A reader finally gets play The Last Of Us Part 2 and is impressed by its graphics, its storytelling, and its message.
I’ve just finished The Last Of Us Part 2 and it was such a brilliant experience it has inspired me to write in with a few thoughts. I’ll start by saying that I thought it was a really tremendous experience. An absolute thrill to play through but one which I very nearly gave up on before the game really started.
I play games late, after my family have gone to bed. And I play in bed, in the dark. So when a game has a particularly subdued start I tend to find the eye lids become that little bit heavier, and off to sleep I drift. It’s a particular problem playing puzzle games – I’d love to finish The Witness, but as soon as the puzzles get vaguely non-obvious my body behaves like I’ve had a Horlicks before I picked up the controller.
And so the start of this game went – the first 90 minutes was mainly character introductions, a little walking along slowly while chatting (this is probably unfair but it’s how I remember it) and I got a little impatient with where the game was going to go and what Ellie’s motivation was going to be. It is in stark contrast to the beginning of the first game, which starts with that emotional gut punch that draws you straight into Joel’s world. But then… it happens.
Now if you’ve played the game you know what it is. This particular event was a brave narrative choice and throughout the game I found myself surprised by how bold Naughty Dog were with the story and how it treated its main characters. Games are generally conservative with both their characters and what stories they are trying to tell in games. But yet the first real story beat here had changed my expectations of what I was going to experience and it made me feel like I couldn’t make any assumptions about what was going to happen in the rest of the game.
This was particularly effective in the final scenes, where I had genuinely no idea how it was going to play out, and I felt every outcome was on the table. In comparison to other games, indeed all other story based media really, this is quite rare and a real storytelling skill.
I also admire Naughty Dog for developing characters with themes like gender and sexuality at the forefront of their personality. Importantly, these themes are not just lip service, but completely woven into the story and character motivation. Gaming can be a very toxic environment for the marginalised (well… anyone that isn’t a white male really) and to tackle these themes so brilliantly is something that I admired throughout.
Video games are generally violent, and this is no exception. The general rule of thumb though is there is glory in that violence. Particularly where some sort of retribution is being dished out. However, the difference here is the context in which the game places that violence. The game makes you see your murderous actions in a different way. And that was not only limited to Ellie and her victims, but also made me think about video game violence in general.
I felt there was a commentary on other games glorifying violent behaviour without requiring any thought or empathy on the part of the player, and even worse than that, you are having fun doing it. Just the fact that I have referred to them as victims alone is testament to how successful I felt the game was in this regard. It might just be the gaming hipster in me coming out though. I’m also going to play Sniper Elite 4 next so I am not saying it has had some profound lasting effect on how I will consume games in the future.
The game deployed a few emotional tricks to help me, the usually empathy-less polygon slayer, develop some gaming empathy, but the most affecting for me was a very simple one. During encounters with human enemies, if a body is discovered the person will call out something like, ‘Oh no, they got Shaun!’ and I would immediately think about Shaun, and his life outside of being a henchman.
The other big empathy punch, which I can probably talk about spoiler free, is when playing as Ellie you take out an unsuspecting woman who is playing a PS Vita (a great touch by the way). Then, later in the game (in a sort of flashback… let’s put it that way) you meet this character and she is given a name and you have this casual chat with her about her day and where she was going, which just made me feel absolutely terrible, knowing what was going to happen to her, and that I was a part of making that happen. And I even took a screenshot of what she was playing on Vita right next to her body. Shameful.
As for the gameplay, I agree with GC’s review, it is both perfectly enjoyable and not particularly innovative – although the innovation here really lies in the story that the game is telling, and how that story unfolds. For me, this sets a new bar in storytelling in a game that will be very difficult to match. There is also innovation in the world itself, which I found to be absolutely captivating throughout my playthrough. 25 hours later I was still marching through thick foliage in genuine amazement at how far above most other games it finds itself on this front.
Naughty Dog have managed to make even bland things like shop fronts, warehouses, and playgrounds, which are usually so cookie cutter in other games, have real personality and I felt this world was really lived in before the outbreak. I would wonder why all other games don’t do their stories like this, but the other thing that really shone through for me is that it must have taken real talent to make a game like this.
It is talent that allowed them to marry their narrative, their gameplay and the bold character choices into a thrilling package full of fun, memorable set pieces, and a genuinely interesting, and affecting story. Talent enabled that… and the huge budget and half a decade development time, which most other developers don’t have the luxury of.
Anyway, I have so much more that I could talk about but this is probably getting well beyond TL;DR territory already so I’ll just close by saying, if you got this far, thanks for reading and I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed the game as much as I did.
By reader Dan (grimwar85 – gamertag/PSN ID)
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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