Naughty Dog haven’t worked so hard over the last few years to create The Last Of Us Part II just to be hounded from every side. From user review bombing the game mere hours after its official release, to issuing appalling death threats to Laura Bailey for her character, not her portrayal, but her character for crying out loud. I’ve seen people giving this game a 6, a 5, and laughably a 0. If someone can play this game and honestly believe that for one second that this game is THAT broken…then credibility becomes a serious issue in the gaming community. Instead of a logical tirade of condemnation for this exaggerated backlash, we’ll get straight into the bulk of this article. 9 reasons why TLOU2 is maybe the game of the generation.
Disagree? Then head to the comments below and let your voice be heard.
The Last Of Us Part II is now available to buy exclusively on PS4.
1. Neil Druckmann’s Pulp Friction
So, it’s no secret that the overwhelming point of contention for TLOU2 is the story. One of the puzzling conclusions that many people have drawn, is that its structure and chronology is all over the place. As I was playing the game, I was drawn to each flashback. Now yes, flashbacks within flashbacks does become a bit meta, but this is all done to explain the story and provide the player with every bit of information possible. These criticisms just confuse me. Have people become so accustomed to modern day hand-holding in games? Why does everything have to be as linear as a Call of Duty campaign?
All I could think whilst playing was that this was a great use of the classic Quentin Tarantino narrative structure, or Alejandro González Iñárritu’s, Amores perros. Multiple stories all intertwining and slowly revealing key plot points that ties everything together. If you haven’t watched Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight, or one of several Tarantino films, then I can maybe understand why this ‘loose’ story would feel like an aberration.
Ellie’s flashbacks slowly piece together the relationship dissolution between Ellie and Joel, you get the highs of the Space Museum, and then the crushing lows of Joel’s confession. Abby’s flashbacks are intriguing because they slowly show the transformation from public enemy number one, to sympathetic figure. The story is a deliberate slow-burner and keeps you guessing throughout. Tick.
2. The Game Isn’t 30 Hours Of Depression
Ellie and Joel’s space journey. Abby and Lev’s bonding. Ellie and Dina enjoying each other’s company. Abby and Owen’s aquarium adventure. The Snowball fight. There are plenty of moments of respite in TLOU2, and enough moments of brief happiness to ensure the game isn’t a constant slog of sadness. People have cited the dark, negative moments of the game and attributed them to a full journey of death and misery. And it’s not. At all. It is if you think of it that way.
The first game featured more bubbly moments because of the ignorance of youth of Ellie. Whilst a more mature 14-year-old than most, she yearned for dumb jokes, shared our internal craving for video games, and occasionally petted giraffes. Now she’s consumed by hate and loss. As we mentioned in our The Last Of Us Part II Review, “she goes on a path of revenge”. This isn’t supposed to the feelgood tale of the year. But Naughty Dog knew to balance this out with those brief moments of tranquility and remind you to crack a smile every once in a while. This isn’t supposed to be a comedy, it’s a deep and rewarding drama.
3. It’s Realistic
Unlike the Hollywood theatrics of Naughty Dog’s legendary Uncharted franchise, the somewhat dystopian world of TLOU2 is a brutal and savage beast severed by the catastrophic effects of a deadly infection. Once again, this isn’t supposed to be a happy place! It’s full of dangers and death at every given moment. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but every platform that Nathan Drake so much as breathes on breaks and nearly kills him. We don’t need that with TLOU2.
Joel dies because of a rookie mistake through trusting strangers – something he’s always avoided. Sometimes in life, it’s just that simple. A momentary lapse in concentration. One factor determines whether you live or die. There can’t always be a scripted Superman to come to the rescue. Jesse dies because he bursts through a door, with hurried footsteps loud enough to hear a continent away, and he gets a bullet in the brain. The same way enemies do when Ellie or Abby are in the heat of conflict. It’s completely natural.
Again, this thought process kept me on my toes. Joel’s death means that the aura of invincibility does not exist in this world, as it shouldn’t. NO ONE is safe. And his death is not for nothing as it sets up the game, and makes us more determined to find out why this happened. It’s as realistic as obliterating an enemies head with a hunting rifle. It’s no accident that heads explode into watermelon-size chunks and spray misty, red juice. Naughty Dog have worked meticulously to make sure that happens, why? Because it’s realistic. Look at the game holistically, this is how things should be, the fear of danger, 24/7.
Furthermore, humanizing every person – and even the dogs – is an absolute masterstroke. Hearing the gut-wrenching anguish of the enemy screaming out the name of their fallen comrade. It’s engaging and personable. Every kill has substance, and every action has a reaction. Every incremental increase to the body-count signifies that you’re one step closer to safety. I’ve never known this in a game before.
4. Maxing Out The PS4
If TLOU2 hasn’t maxed out the PS4/PS4 Pro and pumped out every last drop of power, then I’d be stunned. My playtime was artificially extended by another hour just from admiring the environments. From the lush grass to the gorgeous sun rays burning through voluminous forests – The Last Of Us Part II is arguably the most visually impressive game ever created.
It’s worth the price of admission alone, in my opinion. The facial animations are highly-detailed and dynamic too. Did you know that when you’re crossing the walkway between buildings, with Abby, her face actually resembles Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”? It perfectly encapsulates her fear of heights and this is just one example of the effort and level of detail in this game. Furthermore, it conveys more emotion and shows the vulnerability of Abby, showing she’s not an impenetrable warrior.
It does become another clear sign of people’s priorities with this game when these finer, objective details are overlooked in favour of subjective plot points. One of my favourite YouTubers – AngryJoeShow – is known for his reviews of games. In his 49-minute Angry Review, it took him until the 36th minute to finally start breaking down the graphics and gameplay. Who cares how exquisite Abby’s character model is, she killed Joel, she’s buff, and I forgot to mention…she killed Joel.
5. It’s 2 Games in 1!
Absolutely no one wanted TLOU2 less than I did. I have finished the first game seven times and I have platinumed it on the PS3 and PS4. I adored it. But I didn’t want a second one as I felt the first game was perfect. However, when I found out we were getting a sequel, not for one second did I expect it to be more than double the length of the first game. It’s obviously one of the main reasons it took Naughty Dog longer than people anticipated to make. It’s literally a full Ellie game, with a bonus full-length Abby game thrown into the mix. For the same price, you literally get two, new Naughty Dog games in one package. But this is apparently a bad thing to some people? Even more stunning gameplay and even more spectacular set-pieces.
NB: Contrary to popular belief, no one on this website has received anything from Naughty Dog regarding our review, guides or opinion pieces. I am not trying to blow smoke up ND’s keister in the hope of landing myself a signed Sully cigar. I just don’t see how this can be construed as anything but a positive. In a day and age where some games are over before they even begin, TLOU2 gives you plenty of high-quality content for you to sink your chompers in to.
6. The Gameplay Just Clicks
One of the underplayed criticisms of the first game was the combat. It always felt punchy and brutal, but it perhaps had some limitations? TLOU2 absolutely nails it this time. It may seem silly and trivial in 2020, but the addition of a jump button, the ability to go prone, a dodge button, and open battlefields make for a new experience every single time. These bare-basics additions have revolutionized the gameplay and provided limitless ways to approach each encounter. It’s also quite incredible how incorporating sniffer/attack dogs can also drastically usurp your default mindset as you’ll need to alter the way you play, lest they guzzle your scent and make you their lunch. Also, the A.I tactically tries to flank you and outmaneuver you, especially when they’ve identified your need to reload. I’d say that’s ingenious A.I personally.
I haven’t seen anywhere near-enough praise for how intuitive and exciting the gameplay is. But we know why, and I won’t repeat it as I’m in danger of sounding like a record that’s been broken, eaten and regurgitated at this point. New types of infected, puzzles, fun collectibles (a rarity in games), and a whole variety of weapons, gadgets, and gizmos. This is genuinely as good as gameplay gets in my opinion.
As I’ve gotten older, and there are so many games on my radar now, I’ve neglected to find out every piece of information possible about every game. I knew very little about Abby, as most of us did. I can’t even remember seeing her in the pre-release trailers in all honesty. She may have been, but that’s how much I abstained.
Want to know a secret? She’s not the antagonist of this game. Want to know another secret? I had just as much sympathy for her by the end of the game – maybe a bit more – as I did for Ellie. A mature game like this is intended for a mature audience. A mature audience should understand that if we’re going to control Abby for half of the game, after what she did, then there’s obviously a damn good reason for it. That reason? Because her story is just as harrowing. Ellie and Joel have pretty much killed anyone Abby cared for. Who cares if she could go 5 rounds in the octagon with Brock Lesnar, she has emotions and feelings – just like the rest of us.
Don’t get me wrong, Joel’s death shook me to my very core. I cried for 5 minutes, and couldn’t play the game for a further 10. It was such a shock to the system that I imploded. But for some much-needed perspective here, Joel murdered Abby’s father in cold blood. Joel wasn’t a saint, he was a self-professed hunter in the early-infection days, he denied the world a potential cure, and also killed Marlene too. Joel had it coming. Not only that, but Abby had to see Manny and Yara die. And also had to stumble across the deceased bodies of her childhood best-friend/lover, and her friend Mel too. If that wasn’t enough, she let Ellie live. Twice.
Her story, characteristics, and gameplay (my god punching infected to death is fun) was such a joy too. If you DON’T sympathize with Abby by the end of the game, then maybe you need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, why?
P.S She’s buff because the stadium she lived at had a massive gym. Why wouldn’t you want to be physically strong to survive in their world? Survival of the fittest. There you go.
8. Satisfying Ending
Ellie gains some much-needed humility. So consumed by the death of Joel, she throws away everything to kill Abby. Everything. It clearly sinks in that Abby isn’t a bad person. Letting Ellie live, seeing Abby’s bond with Lev, the fact that Abby doesn’t want to fight at the game’s climax etc. All these little details add up to a clear answer – Ellie gains humility. Contemplating life whilst being unable to play her guitar, I did wonder if a gunshot to the head was about to happen. But no.
Joel is behind her, Dina is behind her, Tommy is behind her. Everything is behind her. Ellie is no longer humanity’s savior. She’s just another cattle in the herd. If there is one final chapter to come, then I’d rather control Abby or Tommy. Ellie’s adventure feels complete. Not everything needs to end with a euphoric feeling of catharsis. It wouldn’t have been fair. I also don’t recall the first game’s ending causing this much chagrin.
For further perspective, check out a fellow writer’s piece on Why The Last Of Us Part II’s Ending Was Perfect.
9. Minimum 8 Out Of 10
Anyone that thinks this game is anything less than an 8 is just attention-seeking I’m afraid. As I mentioned at the start of this article, a game with this much technical polish, optimized gameplay, and so many key moments and characters does not warrant such a transparent score. The killing of a main character and the compulsory use of their killer just doesn’t knock that many points off of a overall game’s score. It just doesn’t.
The back-and-forth dialogue between characters, the flashbacks to explain everything. It’s delivered in such a clear and concise way that I once again have to question the people actually playing this game. I can understand a film receiving a lesser score for a bad story, but games are comprised of many more elements that you have to systematically breakdown.
The Last Of Us Part II is no exception. It is absolutely incredible and when we do finally look back on the legacy of the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch – Naughty Dog has given many reasons as to why TLOU2 should be mentioned in the game of the generation discussion.