Let the dogpiling begin...
Actually, no there are plenty of people doing that already, who never even saw the game, let alone played it to completion.
There is a sad little corner of people who have convinced themselves, that this game is a result of an evil feminist conspiracy. And they religiously believe that this game is an attack on their manhood, without knowing the first thing about it. If someone claims that this is an SJW game, ignore them, they don't know what they are talking about.
Now that we cleared that up let's focus on the actual game.
This review will be entirely spoiler free...
Which won't be easy but I'll do my best in a game where the story is the most important part. But since there is so much to talk about the story, I'll create another article later on, where I'll discuss the story with spoilers.
So we saw a lot of 10/10 reviews out there, and those people while not deluded as the above mentioned bunch, they are still biased and not telling you the whole picture.
The game is far from perfect, even story wise, but first let's see the technical aspects. The gameplay is virtually unchanged from the first part of the game. That's a 7 year old title, which wasn't exactly ground breaking even then. I haven't seen a QTE in a game for a long time, everyone abandoned them as they should, but not ND, this game has plenty of them. Even those freaking annoying direct jumps from cutscene to QTE, where you suddenly have to press a button or fail.
However there are improvements to the gameplay, but mostly just streamlining. I could play this more effectively than the first one, the stealth seems more smooth and predictable. And in most encounters you can actually choose if you take down all enemies or stealth through, both approaches are effective.
The gameplay doesn't get boring, because it is broken up by cutscenes, and slower segments of exploration. And on top of that the game switches between multiple playable characters that have slightly different abilities. There are also occasional flashback sequences. The only issue I noticed that after switching the playable character four times in the first 2 hours of the game, you are stuck with one character for about 10 hours, I could've done with a change a little earlier than that.
What I found most annoying is the constant shortage of resources. And it's not just the availability of resources in the environment, but the fact that you can't stock up on things. Your ammo carrying capacity is limited to 6-10 bullets / weapon. That is ridiculously low. And you can only carry 3 of each crafting material, when many of the materials are shared between multiple craftable items. So it doesn't matter that you set resource difficulty to low, that only affects how much material you can find laying around. But you still have to win encounters with minimal amounts of resources. So the difficulty setting only affects how hard you have to look to find the stuff.
The gameplay is solid even if a bit disappointing in terms of there being no new mechanics at all. The combat difficulty setting is quite meaningless also, as the hardest part of the game is when you fight monsters that instakill you. And there is no difference in that whether you play on hardest or easiest. So the game is not "journo easy" to say the least.
The technical aspects
There are areas where the game made huge leaps. Namely character animations. This game has the best animations, facial and otherwise that I've seen in anything. It seems to me that they made the leap where people's muscles are actually simulated, I mean the body parts are not rigid, but change their shape depending on movements and actions, as the muscles contract and relax. I have not seen that in any other game to date. We are very close to where you won't be able to distinguish between a real human and a 3D generated animated computer model of one.
The graphics is up there with the best, but not actually the best. I think in terms of characters Detroit Become Human still has it beat, and in terms of the environment Ghost Recon Breakpoint is superior. But this one is not far behind, and of course this is great in both the environment and the characters, so not just a one trick pony like those games.
The game is locked to 30fps even on the PS4 PRO, which I played it on. It uses 4K output but with checkerboard rendering, meaning in each frame parts of the frame are rendered at a lower resultion, leaving your brain to fill in the gaps. Because of that each still screenshot of the game will look significantly worse than the game actually looks in motion. You cannot do it justice with screenshots. So keep that in mind when you look at any images of the game, including the ones in this review.
Oh this is the hard bit to judge without specifics. First thing first: I could not detect an ounce of SJW influence in the game, or feminist frequency for that matter. The writing is not suffering like in the case of XCOM Chimera Squad, the characters aren't quota mandated, or defined by their gender. There is no shitting on men, or proclaiming of female superiority or any trans sex for that matter.
There is nothing to fear unless you are disheartened by the mere inclusion of a strong female character. And strong in this case means physically strong.
The main focal point of the story is trying to humanize the enemy. Which funny enough I was contemplating in my review of the first Last of Us, that the bad guys are always portrayed as psychopaths or sociopaths in these stories and it made no sense to me. Well that changes here and now. As we see the story playing both sides. In fact in my case, and I may be alone in this, the roles were completely reversed. I was actually rooting for the supposed anti-hero.
The first 20 hours of the game was pretty amazing, I enjoyed the hell out of it. But we should've left things as they were in Seattle. If the story stopped right after that I'd have named this game of the year. But no, they had to just keep dragging it on, and on, and on. This is a clear case where less would've been more.
Everything that happens after Seattle feels rushed, there are huge leaps in time and space, that make zero sense. It's as if they suddenly cancelled The Last of Us 3 and quickly slapped the key points of it's proposed story arc to the end of this game. I freaking hated that bit, for multiple reasons, that I can't talk about without spoilers.
This was a roller coaster alright, unfortunately one that just slid off the tracks at the end and disintegrated, instead of coming to a graceful stop at a station. That said however I wouldn't have missed the first 20 hours of the game for any reason.
I know this is advice that is impossible to keep, but you are better off quitting the game after Seattle and never finishing it. It would've been better for me for sure. I feel miserable now. I felt hopeful at that point. But the fact that I feel miserable is a kind of testament to the quality of writing. My subconscious cannot tell that these are fictional characters, and I feel awfully sorry for them, even though my conscious mind knows it's all bull.
The pros and cons
- Character animations
- Length of the game
- The writing of the characters
- A bit old fashioned gameplay
- A few moments that strained my suspension of disbelief
- The part after Seattle is too rushed
- And I also hated that part
- And it left me feeling utterly miserable
- I'll go to a corner and cry now
Overall impression: 9/10
Buy or no buy?
After the first 20 hours I'd have said must buy. But I don't want to cause anyone to feel as miserable as me after the ending. So if you are a softie like me who easily gets attached to fictional characters, then you might want to consider whether the ride, which was absolutely amazing by the way, is worth feeling like a miserable burlap sack of turds for a week after finishing the game. At least I hope it only takes a week for my will to live to return.