The Last of Us 2 will be out in less than a week, and many reviewers are now able to share their thoughts about the game. The verdict is in, and The Last of Us 2 is a masterpiece of refined gameplay, spirited performances and tight storytelling.
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While The Last of Us 2 is currently sitting pretty with an enviable 96 on Metacritic, something that gets lost in the score is that while most reviewers appreciated the depth and polish of the game, many of them also called out its overreliance on violence for violence’s sake, and a narrative that doesn’t really question the first game’s themes so much as rehash them. The Last of Us 2 seems like more of a good thing — although that’s arguably not enough for such an ambitious title.
Still, almost every reviewer agreed that Ellie’s latest journey is one worth taking, and that there’s a lot of exciting, heartfelt moments along the way. If the story inspires you to analyze the game more deeply, that can only be a good thing, even if you ultimately find it lacking. Tom’s Guide is currently waiting to receive a review code for the game, and will share our own thoughts once we have one. In the meantime, here’s what a number of other prominent reviewers thought:
Alex Avard reviewed the game for GamesRadar+, and gave it a full five-out-of-five-stars review. He thought the storytelling was top-notch, the combat was compelling throughout and that the level design put the game on a level above most other action/adventure games available today. The review goes into tremendous detail about the gameplay, and generally has nothing but praise.
“The Last of Us Part 2 is absolutely a masterpiece, have no doubt,” he writes. “There is so much more about this game that I'm desperate to sing its praises for, but simply can't without spoiling anything beyond what's already been shown. Daring, uncompromising, and unlike anything I've played in a long, long time, Naughty Dog has created its most progressive interactive adventure yet.”
At GameSpot, Kallie Plagge gave The Last of Us 2 a respectable eight out of 10, praising Ellie’s character development, the game’s narrative and the combat. She thought the game could have explored its themes in more depth, though, and that scavenging for equipment didn’t always mesh well with the pace of the gameplay.
“By the time I finished The Last of Us Part II, I wasn't sure if I liked it,” she writes. “It's a hard game to stomach, in part because so much of who Ellie is and what she does is beyond your control. She is deeply complicated and flawed, and her selfishness hurts a lot of people. At times, the pain you inflict feels so senseless that it can leave you numb. It's all messy and bleak and made me profoundly sad for myriad reasons, but the more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate the story and characters at its core.”
Jonathan Dornbush reviewed The Last of Us 2 for IGN, and awarded the game a rare 10 out of 10, calling it a “masterpiece.” There was very little in the game that Dornbush found to criticize, expressing admiration for everything from the story, to the characters, to the gameplay, to the level design, to the music, to the performances. This is about as positive as reviews get — for this game, or any other.
“The Last of Us Part 2 is a masterpiece worthy of its predecessor,” he writes. “Taking strides forward in nearly every way, Ellie steps into the spotlight and carries the sequel in a manner that feels like the culmination of everything that’s made Naughty Dog’s blockbuster storytelling so memorable since the original Uncharted on the PlayStation 3. It delivers a layered, emotionally shattering story on top of stealth and action gameplay that improves the first game’s mechanics while integrating a bit more of Uncharted’s greater mobility and action.”
One of the more negative reviews of The Last of Us 2 comes from Polygon, where Maddy Myers reviewed the game. While Myers was impressed with the level of craftsmanship that went into the game, she didn’t think that Ellie’s constant, brutal violence was necessarily a good storytelling choice, and that the game leans too heavily on it. The game tries to make you feel bad about your choices, she argues, without ever really giving you a choice.
“Ellie can finally make her own decisions,” Myers writes, “but just like her dear old surrogate dad, she has a propensity for thinking in the short term and prioritizing her own more animalistic needs for revenge and relief from pain, no matter the human cost. And she’ll be dragging the player along with her, because you have no damn choice but to get homicidal, no matter how much the game wags its finger in your face saying how bad you’re being.”
Eliana Dockterman reviewed The Last of Us 2 for Time, and appreciated the game’s risks in storytelling and characterization. On the other hand, the game sometimes left her feeling frustrated and exhausted. Naughty Dog wanted to push the boundaries of character studies in video games, Dockterman argued, and it often succeeded. But when it failed, the failure was frustrating and not particularly insightful.
“If Naughty Dog’s intent was to shock, leaning so heavily on the violence has the opposite effect: 30 hours into the game, it’s easy to grow numb to acts of cruelty,” she writes. “That awe-inducing scenery and careful character-building is lost in macabre action. And while the violence of the first game served a compelling moral tale, the over-the-top bloodshed of Part II is all in service of a rather clichéd and tiresome lesson about the endless cycle of revenge.”
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.