‘The Last of Us Part II’ is gritty, violent and horrific — and it’s phenomenal.
Fair warning: It’s almost impossible to talk about “The Last of Us Part II” without talking about the events of the first game, so if you’ve not played it, I recommend that you stop reading. It’s a story-heavy game with a lot of twists and turns that you should experience for yourself, and I highly suggest that you give it a shot.
The sequel to Naughty Dog’s 2013 hit picks up years after “The Last of Us” ended, and it immediately introduces tension between Joel and Ellie. Unfortunately for Joel, that tension doesn’t last long because (spoilers) he’s killed in the first few hours of the game.
Despite the still unexplained bad vibes between the two, Ellie is devastated, and “The Last of Us Part II” kicks into high gear.
The first entry in the series tricks players into thinking it’ll be an uplifting story. Joel becomes the adoptive father of Ellie, who is somehow the only person in the world that’s immune to the virus, and sets off on a quest across the United States to find a cure. Then, at the end, the game takes a hard left turn by forcing the player to, as Joel, kill every scientist and researcher in the building after he learns that Ellie has to die for the cure to be successful.
Playing through the end of “The Last of Us” was an unpleasant, harrowing experience, and that’s what made it such a phenomenal piece of storytelling that, in many ways, literally revolutionized the games industry.
And “The Last of Us Part II” continues that legacy.
Unlike the first game, the sequel doesn’t pretend to have an uplifting message at all. It fully leans into the apocalyptic world, the violence of surviving a zombie takeover and the repercussions of Joel’s actions in 2013. It’s a great game, but it’s hard to play, not because the controls are bad or it’s not designed well, but because every action that Ellie takes in her quest for revenge after Joel’s death is so dark, twisted and unhinged that it’s more than uncomfortable to be placed in her shoes.
That’s why, just like its predecessor, “The Last of Us Part II” is such an outstanding emotional experience. Ellie, a character that you presumably care for after the events of the first game, is making horrible, vile decisions, and you are completely unable to stop her.
It’s hard to watch, and I’ve had moments where I’ve physically flinched away from my TV after she chooses to harm someone. I rarely agree, if ever, agree with what Ellie’s doing, but I can’t stop playing. It’s like a train wreck that I can’t look away from, and it’s the most absorbed I’ve been in a game’s story in a long, long time.
It’s brutal, it’s gory, it’s painful, and I can’t stop thinking about it.