The Last of Us Part II Review

*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*

This is the first time I’ve written a review, but after finishing Naughty Dog’s long awaited sequel to their genre defining horror-survival, ‘The Last of Us’ I felt that it was my duty to share my thoughts. The original game, first released in 2013 on the PS3, focuses on a smuggler named ‘Joel‘, who has the task of escorting a young girl, ‘Ellie‘, from Boston to outside the quarantine zone.

Twenty years prior, the ‘Cordyceps fungus virus‘ affected the majority of mankind turning them into the infected, leaving the pair travelling through a dangerous and hostile post-apocalyptic world. The Fireflies‘, who are a militia group, want Ellie to study her brain for a cure, as she became infected but never developed as somehow she was immune. At the end of the game, upon arriving at Salt Lake City, the pair are captured by a Firefly patrol and taken to their hideout at the local hospital. Upon learning that Ellie will have surgery that will kill her, Joel battles his way to the operating theatre and rescues her.

The Last of Us was remastered for the PS4 and was released 29th July, 2014, and like all of Naughty Dog’s games, they are exclusive to PlayStation. The game received extremely positive reviews, and instantly generated a cult fan base due to the brilliant story telling, the atmospheric and terrifying locations, the combat and the incredible musical score from ‘Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla’. The only way that it can be described as is a master class in gaming and visual storytelling, and fans eagerly awaited news of a possible sequel, but little did they know it’d be a seven year wait until ‘The Last of Us Part II’ arrived.

The Last of Us Part II finally arrived on June 19, 2020, after six years of developing, and on April 27, hackers had broken into Naughty Dog’s servers and stole videos and leaked plot details online, causing heartache for the development team, and Neil Druckmann‘, Vice President of Naughty Dog, and creative director of the game tweeted to fans at how upset he was that something he’d devoted years of his life had been cruelly ruined for people anticipating its release. Fortunately, I was able to avoid any plot leaks, and I went into the game knowing nothing about it.

In the The Last of Us, you mainly played the character Joel, but a portion of the game had you controlling Ellie, as in the expansion pack, ‪’The Last of Us: Left Behind‬’. In The Last of Us Part II, you control a 19 year old Ellie, and a similar aged Abby, who’s fiercer and much more ruthless. I guess living in a time when everyone is at odds makes you that way, as not only is there a threat of encountering the infected, but brutal militia groups patrol the broken world. The back of the game box says:

“Experience the devastating physical and emotional consequences of Ellie’s vengeance as you embark on a relentless pursuit of those who’ve wronged her.”

THE STORY

The game starts with Joel and Ellie living at a settlement in Jackson, Wyoming, who encounter a militia group called Washington Liberation Front‘ (WLF), who’s patrol is led by a woman called ‘Abby‘, who Joel and his brother ‘Tommy‘ rescue from an attack by the infected. Little do you know that whilst you play Abby’s character at the start, she’ll be responsible not long later for Joel’s death when she realises who he is. He killed the surgeon who was going to operate on Ellie at the end of The Last of Us, who just happened to be Abby’s father. Ellie then goes on the hunt for Abby, after witnessing her murdering Joel. She plays a game of cat and mouse with Ellie, and encounters a cult called ‘Seraphites‘ (Scars), and more WLF, who are hunting her for going AWOL, as well as have to fight through many infected.

About halfway through, you take over the character of Abby, and view the story from her perspective where she’s captured by Scars, and is saved by ‘Lev‘, and his sister, Yara‘, they then take on a journey to escape the Scars who are hunting Lev, and Yara, as they are former associates trying to break free from the cult. Both Ellie’s story, and Abby’s story involves them eventually meeting up, and fighting for their lives. Abby gets the better of Ellie, but lets her go free so long as she doesn’t ever see her again. ‘Dina‘, who’s become Ellie’s partner, who was pregnant to ‘Jesse‘, who you encounter as a supporting character, sets up a ranch with Ellie and the baby, but Joel’s brother Tommy arrives, and tells the pair that he’s located Abby and he wishes for Ellie to end it. Against Dina’s wishes Ellie travels to Santa Barbara to find her, only to realise that Abby and Lev are being held captive by a militia group, called the Rattlers. The rest, I will leave for you to find out by yourself, but every time I thought the game had concluded, and the screen went dark, I was back in another quest, so don’t expect it to be over too quickly.

THE GAME

Just like The Last of Us, you fight your way through hordes of infected, and human militia groups, and as you progress you acquire new weapons, which you can upgrade at work benches with scrap that you discover. You can also discover supplements which can be used to upgrade abilities, like crafting, speed, listen mode etc. Survival, Crafting, and Stealth are the three main modes to upgrade. My only issue with The Last of Us was it’s linearity, which means sequential, as in only really one path to take, but The Last of Us Part II doesn’t suffer from that, and it’s much more of an open world for you to explore and discover, which was especially pleasing for me being a big fan of Far Cry, and recently completed the open world survival horror, Days Gone. Naughty Dog have really excelled themselves with this game, and it’s a visual and audial spectacle. The musical score is not only tense, but it’s scary and jumpy, and when the music starts you know you’re in for trouble. The weather sounds, especially during thunderstorms and rain are spectacular, especially if you listen through headphones, but the game can also be set up for a variety of sound systems, be it 2.1, 5.1 or Sound Bar.

If you’re lucky enough to have a PS4 pro, and a HDR supporting television, then there are many visual options for you to experiment with, including an accessibility options for the visually, or hearing impaired.

The controls have been altered slightly from The Last of Us, and combat seems much more fluid, and you have the advantage of permanently having a knife, rather than needing to craft a shiv when you play Ellie, Abby needs to still craft shivs. If you’re squeamish, then you may have a little trouble with the combat, as the two leads will bring down their combatant any way they can, and it’s extremely brutal in places – people choking on their own blood, and faces of horror knowing that they are moments away from their deaths. Due to Ellie being more agile than Joel, she’s got the ability to reach higher destinations, and this is where the game really does become a visual spectacle. The world is huge, and really gives you the feeling of a city, especially when Ellie reaches the Ferris wheel in her stolen boat, and you see the vastness of the harbour. I got a strong Inception vibe, which was also influenced by some of the Hans Zimmeresque style music.

CONCLUSION

For me, as quite a keen gamer, especially this generation, I think that The Last of Us Part II is nothing short of a masterpiece in storytelling, game design, and gameplay. It exceeds its predecessor in every way, and obviously it would be nothing without the genre defining The Last of Us, but we’ve got the sequel that Naughty Dog wanted, and what the fans deserved. Anyone who claims that this is an awful game, is delusional, and has the inability to appreciate art. The game is centred around strong female characters, who you are given the chance to play as, and what I found was interesting was how my feelings changed throughout the game. I was initially bothered by the brutal death of Joel, as it wasn’t initially explained why it happened, but as the game progresses you realise that a young girl loses her father, who’s attempting to create a vaccine, for the greater good, and at the hands of Joel, he brutally murdered him in The Last of Us. It’s an eye for an eye story, and it’s very unusual to see a game from two perspectives of opposite sides, and you can’t help but feel pity for both Ellie, and Abby. What I particularly enjoyed was the elements of storytelling that went back several years, showing younger Ellie and Abby. You almost feel like they could have been friends under different circumstances.

There has been controversy surrounding the game, unfortunately, and some people have even claimed that it’s the worst game ever made, but I’m not sure if it’s the storyline that they disagree with, or their prejudice towards lesbian and transgender people. It’s not even as though their presence is forced on you, they just happen to be characters amongst a number of presumably heterosexual characters. The game is not influenced, or governed by sexuality, and I’m starting to think that it’s people who saw the spoilers that were leaked that are writing the negative reviews, not the people who genuinely put between 25 and 35 hours of gameplay in. Some of the LBGTQ community have caused an uproar because the transgender character, Lev, who’s living as a young male, is deadnamed, ‘Lilly’, which is considered disrespectful. If anything, does this not show how much of an intolerant world they live in, rather than Naughty Dog purposefully attempting to upset. I know it’s a personal issue for some transgender people, but the voice actor for Lev is transgender, and he clearly didn’t have a problem with it. The violence in the game is beyond brutal in places, and we see multiple animals die ruthlessly, but someone’s birth name has caused the most controversy, and some people are even boycotting the game because crazed cult members, who refer to Lev as the apostate, call him Lilly a few times.

Naughty Dog have created the game of the generation, and it’s nothing short of a masterpiece in every way, shape and form. Other developers are going to really have to up their game if they are going to rival Naughty Dog and their ambitious storytelling.

The pseudoscience of creationism

Creationism is a subject that comes up against Evolution a lot, whilst evidence for Evolution is abundant, the only attempt to provide evidence we ever get from theists is ‘The only explanation has to be God’. If God is perfect, then the suggestion of intelligent design implies perfection. As the song goes ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’, but has he, and did he ever? I don’t know if God created everything, but it seems highly unlikely due to the multitude of errors with life. Many theists have tried to imply that diseases are man-made due to lifestyle, or pollution, and others say illness and disease is God’s punishment for sin that our ancestors committed. So whenever you’re diagnosed with a disease it’s because someone sinned, or you watch your new born baby on a life support machine because of a heart defect and that’s because someone sinned? Creationism is usually associated with Intelligent Design, but this is a common misconception, as many supporters of ID don’t refute the age of the Earth, and don’t take the Bible literally, they just believe that life is too complex to be a natural phenomena, and it must have had a helping hand. Some even accept natural selection and other processes of evolution, but it’s still ignored by most genuine scientists as merely speculation at best.

As for creationism, and consider that the Earth is 6,000 years old, yet we’ve got such cultural and ethnic diversity in such a short time. Why are there so many natural disasters if god created this perfect Earth? Why are there areas in the world that are totally hostile to life, or areas where civilisation struggles to survive due to the climate, unfit land to farm, and contaminated water supplies. Let’s consider a few illnesses and diseases humans can get: Cancer; Leukaemia; Diabetes; Alzheimer’s; Dementia; Multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s disease; Asthma; Celiac disease; Tuberculosis; Stroke; Heart disease; AIDS; Pneumonic plague; Septicaemia; Rabies; Anthrax; Smallpox; Measles; Chicken Pox; Mumps; Herpes; Meningitis; Ebola; Tetanus; Yellow Fever; Malaria; Typhoid; Whooping cough; Hepatitis; Bronchitis; Influenza

I’ve listed a handful of diseases out of thousands and thousands. Some have a cure, some don’t. Some can be controlled, some can’t. Theists claim everything is balanced, and only a God could create life. My guess is if he is responsible, he’s not very good at it. In 1918 the Earth was subject to the Spanish Flu, and it’s was the most catastrophic event in the twentieth century. It was caused by the H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, and at the time the population on a earth was approximately 1.5,000,000,000 and a third were infected, and 50,000,000 died as a result.

There are a multitude of birth defects, or defects that can happen over time, which suggests random mutations through Evolution, not a God’s hand, but if he was responsible it begs the question, how can he love us all? Here are some examples: Hair lip; Blindness; Deafness; Spina bifida; Cleft palate; Down syndrome; Conjoined; Motor neurone disease; Eczema; Hives; Arthritis; Club foot; Psoriasis.

There are a great number of people who suffer from mental disorders that include: Personality disorders; Bipolar; Anxiety; Depression; Psychosis; Schizophrenia; Anorexia; Panic attacks; Paranoia; Learning difficulties; Autism; Bulimia.

Not an extensive list by any means, but you get the idea. If god was perfect, then we’d be perfect, but as you can see life is a tightrope and there’s a chance you will fall off. Theists will say it’s punishment for sin, but a dog dying of cancer is that because a descendant stole another dog’s ball? I’ve heard so many times that we are surrounded by miracles, and this is evidence of god’s creation, but they seldom focus on the terrible aspects of life. I saw a pastor write on Twitter once that god created hurricanes to help make us stronger and unite us. What chance have you got reasoning with someone of that ridiculous mindset?

“Intelligent design is a less comprehensive alternative to evolutionary theory. While evolution relies upon detailed, well-defined processes such as mutation and natural selection, ID offers no descriptions of the design process or the designer. In fact, proponents do not even agree among themselves as to which biological phenomena were designed and which were not. Ultimately, this “theory” amounts to nothing more than pointing to holes in evolution and responding with a one-word, unceasingly repeated mantra: “design.” But unless ID advocates fill in the details, there is no way to scientifically test intelligent design or make predictions from it for future research. In short, it is not valid science.” – Source

The religion of evolution

I’ve heard this claim more times than I can mention, and I think that it’s a feeble attempt to bring the theory of evolution down to the level of the accuser. If they believe in a religion, and they have faith that their god is the divine creator, then by the same standard any opposing theory must also be a belief, require faith, and slot into the category of religion. The first mistake that they usually make is not researching evolution enough to understand it, and fail to recognise that a scientific theory is based on gathered evidence, as opposed to a standard theory which is an idea, or a suggestion to explain an event. The second mistake is thinking that the scientific method requires faith, as it’s deeply rooted in scepticism and doubt, and unlike a religion it’s able to adapt upon discovery of new knowledge, and/or evidence.

I read a preposterous article on Answers in Genesis where the authors, both claiming to be doctors, suggest that there’s no observable evidence for evolution, but creationism has observable evidence in the Bible, as it’s the word of god. There are many examples of observed evidence for evolution, and nothing except words from the Bible and speculation on divine creation. Young Earth creationists believe that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

“2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, and 2,000 years from Christ to today. – Source

Here’s the scientific version.

“By dating the rocks in Earth’s ever-changing crust, as well as the rocks in Earth’s neighbors, such as the moon and visiting meteorites, scientists have calculated that Earth is 4.54 billion years old, with an error range of 50 million years.” – Source

As you can see there’s a tremendously vast difference in the age of the Earth from both parties and it’s actually a four billion five hundred thirty-nine million nine hundred ninety-four thousand difference. So when you accept how creationists blindly believe the words of the Bible over science, then it’s of no surprise that they think that evolution requires faith to must logically be a religion, but that’s assuming that creationists are able to apply logic in the first place. The way the creationist mind works is obvious, and it’s a fear of uncertainty. The Bible maps the birth of the universe and the start of life as an encyclopaedia, a pseudoscientific one, but all of the answers that they require are there. Whereas science whilst in the search for knowledge, being derived from the Latin word ‘scientia’, literally meaning knowledge, it’s about applying reason and doubt. Both of these processes go back as far as the archaic Greek philosophers, mainly the skeptics.

‪Well I am certainly wiser than this man. It is only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of; but he thinks that he knows something which he does not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance. At any rate it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think that I know what I do not know.‬” – Socrates

Having the honesty to say ‘I don’t know, as the evidence is insufficient’ is a frightening concept to them, and it’s rare to find a sceptic person of faith, as gods require absolute belief and obedience.

Scientists claim that they think unicellular to multicellular is in principal the same as a ‘ratcheting mechanism’, in that it can only go one way. What this means is a scenario is created where it’s only beneficial to a group, and destructive to anything alone, meaning there is no reversion to the state it was in before. In other words unicellular life banded together as a group and became reliant on each other, so there was no chance of a mutation to turn multicellular life back into unicellular life. In a group state, mathematically there’s more chance of mutation, but a mutation to go forward, and not backwards. This is Microevolution at work when there are small, but significant changes at a molecular and cellular level, caused from selection, genetic drift, gene flow and of course mutation. This is certainly a possibility of how life went from unicellular to multicellular. Biologists have been studying evolution for centuries are there are several key areas, and they include:

Anatomy- which shows that species that are similar in structure ie: humans and chimpanzees. Dogs, whales and humans all have similar bone structures in the forelimbs, which suggests that not only did the whale once walk on land, which will explain why mammals live in the sea, but the development of the related bone structure developed in a common ancestor.

DNA – genetic coding that’s shared throughout species that prove a universal common ancestor. This includes the building blocks of life; amino acids.

Resistance – this is how a species evolves to survive ie: bacteria vs antibiotics, and insects vs pesticides

Fossils – that provide evidence of our long extinct relatives.

Natural selection – is the change of biological heredity of a population through generations. Considering bacteria mostly has such a short life span, then several generations can happen very fast. Some microbes can live for hundreds of years on a surface, and some, like HIV only last seconds, but most don’t last very long at all.

Convergent evolution studies how significantly distinct species have evolved the same way through evolution. The strikingly similar features of a shark and a dolphin, despite one being a fish and one being a mammal. To look at they are similar, but anatomically they are very different. A shark has gills and cartilage structure, whereas a dolphin has bones and breathes fresh air. Physically they are very similar in that they have evolved for a common goal. To swim fast and efficiently through water.

Divergent Evolution takes us back to unicellular life, and how the diversity of modern life came from it, and how life can develop from a common ancestor.

Real time observation – watching species evolve over time, and a great example of this is the Florida green lizard who over several generations evolved its feet to climb higher up trees to narrower branches to avoid competition.

Vestigiality – this is organisms that have retained redundant body parts. Did you know that snakes have pelvic bones? Creationists will argue that was god’s doing as he punished the serpent in the garden of Eden.

Biographical relations – put the same species of animals in two different environments and over time they will change to suit the habitat. This is what inspired Charles Darwin to study finches at the Galápagos Islands.

‪‪The fact is that evolutionists believe in evolution because they want to. It is their desire at all costs to explain the origin of everything without a Creator. Evolutionism is thus intrinsically an atheistic religion. Some may prefer to call it humanism, and New Age evolutionists may place it in the context of some form of pantheism, but they all amount to the same thing. Whether atheism or humanism (or even pantheism), the purpose is to eliminate a personal God from any active role in the origin of the universe and all its components, including man.” – Source

‪The above quote is taken from another creationist organisation, and this time it’s the Institute for Creation Research, and as you can see, they are as delusional as Answers in Genesis. This article, however, is extremely bitter and is a direct attack against atheism, in which because we can’t prove there’s no god, then we must have faith, thus making it a religion, and they also claim that evolution isn’t promoted as a science, it’s promoted as a secular religion. So that means that I not only practise the religion of atheism, but I also practise the religion of evolution. How do these people genuinely expect to be taken seriously when they manufacture things to suit their agenda? Because scientists can’t fully explain naturalism, or provide evidence of abiogenesis, does this mean that because we’ve an incomplete picture, then it’s obviously false? And by their standards, believing something that they claim is without evidence is a religion, then surely it’s a two way street and they are being hypocritical?