In 2013, Sony and a developer named Naughty Canine launched “The Final of Us,” a sport that may turn out to be one of the beloved of its technology. Taking the treasure-hunting formulation of Naughty Canine’s “Uncharted” collection, “The Final of Us” redefined post-apocalyptic gaming, delivering an expertise that labored with emotion as a lot as motion. Just like the “Uncharted” video games, “The Final of Us” cribbed closely from a cinematic playbook, incorporating visions of the top of the world that we’ve got seen earlier than in main movement footage however telling its personal story in a means that enraptured viewers in each means. I’ll always remember the primary time I performed even simply the intro to that sport—an emotional, terrifying expertise that units the stage. I used to be hooked into this world, and ultimately launched to a grizzled fighter named Joel and a teenage woman named Ellie. After which “The Final of Us” ended with such an ideal grace be aware that even followers of the sport questioned whether or not or not it ought to have a sequel. How do you high this one? Why mess with perfection?
That query clearly hung within the air because the builders at Naughty Canine set to work on “The Final of Us Half II,” a sport that doesn’t simply replicate what labored seven years in the past however expands on it in methods which can be each terrifying and noteworthy. Over 20-30 hours—the low finish for skilled avid gamers extra more likely to flee encounters and far larger for these seeking to discover each collectible and stealthily kill each enemy—“The Final of Us Half II” delivers one of the partaking, terrifying, and breakthrough sport experiences of all time. It’s a brutal sport, one which confronts excessive violence and horror in a means that cuts to the bone whereas holding the participant on edge for its whole runtime. Most of all, that is refined, complicated storytelling that facilities on cycles of violence, the blinding nature of vengeance, and the influence a brutal world would have on humanity. How do you keep first rate and humane in a society the place these traits are in more and more low provide?
Now that is the place a critic would sometimes dig into and recount the sport’s story, however Sony has been involved about letting this expertise unfold for avid gamers in an unspoiled, natural means. Whereas this spoiler-phobia is usually overblown, it’s comprehensible right here given the secrecy round this undertaking through the years and the daring means the writers permit it to play out for avid gamers. Greater than two dozen hours into “The Final of Us Half II,” I nonetheless wasn’t positive the place the story was taking me subsequent (and even the place I wished it to go or how I wished it to finish, which is much more of an accomplishment). Lengthy gone is the predictability of sport screenwriting by which there’s an excellent man attempting to get to a foul man and possibly save a princess. The character-driven horror-drama of “The Final of Us Half II” forces the gamer to query allegiances and stay within the second—the panicked, terrified second.
That final half is vital. Each minute of “The Final of Us Half II” feels pressing. This sport retains you locked into its immediacy with a probably lethal encounter behind each nook, creating extra legit stress than any sport earlier than it. A part of the explanation for that’s the beautiful brutality. Stealth kills don’t simply drop a foul man, they arrive with the sound of a knife getting into flesh, and infrequently gurgling blood. While you shoot an enemy, his good friend will generally name out his title—you didn’t simply kill a soldier, you killed a man with a reputation and a good friend. Physique components rend from our bodies with unbelievable, gory element, and the loss of life depend rises in a means that feels prefer it has precise influence. On one degree, that is the story of how violence begets violence. A world by which factions type and folks should struggle to remain alive can solely result in increasingly intense bloodshed. Assets like ammo are in brief provide on this sport, but it surely’s actually about how sources of primary humanity can dwindle away.
With out spoiling both sport, a serious choice was made by Joel on the finish of “The Final of Us,” and that selection ripples via the whole thing of the second a part of this landmark expertise. Provided that it is a story concerning the penalties of a violent world and a pandemic that killed many of the inhabitants, and this sport couldn’t really feel timelier. Nevertheless it’s additionally about trauma, and the issue find peace when your life is stuffed with violence. How will we stay with selections made by and for us that formed our whole existence?
“The Final of Us Half II” feels revolutionary by way of authorship inside a cinematic storytelling assemble. There might not be dialogue branches or character selections that current the participant with completely different endings, however there’s a eager sense of gamer management that’s missing from just about each different sport like this one. Most of the chapters happen in almost open-world settings, in which you’ll discover completely different buildings and pathways, wanting not only for secrets and techniques and collectibles however resulting in a deeper, three-dimensional world. Early within the sport, a lower scene passed off for me in a music retailer and it dawned on me that some folks received’t see this sequence in any respect. I had discovered what I wanted to seek out and was simply exploring on my means again. I’m optimistic there are different diversions, secrets and techniques, and subplots that I missed, particularly within the ultimate third of the sport once I form of adopted a “panic and run” technique.
The sport additionally permits for various gameplay methods from minute to minute. You’ll be able to play many of the sport with out capturing a bullet, both utilizing stealth to get across the enemy, sneak up on them, or fine-tune your melee expertise. Technique feels natural, altering from everyday and second to second, relying on the state of affairs and the participant’s temper. Now we have written an important deal about video games that make use of a story type influenced by cinema right here on the website, however I’m unsure a sport has ever blended the 2 artwork types as fluidly as this one. You’ll be able to really feel each the hand of the writing staff and yours on the controls. It is invigorating for somebody who loves cinematic video video games, and will actually carve the trail ahead for the PS5 technology.
“The Final of Us Half II” will likely be an excessive amount of for some folks—too scary, too intense, too epic, and, most of all, too violent. (Pet lovers needs to be warned that among the enemies have canines, and whereas stealth is usually an choice, generally knives and explosives are too.) It’s a heart-racing expertise, and 2020 has pulled again a curtain on a world of precise violence which will make fictional violence unappealing. Nonetheless, I didn’t really feel like “The Final of Us Half II” used violence in an exploitative means (though I believe some will disagree). Even killing a whole lot (and dying a whole lot of occasions myself), I felt the adrenaline of the carnage just about each time. I discovered myself pushing the sq. button lengthy after I wanted to throughout an encounter and getting legitimately scared throughout set items. (A late one in a flooded-out hospital is critical nightmare gas.) You don’t turn out to be numb to it such as you do in lesser video games. You simply attempt to survive it.
Online game sequels, like film sequels, are sometimes designed in a means that merely offers the potential purchaser extra of what they appreciated the primary time. There are uncommon artistic tasks—Christopher Nolan’s “The Darkish Knight,” for instance—by which it looks like a staff is unwilling to merely duplicate success, and try to construct on the inspiration of the primary expertise. This sport deserves that comparability. In each means, “The Final of Us Half II” is a serious achievement, a masterpiece of a sport that one could be tempted to say units a brand new commonplace for the horror sport expertise, however that may indicate that others may probably stay as much as it.
Obtainable solely on the PlayStation four on June 19, 2020.