8 Integral Tips for Enjoying The Last of Us Part II, and a Little Help with that Pesky Survival Mode
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 11:01pm 22/06/20 | Comments
The Last of Us Part II has been divisive among some, and oft with concerns in all the wrong places. Here's our helpful guide to push past petty bickerings and just get on with post-pandemic survival...
So, finally the hype and antihype can be experienced for yourself. Ellie’s journey of revenge and redemption is now officially within your grasp and you can either nod approvingly at all the glowing reviews, while shaking your head at the haters or, conversely, you can shake your head at the so-called panderers; jeering maniacally at the positive green numbers from a critical point of view, all while deriding the shift from a Joel-centric tale of revenge and redemption, cradling The Last of Us Part II in your arms, as if it were a living metaphor for you Joel losing the experience you wanted his beloved daughter; echo-locating those that would agree a narrative shift in protagonist and drive is a good thing, in order to flower your angry mushroom head and scream at them in confused disarray, before devouring them in a fit of fungal rage.
If that sounds harsh, it’s meant to. The Last of Us Part II’s story isn’t the greatest ever written, nor is the game’s ‘point’ the greatest driver, but what it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in delivery of a world juxtaposed between survival of the fittest; infected to infected, human to human, and trying to find a reason to even wake up in the morning. There are no rules in this post-apocalypse, and that should be your key driver. And once you get over yourself and come to terms with your knife’s handle and your gun’s grip, you’ll more quickly be able to enjoy the stunning and dangerous setting of Downtown Seattle as both Ellie and the game’s other ‘protagonist’ in Abby who is coincidentally also on a journey of revenge and redemption.
“I shot the hell outta that guy, huh?”
This POS ‘hype’ card plastered in a JB Hi-Fi in Brisbane kind of sums up the issue so many anti-SJW types are having with the game -- apparently Ellie’s sexuality has a bearing on your enjoyment of killing because, if a lesbian kills, it’s for entirely different reasons than if a character like Joel or Lara or Arthur or Joanna or Leon or Alyx or anyone else, kills.
Having Ellie come out as gay is not a reflection on her abilities; a straight Ellie and a gay Ellie are one and the same where humanistic drive and behaviour is concerned. That Naughty Dog wrote her as a gay character also has nothing to do with pandering to an audience requiring such diversity be represented. She’s just gay. It’s honestly not that hard to wrap your head around, and let’s not forget some of the strong gay people and characters represented in history and media over thousands of years.
"When you write [gay characters] into your stories you’re not simply representing a perceived minority, you're just reflecting known humanity..."
Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi II is speculated to have been openly gay, while other major civilisations from Ancient China and Japan to Israel, Greece and Rome all have recorded accounts of openly gay denizens. More recently in popular culture Willem Dafoe’s Paul Smecker character in The Boondock Saints is a furiously in-charge gay detective, while Rob Kearney: “The World’s Strongest Gay” smashes strong man competitions and would eat you for breakfast. From Holt and Rosa (Brookly Nine-Nine) to Arthie and Yolanda (Glow) with all the Todds (BoJack Horseman) in between, gay people exist. When you write them into your stories you’re not simply representing a perceived minority, you're just reflecting known humanity.
Finally, for the staunchly anti “Ellie as the hero” out there, she’s not, really. But more importantly, if you hold the original game up as your “I rest my case, your honor” final witness to the stand, please set your gaze to this piece of evidence from the defense, from the first game, where Ellie headshots her first victim as a small girl, and likes it proclaiming “I shot the hell outta that guy, huh?”.
What would you do?
We’ll come full circle with this point by the end of this list, but if you want to hold the game up against ‘realism’, put yourself in Ellie’s cons. In Naughty Dog’s other outing, Uncharted, protagonist Nathan Drake kills, and kills somewhat indiscriminately. In search of treasure. He’s not fighting initially for survival, nor is he taking down despots or fascist regimes. He’s just after treasure. And Naughty Dog famously combated peoples’ issues with this nonchalant lean on life-taking by comparing Drake to Indiana Jones and the doctor’s penchant for striking Nazi’s off the life list. Something we just can’t rightly combine as “like for like”.
In Ellie’s situation, however, the world is gone to absolute shit and it’s brought out the shittiest shit in shit people. Kill or be killed is the overall playground rule here, and if you’re not willing to silently despatch a would-be Ellie or Abby murderer with a knife through the throat, then you’re yesterday’s news and an infected feast all in one. You might not like the harshness of the game’s murder loop, but it’s a necessary survival tactic translatable either on patrol or in defiance of township orders. No one will give you your measure in the game-world of The Last of Us -- one or two, so best to just consider how you’d take it on from a personal standpoint.
I got kids to feed
While revenge and redemption are the game’s key pillars, there’s an underlying concept of fear of infiltration. The Folk of the Fringe-esque community in Jackson and its loosely-managed patrol system, the militaristic training and gear-mongering ways of the WLF or the Fireflies, the creepy Scars and their cultish setup… all of it points towards community commonality; strength in numbers, survival and post-apocalyptic xenophobia -- everything relies specifically on standing shoulder to shoulder with those you trust, while pointing an untrusting eye towards outsiders. Abby infiltrates Ellie’s world, while Ellie infiltrates Abby’s world. The infected try to infiltrate all worlds. But as the game’s 'Save the Cat' moment in the early throes sets up, all of this is done for a greater cause, one that transcends the revenge angle, and amplifies the redemption angle. There is a greater cause here, and you’ll find it through Dina and Owen, a theatre and an aquarium and only by pushing through will you truly understand what’s ultimately at stake.
Steroids do not a strong woman make
Another oddity that has emerged from the angry people on the innernet is the ‘size’ of Abby. This is either little dog syndrome or a basic misunderstanding of biology. Contextually, as you’ll learn, she’s dedicated to training and being strong and the best at what she does. She’s driven, and with a purpose. I mean, just watch swimmers and field athletes from events such as shotput and discus. Have you seen the size of the woman who play union or league? It is not even remotely worth fighting the point about, but the idea that she shouldn’t “be as big as she is” is, frankly, laughable.
"And with combat being one of the game’s key gameplay components, and with its overall length, having the opportunity to mix up styles and approach character-to-character keeps things fresh..."
Moreover, what her size offers over playing as the wiley Ellie is a differential in combat approach. Both characters can be stealth, but Ellie is more slash and run, while Abby is forceful and in your face. And with combat being one of the game’s key gameplay components, and with its overall length, having the opportunity to mix up styles and approach character-to-character keeps things fresh. Embrace the disparate characters and their proportions, rather than railing against either, or both, of them. It’s petty.
A rat in a cage
I’ve talked a bit about the combat at hand within the game, but what isn’t wholly expressed here is just how intense it is, from a ‘from the shadows’ perspective. Playing the game on Survival is the ultimate experience in biding your time and striking from the shadows. And the handful of moments where the game throws intensity at you dialled up to 21, without the option for stealth, only fly-by-the-seat-of-your-reactive-pants hand-to-hand encounters designed to bring nightmares in your sleep. And these aren’t specifically crafted as bottlenecks, they’re there to heighten the ferocity of the survival situation you’re in. You can dislike the reasoning behind either character’s paths throughout, but you can’t ignore the immediate danger from either humans or infected throughout, and it’s in the requirement to face off against them that the game challenges you beyond its narrative structure, relying solely on the cruel setting in which you now exist.
Joel lived a longer life pre-pandemic, Ellie’s life is largely pandemic-ified, which changes the way in which she deals with it. Abby, too.
Avoiding the topic
Still, when you’re not forced to get your hands dirty in encounters, the game offers ways to skip through combat sections altogether. These are difficult to navigate with an intended non-confrontational outcome, but triggering the next checkpoint is doable without stabbing a single baddie or enraging a single infected, if the game allows for it. That said, however, on Survival you’re going to be living your best scrounging life; apartment buildings, abandoned warehouses, old storefronts, garages and more will offer you options for finding much-needed resources for crafting and staying ahead of the game’s steep Survival difficulty curve. Equally, you’ll find ‘supplements’ throughout the world which can be used to bolster bother characters’ abilities, of which many are unlocked through finding manuals hidden throughout the world.
"avoid an area, patrol or infected infestation and you might miss out on much needed powerups and supplies. Go in full-tong and you might eat through valuable resources with little-to-no reward..."
This feeds into a risk-reward system -- avoid an area, patrol or infected infestation and you might miss out on much needed powerups and supplies. Go in full-tong and you might eat through valuable resources with little-to-no reward. And it’s in this instance The Last of Us Part II truly challenges your decision-making, and in charging you with survival, really shines.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
If your path through the game is one of exacting revenge, you might as well embrace it, and try and make the most out of what that means in the grand scheme of things. It also means the stubborn nature of both key characters will allow for peripheral peeps to become a much-needed and enjoyed voice of reason. The game’s story might be naff on a broad stroke level, but a lot of the dialogue and voice-acting, moment-to-moment, is actually really good. As is the game’s more intricate game-world storytelling, whether it’s letters from loved ones to cryptic messages, graffiti and more; your thirst for revenge need not be a fast one, and can be one to savour. If not for the final endgoal, then for the brutal scenery along the way.
Hey, it’s just a game
Full. Circle. At the end of the day, it’s a videogame. Sure, Naughty Dog puts a lot into this from a ‘realism’ perspective, and there’s little humour or lightheartedness peppered throughout (which makes those rare moments all the more enjoyable), but the gameplay stuff that is here is here from a videogame perspective. It’s a narrative-heavy experience, but the way in which you get to engage the more open parts of the environment and the game’s intense combat allows for you to let your high-strung story hair down and just enjoy this for what it is -- a videogame.
There’s no rainbows here, and Naughty Dog makes sure you’re uncomfortable throughout, but embrace that to its fullest. Put yourself in every character’s shoes, consider a post-pandemic world (it’s not a stretch right now) and live that darkened fantasy. Because that’s what this is: fantasy. It has believable characters, real-world settings and a brutal one-two punch, but last we checked, no one with COVID-19 was turning into a mushroom.
For a more in-depth look at how best to tackle the game's challenging Survival mode, check out the video embedded below thanks to GrizGaming.