Game Review: The Last Of Us Part 2

              Last summer one of the most popular video games of the last ten years received its stunning sequel. On June 9, 2020, The Last of Us Part II was released. Within its first week, the game sold over 4 million copies, and became the 3rd highest selling game of 2020. It can most definitely be put down in the books for its numbers, but is it a satisfying sequel for this series? Most people seem to be split in the middle. Hardcore fans felt they were let down by the game. @Glaak4 on Twitter referred to the sequel as a “disappointment and a tragedy.” Critics, however, seemed to disagree. It received astounding reviews from IGN and many more esteemed video game news platforms. After playing all 25 hours of the game (not in a row, don’t worry), I can say with certainty that both opinions are valid. 

               In June of 2013, Naughty Dog released its magnum opus commonly known as The Last of Us. In 2013, the outbreak of a deadly form of the Cordyceps fungus (an actual pathogenic fungus that infects insects, by the way) has spread all over the world, turning the majority of the human population into hostile creatures known as The Infected. The story focuses on one man, Joel Miller, as he tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. He becomes a smuggler, and is one day asked to deliver a fourteen year-old girl named Ellie to a group called the Fireflies. We learn that Ellie is actually immune to the virus, and the Fireflies are looking for her because they believe that Ellie is the answer to a cure for the virus. Ellie and Joel go on a cross-country adventure to deliver her to the fireflies and hopefully save the world. In The Last of Us Part II, we travel between two and four years after the events of the last game. This time, the story is centered around Ellie on her journey to find the truth, serve justice, and get revenge.


Warning: Spoilers For TLOU and TLOU2 Ahead

               The sequel begins with Joel explaining to his brother Tommy the events of the last game. He tells his brother that in order to find a cure, it would’ve resulted in Ellie’s death. Joel was so attached to Ellie, he broke into Firefly headquarters and saved her. We move forward with Joel, and are blessed with what is arguably the best scene in the game. To try and fix a somewhat strained relationship, Joel sings a song for Ellie on the guitar. As Joel’s performance of “Future Days” by Pearl Jam progressed, I have to admit that there may or may not have been many tears shed. We then fast forward to four years later, Ellie waking up after an intense night of partying. She is woken up by a new character, Jesse, and is told she needs to do patrol with her friend, Dina. This is where we encounter the first major problem in the game, and the player doesn’t even know it’s a problem yet. We cut to an all new character named Abby, a rough and tumble muscular young woman who is also on a journey to find someone. It’s not revealed who exactly she is looking for, but we find out very soon. She finds Joel and Tommy on patrol as a snowstorm starts to brew. She takes them back to a building where she’s camped with her friends, and they are introduced to each other. As soon as Joel says his name, Abby’s face turns sour. Joel jokingly asks if they’ve heard of them, and Abby grabs a shotgun and shoots him in the legs. It’s known immediately what this game will be about. Jesse finds Ellie and Dina and tells them Joel and Tommy are missing, and Ellie rushes to her horse and rides off to find them. She finds Joel and Tommy’s horses, and enters the building where she believes they are. As she walks through, we hear screams of pain from Joel. Ellie breaks in and is taken down by Abby’s friends. She is forced to watch as Abby kills Joel. When the final strike is hit, the sound disappears slowly and we can only see the horror and pain on Ellie’s face. We cut to black, and the sequel has started.

               My criticisms may sound like they’re biased or that they’re coming from a place of grief after losing one of my all-time favorite video game characters, but I assure you they are not. Joel’s death could have been pulled off well, and could have made me feel like justice was served for Joel, but it didn’t. Naughty Dog made some decisions, both minor and major, that had a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the game. One of the biggest examples was the way they tried to make us sympathize with Abby. This was a hugely important part of the story, and it failed miserably at making me feel ANY positive emotions towards her. We find out the real reason that Abby killed Joel was because one of the Fireflies he killed to save Ellie was Abby’s father. This is an understandable reason why Abby did what she did, and it could have been more impactful if it wasn’t shoved down our throats that she might not be in the wrong. After watching our hero die the player is forced to go through a grueling back and forth between playing as Abby and playing as Ellie. Once again, there was potential for this idea to work well, but it just didn’t. There is an excruciating ten to fifteen hours of gameplay with Abby, and the entire time we’re bombarded with the same message; we need to sympathize with her. At the end, I felt that the game would’ve been better if those 10 to 15 hours were cut out. 

              The next biggest flaw is the distastefully unsatisfying ending to this story. In the end, Abby and Ellie have separated, but Ellie jumps at the opportunity to hunt her down. When they finally meet, Abby has been taken hostage, but Ellie saves her. She insists they fight, but Abby refuses. When Ellie starts to shoot at Abby, the latter turns around and accepts. The player is presented with an incredible fight scene between our two main characters, the one we’ve all been waiting for. Ellie has Abby in a chokehold, and is close to winning, but she suddenly stops, and lets Abby go. When I was faced with this, I leapt out of my seat and started yelling at Ellie to finish it. I sat back down, feeling defeated and completely disappointed. Those words can be used to describe my whole opinion of this game.

              In the end, you end up asking yourself what the point is, and if any of those twenty hours were worth it. Though the game’s visuals and animation were revolutionarily stunning, the story is so misguided that it overshadows all good aspects, especially if you’re a die hard fan of the first game. I think it makes it easier to consider the first third of the game the ACTUAL game, and to simply reject the other more painful parts. Ultimately The Last of Us: Part II was definitely not the sequel we wanted, nor was it the sequel we needed.