My Problems with The Last of Us Part 2. SPOILERS INCLUDED.
This will be my spoiler discussion on The Last of Us Part 2. I recently did a non-spoiler review on my previous post, where I explain why I thought the game was good, but not perfect. If you haven’t played or finished the game yet, I highly encourage you to reserve judgment and not read any reviews or spoilers until you finish and judge the game for yourself. It’s a fact that if you go into an experience with a negative mindset, and looking for flaws then it's more than likely you will not enjoy the experience. I’m also a huge fan of the first game and have been looking forward to this game for years. I didn’t think the game needed a sequel and knew Naughty Dog was in a tough spot to fulfill the hype. Especially for those like myself that thought the first game was near perfect. So fair warning, I’m going to begin discussing spoilers from this point forward, I hope you return to read this when you are done with the game and want to hear my point of view.
Basically, for my review, I gave the game an A or equivalent of a 9/10. A good game, great even, but by no means perfect, revolutionary, or as good as the first game. I enjoyed the gameplay, level design, and longer length, but the story and characters ultimately fell flat and I was left disappointed on that front. If the story is all you care about, then I understand people who gave the game an average score anywhere down to a 5/10. And it's important to know that I consider 5/10 average not using the grading system of 7/10 as average. Mainly because I don’t like using 0.1 increments to distinguish my scores, like what you see IGN using. I also played through the game on the hardest difficulty which was challenging but still not too difficult that also affected my review.
The reason why my score is higher than average user rating on Metacritic is that this game is not a 0/10 and the overall enjoyment I got out of the game considering all its other factors when taking into account the game as a whole. The game does other countless things like stealth, scavenging, scarcity of resources, crafting, upgrading, variety of gameplay, sound, and graphics extremely well. Other things like quick load times, fairly good enemy and teammate AI, length of the game, voice acting, and animations are also things that the game is good at and pushes the limitations of the hardware. But at the same time, many of these components were already solid from the first game, and I understand if people felt that the game could have used more innovation in those areas. But considering that this is a sequel, labeled as Part 2, I expected core mechanics to stay the same.
Of course, the main criticism is the story, and specifically the character of Abby. Not as bad as the bait and switch from Metal Gear Solid 2, but I wasn’t expecting to play as Abby for half the game. The direction of this game tries to make two major camps happy, the fans of the first game that want something familiar and those that want a new experience set in the same world. Unfortunately, this is where the game fails and is why the game is so decisive. After playing the game myself, I thought that the ending was fine for the direction that they went. I thought the final battles between Ellie and Abby were powerful, and the final confrontation reminded me of the final hand to hand battle in Metal Gear Solid. I grew to like Abby by the end, who was portrayed better compared to Ellie. I even preferred her playstyle which felt distinct from Ellie. The game is also about twice as long as the original, so it doesn't feel like Ellie's game time was cut short.
There has been controversy about Sony and Naughty Dog reaching out to contact reviewers that didn’t like the game or highlight a weak area, that didn’t sound good in their review. Since early reviews are so important for sales and only a small group are trusted with review copies there are opportunities for coercion or pressure to make the game look good, especially for huge first-party games like this. If this is the case it highlights how things haven’t changed much between large game companies and large review sites getting access to games early for favorable reviews. These companies will always find people who will play ball, so it’s a system that will not go away any time soon.
There are some points I want to address with the game that people don’t like and their claims are mostly valid. Other than people hating any representation of gay, trans, or women depicted in their games of course. While I strongly believe that you can’t generalize gamers and say they are terrible, racist, homophobic bigots, there is a vocal minority of toxic players which is evident for anyone who has played a multiplayer game with voice chat. There is even a group of angry gamers sending death threats to the voice actor from the game. Of course, this is the most extreme and there should be some consequences for these people since you never know how serious some of these threats can be. Some people are just crazy, like those in The Last of Us Part 2, but you don’t need an apocalyptic event to bring it out of them. You’ll see more videos on YouTube criticizing the game, just because controversy, drama, and extreme opinions tend to get more views on the platform.
Let's talk about the spoilers that came out in May that many people already knew about before playing the game. Luckily I avoided those until I beat the game, but the main story spoilers were that Joel gets killed at the beginning of the game and you spend half the game playing as his killer Abby. That was probably the biggest disappointment, as this relationship between Ellie and Joel was what people loved about the first game that worked. I didn’t think that this was that surprising, as anyone who watched the first trailer of the game from Sony in 2016, and even in the current adds for the game, portrays Ellie on a revenge mission. Who could mean more to Ellie than Joel? Maybe a girlfriend but that wouldn’t have as much feels for a new character. This first half is where the developers seem conflicted on what direction to take the game. Similar to the beginning of the first Last of Us, where Joel loses the person he cared about the most that changes his worldview and makes him a cold and indifferent until he meets Ellie. In the Last of Us Part Two, Ellie watches Joel die and travels with her girlfriend Dina who Ellie wants to protect. But unfortunately, Dina isn’t a strong character in the story and we don’t see much of their relationship grow as we did for Joel and Ellie. And we ultimately see that Ellie cares more about Joel than she does for Dina and her child.
Ultimately, Ellie takes a back seat to Abby, who is portrayed more sympathetically and undergoes more change as the story progresses. While both characters don’t show much remorse for their actions. Like Abby torturing and killing Joel, or Ellie killing Abby’s entire crew. Both are motivated to get revenge and its clear that their fixation on revenge only brings them more suffering to the ones they care about. I talked about in my written review of how the best scenes of Ellie are during flashbacks with Joel when she was younger. Most scenes you see with Ellie as a young adult is of her treating Joel poorly, or acting dumb during key scenes. Even as she is on this revenge mission, killing everyone in her path, she hesitates to kill those responsible and it feels like there are so many scenes where she lets the person run or struggle before accidentally killing them.
The first trailer review and screenshot whenever you load up the game give the impression that Ellie is filled with hate and revenge is the only thing driving her forward regardless of any consequences. But during the game, we get a more stoic and subdued Ellie that always seems unconfident in her resolve. Maybe the concept from the first trailer from 2016 was reworked since its conception due to the long development time. There are also many moments in the game that are either make little sense or seem too convenient for the story. For example, while Abby and Owen's relationship was fine and grew on me, there’s no good explanation as to why they break up and Owen gets Mel pregnant, creating this love triangle conflict. Also, Ellie murders Mel supposedly without knowing she was pregnant until after the fact, but every scene we see of her during Abby’s section, Mel is like 7 months pregnant and obviously should be recognizable. Plus, why would they allow her to be participating in these patrols when so many other people are available.
You automatically start the game not liking Abby and her side, and even after witnessing her story missions the rest of the crew is still not likable or seem completely different during her scenes. I grew to like Abby’s character by the end who not only has better gameplay mechanics but comes out as more sympathetic and likable. I also didn’t care for Lev’s storyline, but they have him act as the person Abby cares for the most and wants to protect. Another key storytelling element they rely on that didn’t work for me was the constant use of flashbacks, which ultimately didn’t pay off. For example, in the end, it's revealed through a flashback that Ellie did talk to Joel after their fight. We were led to believe that she never got to apologize and Joel before he died. They even reveal that she was willing to forgive Joel for what he did at the end of the first game, which ultimately leads her to spare Abby's life. During another key scene early on its shown that Ellie was conscious when Abby decided to spare her and Tommy’s lives after killing Joel. Even after knowing all this Ellie still goes to kill Abby, throwing away her perfect life she could of had at the end, only to change her mind at the last second.
In one of the last journal entries, Dina even encourages Ellie to talk about Joel as a way to help with her PTSD and get on with her life, but Ellie dismisses it. Another thing that would be reasonable to do for the one you love, but this adds to flaws in Ellie that lead her to be more unlikable. I also want to say how I didn’t like how one of the last cutscenes with Ellie and Dina’s dance scene is shown off in the game’s promotional trailer. This is referred to at the beginning but it’s one of the few scenes that portray Ellie, Dina, and Jessie’s relationship. Saving this scene for to be revealed at the end would have been much more emotional to see for the first time, when the ending starts to feel more heavy emotionally.
The new factions in the game were also disappointing. The game makes it clear that the Fireflies are disbanded after the events in the first game. Losing the doctor and Ellie caused them all to join different factions. This effectively threw away the storyline of pursuing some type of cure from Ellie. FEDRA is no more and you don’t see any QZ zones and most of them leave to become the new WLF faction. Now the two new factions, the WLF (or Wolves) and Scars (or Seraphites) are the two conflicting forces in this game. Both leaders of the factions, Isaac for the Wolves and the Prophet for the Scars are not given enough background and just seem like a reason to get you to fight different types of enemies. The first time you encounter the Scars, who use bows and arrows and whistles to communicate is cool, but for a group that shuns technology, they seem completely OK with using guns which I didn’t like. I don’t like generic religious cults in video games as they are overdone and easy to fall back on.
They mention the cannibals from the first game in one line of dialogue, but I would like to have seen them return or something along those lines. The Scars eventually felt identical to the Wolves, just in different clothing since they even abandon their use of whistling and talk like normal when spotting you. There is another evil faction, the Rattlers, introduced during the last section that captures people to use for slave labor, that was a little interesting but felt tacked on last minute and didn’t have anything distinguishing them from just another heavily armed militant group.
I thought that there was going to be more background about Isaac and the Prophet, but after reading all the notes there is a lot more they could have done with these opposing forces. The scene where they come together in an all-out war on the Scar’s Island was fun to play through as both groups would kill you on sight. Not only pitting Wolves against Scars but infected against humans was another cool interaction when it happened. Using noise to attack the infected to the humans, then cleaning up the infected afterward.
By the end of the game, most characters are either dead or ruined shells of their former selves. Ellie throws away an almost perfect life to hunt down and ultimately let Abby go. Tommy somehow survives getting shot in the head but is left crippled, separated with his wife, and obsessed with getting revenge on Abby. Jesse, an actual character I liked, and one morally strong character is killed. Dina gives Ellie an ultimatum and ends up leaving with her child before Ellie returns at the end. Abby and Lev escape but are on the brink of death after being starved and having to escape by boat. The leaders of the wolves and Scars are dead and most of their members end up killing each other, and Ellie kills the leader of the Rattlers and most their members. If they were planning a Part 3 to this game, I have no idea where the story will go. It’s left off at a worse place both in terms of story and in the player’s opinions. The only likable character’s by the end is Abby and Lev, but the remaining story of finding the fireflies isn’t enough to warrant a new 20+ hour game. I wouldn’t be surprised if a DLC is created to wrap things up better or focus on smaller events like the capture or origin of the Prophet and her relationship with Isaac.
Despite these many gripes with the game I still believe that the game is good as an entire experience. It had me engaged the whole time, and while the story and characters were flawed in my opinion, it wasn’t the worse thing but just could have been done better. Let me know what you guys think in the comments below. Did you think the game was as bad as people are saying, or as good as the highest reviews? Do you think that Part 3 is already planned and if so what do you want to see explored?
Thanks for sticking around till the end, if this post or future video for it does well I can make more going into details about specific elements since there is more I’d love to say. Until next time, peace out!