After giving this some thought, TLOUII is my favorite game this generation only after The Witcher 3.
PS, spoilers for the whole game:
As Druckmann said in his interview, returning to play as Ellie takes the shape of the game full circle. I mentioned before how no matter how amazing the Abby stuff was, I'd always have Ellie in my head as an agent of action in the plot, so returning to her for the Santa Barbara stuff, one of the best and most harrowing sections of the game, dissolved any of those issues. The epilogue was indeed a bit stop/start with the constant fades to black, but it was an emotional rollercoaster that made the game o from "Masterpiece" to "one of the best-best-best games of all time."
Hillcrest, suburbian level that was shown in previews, is probably the best level design Naughty Dog made so far. I'm only halfway through it and already had so many memorable encounters with all types of enemies that I feel were actually my own.
Actually playing it vs watching a predefined route in the previews is uncomparable.
You are a sole creator of how things will go and I can tell you exactly how some of my enemies fell and where because it sticks with you. WLF soldier pointing at Amy's dead body in shock, his eyes widened (got her name then and there), german shepard tripping the mine I set or the filmic sound of 'click-click' as I realize my revolver is empty, Ellie on her back. It's dynamic and unique and exhilirating. I'd say like a mixture of MGSV's sandbox and RDR2's realism? Except the controls are responsive and tight with no input lag (looking at you, Rockstar, it's possible to do both).
I don't know man. Had to take a break just to think about it all, lol.
Hillcrest is amazing. Not only the incredible level design or visuals (how beautifully mysterious/ominous is seeing mountains of forest engulfed in mist and cloud everywhere you look), but the level difficulty spiked. For the first chapter/day, I died quite rarely.
The gameplay gave me a pit in my stomach due to its visceral intensity but not quite its difficulty. ....but once the dogs are introduced? Fuck. My partner got so upset watching me get stuck and killing/get killed in these brutal envionrment with the dogs and the everything she had to wind down in the bedroom. She's never had that experience from a game before. The camera lingering on an enemy's eyes as they go wide before dying, or character X shouting character Y's name right before dying. TLOUII doesn't let you feel good about what you're doing.
Had to quote this older post because that Hillcrest part....maaaaaan, especially the second one! Most brutal gameplay I have ever experienced. I was on the edge the whole time. I had to put down my controler after I finished that....in awe from what I had just experienced.
And I must say the score helped it a lot. This track plays towards the end of it and it fits so well. This is a brand new experience for me, so far I have only watched scenes like this in films, now I was part of one. Havent even finished the game and yet it already managed to gave me the best gameplays ever. Bravo ND