The Final of Us Half II got here out on the worst doable time. In June 2020, the pandemic was steadily changing into extra terrifying, New York was beneath a curfew, and nearly all the pieces was closed or boarded up. The streets had been all however empty regardless of the summer season sunshine. I didn’t notice how good a job I’d finished of forgetting that point, however as I made my means by Seattle once more, all of it got here roaring again. That gnawing feeling of desperately desirous to catch a aircraft dwelling, balanced in opposition to what then appeared like a reasonably vital likelihood of Catching It and killing my dad and mom. Rueing and lamenting each cigarette and joint I’d ever smoked. Ingesting fancy wine alone—when would there ever be something to have fun once more?—and staring out the window on the dying metropolis beneath.
In case you’re new to the sequence with the HBO TV present, a TLOU superfan, or missed the sequel on PS4 again in 2020, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a improbable likelihood to expertise a really superlative sport—splendidly free from the godawful context of when the sport first got here out. The remaster is a visually enhanced version of the PS4 unique, which additionally contains the roguelike No Return sport mode, in addition to a number of extras like a director’s commentary and scrapped sequences.
However, for higher or worse, it may be exhausting to separate a sport from the headspace through which you first performed it. Like many individuals who love video games, I usually come to them for consolation and distraction. Persona 3 Transportable stays a cherished favourite as a result of it allowed me to tug myself, little by little, out of one of many worst occasions in my life. I don’t really feel the identical means about The Final of Us Half II, though I do know, objectively, that it’s a masterwork of design artistry and storytelling. It’s an distinctive murals, and its cutting-edge accessibility improvements make the sport really easy to get pleasure from nonetheless you want. However, so far as the story goes, it’s a little bit too quickly for me. The second time round, the narrative of Half II stays a deeply upsetting expertise that, because it seems, I wasn’t fairly able to revisit but.
Endure and survive
Half II takes place 5 years after the primary sport, and we discover Joel and Ellie again the place we left them, within the survivors’ enclave of Jackson, Wyoming. And it’s fairly bucolic, so far as post-apocalypse eventualities go. They’ve acquired a movie show and a daycare heart. Individuals are falling out and in of affection. And teenaged women are bristling with resentment in opposition to their (adoptive) fathers. However we’ve acquired a online game to get to, so the tranquility doesn’t final lengthy. Because of spoilery causes I received’t expose right here, we be part of Ellie on a bloody journey to Seattle. There, she crosses paths with Abby, a member of the Washington Liberation Entrance, which is struggling to guard the Emerald Metropolis’s survivors from the incursions of a non secular cult. As within the earlier sport, humanity’s battle with the fungal-zombie Contaminated shortly takes a backseat to humanity’s battle with itself. Discovering the extent to which Ellie and Abby’s actions have an effect on each other—and discovering the frequent floor between them—is likely one of the sport’s nice joys.
Gameplay in The Final of Us and its sequel consists largely of three parts: stealth-forward gun fight, exploration and scavenging for provides, and infrequently fixing traversal-related puzzles. Like its predecessor, Half II rewards you for trying round. Most pertinently, that is the way you get extra ammo and crafting provides. It’s additionally a vital component of worldbuilding. Objects and non-obligatory encounters in The Final of Us nearly all the time inform a bigger story, even when all the weather don’t match collectively immediately.
Early within the sport, you’ll discover the suburban Seattle neighborhood of Hillcrest. When you filter out the Contaminated, there’s a small storage that’s non-obligatory to discover, and if you open the door, you’re swarmed by 4 or 5 runners, presumably proper after you’ve exhausted most of your ammo. Later, you’ll discover a child’s drawing of their dad Boris, the “archery champion.” A pair homes down, you uncover a letter from Boris, explaining how he dragged his previous pal right into a “spored storage.” He continues, “I shut him in there… however he bit me. These traitors are going to observe one another flip. They may undergo. I hope they consider me after they lose their minds.”
Shortly after, you encounter Zombie Boris, now trapped in his personal storage. You blow a gap in his head and take his bow for your self. There are missable moments like this throughout Half II, and Naughty Canine has an unparalleled expertise for fleshing out a world with out huge snoozy loredumps.
Visually, The Final of Us Half II Remastered is an uptick from the bottom PS4 model I performed in 2020, if a reasonably minor one. Having spent plenty of time with the Yakuza sequence recently, I used to be stunned to note that the finer particulars on Half II’s faces and clothes felt a little bit missing. On RGG Studio’s goons, you possibly can see particular person pores and imperfections, and particular person threads of material textures on shirts and fits. Granted, that sequence offers higher consideration to flash and extravagance, however I used to be stunned to have even a small quibble to make about something in a Naughty Canine remaster.
That mentioned, the environments are really a marvel to behold. The wild, overgrown hills of Seattle, with its low-lying pockets of fog dappled between the timber, are the stuff Pacific Northwest desires are product of. (Has rain-sodden stone and brick ever appeared this inviting?) And as a lot as the sport’s Santa Barbara sequence is hard to abdomen, I desperately hope the inevitable Half III is about in California, as a result of each notice is immaculate, from the spindly, hay-like weeds to the ranch homes to the sorbet skies.
Aesthetics apart, the meat of The Final of Us is in its fight, which is excellent. As Ellie, you’re much less tanky than Joel was in Half I, however you’re in a position to go susceptible to be extra sneaky. In case you get found and attacked, you possibly can even fireplace a gun from in your again, which is useful extra occasions than you may desire. As somebody who isn’t typically an enormous fan of “stealth video games,” the fight in Half II feels so dynamic that even doing the identical battle twice not often feels the identical. There are such a lot of hidey-holes for Ellie to discover, so many locations to scamper away from the fray and get the leap on baddies, that it completely eliminates the pattern-memorization grind you’ll discover in lesser entries within the style.
That freedom to deal with a given scenario nonetheless you select can really feel dramatically at odds with the story Half II is making an attempt to inform. As Ellie, you’ll beat a girl to loss of life as she cries for mercy. You’ll kill canine. You’ll finish somebody’s life as a close-by pal howls their title in agony, time and again. Typically, you’ll not care. However different occasions, you’ll. You’ll not need to do the terrible factor, and but it’s essential to. That is the place revisiting this sport grew to become troublesome for me.
In Half I, we have now 20 years of unspecified Darkish Shit to maintain us at some take away from Joel. We don’t know all the pieces he had seen or finished, however we all know plenty of it was unhealthy. That’s a part of what makes the hospital sequence on the finish of that sport—and the primary season of the HBO sequence—so memorable. There’s part of him that we as gamers are usually not aware about. However to some extent, Ellie is “us” in a means Joel and Abby by no means are. We’ve seen a lot extra of her journey over two video games, so we really feel a higher sense of possession about her actions. I loved Abby’s sections quite a bit for exactly this purpose—it was a aid to go away Ellie’s baggage behind.
The Final of Us Half II Remastered is the easiest way to play this really glorious sport, with sky-high stakes, gorgeous visuals, rewarding exploration, and phenomenally assorted and thrilling fight. However to get essentially the most out of it, you’ll most likely must have a stronger abdomen than I do.