The Last of Us 2: An Honest Review

Last updated on July 14th, 2020

The Last of Us 2 is a direct sequel to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which came out in 2013. The original followed the story of Joel and Ellie in their quest to create a cure for a zombie-like virus that has all but wiped out modern civilization as we know it. In this Last of Us Part 2 Review we’ll be taking a look at the Story, Gameplay and mechancis of Last of Us II, but please note there will be heavy spoilers as it’s nearly impossible to evaluate the story without talking about some, so skip to the final verdict if you wish to remain spoiler free.

The Last of Us 2 Review

Please note that this review will not be taking into account any perceived agenda by Naughty Dog, whether real or imagined, and will focus on the The Last of US 2 solely as a video game. Additionally, all our reviews are honest, but we’ve never been asked so many times if we’ll do “an honest review” so yes: this is our honest opinion, as always. Please read our Review Guidelines to understand our scoring system.

Developed by: Naughty Dog
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: June 19th 2020
Platforms: PS4
Price: 59.99 USD Standard Edition

Last of Us 2 Review: Story & Setting

The setting of The Last of Us II is similar to that of the first game. Players enter a world devastated by a disease that turns people into mindless and aggressive monsters, which has led to the collapse of civilization and the agreed-upon rules of society. Dealing with disease and famine, survivors have fragmented into tribalist groups that distrust strangers and are quick to execute their own justice.

The Last of Us II begins several years after the events of the original, with a mostly grown-up Ellie and a much greyer Joel. They’ve settled in Jackson, the small town ran by Tommy (Joel’s brother) and his wife, and life seems to have found a way to carry on despite the best efforts of the ravaging virus. Things take a hard turn rather early in the game when Joel is killed by a newly introduced character, Abby, whose motivations for hating Joel are not initially explained. Ellie is a witness to the brutal torture and murder of her father figure, and is subsequently filled with rage, a rage that is felt vicariously by the player as we spent most of the first game playing as Joel.

The Last of Us 2 is thus setup to be a “revenge movie” from that point onward, à la John Wick or Taken, but unlike those movies the revenge almost never feels satisfying. This is mostly because the game suffers from huge pacing issues, where large stretches just drag on with no real meaningful plot progression or action, with Ellie pointlessly picking up collectibles. However, there are other reasons as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that you never see the antagonist, Abby, again until much much later into the story (about 15 hours or so), which leads to a breakdown in the anger you feel towards her, drastically lessening the satisfaction of slaying Joel’s killers (Abby had help). But there is also the fact that Tommy sets off ahead of you, and for a good stretch of the game you are simply following in the wake of his devastation, as he takes his revenge, preventing you from taking it yourself.

When Ellie and Abby finally do come face to face again, you flashback and play through the events that lead up to this showdown from Abby’s perspective. And while this was actually a very clever idea by Naughty Dog, giving players the opportunity to see that there are two sides to every story, it was executed very poorly.

Between the hours-long flashbacks, you skip forward and backward through time as Abby (even having a flashback within a flashback at one point), until you get overwhelmed trying to keep track of where you are compared to where Ellie is in her timeline. The constant jumping back and forth removes much of the sense of the game’s progression leaving you wondering “Why am I here?”.

This is even further exacerbated by the fact that a large portion of Abby’s story is a side quest to help a stranger (about 6-7 hours worth), that has absolutely no impact whatsoever on the game’s main story line, unless that character has a substantial role in The Last of Us III, which is a virtual certainty based on the game’s ending. That means that about a quarter of the game is focused simply on setting up the plot for the next game.

In conclusion, the game’s story leaves the player feeling nearly as exhausted as Abby and Ellie themselves by the end of the game. If the goal was to make the player wonder “What is the point of it all? Why carry on with something that will make no difference anyway?”, then Naughty Dog certainly accomplished this… just not in the way they hoped.

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Last of Us 2 Review: Gameplay

The Gameplay of Last of Us II is for all intents and purposes the same as TLOU. There are little caveats like being able to dodge attacks in melee, or to crawl prone on the ground, but the meat of it is exactly the same. This should be good news for players, as the gameplay of Last of Us I was great, and the Last of Us II is solid as well.

There are also new Skill Lines to unlock with both Abby and Ellie that allow you to focus on different styles of play, and now that there is a NG+ mode, where you’ll be able to use what you’ve unlocked from the very get go in a second playthrough. And you’ll need to if you want to get all the Skills, since you simply can’t do that in one playthrough.

My only complaint with the gameplay itself was the rather large focus on environmental “puzzle” solving during the first half of the game that wasn’t particularly fun, but otherwise the core of why the game is being described as “boring” can be attributed to the pacing issues, because the actual mechanics themselves are very good, and the execution of the moves and skills very satisfying.

Pacing is both a story and gameplay mechanic, and where on TLOU we thought it was very well done, in this game it instead feels like a fragmented story told in a clumsy way and padded with pointless gameplay sections that do not add anything to the narrative and rather detract from it by lessening the impact of important story events by trivializing the journey.

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Last of Us 2 Review: Design, Visual & Audio

Visually, The Last of US II is easily one of the best looking games on PS4. It’s up there with God of War, Death Stranding, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and frankly I don’t think you can get much better with the technology available. And what was really impressive about it, was that I had no bugs or glitches and almost zero frame drops in my entire playthrough, making for a very smooth experiences.

On the audio front the voice acting is top notch and is on par with other Naughty Dog titles, which are some of the best in the industry in this category. It’s hard to find even one character that did a bad job with their lines, and this aspect was so good it just felt like you were watching a movie.

The sound of the game was outstanding overall. From the quaint songs added to the game’s soundtrack to the gurgling as someone choked to death on their own blood, everything sounded fantastic. My only nitpick here is that I wish there was a bit more mood music, much like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Death Stranding. The use of music in gaming can do so much, and I felt like Naughty Dog could have used it so much more!

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Last of Us 2 Replayability

Unlike The Last of Us, there is no multiplayer for players to engage in so The Last of US 2 is going to take a hit in this category. The replayability of the game comes from the newly added NG+ which allows you to play again, keeping your skill progression from your first playthrough for both Abby and Ellie. How many people will actually play the game a second time though, is anyone’s guess.

In my case, I do not feel like the story is worth a second go-around, and so many portions of it felt dragged out and tedious that it does not seem like an exciting aspect. I will probably replay the game regardless, because our community will want to revisit and chat about the events, but the average player will likely put this away after one use.

If the developer adds multiplayer, then this review (the written form at least) will be adapted to reflect that.

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Pricepoint

As I just mentioned The Last of US II doesn’t have any multiplayer and so relies completely on the “experience” of the game to determine its value. Unfortunately, because that experience is likely to be “interesting” at best, I’m not sure you can call this a 60 dollar title.

Clocking in just at about 25 hours of gameplay, and slightly more if you spend time seeking out every collectible, the game’s value-per-hour is not on par with other AAA titles. Obviously the graphics, voice over and production value help to add to the overall quality of the game, but I don’t think they do enough to get it quite the 60 dollar mark and you should probably wait to get the game on sale if you want to play.

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Final Thoughts

Video Games are an art form, and they express the messages of their creators and elicit emotions just the same as movies, television and even books. Recently we’ve seen a trend with more and more games being about the experience, rather than the gameplay itself (I’m looking at you Death Stranding), and it has created quite the paradox. Some of the best movies and books of all time leave a lasting impression upon their viewers, but many of them would never be described as “fun”. But The Last of US II is a GAME, and therin lies the problem…

The Oxford Dictionary defines a game as “an activity that you do to have fun, often one that has rules and that you can win or lose“. And while you can argue until the cows come home about whether or not he Last of Us II is “fun“, it violates the second part of the definition, because when all is said and done you have no idea if you’ve won or lost the game!

I’ve been called a noob. I’ve been called terrible, garbage, trash, and everything under the sun for dying in a video game on stream. But never have I ever had twenty thousand people cheering every time I died, because they hated the character I was playing (Abby) so much that they’d rather see her jump off a ledge over and over than carry on with the game. And I think that says about all you need to know about The Last of Us II.

5.8
Summary: The Last of Us 2 is a beautiful, wonderfully acted interactive movie that is utterly let down by a fragmented plot and poor story telling. With solid but unimportant gameplay mechanics, a title that should have been game of the year is instead relegated to the sales pile. LOU2 is an interesting experience, one that I am happy to have had, but not one that I want to have again.
Story & Setting (4)
Gameplay (8)
Design, Visual & Audio (10)
Replayability (3)
Pricepoint (4)
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Senior Editor at Fextralife. I enjoy gaming, playing and watching sports, cooking yummy food, watching a good movie and hanging out with Fex.

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11 comments on “The Last of Us 2: An Honest Review”

  1. itmo says:

    This is a very fair review of the game. Its nothing special, lacks game play innovation and the story is forgettable, and it is not fun, its just draining.

  2. Avatar Fallenangel700 says:

    Wow, that last paragraph really does say all ya need to know. Like itmo said, this is a very fair review.

  3. Avatar WackoLemon says:

    Well said, Cas. I agree with most points throughout your review. Loved watching you play and look forward to future games as well

  4. yngwiemalmsteem says:

    I think Fextralife’s Youtube channel is one of the best, and certainly the most professional video game channel there is. I love their guides and their reviews. Their wiki is insanely useful and complete (I did dramatically better at Divinity Original Sin II, Pathfinder Kingmaker and Mount & Blade II thanks to it). ACG is another guy and channel I respect a lot but… This passage however–> "this review will not be taking into account any perceived agenda by Naughty Dog, whether real or imagined" denotes a policy that some channels like Fextralife and ACG have. And I don’t think it is a sustainable one. A few years ago I didn’t care about agendas or forced archetypes or developers trying to force their vision of the world upon me. It wasn’t an issue back then. But today… I see as entertainment franchises that I used to love (Star Wars, Terminator, Ghostbusters, etc.) are being hijacked and utterly destroyed by the all consuming mob of you-know-who and this is also happening in the videogame industry.

    Unfortunately in this day and age I do care about whether or not developers are pushing an agenda in their games… A LOT. I just don’t want their agendas in my games. They DO bring the fun to zero for me… it simply trounces whatever marvelous gameplay and graphics the game might have to offer. Of course I want to know about Graphics, gameplay and "a bit a bout the story" and "sound, music and voice". But right now I also want to know if there is an agenda… I also want to know if there are feminist or woke undertones, I also want to know if there are any modern day identity politics at play. I don’t think reviews and reviewers can avoid addressing these issues for much longer. Sure, I want to know about genre, similar games, graphics, gameplay, story, etc… but I also want to know if I’m going to be force-fed the developers vision of the "new world".
    To this review’s credit however, by reading the whole thing, you can draw your own conclusions about whether or not there is an agenda being pushed (there is, make no mistake about it). And that final paragraph is very much indeed all I need to know.
    Soon, unfortunately… there will be no standing on the sidelines.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well put. Now I k is where to look before buying cyberpunk. Wish I could get my money back on this preordered pile of garbage

  6. Nickolaidas says:

    I am a Sony fanboy, through and through. That said, I cannot help but cringe at the PlayStation fansites which all somehow give this game a unanimous ten. A flawless masterpiece. A timeless classic. ND’s best game yet.

    There is nothing classic or timeless about this game, and ten years from now no one will be talking about it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    you guys are are stupid it not a bad story it just controversial like game of thrones. controversy fun.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great review, I agree with pretty much everything I read. It is also commendable that you chose to keep your integrity while writing this review.
    One of the greatest aspects of the first game and perhaps the most important was the story, it’s sad that the sequel to such an amazing game like The Last Of Us disappointed in that category. I personally feel that some plot points weren’t necessarily bad, but the execution was beyond poor.

  9. Avatar Chernobog says:

    People have ideas about how the world should work and core beliefs which drive their morals. Reducing this to an "agenda" to be pushed merely means that you do not agree with what the writers and developer’s vision of the world is. That doesn’t mean that every game needs to be a soulless husk devoid of anything meaningful to say about the world. Almost all story-driven games show, in one way or another, what developers and writers believe about a certain subject as they examine it through their narrative.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How can i even take your review seriusly if you basically start it by comparing it’s plot to a bland action movie like John Wick which has 0 character development and 80% of what the film is made of are action scenes. Also you say that revenge never feels satisfying which is infact the whole freaking point of the game lul, did you turn off the TV during the cutsenes while you where playing the game or are you just following the hate that internet has for this game to gather some more clicks, by putting together a couple of argumentations that don’t even make sense?
    Moreover the definition of videogame you give at the end of your so called "honest review" is so incredibly limitating…. You are telling me that the medium isn’t made for more complex storyes that don’t necesserely end well for our loved protagonist? You are telling me that the only storyes we can tell inside this medium are storyes of Heroic protagonists that make heroic deeds and at the end live happily ever since they need to "Win the Game". Man that’s so sad and depressing to hear…
    Don’t want to even comment the 3 you gave to the replayability, i understand that the story is pretty depressing and that not many people would like to re-expirience it, but you could still skip the cutsenes and if you don’t want to replay the more boring sections the game even offers you the possiblity to load each specific section of each freaking arc of the story. The game has an pretty high amount of replayability, each "arena" is incredibly vast and you can approach each fight in a thousand of ways thanks to that and the high amount of tools that the game offers you, giving anything below a 7 means just being biased. BTW the replayability of TLOU2 is waaaaaaaay higher than the first one, but i see that in your review of the original TLOU you didn’t even mention it as a problem, "honest review" i guess….


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