The Last of Us Part II

June 28, 2020

     Hey folks, hope you're doing well in the midst of all this craziness. I've spent the past week playing The Last of Us Part II so I could write this review. The game has been divisive, to put it mildly. Most "professional" critics seem to love it, but it received harsher views from fans for a variety of reasons. I was unfortunately spoiled when the leaks hit, so I had some concerns going into this. However, The Last of Us is one of my favorite games, so I went in wanting to like this. Did I? Read to find out. There will be MILD spoilers, you have been warned.

     I'll start with the positives. The Last of Us Part II is a technical marvel, easily one of the best-looking games I've ever played. The set pieces are also very well designed, put in the right places to break up the core gameplay loop just enough to give you something different so you aren't bored. Two in particular stand out; one that is absolute chaos and personally what I consider to be the high point of the game. The other is a terrifying boss fight that could have come from Resident Evil. It's tense, challenging and makes you go "oh my God what the hell is that?"

     The gameplay is an improvement from the first (mostly). It's not really different, but it does evolve in places where it needs to. Stealth wise you can now hide in tall grass and under abandoned vehicles. Character and weapon ungraded are better and it's clearer what they do. When you're at a work bench and upgrade a weapon, you actually see the character take the weapon apart to improve the weapon, which I found to be a nice detail even though it doesn't add anything in terms of gameplay.

     Gender equality. In the first game, almost all the human enemies were men, this time they've added women to the roster. During Ellie's brutally murderous rampage you can shoot, stab, strangle, smash, disembowel, blow up, set on fire, cave the skull in, tear the throat-out and listen to the air hiss as they desperately cry out for their lovers while gargling in their own blood, just as many women as men. So mad props to the devs for gender equality.

     Now we come to the negatives, mild spoilers from here on out.

     The dodge button, a new addition to gameplay, is nearly worthless. For me it worked less than half the time, and two major boss fights rely almost entirely on this mechanic, making both of them an exercise in frustration. I expect better from Naughty Dog.

     The story, this is the big one that got fans so mad. The story isn't the worst I've ever come across, but it does have some serious issues. So, the plot kicks off when new character Abby beats Joel to death with a golf club, which is what sends Ellie out on her mission of vengeance. This happens in the first couple of hours. Then about midway through the game, you switch to Abby and play as her to get the story from her perspective. Both of these things were originally leaked.

     The problem with playing as Abby is that by this point you've spent at least twelve hours hunting her, wanting her dead for killing Joel, and now they try to present her sympathetically. But because she killed Joel at the outset, any sympathy you may have had for her is already broken, and it's hard to build any emotional connection with her. Now if you'd played as her for twelve hours and understood her motivations BEFORE killing Joel, that could have worked. But it's not what the devs did.

     The game tries to make you feel bad for all the violence you're committing, especially when you have to kill dogs, and you WILL have to kill dogs to survive. The thing is, this isn't an RPG, you don't make any decisions. Every narrative choice in this game was already made by the devs, I'm just along for the ride. So, I feel no guilt for the things the characters do, because I didn't choose to do them.

     By the final third of the game, characters that should know better continually make stupid decision after stupid decision, and that's always been a pet peeve of mine. It's what made me quit The Walking Dead, and it was the main problem with the final season of Game of Thrones. The only thing I hate more than stupid characters is characters who used to be intelligent all of a sudden becoming complete idiots.

     So, is this game worth your time? The truth is I don't know. Despite some flaws, I rather enjoyed the first two thirds of the game. The last third of the game however, turned into a slog of poorly written misery porn full of stupid decisions that I did not enjoy at all. If I had to give this game a rating, I'd say it's a seven out of ten. If any of you end up playing it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

     On a brighter note, we only have three weeks until Ghost of Tsushima, which I thoroughly believe will be a better game. And I've still got a review for Maneater and a breakdown of the new Cyberpunk 2077 trailer to go over. So, look for those in the near future. Till next time, Jaa meta!

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