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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (495)

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Persona 5 Royal 4.5/5
A Hat in Time 3.5/5
Sunset Overdrive 4/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Honkai: Star Rail 3.5/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Rage 2 3.5/5
Alan Wake 4/5
Riverbond 3.5/5
Dead Island 2 3.5/5
Saints Row IV 3.5/5
The Last of Us Part II 4.5/5
Torchlight III 3/5
Wolfenstein II: The New... 4/5
Ghost of Tsushima 4.5/5
Battletoads (2020) 2/5
Danganronpa: Trigger Ha... 4/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
Maneater 3/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4/5
Spider-Man (2018) 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5

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The Last of Us Part II   PlayStation 4 

Vengeance Is Mine Own Worst Enemy    4.5/5 stars

Naughty Dog has been a boon to Sony, cutting their teeth with Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter before moving on to the Uncharted series and, finally, delivering their biggest hit to date with The Last of Us in 2013. Such a touchstone game was sure to have a followup and The Last of Us Part II dropped in 2020. Creative force Neil Druckmann has that while The Last of Us was a story about how far one would go for love, Part II is about how far one will go for revenge for that love - inspired in part by Druckmann's experiences growing up in Israel and the violence he encountered there. While a very loud minority tried to sink the game, it had little effect as it has become a critical and commercial success, selling over 10 million copies as of June 2022 and winning over 320 game awards - a record at the time.

Looks and Stuff: For a Playstation 4 game, it looks like it could have easily been a Playstation 5 experience. The characters, environments and water, lighting - it's all very impressive. Unlike most big-name games (like, say, Cyberpunk or any Bethesda titles), I can't recall encountering any textures popping in, no clipping issues, certainly no T-posing and no crashes to speak of. This is all the more impressive given the expanded nature of the game. While the game is still linear, certain areas are more open-world, allowing you some sense of exploration. Also, adding in more human enemies gives the AI better control as they actively seek you out. Better yet, when you kill someone, they call out names adding an uncanny realism to all the death you bring. There are even patrol dogs - if you kill their handler, they will actually go to them and sniff and whine - it's a nice touch and one that adds more to the realism. You still also have to deal with our fungal friends - including new varieties that spray acid. The game does a great job of mixing up the two and while stealth is the preferred method, I found the game doles out enough ammo and crafting material to make sure you're always prepared for a gun battle.

The environments are amazing as well. Starting in snow-covered Jackson - moving to the overgrown, rainy Seattle and winding up in Santa Barbara - from ruined buildings to a crane high above the city to a raging river in the middle of it all - there are many great areas that stand out. The visuals aren't the only treat, however, as the returning cast - along with some new additions, give an outstanding performance. This is led by the trio of leads: Ashley Johnson as Elle, Troy Baker as Joel and Laura Bailey as newcomer Abby. Johnson gives a highly emotional performance from absolute grief to overwhelming rage to touching, intimate moments that is simply superb. Likewise, Baker's gruff but more quiet Joel is an anchor that grounds the game. Bailey, playing the super-buff Abby may seem more one-note but grows as the game goes on. The main cast gets boosted by some truly outstanding supporting cast including Shannon Woodward as Elle's love interest Dina, Patrick Fugit as Abby's one-time boyfriend Owen, Ian Alexander and Victoria Grace as Lev and Yara, siblings cast out of their group who Abby helps, Ashley Burch as Mel, Owen's pregnant current girlfriend, Jeffrey Pierce returning as Tommy, Stephen A. Chang as Jesse, a friend of Elle and Nora and Alejandro Edda as Manny, a wise-cracking womanizer and Abby's buddy. Taken as a whole, this is an amazing cast and it comes through.

Finally, the game also hits a home run with the music, once again provided in part by the talented Gustavo Santaolalla - along with Juan Luqui and Mac Quayle - with themes from the first game brought back but plenty of new additions to go along with the mood. One of the standout scenes in the game was the acoustic cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me" (a scene, by the way, that can be entirely skipped as it's not part of the main quest at all). They even manage to throw in Pearl Jam and even Ice Cube along the way. But music is only one part of sound - the effects are also great. Perhaps nothing embodies this more than the mere sound of breaking glass. From smashing windows and things like display cases or even just stepping on broken pieces, the glass effects are profoundly unique. And, as I said, the human enemies all have their own names - one of the most attention-grabbing moments from me was when one of the AI enemies screamed out "Chris has been shot!" - and I had to take a step back. A lot of game throws faceless enemies to mow down - but when they give name and weight to your actions, maybe it will make you think twice about how your actions effect those around you - even in a game.

Story: (WARNING: SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW) Picking up several years after the events in The Last of Us. Elle and Joel are now living in the community of Jackson with Tommy. Elle seems to have a more distant relationship with Joel even as she is old enough to go on patrols and is close with friends Nora and Jesse. While Joel and Tommy are out on patrol they rescue Abby, a young woman, from a horde and she offers them a safe haven with her small group - but this is a ruse. Abby has been hunting Joel for several years and wants nothing less than his death. Elle manages to find the group - but not soon enough and she has to witness what follows. Tommy and Elle set off for Seattle - Abby is part of a group known as the WLF (or Wolves) - who are now the main force in the area after the collapse of FEDRA and the Fireflies. But they are not alone as the WLF are engaged in a prolonged battle with a religious cult known as the Seraphites - or Scars due to the ritualistic facial cuts. The game takes an interesting approach - the first part of the game follows Elle, Nora, Tommy and Jesse at various points - with Elle being the main protagonist, as she fights her way through Seattle, cutting down the WLF and later Seraphites, on her quest to find - and kill - Abby. But this journey has a major effect on her - mentally and physically - resulting in some major PTSD down the road. Meanwhile, the second part of the game follows Abby - who is supposed to be the bad guy here, but shows how the WLF seem to be a thriving community - and her friends are good people. Abby's journey is mostly helping Lev and Yara - who have been kicked out of the Seraphites as Lev is girl but acts like a boy. Meanwhile, Owen, her ex, is convinced the Fireflies are re-grouping in Santa Barbara and wants to escape with pregnant girlfriend Mel , as he sees nothing good coming from the conflict between the WLF and Seraphites. Both of these two stories will converge - with many characters winding up dead or injured by the end. But the story doesn't end in Seattle - but Santa Barbara and with another group. In the end, Elle must face up to her actions - and the price she is willing to pay for the cycle of revenge.

Gameplay: Like The Last of Us, Part II is presented in a third-person perspective. Most of the game will have you sneaking about various areas, with the added ability to go prone and crawl to avoid enemy detection. You are given a variety of weapons - from simple thrown bottles and bricks to handguns, a rifle, shotgun and finally bow. You can also craft things like med kits, molotovs, bombs and silencers. Abby's load-out is different, featuring a crossbow, one-shot hunting pistol, flame thrower and pipe bombs. The two are divergent enough to make things interesting for sure. Stealth kills no longer require a specific weapon, either, as both characters can take out multiple targets with no problems. But it's inevitable that you will eventually get into a shootout. The game makes this interesting as well, as enemies (even the fungus guys) will flank and try to pin you down - even using throwables against you to do so. Certain heavy enemies also take much more to go down - be they infected or human - thus adding to the challenge.

The game employs a semi-open world aspect as Seattle is full of buildings to explore and loot. You can find plenty of ammo, crafting materials and collectibles throughout. There are notes to read, safes to open, crafting benches to find and cards (or coins) to collect. I love the crafting benches too as the ability to upgrade your various weapons actually leads to an actual upgrade animation - very satisfying to see them take apart and rebuild every time. To fully explore most areas, you have to kill the enemies first meaning, that while you can successfully sneak past battles, it will mean missing out on valuable resources and lore (if that's your thing). The vitamins you collect throughout also let you upgrade skills - spread across five options - these range from crafting more (or more durable) weapons and throwables to better health, stealth and listening to new crafting options (incendiary ammo and the like). I don't think it's possible to max out on one playthrough but New Game+ should provide the rest if you want to max out those stats.

Replay value: The New Game+ option becomes available after finishing the game meaning you keep all upgrades, weapons and skills on a second playthrough. You also get the option to purchase various "cheat" toggles (unlimited ammo, one-hit kills, etc) as well as some interesting filters if you so choose. If you don't want to play through everything, there is even a chapter select option.

Final Verdict: A worthy follow-up to one of my favorite games proves that Naughty Dog and Neil Druckmann are a winning combination.

Presentation: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5

 

 


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