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Illustration by Madison Cohen

Everyone loved 2013's The Last of Us, a PlayStation exclusive released by Californian video game developer Naughty Dog, the award-winning name responsible for the Uncharted series. The game was remastered for PlayStation 4, which I have beaten three times in total. The Last of Us is a story about a post-apocolyptic United States, plagued by a rampant fungus that turns the host into a zombified cannibal.

The game follows a man named Joel, a smuggler who attempts to lead a young girl, Ellie, across the country and deliver her to the Fireflies, a militia group who takes matters into their own hands to find a vaccine to the virus. Ellie is precious cargo because she is the only known person, since most of the population has been infected, who is immune to the fungus. She even has a bite mark on her arm that did no harm to her.

I'm about to spoil the original game for you, but I will not spoil the sequel! It came out seven years ago, dude. Derrick Rose was on the Chicago Bulls back then. "Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys was released that year. You have no right to be upset.

At the end of The Last of Us, Joel makes a questionable moral decision out of love. He raids the hospital in which Ellie is being operated on, murdering every Firefly in sight to halt Ellie's surgery, which would cost her life to potentially save the human race.

The original game is a critically acclaimed masterpiece, scoring a 10/10 on IGN and a 9.5/10 on Metacritic. This trailer of the sequel, released at E3 2018, had jaws dropped at how fluid and seamless Ellie's motions were. From the day I saw that trailer, my expectations for The Last of Us Part II were as high as possible, and the game was officially released June 19. After endless hours of gameplay over about a week, I beat the game this morning at 4:00 a.m.

It is one of the best video games I have ever played. Here's the main selling point: the setting is breathtaking and so gorgeous it is hard to believe that what you're seeing on the screen is digital. The Last of Us Part II takes place in Seattle — well, what's left of it. The lifelike vegetation is overgrown and swallowing buildings and city streets, making it difficult for the player to navigate the city in harsh weather. Luckily, you play as Ellie and she is much more agile and light-footed than middle-aged Joel was in the original. The ruins of Seattle are like a jungle gym. Nothing is easily accessible, and you must do lots of free-running, climbing and maneuvering to get around, all while trying to be silent to avoid alerting hordes of the infected.

The game is defined as action-adventure, but there are plenty of jump scares that forced me to flinch. I think this game could qualify as horror, too. It is multifaceted and imaginative on all levels.

I loved the riddles and critical thinking needed to progress, such as searching for clues to crack open a safe of valuables, or using a generator cord to suspend over an arch, using it as a makeshift rappel to climb a structure. As lifeless and morbid as the post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us Part II is, the map and setting is lively and engaging. At no point during this game was I bored. The cinematic cutscenes are phenomenal, and to Ashley Johnson, the voice actor of Ellie, you are outstanding and capture her emotions amazingly. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her make smart, back-talking comments to her elders, and how she smack-talks her pain-causing victims that she kills.

Also, there's a part of the game where "It Was a Good Day" by Ice Cube is audible in the background, and being the hip-hop head that I am, I was smiling from ear-to-ear.

My favorite aspect of the game is the equal representation throughout. Ellie is an open lesbian, and some of the other characters are gay as well. The leader of one of the new factions is a Black man. There's also a Spanish speaker that you will meet, as well as an Asian ally of Ellie's, named Jesse. Throughout the game you will notice many hints and nods to feminism, which I dearly appreciated. Some reviews on prestigious gaming critic websites say the game is "divisive" or call it a "political statement" because of how Naughty Dog used its platform this time around. To those people, I say shut your mouths and enjoy greatness. If you're upset that the main playable characters are women and that there's a few prominent gay characters, maybe you're the problem. Think about how ugly you and your mind are in this moment.

Anyway, back to the review.

The player has a lot of freedom in this game, even if it is not completely open-world. Whether you choose to approach enemies in stealth or go loud and proud, it is equally enjoyable. When you reach a workbench checkpoint, you can use all the tools and parts you have collected to upgrade your weapons. Here's some worthwhile advice: put a scope on your hunting rifle and upgrade the revolver's barrel. Also, nothing is more satisfying than hitting a long-range headshot with the bow.

The conclusion of The Last of Us Part II left me touched and genuinely moved, as there are numerous morals and takeaways. After you beat the game, you will think deeply about vengeance and the grueling tasks people will take on simply out of love. Before you play this, go into it open-minded and know that there are two sides to every story. There's about 25 hours of gameplay, and much more if you spend as much time as I did scavenging and looting buildings for supplies. You won't regret playing this masterful, heartfelt game that has immense replay value.

May your survival be long, and may your death be swift.

Rating: 9.5/10