The Last of Us was one of my favourite surprises to cap off the PlayStation 3. Since then, however, the onslaught of post-apocalyptic, zombie-themed media left me seemingly feeling like one of the infected denizens of Naughty Dog's survival-horror hit.
Jumping into The Last of Us Part 2 felt familiar, troublingly so, as unlike other sequels under Naughty Dog's belt, such as the jump from the original Uncharted to the spectacular Among Thieves follow-up. The Last of Us Part 2 is much more of a subtle evolution, at least in terms of core gameplay mechanics and overall feel.
The truth of the matter is, the opening hours of The Last of Us Part 2 are deliberately slow. The buildup leading up to the player returning to Seattle is one that not only sets up the plot for the rest of the game but one that takes a big risk, one that should genuinely interest players on the fence in wanting to see the rest of the game.
In terms of the actual gameplay beats, The Last of Us Part 2, as mentioned earlier, feels mostly identical to the remastered release of the original 2013 title. After some reflection, this is perfectly fine as unlike the aforementioned Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the original Last of Us was bore from a much more mature Naughty Dog. A Naughty Dog that already had the PlayStation 3-era, Uncharted trilogy under its belt.
The only significant addition to Last of Us Part 2, in terms of gameplay changes, is the addition of a dedicated dodge button (L1). At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal, but thanks to the flexible difficulty options present in the game, encounters with swarms of infected or tougher, lone enemies can't simply be won by abusing the melee mechanic, like in the first game.
Instead, carefully timing dodges, particularly on the harder difficulty settings feel rewarding and tense, almost akin to the dodge-roll mechanic in Fromsoftwares' Souls series of games. The back-and-forth between some of the tenser encounters, coupled with a healthy mix of smaller, claustrophobic and closed off areas with larger and expansive zones, ultimately makes The Last of Us 2, at times, feel like a different game entirely.
Subtle detail and nuance are truly what makes The Last of Us Part 2 special. Thanks to the horsepower of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, Naughty Dog's ambition is seemingly fully-realized, even within the opening hours of the game. It must be mentioned, however, that those playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro should consider using headphones, as TLOU2 in particular, really gets the fans inside the Pro console going (or, at least in my launch unit).
There is a lot more that I wish I could talk about in The Last of Us Part 2, but if there is one core takeaway that fans' should take, is that the game is a long one, and everything present, be it a story beat or a particular gameplay sequence, is expertly crafted and is worthy of your time.
Ultimately, those on the fence, especially those who may have seen some of the leaked spoilers that have unfortunately made its way on to the internet, shouldn't get discouraged, as The Last of Us Part 2 is an experience that both longtime fans and newcomers will enjoy.