Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: June 19, 2020
Platform: Playstation 4
Purchase: Playstation Store
This article will be a spoiler free look at what I thought of the first few hours of the game. I am going to go into what my initial thoughts of the game were from a graphical, gameplay, and presentation standpoint. If you want to see what my full thoughts of this game are, I will be working on a full review of the game as I work my way through it and will be posting that as soon as I complete the story. The full review will go more in depth on story and tone, but should still hold back on spoiling major story beats. Onto my thoughts.
My Initial Thoughts
The wait is over. All these years after we left Joel and Ellie with so many questions, we finally get to see where they ended up and how their lives have played out. This story picks up about 4 years after the events of the first game and in doing so we get a look at some characters who have developed and grown to trust others. The “town” we find them in is bustling with characters and life and makes this me feel less like a lonely adventurer and more like member of a community who has something to protect. I think this is important as it sets up what they want to do with this story, and it lets Naughty Dog have more to play with in what this story could become.
It was nice to see Ellie and Joel again and see them interact. Watching Joel try to step into that role of “Dad” is funny and awkward in the exact way you think it would be, and watching Ellie work through her feelings and try to open up shows that these two still have things they each need to work on. Ellie has a couple of new friends in this place however, and they go a long way to bridging that gap between Ellie’s personalities of normal girl trying to figure things out and the hardened killer that she has had to be in this world.
The first few hours set up a lot of what this story will deal with and do it in a way I wasn’t necessarily expecting. It has me itching to keep playing and find out exactly who some of these new characters are and what their motivations are. I think this game could cement itself in the pantheon of all time greats alongside the first one, so long as the story keeps pace and delivers in all the ways I hope it can.
The graphics in this game are some of the best I have ever seen. I am still playing on my launch PS4 and the game is blowing me away at every turn with the hyper realistic visuals and the way the character models look. The facial features and reactions from Ellie as she takes down enemies and struggles with them during stealth kills are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Every time I am in a forest or grassy area I notice how lush and full everything feels. It seems like they were able to pack absolutely everything they could think of into every corner of the world and it feels so much better for it. It really feels like a natural next step for the world coming from the first game, and it feels almost like a next generation game already. Naughty Dog has always been great at getting the most out of the console, and this is their crowning jewel from that aspect.
The way this game looks from a graphical standpoint is further enhanced by the simplistic style of the HUD and button prompts. Everything comes up in a clean, matte, white color that doesn’t draw too much attention, but still lets you know when there is something that needs your attention. This, coupled with the clean and responsive menus for crafting and upgrading, means that you have a seamless transition from the menu and back into the world. I love that they kept things simple and put the focus on keeping you in the world and interacting with the environment. They know exactly what we want from this game and they are all about giving that to us.
Everything about this game feels triple A on a level I can’t say I’ve seen before. Even when you first turn the game on you are greeted with a myriad of options that allow you to customize seemingly every aspect of the game, which is great to allow all different kinds of gamers to experience what this game has to offer. Accessibility features that affect what enemies can and can’t do go a lot further than traditional difficulty options, and the ability to highlight things in different colors helps people who might have trouble distinguishing things in the many low light environments. It’s nice to see Naughty Dog put these things in place so that as many people as possible can enjoy what they have created.
Gameplay has never exactly been Naughty Dog’s strong suit, which makes me very happy to say that I have loved the moment to moment gameplay so far. Every movement you can make as Ellie feels natural and intuitive, sprinting out of an enemies line of sight and going prone in the tall grass as I planned out my next attack made it feel like I was hunting them down. It made Ellie feel like a character these enemies should fear. All this coupled with the fact that the human enemies react in real ways to their comrades dying (they shout out their names and grieve briefly before moving on to find Ellie), makes each encounter feel like a grounded interaction that warrants your entire concentration.
The fact that they were able to make gameplay feel this great just elevates everything else they execute so perfectly. It doesn’t feel like an afterthought anymore and instead becomes something I actually had fun with. Except for the dogs. I did not have fun killing the dogs, the other human characters in this game eventually bring along dogs that will follow your trail and sniff you out if you’re hiding. You can of course kill them and get rid of the threat, it doesn’t ever seem like an absolute necessary but there are some scenarios where you are probably going to do it. Just like when the human enemies mourn their fallen comrade, if you kill the dogs owner it will sit by their body and whine for a second, it was honestly heartbreaking to watch that.
Well this is probably my longest first impressions post I have made on a game thus far, and rightfully so. I finished this post with about 9 hours of game time on my save file and there has already been so much I want to talk about. There is a special feeling I get when I play a game I know will be in the Game of the Year discussion, I had that feeling with Final Fantasy 7 Remake for instance, but the feeling I get from playing this one is different. This game is special. The story this game is telling is unlike others we have seen in this medium, at least at the triple A level. It feels more like an art piece than a video game and if it holds up at the same pace it has carried itself with through these first 9 hours, it will be a lot more than just my Game of the Year.
As always, thanks so much for reading! I hope you are enjoying these first impressions posts, I think they are a great way to start talking about these games without waiting for a full review. If you liked this post or you are playing the game let me know what you think in the comments below! I’m hoping to get through the story of this one in the next few days and I will be posting a complete review with my full thoughts in the coming week, so be sure to follow the blog to get that notification! Check back (at least) every Wednesday and Saturday for new posts and sign-up via email to make sure you never miss a thing! Be safe and have a great day!