A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Last of Us Part II is a third-person action game exclusively for the PlayStation 4 set in a world that has largely succumbed to a global pandemic spread by fungal spores that quickly transforms people into mindless monsters. It focuses on two young women who are tragically obsessed with avenging the people they love. Fighting is brutal and graphic. Characters' faces are strained with anger and fear in close-quarters combat that involves choke holds, shivs and knives, and snapped necks. Bodies in varying states of decay litter the environment, including hanged and tortured victims. Gunshots and stab wounds result in sprays and pools of blood. While the fighting is intense and visceral, the primary message is that violence begets violence. Outside of combat, players watch the protagonists engage in loving relationships, protect those they care for, and make unlikely friends by overcoming preconceived notions of who they are. Subplots promote diversity in sexuality and gender identity and explore the complex relationships between daughters and father figures as well as the sort of thinking that leads to the creation of military and religious sects in times of crisis. Parents should be aware, too, that characters engage in on-screen sexual activity with women shown topless, and that two protagonists get high smoking marijuana. Characters are also shown drinking and drunk. Dialogue contains frequent strong language, including the F-word.
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What's it about?
THE LAST OF US PART II picks up where its predecessor left off, with protagonists Ellie and Joel settling into a safe community in Wyoming after traveling across an America that has been ravaged by more than a decade spent suffering a fungal plague. But the events of the first game, in which Joel saved Ellie from a group of scientists who wanted to kill her to understand her immunity to the plague and create a cure, are about to catch up with them. A tragic twist forces Ellie and her new girlfriend Dina on a mission to Seattle, where she's determined to settle a score with a member of the local militia named Abby. What they don't know is that they're walking into an escalating conflict between opposing military and religious factions. They go up against not just these two groups, but also the fungus-infected, zombie-like creatures that inhabit the city's abandoned streets and buildings. These fast and dangerous monsters can often kill with just one strike. Players have an arsenal of cobbled together guns and explosives that they can use to defend themselves. You can explore your surroundings to scavenge supplies necessary to craft weapon upgrades and ammunition that provide new strategic options for fighting both human and fungal enemies. Outside of combat and exploration, the dramatic 30-plus hour story edges forward through non-interactive narrative scenes that provide insight into the protagonists' motives and personalities via conversations and intimate moments with other characters.
Is it any good?
Storytelling in games simply doesn't get any better than this. The Last of Us Part II is an epic, emotional, character-driven tale that focuses not so much on monsters or disease, but rather more familiar issues including family, love, friendship, anger, and death. But the hub around which everything rotates is an urge for vengeance so strong that even the players might feel it, even though they know -- as the protagonists do -- that it's bound to lead to yet more suffering and tragedy. Even as players engage in the violence to which our heroines seem committed, which is brutally intense and often terrifying, there's an unavoidable feeling of dread and regret. Do the people we kill really need to be killed? What about their loved ones? By the end of the lengthy story, players likely will no longer want to fight. Pressing buttons to attack certain characters becomes agonizing once we fully understand everyone's pain. It's a deeply violent game that somehow uses its violence to protest violence.
Serving to enhance our immersion in this moving story filled with complex characters is the stunningly realized world they inhabit. It's strangely gorgeous. Urban streets have been reclaimed by nature in all its glory, including animals, creeping greenery, and rivers. And every location we visit -- from little mom and pop shops with broken windows to the dusty homes of families long dead -- has its own sad story waiting to be discovered through notes, artifacts, and architecture. It's easy to spend hours simply exploring the environment, starting off looking for supplies before getting lost looking at old posters on walls or working out the history of a ruined wall or collapsed ceiling. A more authentic and compelling imagining of a post-humanity planet doesn't exist in the world of games. The Last of Us Part II is a decidedly grown-up experience, packed with horrifying situations, adult themes, and multidimensional characters with good intentions and tragic flaws, but mature players craving an action-packed game with an emotional wallop won't find anything better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in The Last of US Part II affected by the amount of violence in the game? Can violence in a game like The Last of Us Part II be used as a means of communicating a message of anti-violence?
Assuming everyone has someone who loves them who will be angry if they are hurt, where does the domino effect of vengeance stop? What might be a different solution for those who feel they or someone they love have been wronged?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: June 19, 2020
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
- Last updated: April 20, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.