Now that everyone’s had enough time to work through The Last of Us 2, it’s a good time to go back and reflect on Ellie’s journey through Seattle.
While it’s easy to say that Naughty Dog’s adventure was always primed to be divisive, the retail figures say otherwise. Concerns over leaks and some of the more vocal, toxic fanbases haven’t stopped the game from selling over 4 million copies already, making Ellie’s adventure the fastest selling PS4 exclusive of the generation.
Sales aren’t an indicator of quality, of course. But it does say something about the impact backlashes and certain discourses can have on a game — which, in this case, was practically nothing.
At least commercially. The impact the leaks had on the studio as individuals was something else.
So let’s finally talk about all the other bits that we couldn’t really mention before embargo.
The embargoes basically prevented The Last Of Us 2 reviews from discussing, in specific or even general detail, the structural shift in the second half of the game. It made sense why Sony (embargoes aren’t issued by the developers) didn’t want Abby’s 10-hour segue covered in detail. It’s a mammoth spoiler. It tells you an awful ton about the game’s story, what to expect from the game’s ending, and what to expect from the characterisation. And it’s not too dissimilar from some of the boundaries levelled on the Death Stranding reviews.
I just wish that whole section was maybe three or four hours shorter.
I get why the whole breakaway is as long as it is. It makes visual and logical sense when you look up and see the space that Abby is being asked to travel. But there are entire segments of that gameplay where I just wished there was one less fight, or one less unnecessary segue back to the hospital.
The scene with Abby as a kid and when she was looking for her Dad, only to discover the zebra caught up in fencing wire?
Absolutely no reason for that scene to exist. It didn’t act as a tutorial for hunting. It didn’t provide any extra detail that couldn’t have been included somehow in one of Abby’s flashbacks inside the hospital. All we ended up doing was watching a poor bloody animal stuck in pure misery for shock value.
Just thinking about that scene, and the fact that people argued and defended the narrative necessity of that, makes me angry.
My original gripe hasn’t changed, either. I initially regretted that the subtlety used for most of the cut scenes wasn’t also used with the game’s approach to violence in cut-scenes. It wasn’t to argue that Naughty Dog shouldn’t use violence — although it is absolutely overdone. It’s that subtlety is The Last of Us 2‘s best attribute. It’s what shows the characters and facial animations at their best. It’s the best communicator of emotion. It’s more powerful than any line of dialogue.
There are so many scenes, so many moments in the game that use that soft touch so, so well. It’s a shame that approach wasn’t used for some of the more violent scenes, too.
A friend of mine likened it to pornoviolence. We get that in films sometimes. And you walk into those movies knowing full well what you’re in for.
But the brutality usually stops after an hour. Maybe 90 minutes.
It doesn’t run for another 20 hours.
I’d still recommend The Last of Us 2 as an experience, uncomfortable as it gets as times. It’s not as tight as The Last of Us, although there are definitely points where it is objectively a much better game. It’s vastly more accessible, for one, perhaps the most accessible game ever made. The mo-cap tech and modelling puts games like Cyberpunk 2077 to shame. And the story has lots of good beats and moments that are just fantastic to watch.
I wish it was a little shorter at times, but that’s more down to the pacing than the game being a supremely long experience. This isn’t Death Stranding or Persona 5 we’re talking about here.
Now for everyone who’s had the chance to enjoy the experience in full for yourselves: how do you feel about it? What did you think about the perspective shift halfway through, the structure of the game, the combat, the violence, and how it all ended? Let us know in the comments!