‘The Last of Us Part 2’ Review: Not as Good as It Thinks It Is

(This review does not include story spoilers for "The Last of Us Part 2")
For a long distance in the middle of "The Last of Us Part 2" it feels like developer Naughty Dog has found his rhythm. The story really starts to move, the interactions with the characters work very well and the completely unnecessary crafting mechanics no longer feel so intrusive.
But it didn't take long. Eventually it took a turn that was so ineffective from a narrative perspective and so annoying from a gameplay perspective that I didn't want to play it anymore. And that's the story of my experience with "The Last of Us Part 2".
It's more or less impossible to sell you what my problem was without sharing spoilers or going into other details that Sony critics asked not to discuss before the game came out. But just know that this is a game that simply refuses to be what it should be. What it wants to be so urgent. It trips over its own feet at every opportunity.
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"The Last of Us Part 2", as you no doubt know, is the sequel to the 2013 original, set in the midst of a zombie apocalypse in which the zombies are people infected with a brain-destroying fungus and middle-aged Joel ( Troy Baker) has to protect a teenage girl, Ellie (Ashley Johnson), while traveling through the country. The reason for this trip: Ellie is immune to the zombie infestation and some people hope to use her blood to develop a cure or vaccine. However, it turned out that the process needed to develop a medical defense would kill Ellie. So Joel called Ellie back and killed so many people alive on the way out.
This sequel begins five years later when Joel and Ellie live in an enclave in Jackson, Wyoming. Some people from outside the city show up, cause a dramatic stir, and the backdrop moves to Seattle, where our heroes get into a war between two huge local factions.
“The Last of Us” was celebrated by many as a milestone in video game storytelling in 2013. I have some problems with it - it was too much of a video game to be a narrative heavyweight for anyone who is not a player. Joel and Ellie were compelling characters to build the story, but the story itself is fairly normal and comes in a fairly common way.
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"The Last of Us Part 2" is no different in this regard. The characters are good and the story is fine. I saw ten seasons of "The Walking Dead" at that point, okay, and this game really feels like it could have been another season of this show. This is not a story that is really trying to separate from the zombie story template we are so used to.
"Actually, the real monsters are people" is a joke that I have made countless times in the past seven years because it is a trope that authors in fiction media take advantage of again and again. "The Last of Us Part 2" could be the culmination of the cliché that has worked so hard for so long that I thought I was going crazy.
For a title like this, this game is already extremely long and much longer than any of the "Uncharted" games from Naughty Dog or the first "Last of Us". This is a problem in itself because the story is not dense enough to support that length. Even worse, it only takes so long because director Neil Druckmann and Co. delivered the most exhausting screed "Actually, the real monsters are people" that I have ever seen. Every aspect of this senselessly long story is built on it.
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Another upholstery of length is the craft mechanics - wherever you go you will spend a few moments searching the room for things you can use to make medical kits or Molotov cocktails or whatever, because if you don't, you will They are having a particularly difficult time getting through your encounters with bad guys. And even if you are in a part of the story that is experiencing a time crisis, you have to keep doing it, as snapping around crafting ingredients is as much a core element as sneaking away zombies.
That's a bad thing, but it's the kind of thing I was referring to when I said that the first game is too video game to work as well as a piece of storytelling. The video game material in "The Last of Us Part 2" stands in the way of storytelling. This has been a problem for this medium for decades, and Naughty Dog has done nothing to address this fundamental mistake here.
Since history also refuses to get out of the way because of its obsession with the most common zombie tropes, I can't help but come to the conclusion that "The Last of Us Part 2" is definitely a worse experience than the original game way that is really important to me. Sure, they ironed out part of the gameplay to make the game run smoother, but that doesn't even make up for the big mistakes.
So, yes, "The Last of Us Part 2" offers a solid stealth / action experience. It has characters that I like and that are important to me. And it looks really, really nice. But many games have a solid gaming experience and good characters and nice graphics.
"The Last of Us Part 2" is supposed to be more than that. And it is not.
"The Last of Us Part 2" will be released on June 19 exclusively for PlayStation 4.
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