2020 has been a tough one, there's no other way to say it. This year has seemed to last about ten times longer than it should have, but that's what happens when you spend the majority of it socially distant and locked inside. With that being said, we have had some absolute corkers of videogames to chew through to get us through the year, and while we've spent the last nine days prior to this, talking about some of them - this one is the crème de la crème, the cherry on top, the summit of a mountain of greats. It's of course, The Last of Us: Part II.
This was a game dripping in anticipation. Half of its audience couldn't wait to see how the developer Naughty Dog would continue the storyline of Joel and Ellie, whereas the other half were just curious if it could live up to the hype. Needless to say, it managed both, and besides suffering from a spot criticism here and there, it exceeded those expectations.
Set five years after the events of The Last of Us and following on from the gripping conclusion that saw Joel essentially destroy the last remnant of humanity searching for a cure to the virus that created the Infected. This sequel introduced a new main figure, and showed a new side to the iconic characters we had grown to love. The Last of Us: Part II replaced the survival story we knew, instead focussing on vengeance, placing a spotlight on how it can dehumanise and make villains of us all. It took the innocent character of Ellie and turned her into a merciless creature, consumed by the horrors that befell her father figure Joel. Then, on top of that, it gave us a polarising angle, from the new character Abby, whose own life had been ripped to shreds by Joel's action in the first place.
We all expected The Last of Us: Part II to be a follow-up story to the original, potentially even taking place very shortly after the ending of the first. But, what we got was something completely different. Naughty Dog delivered a game that showed they had no intention for conforming to expectations, and at the same time, produced a narrative that tackled some of society's biggest issues. Sure, being this forward thinking and open came with a lot of flak, but everything that was said by no means discredited the quality of the game itself.
Being open-minded and challenging the norm wasn't the only thing that made The Last of Us: Part II so incredible, it featured a gripping deep storyline, set over a sprawling and gorgeous world. The version of Seattle Naughty Dog had introduced turned the North-Pacific city into an overgrown, almost cataclysmic environment, inhabited by rival factions and plenty of terrifying threats, enough to make your skin crawl. Then to really hammer it home, it provided opportunities to explore parts of the city, opening up extra dialogue options that were often equally, or more engaging than what was being conveyed during the story.
To build on this diverse world, the soundtrack and audio design was tuned to such a high-degree that even without the PS5's new Tempest audio system, the locations and encounters often felt real, eerie and quite frankly a little scary when the tempo peaked. But, what set this game so far ahead of anything else was the brilliance in its acting, and what its diverse and talented cast brought to the table.
Between Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey and Troy Baker, just to name a few, their performances made it impossible not to build an attachment with the characters, which made the struggles they face all the more real, and all the more emotionally arduous. Whether you are in the shoes of Ellie or Abby, you become connected to the character, making it all the more strenuous when they collide. Of course, the performances alone are not the only part that made these situations so gripping; credit has to be given to all the aspects we detailed beforehand that combine to make for such a deep and tasking storyline.
Whichever way you look at, and whether or not you were a fan of the series before the sequel dropped, The Last of Us: Part II is truly magnificent. There are people who will criticise various aspects of this game, and you personally might even think a different title deserves to be in this number one spot. But, when you really boil it down, Naughty Dog has once again delivered a fantastic work of art that again elevates what we expect from this ridiculously decorated developer. All we can say now is, bring on The Last of Us: Part III.