Killing never felt so gruesome. That’s the big takeaway from the roughly two-hour section of The Last of Us Part II that I can talk about.
Whether it be infected or human enemies, the various ways you’re able to engage in combat will typically lead to a death that simply makes you squirm during every bit of the process.
Perhaps the now infamous scene where Ellie sneaks up on a woman playing the PS Vita before mercifully thrusting a knife through her throat is the very emphasis behind what is a gruesome, uncomfortable and deliberate approach to handling enemies.
The Last of Us Part II (TLOU2) is a tale of revenge, but from the bits I can talk about at least, I’m starting to wonder if the writers of this game wanted it to be as deliberately uncomfortable a journey as possible.
There is a lot that is familiar about TLOU2. It’s traditional Naughty Dog in level design, just so much more detailed this time round. Graphically, it’s just a beautiful game to look at, and like in other titles from the same developer this generation, it’s the times when you’re able to stop and look around that you get time to appreciate the finer details of the world.
I’ve got little doubt that TLOU2 will be rated as the best looking, but more importantly, the best performing of Sony’s PS4 exclusives. Naughty Dog have truly delivered a gameplay experience, particularly in combat, that is a step above anything they’ve developed before and it’s something that truly impacts the battles you’ll get yourself into.
You’d expect nothing less from the PS4’s last big hurrah, TLOU2 pushes what the PS4 is capable of to its very limits while staying at a solid 30FPS for the most part.
A Big, Beautiful and Scary World
As it was in the original, discoverability is a big part of the experience you get with Ellie.
Whether it be abandoned houses, moss overgrown skyscrapers, broken highways or rivers with floating bits of old cardboard and the occasional human remains, there is so much to discover in the area of Seattle that features in the section Sony’s preview embargo will let me talk about.
Resources are everywhere and this time you can also customize your weapons. As an example, I’d highly recommend fitting a silencer to your pistol for this particular portion of the game.
There are also more collectibles in TLOU2, including old magazines and letters which tell really informative stories about the lives, interests and challenges of people who lived in this world prior to everything falling apart.
What Actually Happens in The Preview Section?
In the bit of the game I can talk about, Ellie is tasked with trudging through Seattle in search of a character called Nora who is in a hospital on the other side of the city. Scattered in your path are various batches of both human and infected enemies.
Oh, and there are also dogs, nasty dogs that are more were more of a formidable challenge than I could’ve ever expected.
As you’d expect, the dogs can pick up on your scent which requires you to keep moving. The problem is, dogs are usually paired with human enemies who are far smarter in how they perform in combat. It leaves you with a choice to make, and as always, you’d be far smarter in most situations to take the stealth approach.
New weapons include a bow, and it’s mighty satisfying when you can manage a headshot. You’ll also discover various axes, including a pitch axe, as well as pipes and bits of wood to be used in melee. Guns include the traditional pistols, shotguns and sawed-off shot gun which packs a mighty powerful punch that often results in enemy body parts being completely blown off their body.
The infected enemies include runners and clickers once again, as well as the return of the bloater and some new additions which are equally as terrifying on most occasions.
Like in the original, its seldom that you’ll have a clicker to deal with on its own as they’re typically joined by small to large groups of more clickers, a handful of runners and sometimes the shambler (one of the new types of infected introduced in TLOU2).
As it was in the original, killing these infected guys isn’t a pleasant experience. The screams, gurgles, howls and frantic cries continue to strike a chilling sense of dread in me at all times when forced to engage with them.
During this part of the game, you also encounter the WLF (Washington Liberation Front) and the Seraphites who are a radical religious group who see the infected as a reaction to the world’s sin.Eventually, after you get through all these different enemies, you reach the hospital and discover Norma. Sadly, that’s as much as I can tell you.
The Last of Us 2 Is A Gruesome, Deadly and Deliberate Experience
Naughty Dog have carefully crafted an experience that builds on the original in almost every way with a combat system that encourages even the most trigger happy of players to slow down and consider taking the slower and more tactical approach.
The game does this by providing balanced choice in all moments leading up to and during combat. Do you want to throw a brick to distract an enemy here or wait for the right moment to strike over there?
The choice is yours, but taking the easy approach is often the quickest way to force a restart.
All the while, TLOU2 is telling a very deliberate story that deals with challenging themes seldom seen in a videogame. This will be a game that divides, its gruesome and unapologetically brutal approach to killing will make many uncomfortable and potentially even turn a few away.
Our review will drop next Friday ahead of the release on June 19. Until then, get ready for a gaming experience that will push your comfort to the very limit.
I can’t wait to see how Ellie deals with whatever is next.
Michael Pulman is a freelance sports, tech and videogames journalist based in Hamilton, New Zealand.
The Last of Us Part II - Naughty Dog
The Last of Us Part II is an upcoming action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4.