The Last of Us 2 Review - Is it Good or Bad?

The Last of Us 2 Review
Be very careful what you say next, or else...

The Last of Us was one of the most important titles for the PS3, gathering a bag-full of GOTY accolades and topping the sale charts for months. I view it in high esteem too: a gritty video-game exploration of the Latin maxim “homo homini lupus est” – I admit that it caught me off guard, especially considering it’s a full-on AAA title. 

When the sequel was announced, though, I was disappointed straight away. In my opinion, that story was well concluded and no one should’ve poked it anymore. The characters of Joel and Ellie remained believable throughout, with all of their actions and motives explained naturally. The ending itself I found to be just right, and it felt then – and after completing the second game, that feeling is all the more amplified – like it didn’t leave many foundations for a continuation of their arks.

The Last of Us 2, unfortunately, attempts just that. It’s a linear, plot-heavy experience that tries its best to broaden the spectrum of things that we as players, should care for in this universe. That approach doesn’t work, as I’ll elaborate on in the following sections. However, there are a lot of things worthy of respect here, and I’ll try to put them equally in the spotlight as well. 

Since this is a review for a game that’s been out for more than a year now, we’ll explore its inner themes closely, so anyone who isn’t already familiar with the plot should be mindful of where the SPOILERS!!!-tag appears in the text. 

In any case, read on!

About The Last of Us 2


The Last of Us 2 is a 3D action/adventure game with prominent survival horror elements that takes place in Seattle, USA, in an alternate timeline where a type of fungus pandemic has almost wiped out all of humanity. It’s a direct sequel to 2013’s The Last of Us, with a story that takes place approximately 5 years after the conclusion of the original game.

The game was developed by Naughty Dog, LLC. and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released on the 19th of June 2020 to universal critical acclaim. However, it was a subject of persistent review-bombing on Metacritic, which led to a 3.4/10 user score for the game, early on. For comparison, today’s Metacritic score for The Last of Us 2 is 9.2/10 Metascore (based on critics’ review), and 5.7/10 user score.

Development on the game began in 2014 and lasted till around the end of 2019 – a process that presumably cost more than 100 million $. Upon release, the game sold over four million copies worldwide in its first weekend. The game sold well in the rest of the year 2020, becoming the 6th overall best-selling game in the US and 8th in Europe.


The Last of Us 2 StoryOh, it’s a love story – or is it?

First things first: be warned that it’s not a game for the faint of heart - it (almost) revels in showing close shots of intense violence (also, one scene features full-frontal nudity)! 

 So no, it’s not a love story… It’s a 25-30 hour long essay of how hatred can consume us completely, becoming an obsession that keeps us awake at night, and leads our hand as we cut all other ties with the rest of the world, one by one. To be honest, I found this focus to be admirable considering today’s triple-A landscape, but its execution here isn’t exactly “smooth” (more on that later). 

This revenge plot is set around 5 years after the events of the first game. It starts in an ad hoc type of village settlement, where Joel and Ellie contribute along with many others survivors in keeping the place secure, and the food supply sufficient. Because, the land even adjacent to those walls is overrun by infected, so the community must send groups of 2-3 people on daily basis to defeat those beyond saving. And that plan seems to be working well, at least at first.

But, things go awry very soon, when one important character is brutally murdered by an opposing group of survivors. From that point on, we follow both sides of this conflict – the remnants of the ensemble from the original game, but also the very person who commits that gruesome homicide. 

We learn a lot about the virtues and imperfections of the two main characters we switch between, even via well-designed playable flashbacks from their younger years. Each completed chapter brings them geographically closer to one another, but ideologically it sets them even more at odds. Peace was never an option – and it all ends in an inevitably bloody brawl…

The story of The Last of Us 2 is its sole raison d’etre – no arguments there. It tackles themes that other games steer clear away from, but it also presents answers after the endured hardships (hardships endured by the player as well, mind you). The developers took a stand on these issues, which leads us to…

SPOILERS!!! (start here)

Arguably the biggest crime this game commits plot-wise is its treatment of the final decision Joel made in the previous game. It seems that the developers unanimously decided that his desire to keep his adopted daughter alive, was utterly selfish and irredeemable. They invite – no, they demand – that the player shares this view, because playing without adopting that opinion right from the start, would be hard to stomach, to say the least. 

The notion that Joel is “evil” never really clicked with me nor it ever will. He lives in a world where self-preservation is the main objective, being constantly surrounded by either infected or by sane people who act as if bitten by a rabid dog, so he’s understandably cautious. On top of that, he manages a believable father-daughter relationship with Ellie (whom he genuinely loves), and all that after losing his actual daughter.

That’s why is hard not to root for him in the epilogue of The Last of Us, once his parental impulse urges him to defend the unconscious Ellie from a medical procedure that will kill her. And for what? This is an important one – it will (and I say this with 99% certainty) be for nothing. Why? 

Why what? Should we (in all seriousness) calculate the probability of the mythical vaccine being successfully created by a team of 4 doctors who barely have access to electricity or functional equipment? Does it sound like a fruitful endeavor?

No – Joel was RIGHT to presume that they will butcher her for nothing. And after he grabs Ellie, it’s not up for debate that he should defend them both by shooting all those armed guards and make an escape. It’s self-defense, nothing more.

Back to The Last of Us 2: in the first hour of play, we witness Joel’s head being split open by numerous blows done with a golf club (of all things), not the mention all that stepping on his forehead, the spitting on his dead body, etc. We have to assume that Naughty Dog was aiming for shock value here – otherwise is plain simply, in very bad taste.  

Then, the ramifications of that act are not explained even one bit, when the game suddenly switches back to the perpetrator herself – Abby, in all of her steroid-infused self-righteousness. The completed Ellie chapters thus far, I reckon were supposed to pave the way for our gradual acceptance of Abby’s actions, but no such thing is accomplished at that point. 

Even worse: the game’s coercion towards “liking” Abby, remains a focal point for the rest of the game. Once controlling her, we learn about her love of her father (a doctor shot by Joel at the end of TLoU 1), her past romantic affairs, and her day-to-day activities as a soldier in a para-military organization.

Of course, none of these “humane” aspects shed a light on the fact that she clobbered a man to death in cold blood – after torturing him for hours. 

The only thing that comes close to explaining her affinities toward bodily mutilation is the few time she reminisces how she “wouldn’t mind few hours alone with a tied up Scar”. The fact that it’s unarguably “OK” for Abby to assert extreme violence towards the members of that group, (and the game establishes that notion with full force), doesn’t mean that she gets the “go ahead” for Joel as well. He was acting in self-defense, for God’s sake! 

Admittedly, the game manages two more jabs at the idea that “Abby isn’t all bad”, namely in the two occasions when she spares Ellie’s life. However, those decisions always seemed blatantly shoehorned in for us to start caring for her, because of two big reasons I must point out:

1. Joel saves Abby’s life numerous times only hours before she ties him up and starts torturing him. She doesn’t show any hesitation whatsoever;
2. Ellie kills Abby's love interest! Why would Abby still let her free? Does Ellie carry a “get out of jail free card” on her person at all times? Didn’t Joel get one of those too?

As for the “Scars” themselves? They are barely worthy of separate examination, being “run of the mill” overzealous fanatics who ravage the land in the name of divine justice. We’ve seen their ilk plenty, in many other titles.

Yet, after one faithful afternoon, Abby starts treating two of the Scars as her “true family”, and begins blasting at her comrades for a change, who even recognize her and try to approach her as friends. This sudden metamorphosis is narrated in a bafflingly insipid way.

Finally, we arrive at the game’s epilogue, the third final 1v1 fight between Ellie and Abby. Both of them are physically and emotionally battered beyond recognition at that point, but their score is still unsettled. Ellie loses two fingers in the fight but still ends up victorious. However, at that moment, she finally finds saturation from all that violence and lets Abby go free.

So, for all keeping score, here’s the result of this story:

  • Joel is evil, the “devil incarnate” if we ask Abby and the developers, and is punished by blunt force head trauma;
  • Tommy is the brother of the “devil incarnate”, who tries to avenge the murder of his brother, but is punished by being shot in the head, leaving him half-blind and half-paralyzed;
  • Ellie is the adopted daughter of the “devil incarnate”, punished by having to watch him die in front of her, by severing the relationship with her love interest, and by losing two of her fingers. Of course, she tries to play guitar without them, because we can’t be certain that she is also “evil”, without having to watch her scrape across guitar strings with fingers already cut off. Thanks a lot, Naughty Dog!
  • Abby is the good one: after spending 5 years pumping herself with hatred towards one man, she finally finds him, and after he saves her life, cruelly tortures him before crushing his skull. Then, she spends several months acting illogically, before losing the final fight against Ellie. In the end though, thanks to plot armor, Abby gets a boat ride towards a “moral high ground”, where she still resides.

Some might say that this story doesn’t teach us anything, but I’d say it’s also one sloppily told.

 - spoilers end here -


The Last of Us 2 Gameplay

Fight the power!

The gameplay in The Last of Us 2 consists of two chunks: situations when we are battling a group of foes (stealth-heavy and gruesome encounters), and the times when we are scavenging abandoned buildings for munition and supplies to be prepared for the next skirmish.

We switch between two characters – Ellie from the first game and newcomer Abby – who differ slightly in their set of skills. In all scenarios, we should move silently when enemies are near, and measure our approach well. The AI changes with the selected difficulty mode, but some enemies are always able to one-shot the player. 

The levels are linear and hide some collectible items, secrets, and Easter eggs, but nothing that warrants a second play-through. However, they are well designed and function appropriately as fields where we can outmaneuver numerous enemies. 


The Last of Us 2 Combat

Combat is an exciting and brutal affair.

When the fighting starts, we aim from an over-the-shoulder view. Enemies belong to three opposing factions: the infected (once human, now completely taken over by the fungal parasite), who either move slowly or fast but erratically, unable to use any weaponry; the WLF-trained soldiers who utilize many firearms and can flank the player; and the “Seraphites” (AKA “Scars”), who intentionally don’t use advanced technology, but can hide in the environment and silently hunt the player. 

There aren’t any RPG elements, but there are combat skills that must be acquired by spending the “supplements” resource. The list of unlockable traits includes widening the range of how far we can hear enemies approaching, increasing our HP pool, learning how to craft Molotov cocktails, learning how to craft better weapons, deadlier ammunition, etc.  

There are 12 different ranged weapons in this game, all of which can be upgraded in several categories (larger magazine clip, reload speed, damage, etc.). Aside from them, we can use melee weapons with limited durability (they are very efficient, but break after 3-5 strikes), as well as craftable weapons, like trap-mines, gas-mines, and Molotov cocktails.

All combat is presented in an impactful way, with sane enemies being able to call each other by name, and with faces that express pain when we hold them in a chokehold. Firearms sound quite authentic, while precise strikes done with melee weapons inflict tremor on the target’s body.

Multiplayer modes haven’t yet been implemented in the game, but there are rumors that this might change soon.


The Last of Us 2 Quest/Mission System

This game tells a linear story without any alternative endings or diverging paths. But, it’s sufficiently long (clocking between 25-30 hours), and its dynamic never lets up.


The Last of Us 2 Graphics

Believable, highly detailed environments

The Last of Us 2 is an exemplary product for the power and rendering prowess of the PS4, the PS4 Pro, and even the PS5. It sports photo-realistic environments and characters models, with motion-captured face expressions and combat animations.

Let’s not mince words here – The Last of Us 2 is one of the prettiest games ever created.


The Last of Us 2 Developer

Crash Bandicoot!

This game was developed by Naughty Dog, LLC, the same developers behind the original PS1 Crash Bandicoot games, the four main Uncharted games, as well as the original The Last of Us. Although they’ve faced some fan backlash after the changes regarding Abby’s body, the game was never criticized from a technical standpoint. It looks and runs flawlessly.


The Last of Us 2 Price

This title is exclusive to the PS4 and the PS5, and currently costs 39.99 $ on the PS Store. It’s a single-player-only video game, without any form of microtransactions.


 - FINAL VERDICT: 7 out of 10


  • Amazing production value: the visuals, the animations, the sound, the facial expressions, it’s all top-notch;
  • The world is appropriately post-apocalyptic looking, with buildings and objects being overgrown and decayed in a believable manner;
  • Exciting and gruesome combat, with encounters designed to be tackled in more than one way;
  • Very satisfying depiction of real-life weaponry, which never stops being fun to use throughout the game’s lengthy runtime 


  • The game's story often aims for shock value, sacrificing a lot in the process;
  • Some of the scenes are incredibly brutal in a not necessary way;
  • The plot loses focus on the point it’s trying to make – players will be baffled as to what is take away here;
  • Though entertaining, the longevity of the story may result in the combat feeling repetitive, especially in the final stretch of the game.


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Being born and raised in the Balkans, Konstantin has always felt comfortable doing activities like frenzying around Tristram, meleeing on Pandora, or virtuously slaying Silver Knights in Lordran.
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Ghost of Tsushima, Minute of Islands, Diablo 3: RoS
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, Borderlands 2, Fallout: New Vegas

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