Across the generations, the first-party exclusive ‘prestige game’ has become an important part of the console ownership experience. These large, expensive projects are designed to push the medium to its limits, offering players new experiences with top-tier production values and state-of-the-art technology. Within the upper echelon of studios charged to deliver these halo titles, Naughty Dog has cemented itself as one of the best. The Last of Us Part 2 is the studio’s latest creation and perhaps its most stunning. Beneath its decaying façade lies a gorgeous, beautifully realised experience; it’s a game that applies the multitude of hard lessons learned from prior releases, culminating in delivering Naughty Dog’s largest, most ambitious project to date – but what does that really mean in the context of this game?
Well, when I describe the game as the culmination of the studio’s efforts to date, that’s exactly what I mean. From a technical perspective, it’s difficult to isolate brand new techniques or technologies we’ve never seen before. What you are getting is exemplary execution, right down to the tiniest detail, plus a more thorough exploration of earlier concepts the developers has experimented with in the past. For example, something we couldn’t show in pre-launch embargoed materials is one of the most important concepts that underpins this new game. The Last of Us Part 2 features the largest environments in a Naughty Dog game to date, taking a page from the more open-ended design of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, but taking the idea to the next level. Character and world rendering have been improved across the board while significant changes have been made to the underlying mechanics enabling a smoother, more enjoyable experience all around.
The original The Last of Us, like Uncharted before it, is a highly cinematic game driven by set-piece moments – it was designed to appear open but it was still ultimately a series of ‘tunnels’. In part, this is also true of the sequel, but the main difference lies in the city itself. Seattle serves as a sort of central pillar around which the game’s more cinematic moments are constructed. Basically, it’s almost akin to a hub, just not in the typical open world sense. At various points throughout the game, your objective involves finding a specific location, but you’re never explicitly told how to get there, nor are you funneled down a specific path.