Keep your expectations low boy, and you’ll never be disappointed
From here on there will be massive spoilers for the whole of The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Also, all opinions are my own and not necessarily representative of everybody at Game Hype.
Myself, like many others, am a huge fan of The Last of Us. When it was announced that a second part would be released I was ecstatic. I still remember the reveal trailer during Playstation Experience in 2016, and the whole audience went crazy as soon as the Firefly logo appeared. Naughty Dog had made my dreams come true. Being an absolutely huge fan of the Uncharted series and the first part of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog has never let me down. Until Now. They have been a very Naughty Dog.
Last of Us Part II has received critical acclaim by many outlets and review websites, Metacritic itself has blown up with bad reviews itself with people giving it a catastrophic big fat zero and little explanation as to why, as opposed to many people giving it 100 while praising it only for good graphics. While I would say Metacritic isn’t a reliable source of information there is definitely people unhappy with the direction that The Last of Us Part II has gone (myself included)
Now I understand that games evolve from when they are first announced. The Last of Us Part II certainly did. The earliest trailer which I mentioned shows a figure walking through a house of bodies while Ellie is singing and playing on Guitar. When the figure walks in the room he asks Ellie “What are you doing Kiddo? You really gonna go through with this?” to which Ellie replies “I’m gonna find and I’m gonna kill every last one of them.” The figure is no other than Joel, the crowd at Playstation Experience 2016 screamed with joy, Naughty Dog knew at this point how Joel was a fan favourite among the huge majority of fans.
Now this trailer itself is completely irrelevant as none of it is in the final product and it doesn’t really matter as this was an early concept. Now lets fast forward to September 2019, around 8 to 9 months before the game releases, at which point the whole story is complete and Naughty Dog are implementing the final touches but here we get another trailer.
A deceptive trailer showing Joel when actual fact it is Jesse
The trailer is the biggest one yet and shows a lot going on in the game but we get a huge reveal at the end. It shows someone’s hand around Ellie’s mouth where she turns around and asks “What the hell are you doing here?” We then see Joel who says “You think I’d let you do this on your own?” Now there is just one problem with this trailer, the scene at the end while it does exist, Joel doesn’t and the character that actually appears in the game is Jesse. Naughty Dog purposely aged Joel and replaced Jesse in the trailer to trick the audience into thinking he had a bigger role in the game than he actually had. This is complete deception and betrayal to many fans including myself, I had watched this trailer so many times before the games release thinking full well that Joel would be a part of the game and coming to Ellie’s rescue at some point. How wrong I was. It is apparent that this is not the first time Naughty Dog have tricked us using trailers and they did it back with the first Last of Us where they made us think Ellie shoots Joel, the game wasn’t out at this point and we didn’t know Joel or Ellie so it doesn’t matter as much if you compare it to the deceptive trailers we got for The Last of Us II.
The story of the Last of Us II is Ellie going on a revenge spree after seeing Joel murdered in front of her by Abby, a new character that we play for not very long prior to this. The point of this murder? Well, Joel killed the doctor back in the first game to get Ellie out of being operated on which would kill her, the doctor that Joel killed just happens to be Abby’s Dad.
The Last of Us Part II is full of glitches
Before Joel is murdered by Abby, Joel pretty much saves her life as she is being chased by infected. Tommy tells Abby “I’m Tommy, this is Joel.” A big mistake here as Abby pretty much has her enemy in her hands as they venture back to Abby’s safe haven. Once back there Joel and Tommy have a conversation with Abby and her group which soon turns cold after Tommy again reveals himself and Joel to the group.
“Y’all act like you’ve heard of us or something,” Joel says before Abby shoots him in the leg. She repeats his name and mentions his last name which up until this point has remained a mystery. You would be forgiven for Tommy blurting out their names in a spur of the moment situation but he then repeats their names again, Tommy is even less cautious by suggesting this group come back with them to get supplies. Joel doesn’t seem to show any signs of caution at all amongst the group, especially as he was more aware in the first game. Joel knew when an ambush was apparent which was clearly seen in the first game as he drove over a survivor who pretended to be hurt where Ellie said he should help him. So why they are acting so dumb when they are clearly surrounded? I also have to wonder why Abby let Tommy and Ellie live also considering she knows Joel is Tommy’s brother and Ellie is clearly distraught at his death and even says she will kill her so instead Abby leaves them to become a thorn in her side. Ironically Joel at the end of first game shoots Marlene and kills her after she begs for her life as he knew she would come after him. You might try and say I am pulling at strings here but if any post-apocalyptic world has taught me one thing it would be trust nobody and you would think Joel and Tommy thought the same. I definitely know Joel would’ve.
As you play as Ellie in a desperate attempt to save his life you realise it is too late and Abby has beaten him senseless with a golf club, not until dealing the final blow with Ellie present. Druckman has an almost identical appearance to Manny who is the guy that spits on Joel after Abby kills him in the most brutal way, which is ironic as this is an exact portrayal of how Druckman has treated Joel as a character in The Last of Us Part II and Joel deserved better than this.
Ellie hangs from what appears to be a rope defying gravity
So we get onto the game which for the majority you play as Protagonist and Antagonist Ellie and Protagonist and Antagonist Abby. More on that later. Ellie goes on the hunt for Abby across Seattle killing many in her wake, she comes across a group known as the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) or Wolves for short who are at war with the Scars or also known as Seraphites who are a cult group who focus on Ritualism.
While Abby is out trying to find Owen she gets captured by Scars but is then saved by two former Scars Lev and Yara who she trusts. When she finally escapes the clutches of the Scars and now WLF who are trying to kill her for treason she makes it back to the Aquarium.
Eventually, Ellie makes it to the Aquarium where Abby is supposedly hiding only to find her Dog Alice, Mel and Owen and Ellie kills all of them. There is a shock factor here as Ellie kills Mel who is heavily pregnant but only realises this after killing her. Mel was a weak character and with no development, at all up to this point I couldn’t feel any remorse sadly. I actually felt sorry for Alice the Dog just moments before this scene as we are forced to kill her. The Last of Us II forces you to kill Alice who you end up playing fetch with and bonding with Abby.
Ellie is gone of course when Abby returns but has left her footprints in the form of the map she had written everything on and Abby makes her way to where Ellie, Tommy, Jesse and Dina are hiding out and you are forced to fight Ellie after having killed Jesse and severely disabling Tommy. I kind of liked Jesse at this point but even he is tossed aside never to be seen or heard of again.
There are slightly scripted fights in which you fight Ellie as Abby and then, later on, you play as Ellie fighting Abby, confused yet? Remember I mentioned Ellie and Abby both being the Protagonist and Antagonist? The Last of Us Part II makes you play as both characters fighting each other, regardless if you like them or not. It is a strange feeling and one I didn’t enjoy for the most part.
After the scrap with Ellie, Abby tells Ellie she doesn’t ever want to see her again. We now see Ellie and Dina living on a farm presumably far away from everything else with Dina and Jesse’s Son. Tommy makes an appearance blind in one eye and tells Ellie about Abby and how she has been seen in Santa Barbara with a kid with Scars, Dina begs Ellie not to go but Ellie does as she keeps having seizures of Joel’s death. So in one final attempt, Ellie makes her way to Santa Barbara for one final showdown with Abby. At this point, Abby is tied to a Pillar after having been captured by the local crazy people who keep Clickers and Walkers on chains like a Walking Dead episode.
The ending of The Last of Us Part II shows Ellie and Abby having a fight off on a beach in Santa Barbara, moments before this, Ellie cuts her down from a pillar where she would have died had she not even gone to get her revenge, only she doesn’t. Abby ignores Ellie saying “she is not doing it” as Ellie wishes for another scrap. As Ellie holds a knife to Lev’s throat Abby agrees to the scrap which ends up with Abby biting off Ellie’s fingers. At this point, Ellie has had enough and tells her to go and sure enough, Abby gets into the boat and sails off never to be seen again. Ellie’s attitude of I’m not killing you because it’s not going to get me anywhere is negated by the fact she kills a further group of people in Santa Barbara just to get to her, so apparently they deserved to die but Abby didn’t. It also goes against everything that Ellie stands for, did she forget her own words of “I’ll fucking kill you” while she was pinned down watching Joel begging him to get up? This game is a petty revenge Story where you don’t get revenge and the team just seemed to have forgotten Ellie’s character completely. The whole of The Last of Us II is told over several days and showing events from years or months before showing much of what happened between the first game and the second. So while Joel is dead within the first few hours, we still see him in the rest of the game as flashbacks. It is the same for the new characters also, but the whole going into the past breaks the whole immersion of getting to know these characters especially as some cutscenes only happen after hours of drawn-out gameplay. Also, I only found myself disliking or just not caring for these characters more than anything.
The tracks in invisible air Ellie? No, they are the guts of some guy I just bashed in
So about that sex scene between Abby and Owen which could incorporate products like those remote panties? Yeah, that… This is the first time I’ve actively and awkwardly sat through a sex cutscene and am I surprised it’s in The Last of Us? Not at all. With all other themes covered, sex is probably the one that hadn’t been till now, sure we saw Ellie and Dina after spending time together but Abby was getting it from behind by Owen. Wow! So why am I mentioning this? Two words. Sony Censorship. ESRBs on games are there for a reason, Sexually explicit games don’t need to be a thing but if a games company wants to go there then they should be able to make that choice. So how is The Last of Us allowed to get away with such a scene while other game media with minor flesh forced to cover themselves? A good example of this is Devil May Cry 5, and while it doesn’t change the fundamental of the game itself, Sony steps in to change the image itself which is considered art, very much like the scene in the Last of Us which is uncensored and allowed. Sony is obviously dabbling in some Double Standards here and Devil May Cry 5 is just one of very few games that Sony have forced the hand of developers to change before allowing it a release on their platform. PQube, XSeed and NIS America are just but a few more game companies that have fell victim to Sony’s Double Standards. You may ask what this has to do with The Last of Us being bad? Well, it doesn’t necessarily but it had to be mentioned. This scene doesn’t do much apart from being completely awkward and not even needed in the game. It’s even become somewhat of an Internet joke which I can quite honestly say it is.
Last of Us II doesn’t revolutionize gameplay, although the first game didn’t either, however it was explained to us weeks prior to release that Ellie was more nimble and can traverse much of the world compared to how Joel and Ellie did in the first game, sure enough, we got a jump button and Ellie can swing from a rope however the game feels much the same as it did the first time. The jump button would be forgiven for not making an appearance at all. It is that pointless. The game is also vast and way too long, after 15 hours in I honestly had enough and I would forgive it for being 25 hours if it was gripping but for me, it wasn’t especially when you spend 2 hours just killing and exploring and more of the same as Abby who is a character I just could not resonate with at all. Joel dies far too early in the game and not in a way that many people would have expected. You then play as Abby for the most of the game later on. Not good character building at all.
Areas are a lot larger than they were in the first game and while it is still linear there is a lot of ground to cover in terms of exploration, you can go from point A to point B if you wish or you could pick many of the houses in the street to get supplies. There are a lot less set pieces now, while the first game had you hanging upside down shooting clickers, and sniping clickers running towards the house you are in, Part II has barely anything. I have to mention that while many people didn’t report any glitches in their game, they do exist, well they certainly did in my playthrough. Apart from the weird glitch I got every cutscene I ran into a few others as can be seen from the screenshots I posted including guts splattered onto thin air, a weird red shaped square in the floor and Ellie swinging on a rope that completely defies the laws of gravity. I have a digital copy so it may not have downloaded properly as people I have spoken to have not had the issues I have. This honestly did not change my experience with the game, the first game had glitches but I still really enjoyed it.
I am not trying to pick fault with the gameplay for The Last of Us Part II but when the centre stage should have been a good story and it isn’t by a large margin it is hard not to and it would be forgiven. The first game had an amazing story and the gameplay was just fine. We have more of the same in Part II but nothing has really changed on a large scale, enemies are still as goofy focusing on one area during patrols and still takes them a good few seconds to notice you and if they do glance over and you move out the way they will carry on patroling as if you were never there. The dodge mechanic is good though and saved me a lot of headaches starting over if I was sure to be caught by a Clicker or Bloater.
Druckman said this game is about hate and revenge and while it very much is Abby, the most uncared and lesser refined character in the game got everything she wanted while Ellie loses everything, Joel, Dina and even two of her fingers. Ellie was a strong character not because she is gay, not because she is a potential cure for mankind, and not because she grew to be a proficient murder machine. Ellie was a strong character as her actions defined her and everyone around her, the only problem is this was not seen in The Last of Us Part II. Everything in the game that happens is to garner sympathy for Abby. Ellie is forced to kill dogs while Abby plays with them. Ellie is also forced to murder a pregnant woman which she feels completely remorseful for doing. Abby is shown in a positive light for helping kids but then goes to slit Dina’s throat who is also pregnant when the opportunity happens, she even takes satisfaction for wanting to slit her throat although she is only stopped by Lev. Abby has the more destructive behaviour and takes pleasure in doing so in the darkened world but it’s obvious she is being shown in a positive light compared to Ellie. Ellie and Joel were my favourite characters and The Last of Us 2 just rips them both apart.
Sadly for me The Last of Us Part II is a game I wish I could erase from my memory but I can’t, I’ve played it and finished it and I probably won’t go back to it. For me, The Last of Us ended when Joel and Ellie went back to Jackson. I feel deceived and I feel angry like many others waiting so long only to be severely disappointed. I know you can’t please everyone and I know many who enjoy the story including close friends of mine, Druckman also said himself that the game will be decisive but when many feel the same as I do, then you seriously know something is wrong, Druckman created a sequel that he wanted. I think if Bruce Straley hadn’t left then The Last of Us 2 may have very well been in more capable hands.