The goal is never be seen, but that’s easier said than done in The Last of Us Part 2. Eventually, an errant Wolf or Seraphite will spot me, or perhaps a zombie saw me shuffling behind some cover. I could fight them all, if I wanted to. But more often than not, I find myself running away.
Retreating is definitely not the most courageous option, but it feels like the most humane one, especially when it comes to the game’s dogs. Leaving a body lying around also tends to cause more trouble than it’s worth; another enemy will usually find it and alert their buddies of my transgression. Plus, violent choices usually end with me being mad at myself for how much ammo and resources I’ve wasted. Better to use my reserves when I truly need them, like in a tough boss battle that I can’t avoid.
But more than anything, The Last of Us Part 2 seems built for on-the-spot evacuation; being spotted doesn’t magically mean that every enemy on the map knows exactly where you are. Adversaries have a general idea of your location, which they can whittle down with tracking dogs. But if your escape route makes them lose line of sight, they can only rely on your last known location.
The levels themselves are full of nooks and crannies for you to pass through as well — I am often shocked at how many pathways you can take through an area. These avenues aren’t always obvious, which speaks to how well these areas are designed.
Usually, when you play something, chest-high cover screams “this is a video game.” The Last of Us Part 2, by contrast, has environments that look more natural — and this in turn makes my escapes feel more exciting, as I make on-the-spot decisions about how to disappear when the going gets tough.
My favorite is when I notice a crack in a wall and slip through into a new area as my assailants waffle around in the wrong building altogether. I know the level designers at Naughty Dog likely placed that opening there for this exact purpose, but I still feel like a genius using it in the middle of a panic. Rather than feeling like an intended route, potential pathways running away feel like genuine improvisation on my part, even when it’s not.
Together, all these design choices make The Last of Us Part 2 feel like the rare game where it doesn’t seem like failure to get spotted. Actually, being seen is a relief: Now I can stop spending ages agonizing about the most furtive route, and instead push myself into action. Even if that action means I’m running away. Especially if that action means I’m running away.
Hell, sometimes I go “screw it” and just run straight through an area anyway, stealth be damned. What’s a surface wound or two compared to the excitement of just barely getting through the exit?
Running away in The Last of Us Part 2 makes me feel like I’m in a nail-biting chase scene in a movie, and it’s one of my favorite ways to play.