Massive spoilers ahead!
Seriously I am going to spoil almost every aspect of this game. Look away and then throw your phone across the room if you want to remain in the dark.
I just finished part 2 and I have to say- I’m not sure if it’s the best game I’ve ever played but it certainly is the most remarkable. I’m going to outline why I think this game is transcendent as far as reinventing a very old wheel goes and obviously why the fan backlash seems to be so brutal.
As a lifelong console gamer I’ve experienced as many story variants as there are glass bottles in Seattle but this was the most uncomfortable, unsettling and at times almost counterproductive in terms of having fun gaming experience I’ve ever had. The monumental bravery it took for the directors and development team to make this is staggering. This isn’t a new IP, this is one of the most beloved and celebrated series of all time. And they basically take a shotgun and blow out your kneecap the minute you start it up.
Joel’s death is shocking- truly as close to real life shocking as I’ve ever experienced in a digital medium- right up there with Dumbledores death while reading Harry Potter for the first time. But I loved it- The last of us as a series has taught us from the beginning- this is a brutal reality, people are going to die and it’s going to be violent and gory and graphic and unpleasant. The countless goons you slaughter throughout the first game with Joel met some horrible fates at his hands and ultimately his death is just another death in a desolate world full of the stuff. But it’s remarkable that they were willing to put us through that in order to tell a story.
I do feel they slipped here and there towards the end of the game with some pacing and a little bit of story bloat but I can forgive them for that seeing as they’ve basically set a new standard for storytelling in any medium.
They subvert what everyone and I expect from a game. That is – a form of media in which I have agency over the character on screen. Unique to the medium. At several points throughout I disagreed wholeheartedly with my playable characters actions but completed them dutifully anyway. And this is the crux- The last of us part 2 as it’s name implies is a continuation of a beautiful yet tragic narrative. A story that is wonderfully on rails. You do not have agency in this game. You are the closest thing to a helpless observer as it forces you to control people you viscerally hate and then grow to respect.
That fight scene in the water at the end is one of the most unpleasant gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I winced and groaned and reluctantly finished it. But then marvelled at the response the game was just able to illicit from me.
I subsequently cried during the flashback when Ellie tells Joel she wants to forgive him.
Man when I was thinking what to type up for this post I had a whole thing planned but ultimately I just wanted to share that I think this game will be an isolated monument. It is the next level of storytelling in a sometimes stagnant medium with a fan base that predominantly just wasn’t ready to accept the maturity of emotion, diversity of character, counter normative narrative threads and ultimately almost perfect subverting of expectations. This is a masterpiece. Make no mistake. It’s just a masterpiece that nobody wanted or asked for.
And for that I take my hat off to naughtydog. Fearless, peerless and I’d say unique atleast for the next 10 years.
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