The Last of Us Part II Review: The Best Game On PlayStation

It’s been seven long years since Ellie and Joel’s epic journey across America catapulted Naughty Dog to the very top of storytelling in gaming. The brave move into more mature themes paid off in spades with some of the best moment to moment combat and tense presentation gamers had ever experienced.

Frankly, there is little doubt that 2013’s blockbuster was the very best single-player experience ever released on PlayStation.

Following on from the original, Naughty Dog hasn’t just beaten all expectations with The Last of Us Part II (TLOU2), it’s taken the story in a bold, perhaps even divisive direction that consistently surprises throughout its roughly 20-hour campaign.

It’s also a gruesome, uncomfortable and thought-provoking experience that pushes adult themes rarely seen to this degree in videogames. Culminating in one final moment that made me question certain aspects of characters I had grown to love, TLOU2 delivers a narrative that few will expect (spoilers aside).  

Ellie Is Older But Further Emotionally Flawed…  

Five years have passed since the events of the original game. Ellie, now 19, is the same complicated yet loveable character you remember but you quickly notice the signs of her emotional instability.

Joel is back and carries the weight of his decisions from the end of the last game but remains unchanged in it being the right thing to do.

There is a high degree of tension between Ellie and Joel from the outset, unanswered questions from the ending of the last game linger in Ellie’s mind while Joel remains the typical protector at all costs, refusing to even talk about why he didn’t leave her in that hospital last time round.

Tommy is also back for another stint, standing by his brother Joel and also maintaining a key sense of duty to protect Ellie.

The safe surroundings of Jackson introduce us to several new characters early in the game. Namely, new friend and growing love interest Dina who rides alongside Ellie on a day of patrol in the snow. The connection between the two is noticeable from the outset, presenting a truly innocent fledgling love story that is frequent during the early events in the game.

There is also Jesse, former boyfriend of Dina who in almost every way is one of the most chilled out characters despite the challenging moments he finds himself in along the way.

We then meet Abby. And yes, as it turns out, Abby is that female character fans first saw during the second teaser trailer for the game back in 2017.

Abby’s part in the story emerges very early on, and without giving spoilers away, she becomes an integral part of the overall campaign. Abby’s motivations are complicated and she is far from the typical one-dimensional part of the story to serve Ellie’s wider journey that many may want.

Alongside Abby, there is Owen and several other characters connected to the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), otherwise known as the Wolfs, who form one of the core groups of adversaries Ellie faces throughout TLOU2.

A Bloodbath In Seattle…

Day one in Jackson ends in a shocking moment that sets in motion an uncomfortable story of revenge. Chasing vengeance, you arrive in Seattle which serves as the major backdrop for the game.

Seattle really is a beautiful and detailed world that Naughty Dog wants you to get lost in, gameplay actively encourages exploration in between its incredible combat. My only complaint is the rain… it honestly never stops raining in this city!  

There are large open areas with tall grass to hide in, abandoned houses to ransack, moss overgrown skyscrapers, broken highways, rivers with floating bits of old cardboard, and the occasional human remains rotting away in corners with an infected nearby makes for the most vividly grim and detailed world Naughty Dog has ever created.

Resources are everywhere and there are also more collectables in TLOU2, including old magazines and letters which tell informative stories about the lives, interests and challenges of people who lived in this world prior to everything falling apart.

The infected are back roaming the land with new incarnations, all of which more terrifying than the next. Runners, clickers, stalkers, bloaters and the new shambler present infected enemies that are smarter, faster and more of a handful to deal with than the last game.

Like in the original, killing infected in TLOU2 always feels like a painful but necessary experience in order to survive. The gargles, screams and howling when you shoot dead a clicker for instance never failed to send a great deal of both dread and fear down my spine during gameplay.

The third major group of enemies are the Seraphites, known by the WLF as Scars. A religious cult who communicate primarily through whistling, the Seraphites primarily use bows and melee weapons in combat and believe that the terrible events that impact the world of TLOU2 are a result of human sin.

In between the horror, a tactical stealth approach is always required to mastering infected enemies and another real strength of combat in TLOU2 is how the same approach applies to human enemies. As a player, you’ve got to make decisions before getting into combat about the best way of going about it. Taking your time and working down singular enemies through stealth rather than going in all guns blazing is almost always the better approach, and toward the latter end of the game, that also becomes a real but important challenge because many waves of enemies are often lurking just out of site.

Couple that with minimal amounts of ammo at all times, combat in TLOU2 is full of the same tension and tactical thinking that made the original so good and every aspect of this is improved.

Whether it be just a handful of enemies or several groups, I found myself coming out of every moment of combat in TLOU2 feeling that I’d had to call on all my skills as a gamer which provided an immense sense of satisfaction that left me feeling excited and equally terrified about the next encounter.

All this is presented with a minimal UI not too dissimilar from the original, new weapons and crafting abilities, plus stunning its visuals that push the PS4 Pro to its absolute limits with open world environments built into a traditional linear level design that packs some of the best audio in gaming.

The Last of Us Part II Is Not What You Expect… Or Is It?

Many might have the expectation of coming into this game and continuing the adventures of Ellie and Joel. At least, if you’ve managed to avoid any of the leaks at least.

Nothing could be further than the truth. TLOU2 takes itself in a direction that not many will expect.

This is a game about tribalism, love, the inability to let go of hate and revenge going too far.

TLOU2 shows the characters that fans of this franchise have come to love in a different, imperfect, and at times, deeply unlikeable way. Everything is more mature this time round, except for the motivations of some of the key characters.

When I finished the game the night before writing this review, my thoughts and feelings toward Ellie, Joel and all the other characters had changed so much from when I first started that a few of them were barely recognizable.

I totally got why Ellie, as an example, is the vengeful 19-year old she is, I just questioned her ability to see past it at any moment for the greater good of those around her. Ellie is incapable of listening to reason for a lot of this game, and as you’re forced to take her through that journey, you’ll often wonder what she expects to get out of it all.

I sense that this was a very deliberate tactic by the storytellers at Naughty Dog. Back in the day, game director Neil Druckmman was very clear that TLOU2 acts as the second part, not altogether a sequel, and I know why now.

TLOU2 is an experience that feels like the second part of its original. Within that is the unexpected. Is this person really who I thought they were? Is the group I am fighting alongside capable of any empathy? Are the enemies in our way truly all bad and worthy of the slaughter?

Those were just some of the questions I had myself when playing through, and not all of them were answered by the end either.

Simply put, TLOU2 is all about tension and different gamers will react differently to the events taking place when they finally get their hands on it. It should be a game that is talked about, it’s graphic and deliberate violence coupled with a primarily female cast will surely divide opinion about the bigger messages behind the story.

What cannot be denied is that TLOU2 wraps all this up in an utterly fantastic gaming experience that can, and should, be played in a multitude of different ways. By far the best PS4 exclusive, TLOU2 is a memorable and uncomfortable adventure that you simply must play to understand why it’s so annoyingly good.

MY RATING: 10/10

Rugby Challenge 3: New Game With Old Annoyance

Rugby Challenge 3 is the same as what has come before, but with updated teams, more competitions, the addition of Sevens, and better graphics.

But at its core, Rugby Challenge 3 is the same game as Tru Blu released back in 2013, just with a newer, yet unimproved skin.

The new Be a Pro mode falls short with confusing camera angles, little incentive to keep plugging away, and no immersion whatsoever.

Nearly all the bugs in general game play have remained, including the referee’s whistle getting stuck and constantly blowing after a goal kick has taken place. Continue reading Rugby Challenge 3: New Game With Old Annoyance

Graphically stunning Star Wars Battlefront needs quick price drop

Star Wars Battlefront is one of the hot games to hit the market this holiday season, but its reception has divided critics.

Battlefront comes with no campaign mode, and this has taken a lot of buyers surprised, even though EA made this news clear weeks ago.

Battlefront is primarily an online-based game that takes place on very popular, but limited in numbers, set of open world maps that are famous from the Star Wars saga.

But, no single player story for one of the most anticipated games and most loved film sagas of all time, is a big, big surprise.

The lack of a story mode and campaign in Battlefront is a major oversight by EA, but it could be a sign of where shooters are headed in the future.

Black Ops III didn’t come with a single player campaign on previous generation consoles, but at least Treyarch made the effort of putting one on PS4 and Xbox One versions.

In all other aspects though, Battlefront appears to be hitting it out of the park.

Graphically impressive, Battlefront packs a mixture of arcade and hardcore first and third person shooting as well as spaceship combat. Battlefront is being heralded for its attention to detail.

This is a game that brings the Star Wars universe to life in a way that has exceeded expectations.

Do a bit of digging around and gamers will find that Battlefront has a little more content that just the four maps that have gotten a lot of play on social media in recent days.

Simon Ryan, a gamer based in New Zealand, says that Battlefront makes up for its lack of variety with strong graphics and a good start to what is clearly going to be a long stretched out franchise from EA.

“There needs to be more variety in the planets and map styles, but graphically it is impressive and a good start,” Ryan said.

Cameron Goldstein, another gamer, was less impressed with Battlefront.

“I liked the originals better because I actually felt like it was Star Wars, yes the graphics in this game are impressive, but it feels like I am playing Call of Duty with a Star Wars skin,” Goldstein said.

The problem is the added expense that EA are forcing gamers into with the Season Pass. On top of the future expenses required, the fact that EA is charging gamers a full retail price off the shelf for Battlefront for what many call a sub-standard shooter with minimum content has been a source of much frustration.

Battlefront brings the world of Star Wars to life like no other game in history, but it needs a price drop, and fast.

New mechanics improve Madden 16 experience

The 16th installment of the award-winning Madden franchise does indeed shake up the formula to make game play feel refreshing.

Credit: Rant Gamer

Recent editions of Madden have lowered the difficulty of play calling for gamers who perhaps aren’t too knowledgeable of the sport.

While the standard play calling system mechanics remain in Madden 16; the attention to detail during each separate play offensively and when defending has had a shake up.

This time round it isn’t a matter of pressing the right button to throw to the open receiver, Madden 16 brings in an all new battle in the air and on the ground control mechanic which ensures that no sure fire catch is a guarantee or no 40-yard toss downfield is an impossible take.

It feels like a new, fresher, and more advanced version of Madden but remains simple enough for newcomers to America’s beloved sport to find their feet quickly in the game.

Not only is choosing the right open receiver crucial to making yardage in Madden 16, making sure the catcher is in the best possible position to make the play becomes much more controllable this time round.

Presentation wise, Madden 16 falls flat with dull commentary but the impressive graphics and entertaining intros keep it from being a total flop.

New modes this year include Draft Champions, where the gamer has the ability to draft their favorite past of present superstar to any team.