Sony’s The Last of Us Part II debuts June 19 on the PlayStation 4, as one of the last major exclusives coming before the PlayStation 5 launches in the fall.

I played through the game a couple of times, and played some parts on the hardest difficulty level. Here are my recommendations on how to get the best results. I consider this to be one of the best games of the year, and I encourage you to enjoy both the full story of the game and its gameplay. To do that, you shouldn’t rush through it. The Last of Us Part II is worth savoring.

I’ve kept this story as free of spoilers as possible, but the advice still holds for a lot of situations. I’ve classified these tips into “always,” “sometimes,” and “never.” These are tips you should always do or sometimes do depending on circumstances, and I also include some things you should never do.

Always tips

Those Clickers are back in The Last of Us Part II.

Above: Those Clickers are back in The Last of Us Part II.

Image Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony

You should always do these:

Set your difficulty right

I played on normal and made sure that I could get through in time to review it. Fortunately, I had a lot of time, and I finished it in 40 hours, with only a few sections taking a lot of deaths and revives to get through. The Last of Us Part II has a lot of accessibility features that help you tune the game for your level of play. Take advantage of them.

Remember: This is a different game

The Last of Us Part II gives you many more options than the original. You can crawl through grass, hide under trucks, squeeze through cracks in walls, and do many more things that give you an edge in tactical combat. You have to unlearn the way you fought in the first game and take advantage of things like ropes, and engage in three-dimensional combat by climbing to high ground. It’s like how Spock realizes that Khan thinks in two dimensions, rather than three dimensions, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Listen

Listen mode is back, and it lets you use your character’s super-good hearing to figure out where enemies are, even if they are behind walls or other barriers. Listen mode (the R1 button) gives you the situational awareness to keep track of multiple enemies at once.

Use bricks and bottles

If three enemies are closing in on your position, you can get them off your back by tossing a bottle or brick to distract them. You don’t have an endless supply of bricks and bottles, but they are the least expensive kind of ammo you can use to give yourself a tactical advantage.

Look everywhere 

While you can explore plenty of empty drawers in The Last of Us Part II, you also get rewards if you search every possible part of the play space for hidden resources. Loot is very few and far between. So when you find it, it’s a cause for celebration. You can even find stuff underwater, though that is relatively rare. I didn’t do that much at all on my first playthrough. So don’t forget that.

Train yourself to get headshots

Aiming weapons isn’t easy in The Last of Us Part II. But headshots pay off in instant kills for many enemies. A human might take four bullets to kill if you don’t get a headshot, and that gives plenty of time for another enemy to flank you. If you can take the extra time to get headshots, everything gets easier in combat. This isn’t always practical advice, but you should aspire to get there.

Try to flank enemies

Ellie uses stealth in the woods.

Above: Ellie uses stealth in the woods.

Image Credit: Sony

If enemies are taking you on head-on, remember that you can do a flanking maneuver and take them out from the side. Plenty of alternate routes are built into the game that allow you to stay in stealth or return to stealth.

Check bodies

You need to see what the enemies drop when you take them down. So don’t forget to search bodies.

Read notes

Don’t be in a rush. Part of the beauty of the game is its writing and deep story. And you’ll find some of that in the notes that you find along the way. Many of these notes are the dying words of people who have fallen, sometimes years before. Their stories are so sad, and they give you a sense of the magnitude of sadness from the apocalypse.

This definitely slows down your progress on the main story, but it gives you some context and some empathy for the sadness of this world. You’ll also find that the notes can lead you to figure out combinations for safes.

Open safes

The Last of Us Part II

Above: Take it slow in The Last of Us Part II.

Image Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony

If you encounter a safe, you have to open it to get the good stuff. Often you find manuals that teach you how to craft something new. And nearby clues help with the combination. Do not skip the safes. Otherwise, you won’t level up properly.

Get the faster or easier enemies out first

Sadly, you have to take out the attack dogs of the enemy first if you want to make sure you stay in stealth. Dogs can smell you and track your path, unless you distract them by throwing a bottle or a brick. (And yes, you have to kill most of the dogs, though once in a while you can pet one.) You can also take out annoying runners as well before you take on more difficult enemies like Clickers or Shamblers.

Be prepared for big battles

You should collect resources, load up on weapons and ammo, and then use that ammo sparingly until you come into a big battle. You’ll know the big battles when you come into them. But you really need those weapons when you get into bigger fights with Shamblers, groups of Clickers, and other bosses. Don’t skip on collecting resources, even if you want to speed up your story progress.

Sometimes tips

You better take out that dog first in The Last of Us Part II.

Above: You better take out that dog first in The Last of Us Part II.

Image Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony

Sometimes, you should:

When in doubt, stand on top of something

Standing on top of an object, like a rail car or a big block, can save your life at multiple moments in the game. Shamblers, the chubby bosses that can tear you apart easily and poison you with a big gas fart cloud (OK, it’s probably not really a fart), won’t kill you if you’re standing on top of a block. It’s stupid, as they are often taller than the blocks, but they are too dumb to kill you up there. You can take out your guns and shoot them in the head at close range. I died many times to bring you that info.

You can also make a last stand in a high position when four or five Infected are chasing you. You can take them out one by one as they slowly climb up and are vulnerable. In general, you should always try to be on high ground.

Match the weapon to the enemy

The Last of Us Part II

Above: A knife won’t work fighting a Shambler in The Last of Us Part II.

Image Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony

If you are faced with a Shambler, the big farting boss, you can soften it up with an explosive. They’re dumb, so putting a trap mine in a doorway can take one out. If it doesn’t, you can finish it with a headshot or a shotgun blast.

Ellie always has a knife that is handy to use on Runners, or when you get the jump on Clickers from behind. Big melee weapons work well on humans, and they’re even deadlier if you can craft a scissor on top of the melee weapon. If humans are hunting you in packs, use a silencer pistol to take them out.

It’s the worst thing in the world if you have used up your shotgun shells and then a Clicker or a Shambler shows up with a bunch of friends. So use the right weapon for the job, but don’t go overkill and use a pipe bomb or a flame thrower on a Runner. Save it for the Shamblers and real beasts.