Less than two weeks before The Last of Us Part 2’s June 19 release date, its director, Neil Druckmann, said he expected the game to divide the players. He was ready for some fans to hate him. I came across this prediction as I prepared to write. I remember being struck by his pessimism.
Of course, between a gay protagonist, a woman and a set of ethnically different characters, The Last of Us Part 2 had the characteristics of a game that would have provoked one of the most sensitive and volatile segments of the Internet. But I naively thought that the game was addicting, exciting and even deep enough to smooth out most of the expected vitriol.
The days following the launch of the game have shown me to be incredibly wrong.
Take a look at Metacritic and you will see that The Last of Us Part 2 has a score of 94, based on 1
Why are people so crazy? It’s unfair to say that anyone who doesn’t like The Last of Us Part 2 is a tight-knit troll. But the game hadn’t gone out for a full day before the 0/10 reviews, so many, started is trolling. In part it is more complicated.
Entering it requires talking about spoilers. So please, stop reading now if you haven’t played the game yet and don’t want it to be spoiled. Seriously. Last warning!
Die a hero
For the first two hours of The Last of Us Part 2, you will alternate two different characters: Ellie, one of the two protagonists of the original, and Abby, a completely new character.
Abby has the physique of a professional CrossFit competitor, which made me think about how she had obtained enough protein in the post-apocalyptic world of Last of Us to obtain and maintain her muscle-bound figure. Travel with an organized group that is clearly on a mission. I wondered if the leaner members of his community resented taking extra portions of chicken and steak.
That line of thought was interrupted when Abby, in an animated scene during an Ellie game segment, swings a golf club to Joel, the other main character in the original game, and breaks her skull.
You play like Joel during the first game and in a few hours he died. Ellie is the hero now. This, according to a vocal minority of apoplectic fans, is the problem.
It is not just that the protagonist is a woman or that he is gay (although there are many objections to this). It’s not just that Joel dies. Is that Naughty Dog has promoted a sequel starring Joel, but is almost immediately replaced. To make matters worse, much of the second half is played like Abby, Joel’s killer.
All of this is unacceptable in the minds, tweets and metacritical reviews of some angry players. Some accuse Naughty Dog of sacrificing Joel for no reason. Others suggest that the study could promote its social justice values. Except for their anger, frank and inaccurate, an important detail is surprising. If you play The Last of Us Part 2, you will see that Naughty Dog killed Joel for good reason.
Live long enough to see yourself become a villain
The Last of Us Part 2 is a story of revenge. Revenge doesn’t just advance the plot, this is a video game about revenge itself.
After Abby kills Joel, her motive becomes the immediate question. Doesn’t seem like a bad person. Typically, if a game makes you play like someone it means I’m a hero of sorts. Is Abby a hero? Was Joel’s death justified?
Yes, we learn. Yes it was.
The last original of us follows Joel’s journey to deliver Ellie to the fireflies, a group of militias that arose following Cordyceps infections. Ellie is immune to the infection, which turns everyone else into zombie-like creatures called The Infected, and Fireflies want to study it. When Joel delivers Ellie to one of their hospitals, she finds out that they will have to have brain surgery. He will die in the process. In response, he kills everyone, from dozens of guys from Firefly’s army to the doctor who is preparing for surgery, and “saves” the day.
That surgeon preparing to operate on Ellie? That was Abby’s father. You find out during the second half of the game, where you mainly play as Abby. Here you will find out that Abby’s motives for hunting Joel are just as legitimate as Ellie’s for hunting Abby.
At the end of the game, both Ellie and Abby have the opportunity to kill each other, but end up letting each other live. This is another key complaint: Joel died asking for a revenge story, but in the end Ellie doesn’t take revenge. Therefore, Joel’s death is futile.
Yet the characters do everything to take revenge, sacrifice personal relationships in the search for revenge and have their moral values distorted by the charm of revenge. The game is to make you scrutinize motives, characters and redemption in an extraordinary way for an AAA video game.
That is because Naughty Dog killed Joel.
It is unlikely that many people who leave 0/10 reviews on Metacritic or vent their frustration on Twitter appreciate it. Much of this activity occurred in the 24 hours following the release of The Last of Us Part 2. The game took me 29 hours to finish.
The pleasure of making mistakes
I entered The Last of Us Part 2 expecting not to like it. Naughty Dog’s modus operandi for his Uncharted series – dreaming setpieces and then creating a story around them – has always rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t like when video games borrow Hollywood’s visual language to tell stories.
It took me about a dozen hours of play to reverse my position, and from there it only became more absorbent. The Last of Us Part 2 rules.
The game isn’t perfect. Some say it may seem awkward. I agree. It took me around 5 or 6 hours to get used to the character’s movement, which continued to seem cumbersome for everything. And as inspired as the story, there are questionable moments when the characters behave in ways that contradict their motives.
But Naughty Dog has done very well, among the complex characters, the thoughtful story and the hilarious gameplay. To dwell on imperfections would be absurd.
While there are some honest players who simply didn’t like the direction of the story of The Last of Us Part 2, many of the people who score the game on Metacritic or tweet on Twitter are not interested in an honest evaluation. This is obvious to the thousands of people who spit anti-woman or anti-gay bigotry, but it is also sadly true of the other thousands of people who claim to be offended by the bait-and-switch that represents Joel’s death, but that they are unlikely to have played enough of the game to see where that road leads.
So this is the bad news. Tens of thousands of people are using the anonymity of the Internet to translate The Last of Us Part 2. The good news? The Last of Us Part 2 is the best-selling game ever for PlayStation 4,.
Millions of players have no problem with diversity. They want to play games that take risks with their stories, even if thousands make it a problem. The Last of Us Part 2 takes these risks and its 4.8 Metacritic score for the user is safe to ignore.