It's been a long road for Joel and Ellie, and an even longer one for Sony and Naughty Dog. When The Last of Us first landed on the PlayStation 3 in 2013, it came complete as a standalone game — one that didn't necessarily lay the groundwork for a sequel.
Since then, the franchise has taken off, and the inevitable growing pains have taken off along with it. Development on The Last of Us Part II has been beset by delays, unauthorized leaks, and heightened franchise expectations — thanks in no small part to the high bar set by that original PS3 game. But fast forward to next week's long-awaited release, and things are finally looking up. The review embargo for the game has just lifted, and with it the veil of silence on whether the series' second chapter lives up to the standard set by the first.
As it turns out, Naughty Dog had nothing to worry about all along. With a handful of exceptions, The Last of Us Part II is being nearly universally hailed by critics as the studio's new masterpiece. As of this article's publication, the game was sitting at the very heights of Metacritic's PS4 charts, weighing in at an incredible 96 percent favorable average score from 83 separate reviewers drawn from both gaming and conventional media. In fact, only two PS4 games currently sit above it: Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto V — both from Rockstar Games.
We've gone this long staying away from spoilers, so we're treading lightly with our curated selection from the available reviews. A couple of major outlets that don't award numbered scores diverged from the overall consensus, finding Part II more of a slog than a delight, and we've sampled those reviews below as well.
IGN (10 out of 10)
"The Last of Us Part 2 is a masterpiece worthy of its predecessor. Taking strides forward in nearly every way, Ellie steps into the spotlight and carries the sequel in a manner that feels like the culmination of everything that's made Naughty Dog's blockbuster storytelling so memorable since the original Uncharted on the PlayStation 3… The PlayStation 4 has one of its best exclusives in one of the generation's best games." — Jonathon Dornbush
Game Informer (10 out of 10)
"I can rave about the attention to detail, the world, and the combat, but the story is where The Last of Us Part II sets a new bar. It is more about challenging your heart than your reflexes, and I simply cannot recommend it enough…I can safely say this is the best narrative game I have played. I felt the loss. I felt the confusion. It is a game that turned me inside out with each twist of the screw." — Andy McNamara
Polygon (unscored, unfavorable)
"Sure, the real world is brutal and horrific, and this post-apocalyptic fictional world, all the more so. Yet humans can learn and they can change, and that's what makes a story satisfying, even if it's a sad one. I wanted these characters to realize and overcome their flaws, to transform in some way, however small…Maybe the most surprising thing that The Last of Us Part 2 offered me was the surety that, while the game was made with great skill and craft, we are actually much, much better than Naughty Dog thinks we are." — Maddy Myers
GamesRadar+ (5 out of 5)
"[N]o masterpiece is perfect, and The Last of Us Part 2 is absolutely a masterpiece, have no doubt… Daring, uncompromising, and unlike anything I've played in a long, long time, Naughty Dog has created its most progressive interactive adventure yet… The lasting achievement is nothing short of extraordinary, and a game we'll be looking back on for decades to come." — Alex Avard
The Washington Post (unscored, favorable)
"The Last of Us Part II is an astonishing achievement — a searing demonstration of how a video game can marry heart-stopping gameplay, gorgeous environmental storytelling and anxiety-inducing moral complexity. Though it uses the tropes of the zombie apocalypse, it completely transcends the genre…The Last of Us Part II is one of the best video games I've ever played." — Christopher Byrd
The Verge (unscored, favorable)
"… I'm glad I pushed through — because those dark, disturbing moments are what make The Last of Us Part II so powerful. It's not just a game about violence. It's one that grapples with the impact of that violence and shows players the consequences." — Andrew Webster
The Guardian (five stars out of five)
"[N]ow that I've had some time to absorb The Last of Us Part II, it reminds me thematically of Shadow of the Colossus, another game about how consuming grief and anger can be. I was similarly poleaxed by that game's clever manipulation of the player's power, the way it also used the language of video games to make you think twice about your actions. The Last of Us Part II is another story that could only work as a game, the kind of challenging, groundbreaking work that comes along two or three times a decade." — Keza MacDonald
VG24/7 (five stars out of five)
"When the credits rolled on The Last of Us Part 2 I was still buzzing from the excitement of the final few hours. My loyalty shifted between characters. I grew to love who I hated and dislike who I loved. I laughed, I teared up. I felt anger and elation. It's the new high water mark for video game characters and I can't wait for everyone to see just how special it is." — Kirk McKeand
PlayStation Lifestyle (10 out of 10)
"The Last of Us Part II is an era-defining game, a perfect companion to the first that harmonizes with, rather than smothers, that original pivotal ending, crafting an unforgettable and emotionally challenging narrative with these beloved characters." — Chandler Wood
The Last of Us Part II debuts on June 19 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.