The Inadequate Masterpiece – The Last of Us 2 Review

3rd July 2020

SPOILER AHEAD! Please do continue with this article only if you’ve completed the game. Otherwise, finish the game and then come back to this! Without further ado, this is my review for the highly divisive, The Last of Us 2.

Before we get into the game proper, I think there’s a need to take a small look back at the predecessor of the game. What made the original Last of Us a brilliant game, and quite possibly, one of the best games ever, was its masterful blend of gameplay, storytelling, and music. Crossing the post apocalyptic USA, Joel and Ellie, two people from entirely different backgrounds, had their lives somehow intertwined when Joel was tasked with bringing the immune Ellie, to the Fireflies, a group opposing what’s left of governance so that they could develop a vaccine to the Cordyceps infection that has wiped out a large portion of humanity. With the state of the world in shambles, Ellie, was quite possibly, the only hope left for a cure. But having lost in his daughter during the initial stages of the outbreak, Joel comes to develop fatherly feelings for Ellie, and soon after, Ellie begins to reciprocate this and the pair share a rather strong and believable Father-Daughter bond. Travelling across the country, Joel and Ellie faced and overcame many adversities that they met, with Joel taking on a mentoring role, teaching Ellie the essentials to surviving the world, such as not being too trusting, and being strong and courageous. When the time came, Joel refuses to hand Ellie over to the Fireflies, massacring any members of the group that got in his way. When questioned about what happened, Joel lies to Ellie, and said that he took her away from the Fireflies as there were dozens of others who were immune to the infection. This selfish act alone could quite possibly be seen as dooming the world to a rather bleak future where humanity may never regain its foothold in the world. So, isn’t Joel in this sense, the real villain of the game?

The Last of Us, in my opinion, is one of the few games that I consider the best that I’ve ever played, and I’m sure that many others would agree with me. So why has its highly anticipated sequel, The Last of Us 2, despite high critic ratings, been dividing fans and receiving much criticism? Well let’s take a look.

First and foremost, I won’t be reviewing all parts of the game, but parts that I believe to be most contentious, divisive and important to any possibility of a third installment of the game coming out. So if anyone has anything to add, please do leave a comment and I’ll try my best to address them.

No.1 – Joel’s Death

A highly controversial moment early on in the game. Given that he’s a much beloved character, killing Joel off so early pissed off a lot of fans. And this more or less started people hating on the game from the get-go, based of purely the fact that he died. However, I beg to differ. As I mentioned earlier, Joel more or less doomed the world in the first game, so in my opinion, his death was somewhat justified. Typing this, I know that a lot of people will have something to say but hear me out. I very much love Joel as well, but I see things differently. While no doubt a great in gaming history, Joel will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best video game characters of all time. But, what was great about him? What made the first installment so great was the way it showed how people could potentially react during a global, zombie-like crisis. The relationship between Joel and Ellie was simply, highly engaging and believable. Taking a deeper look at the dynamic between the pair however, what really motivated Joel to do what he did? As established, Joel began to see Ellie as a replacement to Sarah and did what any father would do, protect his children. Nonetheless, in that instant, Joel’s decision, caused him to make an oversight about what his task was, bringing Ellie to the fireflies to provide hope for the world. By instead doing more or less the opposite, that was when he became one of the most selfish people in all of gaming history and made him in my eyes, a really great antagonist rather than a protagonist. So, his death in The Last of Us 2, while an unpopular decision, was to me, still the right one to make, looking at it from a justice-seeking point of view.

Granted, the whole process of his death was somewhat rushed and abrupt and could’ve been structured so as to give a more wholesome feel to it. But I don’t think it was all that bad. When Owen and Abby discovered the whereabouts of Joel in Jackson, Abby blinded by rage, decided to go on alone to find and kill Joel. Eventually, she needed some saving and ironically, was indeed saved by the man she had set out to kill, and his brother Tommy. At this point, from what I can tell by looking at comments and whatnot, people were saying how Joel’s behaviour leading up to his death was unusual given the fact that he was so cautious in the first game. But here’s the thing. People can change. It should be noted that 5 years have passed since the events of the original game and it’s entirely possible that Joel had to change and adapt. Don’t forget. The community of Jackson was much bigger than it was initially, and as time passed by, it’s entirely possible that the initial residents of Jackson had to learn and cope with new people coming in to create an environment where everyone could survive. This is one solution can easily explain Joel’s so called change. Before being led up to the lodge by Abby, Joel made a decision based of his past 5 years in Jackson to trust Abby, potentially seeing her as someone in distress. Although it was the wrong one to make as it inevitably lead to his demise.

Though trailers seemed to depict that Joel would accompany Ellie on this journey, I can definitely understand and agree with sentiments that Naughty Dog provided false advertising on their part. Though I hate such a marketing tactic, I ultimately think that it was still alright, considering that Joel’s death played a large role in the motivation of Ellie and her actions in the game. So truth be told, Joel kinda did accompany Ellie on her journey, just not in the way people expected him to. This is just my train of thought. If you disagree, please go ahead and do so. Though, I will admit that the decision by Naughty Dog was not very good and wise as surely the company would know how much their decision would hurt fans.

Again, I agree that perhaps more could have been incorporated into the reasons as to why Joel did what he did, but ultimately, I still feel that his actions there and then were warranted, thought not completely understandable.

NO.2 – ABBY & The wlf

The introduction of Abby certainly wasn’t welcome by all fans. But undeniably, nearly half the game revolved around her which made her a very important character. Her killing of Joel didn’t do her any favours either. Then again, her actions were all understandable. Revenge. But I think the bigger question at hand would be as to why did the small contingent of WLF soldiers leave Ellie and Tommy alive. Granted, that small contingent comprised of former Fireflies and only sought to deliver justice, but on hindsight really should’ve finished the job knowing full well what Joel and his crew are capable of.

Moving on to later segments of the game, we see Abby, a WLF soldier teaming up with sworn enemies, Yara and Lev of The Seraphites. I really do think that this is a huge aspect of the game. Namely, because of change. Throughout both the original and sequel, we see people in the world of The Last of Us changing their behaviours for one reason or another. In the case of Abby, Yara and Lev, it’s a case of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, which I personally feel is really apt in a world that’s gone to shit. The only real way the trio was going to survive was by sticking together and that they did. They questioned about where their allegiances lay, what was right or wrong and many other questions in between. Coming to a common understanding, they decided it best to put their differences aside and work with one another. I do think that this relationship, though perhaps cliched to a certain degree, works well enough in the game’s context where the seeds of distrust have already been sowed and believe that it can be a catalyst for any potential installments for future iterations of the game. Though if improperly managed, can be rather disastrous and needs to be mixed well together with a adequate amount of violence and storytelling to drive a holistic narrative, as we were accustomed to in The Last of Us.

NO.3 – Hashed Deaths and the lgbt agenda

The one thing in the game that sort of irritates me would be the deaths of Jesse and Manny. They were both killed in similar fashion. I mean, come on, opening of a door and bam! Gunshot to the face. Really? Why would that ever make a good impression when used more than once? I’m actually surprised that not everyone seems to feel this way. Jesse and Manny were important side characters to both Ellie and Abby respectively and without really giving them a proper send off is quite shameful. Again, it’s a case of a decent idea, but inproper execution.

Considering that the whole LGBT issue can be a real touchy subject, I won’t mention much, other than the fact that it seemed to provide no real value whatsoever. Dina, bisexual, Ellie, lesbian (or maybe bi?), and Lev, a transgender. Was there any real substance at all in the sexual orientations of the characters? It didn’t really make me think any different of them. So if Naughty Dog intended to push the LGBT agenda, is really was a fail on their part, at least in my eyes.

NO.4 – Ending

The one thing that I would say was downright bad about the Last of Us 2 would be its ending. Towards the climax, we see Ellie hunting down Abby in Santa Barbara. When the two ultimately meet, Abby ultimately says that she doesn’t want to fight but Ellie threatens to kill Lev if she doesn’t do so. Reluctantly, Abby agrees and the two begin an intense fight, with Ellie ultimately gaining the upper hand. But in a anti-climatic fashion, Ellie decides to take the high road and lets Abby live. Why this change of heart, I don’t know. While I can agree with change, like I mentioned earlier on as to why Joel had a sudden change of character as compared to the first game, this was a little too late in my opinion. I was really looking forward to Ellie finally getting her hands of Abby because wasn’t the whole point of Ellie’s journey in the game revenge? So letting Abby go sort of defeats the game’s purpose. Of course, the optimist may see it as a “want more of what you can’t have” situation, but I disagree here. Though setting up the events of a potential The Last of Us 3, I feel that the ending of The Last of Us 2 would leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who played the game.

To conclude, this is how I would break down the game.

Story – 6.5/10
Characters – 6.5/10
Gameplay – 8/10
Music – 9/10
Visuals – 9/10

Overall – 8/10

In a nutshell, The Last of Us 2 was a game that’s an alright follow up to its prequel but ultimately suffered from it being not nearly as good as the original. I feel that most of the game’s criticisms stem from improper planning and structure, ergo affecting a large chunk of the story and its characters. Despite the criticisms the game has received from fans, I opine that it can be a bit biased due to things not happening the way people wanted them to happen, and that also despite good ideas from Naughty Dog, were ultimately rushed and clearly showed in the end product. These issues could potentially have been resolved if Naughty Dog had taken the time to properly review and rectify them. I’m sure that people would rather wait for a good end-product rather than one that’s rushed to achieve less than desirable results.

Though somewhat justified depending on the point of view you choose to look at the game from and thus my relatively respectable score of 6.5/10 for both “Story” and “Characters”, not everyone will be pleased with the end result of the Last of Us 2.

Please do leave a comment and I’ll try my best to get back to you asap! Lets’s have a good discussion on the matter!

***Pictures are not mine and can be found from the following links

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