The Last Of Us Part II is a difficult game. Not just in its story content, but in the challenging combat encounters, puzzles and set pieces that it throws at the player across its 30-hour campaign. You may think you’re prepared if you’ve played through the first game to get used to the controls, but I’d argue that even then, you’ll be left without a paddle when you’re thrown into a life or death situation and forced to fight one of the game’s new intelligent enemy factions.
- READ MORE: ‘The Last Of Us Part II’ review: a challenging, magnificent coda to one of gaming’s most beloved stories
However, I’ve played the game through twice now and I’ve managed to pop the Platinum. I know just about everything there is to know about it, so I think I can help those out who are hopping in at launch. Here’s everything I wish I knew before I started playing The Last Of Us Part II.
Spoiler warning: I’ll be discussing mechanics and systems from the game, but there won’t be any overt spoilers about the plot or anything important to the narrative.
1How to find collectibles the easy way
This is the most useful tip I’ve found and is especially important if you’re a completionist. The Last Of Us Part II is swimming in accessibility options, and after submitting my own review, I read a few others which had focused on the efficiency of the game’s accessibility. From what I can tell, it’s safe to say Naughty Dog has done a good job of making the game as playable as possible, which is awesome.
I think it’s really worth digging into these options before you start the game to appreciate the effort put in here. But you could also activate some yourself, especially if you want to tweak some of the more frustrating elements within the game’s design.
For example, take Advanced Listen Mode, which is under navigation and traversal. This is handy for those of you who aren’t too keen on poring over every nook and cranny to find collectibles. By activating it in the menu, you can easily just press R1 and Circle, and Ellie will ping the environment around her. You’ll hear a noise and receive a visual cue if there’s anything in range that you can pick up.
Some of the collectibles in this game are a real pain to find, and given the tricky situation with the save system (which I’ll get into later) activating this makes a lot of sense if you’re a dogmatic completionist like me, and you want to get the most out of your first playthrough. There’s another section in the options menu where you can activate a collectible checker, which is useful once you’ve beaten the game as it tags collectibles that you’ve already found with a different icon so you know you don’t need to pick it up again.
2Tweak the difficulty to your liking
Once you’ve got your options sorted, the first question the game will ask you is about the difficulty level. I absolutely adore the fact that The Last Of Us Part II does not gate anything behind certain difficulties – in fact, the difficulty itself can be tweaked per different criteria to really fine-tune the experience. Beyond the actual difficulty setting, you can create a custom difficulty which will change the behaviour of enemies, set the efficiency of your AI Companions, modify damage dealt and affect the amount of resources you can find in the world.
My sweet spot is setting the rest of the difficulty options as high as I could manage, but making resources hover on easy-medium settings so I wasn’t struggling for ammo or craftable items in a firefight, as I felt on Survivor mode, the lack of resources was a little too rough. It’s a fine balance as you don’t want to make yourself overpowered, or make the game a slog, but if you tweak this before you start, you’ll be able to make the game feel as rewarding as you wish for it to be by playing through and testing your difficulty settings and manipulating them as you play.
3Don’t spend supplements or parts for the sake of it
As you progress through the early stages of The Last Of Us Part II, Ellie will accumulate parts (bolts) and supplements (pills and pill bottles) which are littered throughout the game’s environments. Make sure you’re picking them up as they’re incredibly useful, but keep in mind that you don’t have to spend them as soon as you earn them. In the case of parts, you’ll be introduced to Workbenches at different intervals in the game where Ellie can jerry rig a weapon – but as you unlock new weapons throughout the campaign, it can be beneficial to save up parts instead of using them on upgrades you don’t really need.
Given that you won’t be able to upgrade everything in your first playthrough (unless you’re really obsessed), it’s recommended that you save some of your parts for the more expensive upgrades on the weapons you like, that increase damage or add features like scopes and rangefinders.
The same can be said for supplements, where there’s a similar system. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock different training manuals, which open up new upgrade branches. At the start, I remember receiving the second manual and being underwhelmed by its content, so I just upgraded the first book to maximum. Then when I got the third book, I spent all my supplements immediately upgrading that tree, which had upgrades that suited my play style better. This might come naturally to some people, but it’s worth noting for those that might feel the parts and supplements burning in their pocket. You don’t have to spend them!
4Silencers, Clickers and reading your enemy: how to master stealth
The combat in The Last Of Us Part II is desperate, frantic and could be described with plenty of other stress-inducing adjectives. The best way to unravel your opponents in this game is through stealth. If you try to play like you’re Nathan Drake and run and gun, you will be turned into mush very quickly by the game’s intricate damage system, which can make every fight into a claustrophobic game of hide and seek.
To combat the… combat you need to use Silencers and Trip Mines, and upgrade them with supplements. The Silencer attachment is your best friend, and you can increase its durability so you can kill a whole group of enemies without alerting anyone later down the line. Just make sure you watch its durability because if you fire with the last safe round by mistake, you will make a ton of noise and alert a full group.
Trip Mines are also great for stealth. If you lay a few down and escape the area, you can use throwables to bait enemies towards them and watch the chaos from afar with a scoped rifle. It’s also worth figuring out how to turn Clickers onto human enemies when the game throws you into these mixed situations. Alerting Clickers may not sound like good advice, but if you’re safe and your enemies aren’t, you won’t even have to fight if the zombies do all of your work for you.
It’s also worth noting that both of the main factions in the game fight very differently. The Washington Liberation Front (aka WLF) is a group of highly aggressive warriors with high-tech weaponry. They’re very loud, and communicate in such a way that it’s easy to choreograph their movements. They will tell you when they’re hunting you or when they’re backing up – you’ll know if an attack is approaching. As such, they’re a lot easier to beat in stealth.
The Seraphites, on the other hand, will never communicate in English unless you really get the better of them and they’re screaming in desperation – most of the time they’ll just be whistling at each other. Strangely enough, you can cotton on to the tone of each whistle to understand their movements eventually, but for the most part you need to watch your back if up against Seraphites as they can and will sneak up and kill Ellie in an instant(?) if you stay put for too long. Keep moving while facing them and be more careful about the materials you step on so you don’t get caught.
5Explore every possible area, and don’t miss those dialogue prompts
The Last Of Us Part II opens up early and provides a ‘Lost Legacy’ style exploration section which is full of secrets and hidden conversations to indulge in. Take the bull by the horns here and explore everything you can, or you may miss some of the game’s most defining moments. It’s really important to read artefacts, study the environmental storytelling and absorb the tragic situations that have been preserved in situ due to the outbreak. Some of the game’s best storytelling is in its collectibles and secret areas, so don’t miss them.
Also, throughout the campaign, you’ll hear a little ‘kerching’ noise after certain bits of dialogue that will prompt you to continue the conversation. There is no way you will hear all of this game’s dialogue in your first playthrough, especially the cheeky situational tidbits, so make sure you run to the offending character and tap Triangle when you hear that noise and see the ellipses prompt.
6Always investigate rope puzzles
This seems a ridiculous tip at first, but trust me, this will pay off. Whenever the game offers you a rope, try breaking things and throwing it in all different directions, as often there are multiple new areas you can reach with just one rope. It sounds dumb, but I can assure you on this one – some of the game’s best-kept secrets are tied to rope puzzles, so get creative whenever the game hands you one.
7Understanding the save system
I’m not sure if this is custom across all Naughty Dog games, but The Last Of Us Part II’s save system can be a little confusing. In your first playthrough, you may not care or notice, but it gets complicated once you beat the game and are jonesing to go back to earlier chapters to pick up remaining loot. You’ll find that when you warp back to earlier chapters on a completed save file, you won’t be able to jump forward in time to later chapters if you exit to the main menu. It seems as if the game treats you as a player who hasn’t finished the game yet, and the same can be said if you enter New Game+.
There is no easy ‘Chapter Select’ option beyond your completed save file. This means the best way to pick up those last remaining collectibles might involve working your way backwards through the game from the earliest chapter where you’re missing something. Only then you can pedal backwards to the start of the game to pick up everything as you go. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best way I’ve come up with beyond starting the whole game over again. You can always keep jumping back in and out of your completed save file and utilising the autosave feature, but it’s worth wrapping your head around this before you go diving in to pick up lost collectibles.
Luckily for all of us, the game tracks collectibles across all of your save files. So even if you lose your completed save in a freak accident, on a systemwide-level, the game will know what you have and haven’t collected, and you can pop trophies through the rabbit hole during some save inception.