I've played through TLOU2 4 times now:
- A first playthrough focusing on the narrative
- A new game plus playthrough focusing on some achievements (getting all the upgrades for weapons etc) and collectibles
- A third playthrough of some epic moments and completing the collectibles with the use of a guide (some really were hard to find)
- A fourth playthrough on permadeath mode (per chapter, I don't want to loose 30 hours of gameplay…) and have gotten killed by a fall, a dog and a stalker so far.
Given that a playthrough is about 20+ hours of gameplay, I've now played about 80 hours of this game. Which for a singleplayer story focused game is a hell of a lot. And yet I'm probably going to play it at least once more to get the Grounded mode achievement (complete the game on the hardest difficulty) because the gameplay is that good, and the story is that good as well.
After four playthroughs now, I still find new things about the story. A few examples:
- Ellie's room in Jackson has a toy that belongs to one of the characters you meet in TLOU1. Missed it the first run, now I stare at it every playthrough
- The story within the story, which can be read through little notes scattered around the environment in Hillcrest for example tell the tale of a man who looses his daughter to the WLF, gets the town's rage pitted against him and finally gets his revenge, but turns into a stalker at the very end himself (yep, the stalker in the garage that you get the bow from has a huge backstory in this chapter)
After four playthroughs, I've never gone through an encounter exactly the same way. I've done a ‘kill everything that moves’ playthrough, and now that I'm playing on permadeath mode, I'm more sneaky and want to avoid as many enemies as possible. I've found that sections that I thought were impossible to do stealthily are actually pretty easy… For example the TV station encounter and the Hospital encounter (when playing as Ellie) can be done with only 1-2 kills and without using a single bullet and/or getting noticed. Then there's the encounter where Seraphites are battling WLF soldiers when you arrive with your boat: there's a great sniping spot in the wrecked traincars above where you can do some sniping without the Seraphites spotting you, sneaky!
And every playthrough, I still choke at the exact same moments during the story. When you have to kill Nora in the Hospital for example, the music builds up, you're forced to press the square button, you can't let Nora go… You have to watch Ellie become this gruesome revenge driven killer even if you don't want to.
I know there's a lot of controversy out there about this game. But I love it. I've played it a lot, and I will replay it quite a bit more. I've also purchased Ghost of Tsushima, which got more praise, and while it surely was a good game, I got bored of it rather fast… While with TLOU2, I'll probably replay it quite a few more times, with some breaks in between ofcourse, but still. Those visuals, that music, that gameplay, that gore…