This is my first video game review. You won’t see many, as I spend most of my free time watching TV shows or movies, no longer that big of a gamer I used to be. But I do enjoy a good game every once in a while. And the first The Last Of Us (2013) is still one of my favourite games I have ever played. And I already replayed it a couple of times and even bought it when it got released with updated graphics on PS4 (the same one I used to play this game). Needless to say, I was hyped with the initial trailers, but then a few things happened I need to mention to explain why my enthusiasm dropped slightly before discussing the game.
First, the game got pushed back a few times. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as I would much rather play a finished game with as least bugs as possible, but then… We got some reports of how certain employees were working 60/70 hours a week for several months (read for yourself here). Which, unfortunately, it’s not news in almost any industry, whether it’s gaming or movie. Those people we rarely hear about work longer hours when needed and get zero to no credit. But then, the leaks came out. I won’t link any to avoid some spoilers (at least for now), but a few months before the official release, somebody leaked some major plot points and one thing about a new character. And people lost their minds. Again, I will go to the spoiler territory soon, but not just yet. Anyway, since then, it felt a bit strange, as it seemed that the game was almost rushed, as possible prevention against more leaks coming out…? But I still have ordered it and played the game.
I will try to give you some non-spoiler thoughts, but it’s hard to discuss this game without spoilers. Scratch that, not hard, impossible. The game itself is a visual masterpiece. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Naughty Dog (the company behind this series). Everything you loved and were used to from the first game is back. The mechanics are pretty much the same, which is always a plus. I also loved the scope of this game and plenty of different and impressive level designs (my favourite point was when you end up in the high rise buildings, climbing a ladder from one high rise to another, the visuals are simply stunning). What I had a hard time with was, not surprisingly, the story. And here is where I need to go to the spoiler territory, so…
Beware, SPOILERS are coming!
You play as several characters. I believe you start playing as Ellie first (it’s been almost a year since I started the game, that tells you how often I play) and then, you suddenly play as this brand new character, Abby. Now I can say she had a big part in the controversy mentioned before. Let me start with the bullshit one – there was a rumour that her character will be trans. Probably due to her muscular physique. I would not have an issue with that, so I won’t focus on people who might have any problems with that fact and swiftly move along. For what it is worth; there is a trans character; I won’t say who, but I thought it’s been dealt with well. Nothing was pushed onto you; it wasn’t in your face, just mentioned almost in passing. Anyway, the bigger and much more relevant part of those leaks – Abby is the character who kills Joel, arguably the protagonist of the first game and father figure to Ellie. If I remember correctly, the leaks even stated why she had done it. And I wouldn’t have a massive problem with it if the game didn’t force us to play as her for a big chunk of it.
Yep, that’s right. Imagine this – you play for Abby, then you bump into Joel. In a cut scene, Abby turns out to be “evil” (again, there is a reason why he and not anybody else) and kills him. Then we get to play as Ellie, tracking Abby down. And the moment we see Ellie almost catch up to her, the game switches. And suddenly, we are playing as Abby again, a few days before we bump into Ellie. The purpose behind this is to get to know Abby’s character and understand why she killed Joel. It was 100% a risky, ballsy move that split the fans, where some loved it, and most hated it. I am torn in-between, skewing towards the “hate” part. And let me tell you why.
Even when we know the reason behind Abby killing Joel (I won’t reveal it, as it’s explained pretty well in the game, and it requires knowledge of the first game if you want, Google it), it’s hard to sympathize with her. And that was not our fault because we got attached to both Joel and Ellie from the first game. They were the reason the first game worked so well, even with the dark choices you had to make, especially towards the end, was the fact we have been on the journey with them. So we could discuss whether the choices made were ethical or not, but most fans understood that they were flawed characters, but that was what made them so approachable/relatable. It’s not fun when your character is pure evil or pure good. But in The Last of Us: Part II, even we learn about Abby, what she has been through, what her reason for killing Joel was, I could never get on board with her 100%. If the game were to let you play as Ellie, let’s say for 80%, and as Abby for the rest of it, it would have worked way better. But currently, it seemed almost 60/40 to Ellie (yes, you spend a lot of time playing as Abby).
I understand why they decided to do it, what conversation they were trying to have. Morality is debatable; every story has two sides, all that good stuff. I get it. And yet, I still found myself thinking that Abby went too far. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but then I’ve seen a video that summed it up nicely. What Joel did (to piss Abby off) was wrong, but he didn’t plan it. He had seconds to think, he was under pressure, and he was protecting his “daughter” after losing his own at the beginning of the first game. Whereas what Abby did was calculated, cold-blooded and even when she saw Ellie begging her not to do it, she killed her father figure right in front of her, effectively prolonging the circle of violence. That is why Abby’s character never worked for me. Or the ending… yeah, let’s talk about the ending.
This whole game is one big thing about “revenge = bad”. Which, fair enough. But at the same time, what happens at the very end, after Ellie goes through literally hundreds of enemies, she… doesn’t kill Abby? She doesn’t kill that one person, who took everything from her, because she’s learned, several hundred corpses ago, that revenge is bad? I feel like the game wanted so bad to have this “every story has two sides to it” narrative, and they sacrificed everything to make it work, including logic.
The game mechanics haven’t changed almost at all from the original game. I mean, what is there to improve if you have nailed it pretty much from the get-go? While playing the first game or this sequel, I never forgot what buttons served which purpose, all the crafting, improving, everything stayed the same and honestly, that’s something I don’t take for certain. Plenty of other games can have a weird controlling mechanism or too much going on (upgrades, crafting, improvements). But everything here seemed smooth to me; there are weapon upgrades, character upgrades, you can craft items, but it’s never “too much” to become overwhelming, or you will never forget: “How do I do this again? What menu section do I go to?”
As I hinted at this before visually, this game squeezes out every single resource my PS4 had to offer, and it showed. It’s stunning, vibrant, you get a few big set-pieces (the already mentioned climbing in between high-rise buildings, some fire action set-piece towards the end), and this is where Naughty Dog shows they know what they are doing. Well, at least visually. And, to my surprise, I can’t remember stumbling into any bugs, so for a game that’s been pushed back several times, great job.
Overall, The Last of Us: Part II is a visually breath-taking masterpiece that really wants you to think about relativity, how any truth/story is relative, depending on how you look at it. That is something I have no issue with. I just wished they would go about it differently and, you know, didn’t force us to play as a character who viciously murders somebody, we as the audience, really get to know and understand. They set themselves up for an almost impossible task – to pull something like this off, I genuinely think they’d have to release a game in-between this one and the original. Think about it – it doesn’t have to be a long AAA game title, just almost a DLC to the first game, where we play most of the time as Abby, explore her backstory when she was younger, and it would all finish in the hospital. Then we would know, what she is all about and then, maybe, just maybe, you could pull something like this off. In its current state, I don’t think I will play The Last of Us: Part II anytime soon, whereas I have played through the original game about four times. One of the main reasons behind that was that even in the darkest moments, the first game managed to give us hope. It wasn’t too much hope, but there were hints of light shining through the darkness. But this game is more or less just about darkness, sadness and all the “great” feelings, without almost any glimpse of hope or light.
That’s all for this one! Did you play it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,