probably a whole bunch, of instances over the course of the game. There’s a heaviness to the fight. Issues occur slowly and deliberately, giving you an opportunity to think about what you’re doing. You will get by with out killing some folks, however it doesn’t matter what, Ellie will kill lots of people throughout your time with the game. Even worse had been the skilled canines. The game pressured me into situations the place I had no alternative however to kill a German Shepherd, utilizing savage weapons like spiked bats and pickaxes. It nonetheless makes me uneasy occupied with it.
Violence in games isn’t something new. There are many titles that attempt to use brutality as a technique to make gamers really feel one thing, something, in a recreation, whether or not it’s Hotline Miami or Name of Responsibility. A lot of what I’ve described could possibly be mentioned of the unique The Final of Us. What makes the sequel totally other is the way in which it makes you query your actions. You don’t simply kill folks; you see the repercussions.
The Final of Us Part II manages this in a number of methods. For one, you’ll be able to see the literal toll the expertise takes on Ellie’s physique; by the top, she’s a large number of blood and scars and other numerous illnesses. She’s a far cry from the curious teen she was within the first recreation. However probably the most highly effective a part of the story is the way it reveals either side of the battle. For the primary Part of the game, you see Ellie in the identical mild as another online game hero. Certain, she’s killed an unfathomable quantity of individuals, however her ache is comprehensible. She’s indignant and scared and can do virtually something to make that feeling go away. She’s satisfied that killing a selected particular person will ease her responsible conscience. From the attitude of everybody else, although, she’s a terror: a ghost-like killer, one way or the other making her manner into closely fortified locations and leaving a path of corpses in her wake. The folks she’s chasing aren’t monsters; there are occasions once I hated a few of them, however that modified. Issues get cloudy. It’s laborious to say an excessive amount of with out delving into serious spoiler territory. However by the top, Ellie isn’t the hero she thinks she is. She’s not the identical particular person she begins out as.
The method isn’t with out points. There’s some dissonance between what occurs within the recreation and what occurs within the cutscenes, for example. There are occasions when Ellie will kill a dozen folks with little response throughout an motion sequence, solely to fully lose her composure after a single kill in a scripted cutscene. It’s jarring. The game tries to up the ante in a really pressured manner by giving virtually each NPC a reputation; if you happen to kill somebody, you’ll hear their mates calling for them as quickly as they understand they’re lacking. Listening to somebody name “Shannon!” for the 20th time pulled me out of the expertise as a result of it didn’t really feel pure. It was like I used to be being advised to care about these folks (who, by the way in which, had been attempting to kill me).
There are other awkward moments when TLOU2 attempts to cowl its video game-ness. As lovely as the degrees are, they’re additionally very clearly designed with a particular function in thoughts; the platforming sections have plenty of jumps and issues to climb on, whereas fight areas are full of canopy and tall grass to obscure Ellie’s actions. You recognize what’s coming by the structure of the world. Maybe probably the most blatant instance of this battle between the game’s want to immerse you in its world and its inherent game-y nature is the passcodes, a online game staple. So as to open safes or sure locked doorways, which you do rather a lot, Ellie might want to discover the corresponding code, which is nearly at all times scrawled down on a close-by piece of paper. This occurs so typically that it turns into comical; at one level, she even finds a code scrawled in blood on the ground. These elements aren’t inherently dangerous, they usually’re not distinctive to TLOU2, however they stand out in a recreation in any other case so targeted on immersion.
When TLOU2 does succeed, which is commonly, it’s unimaginable. The moment-to-moment motion is tense and brutal. Though it made me uneasy, I stored pushing forward to see what would occur subsequent, hoping to search out a type of scarce moments of peace. One of the best components of the game is the boss fights. There are a handful of pivotal conflicts all through the story, however they don’t play out the way in which typical online game boss battles do. It’s not about you going through the largest, baddest enemy there may be. (There are a few of these, however probably the most memorable conflicts are totally other.) Typically, you’re the aggressor, the extra highly effective one, exerting your will on somebody weaker or in a determined scenario. It turns the tables in a manner that makes fight a key storytelling device.
That’s to not say TLOU2 is all gloom. There are mild moments amid the darkish. Many of those come within the type of flashbacks once you see Ellie and Joel in happier (although nonetheless post-apocalyptic) instances, like exploring a museum or studying play the guitar. The story expertly makes use of these moments and particular objects to remind you of higher instances. You’ll see objects pop up, like a stuffed giraffe or a collectible coin, which can be linked to a particular reminiscence. Even within the midst of a ruined world, these moments nonetheless made me smile.
Ellie can also be, fortunately, not alone in her journey. Her love curiosity, Dina, is a charismatic and trustworthy counterpart to Ellie’s extra headstrong character. Watching their relationship deepen is without doubt one of the few heartwarming components of the story. It’s additionally simply good to have her alongside for the trip. TLOU2’s world is so darkish and oppressive that I felt extra comfy having somebody, even a digital companion, with me. I keenly felt the instances when Dina wasn’t there. The identical goes for Jesse, one other member of the Wyoming commune who tags alongside for prolonged components of the story. The AI-controlled companions aren’t particularly helpful in fight, however their presence is reassuring nonetheless.
However this isn’t a narrative the place Ellie merely will get her revenge after which rides off into the sundown along with her girlfriend. The Final of Us Part II doesn’t have a contented ending. Once more, it’s laborious to say an excessive amount of with out stepping into direct spoiler territory, however her single-minded give attention to vengeance and her incapability to let go value her a terrific deal. All of these horrible issues she needed to do — the decapitated corpses, the bloody hammers, the lifeless canines — had a worth. And that reality that you just’re straight concerned in these moments makes it all of the extra heartbreaking.
By the top of an enormous blockbuster recreation like this, my thoughts often jumps to what’s going to come subsequent or puzzles over a few of the mysteries within the story. With The Final of Us Part II, I used to be glad it was over. Similar to Ellie, I used to be exhausted.