The Last of Us Part II: 12 tips for staying alive

The Last of Us Part II is a difficult game, not only in terms of subject matter, but also in gameplay. It’s a survival game, and although it plays like Uncharted in some areas, you can’t run through the game with guns blazing like you’re Nathan Drake. Our 12 tips will help you survive the overgrown cityscapes of The Last of Us Part II. 

Further reading

Change the difficulty

It’s been beaten into the ground at this point, but The Last of Us Part II is, by far, one of the most accessible games ever released (even more so than Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order). If you want or need to, you can play the game almost entirely on rails, with options like auto-pickup for items and the ability to skip puzzles. You can even remap and change how the controls work. For example, if it’s difficult to hold down R2 while drawing your bow back, you can change the controls so you only need to tap R2 to draw the bow back.

There are some preset difficulty options, of course, and you can lower the difficulty at any time. More importantly, though, you can change the accessibility options at any time. There are no trophies or in-game accolades for playing on a higher difficulty, and you aren’t punished for enabling any of the accessibility features. The Last of Us Part II has a story to tell, and the game wants all players to experience it, even if they’re not great at stealth or puzzles. Mess around with the accessibility options. The game is difficult enough outside of gameplay, so there’s no reason to sour the experience beyond that.

Run away, not toward

Screenshot from The Last of Us Part II
Naughty Dog

Ellie plays a lot differently than Joel does, and you should use that your advantage. She can run, and run fast, at that. In fact, there are multiple points in the game where you’re forced to run away from a growing group of enemies. Although this second entry doesn’t explain running as clearly as the first, escaping combat encounters into cover is a strategy the game wants you to utilize. If you run away when you’re overwhelmed, you’re playing The Last of Us Part II correctly.

Never, never runs toward enemies, though. Maybe it’s because melee is such a strong focus of the game, but there’s an overwhelming urge to shoot a few bullets at an enemy, then run in for the kill with Ellie’s switchblade. Don’t do it. The A.I. in The Last of Us Part II is smart, and enemies will continue to shoot, hit, and eventually kill you long before you can ever swing your blade.

There’s an exception to this rule, however. If you have a throwable melee weapon — a bottle or brick — you can throw it at a nearby enemy to briefly stun them. Then, you can run in while they’re staggered for the kill. This technique works best when you’re trapped in a large area with a lot of enemies and limited cover.

Stealth is essential

Like the first game, your default approach should be stealth when you stumble upon a group of enemies in The Last of Us Part II. Be patient and wait for individual enemies to move away from the group before taking them down. If you’re having a hard time getting an enemy alone, generate some noise to create a distraction, allowing you to reposition in a more opportune area.

Be careful with how you generate noise, though. Consider where the source of the noise is. If you fire your gun, the noise is, well, right between your hands, so enemies will discover you right away. However, if you throw a Molotov or smoke bomb far away from you, that’s the source of the noise, and that’s where enemies will investigate. There are some cases where human enemies, in particular, will look toward where the projectile came from. As long as you’re careful about when you poke your head out of cover, though, you should be fine.

As mentioned, the human A.I. is smart, and you can use that to your advantage. There’s one area where they’re not so smart, though: Tall grass. Even when an enemy should see you, if you’re prone in tall grass, they probably won’t. In fact, abusing the tall grass can actually make combat encounters feel stale because it’s always a viable stealth option. Still, if you’re struggling with a particular enemy encounter, tall grass can save the day.

Go off the beaten path

You can define The Last of Us Part II in multiple ways, but at its core, it’s a survival horror game. Resources are limited, and the tug of war between items you need and the resources you have is constant. Put simply, if you don’t explore at least a little and pick up items here and there, you won’t survive. Your ammo, crafting supplies, and upgrade materials all come from pickups. If running around and spamming triangle isn’t working for you, there’s an option to automatically pick up items in the settings.

Thankfully, you don’t need to go too far off the beaten path. In most cases, materials are scattered on store shelves and desks adjacent to the main story path. Even if you explore everywhere, though, there are never enough materials to make the game easy, and you can only carry so much at one time.

Keep an eye out for workbenches

The only way to upgrade your weapons in The Last of Us Part II is with a workbench, and there are only 25 of them throughout the game. You should always be on the lookout for workbenches. As we’ll get to in a moment, there are certain essential weapon upgrades that make the game significantly easier. If you’re having trouble, our workbench guide will show you all of the locations.

Outside of upgrading weapons, there are always supplies near workbenches. You’ll usually find a good stock of parts, but you’ll find supplements at some workbenches, too.

Seattle is a treasure trove

Screenshot from The Last of Us Part II
Naughty Dog

In Chapter 9, you’ll reach downtown Seattle. Unlike every other chapter in the game, Chapter 9 is a big open-world section with tons of buildings to explore. There are a few Infected here and there, but for the most part, you’re free to roam. There’s a lot to uncover, too. Downtown has 18 artifacts, five trading cards, two journal entries, three safes, a training manual, a gun holster, two new weapons, and a workbench. Those are just the collectibles. There are dozens of piles of parts and supplements littered throughout the chapter, too.

From a gameplay perspective, The Last of Us Part II truly begins in downtown Seattle, so scavenge every part you can. If you use this chapter to get ready for the rest of the game, you’ll be able to purchase essential upgrades early, making the chapters ahead significantly easier.

Craft whenever you can

There are only so many parts and supplements in The Last of Us Part II, but there are a lot of supplies. You’re rarely limited by the number of supplies available, only by how much of each crafting material you can carry. If you’re full on a particular material and come across more — say, rags — use your stock to craft new gear and pick up on the new rags when you’re done. The only time you should turn down picking up new supplies is if you’re full of that material and you’re full of the items that material can craft. That shouldn’t happen often, if ever.

Choose your upgrades carefully

It’s impossible to fully upgrade your weapons and characters in a single playthrough of The Last of Us Part II. Even if you explore every corner of the game, you’ll come up short of parts and supplements. Because of that, it’s important to only invest in skills and upgrades you’re going to use.

For skills, purchase the first ability in the Crafting tree as soon as you can — it allows you to upgrade melee weapons. After that, go to the Explosives and Stealth trees. Upgrading in these will allow you to craft silencers and explosive arrows, two indispensable tools to have in your arsenal.

Weapons are a little more straightforward, as nearly all of the guns share a few upgrades. For the most part, ignore ammo upgrades unless you’ve upgraded everything else. You’ll rarely have full ammo on all of your guns, so upgrading capacity is just a waste of parts in the early game. Reload speed upgrades are a good investment, especially with slow weapons like the revolver, and stability upgrades can help you line up shots from a distance.

Use melee upgrades sparingly

Like the first game, you can buff your melee weapons in The Last of Us Part II, making them far more deadly. Although it’s tempting to tape a pair of scissors to the end of a baseball bat, you should rarely use melee upgrades. There are two reasons for this. The first, and less important one, is that you’re using a valuable crafting resource. Upgraded melee weapons make enemy encounters easier, but as long as you’re using stealth and playing things safe, they rarely make a difference when it comes time to take down an enemy.

More importantly, though, upgrading a melee weapon restores its number of uses. You can only use a melee weapon so many times before it breaks. However, you can cheat this system by waiting to upgrade your melee weapon right before it’s about to break.

Let enemies deal with each other

There are a few serendipitous occasions in The Last of Us Part II where different groups of enemies are near each other. A prime example of this comes early in Chapter 13 where a group of Infected and group of soldiers are standing, unaware of each other’s presence. Don’t engage with them. Instead, use a distraction to lure the Infected out, forcing the soldiers into action. They may not completely eliminate each other, but dealing with two soldiers is better than dealing with four, plus a group of Infected.

Although the moments you can use this tactic are few and far between, they’re in the game for the reason described above. In fact, the encounter in Chapter 13 was shown in a pre-release gameplay demo.

Always pay attention to dogs

Dogs are tricky in The Last of Us Part II. Of course, you can always shoot them — the game is a desolate wasteland of murder, after all — but even with warring factions and the omnipresent threat of zombies, killing a pooch isn’t what most people sign up for. Plus, shooting a dog will just alert whoever’s walking them.

The kicker is that dogs can track your scent in The Last of Us Part II. On the other hand, they’re not very smart. Use listen mode to see if a dog has picked up on your scent, and if they have, throw a distraction to another area (not at the dog) to break their concentration. Dogs are time bombs in The Last of Us Part II, just waiting to start a barking frenzy and alert every enemy in the area.

Guns aren’t your main weapon

Ellie’s main weapon in The Last of Us Part II is her switchblade, at least in the early chapters. You’ll have to shoot sometimes, but you should master melee combat first. Ammo is scarce, just like every other resource in the game, and a single enemy encounter is enough to drain your supply. Make sure to get dodging and melee down first, using weapons only if you have a clear shot and as a last resort.

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