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The Last of Us 2 review: Humanity at its lowest

13 mins read

In all honesty, did the ‘Last of Us’ feel like it needed a sequel? The answer may shock you. In my opinion, it’s complicated to say the least. No matter what side you supported Naughty Dog still heard your cries of emotion, from tears of joy to even the lonesome complainants and the unthinkable happened a sequel was in the works.

The ‘Last of Us 2’ was now in sole possession of newly appointed director Neil Druckmann. Druckmann was previously a writer and co-director on the series so he knew about the direction he wanted to take going forth, into the future. 

Image credit: Sony/Naughty Dog

The ‘Last of Us 2’ is a highly decorated sequel that feels very reminiscent of a blockbuster film. From elements, such as the aesthetic of the gameplay, or the even solemn cinematography.  When you first start the game you don’t hear an echo of sound. It’s clear to see that Naughty Dog is trying to lure you into a world devoid of all human connections. 

A contributor, Patrick Rooney, mentioned that the atmosphere feels reminiscent of the film I am Legend. Rooney explained to me that he was viewing a streamer and he noticed the mannequins lying in the decaying buildings while no one was in sight.  The discovery in Rooney’s eyes were truly a horrific spectacle to behold.

Another disturbing thing disturbing to witness was the massacre of dogs. “Seeing the simple and easy pattern of the slaughter of dogs was a tough pill to swallow,” Rooney said. I mean I do agree with the comment but at the same time Druckmann and Naughty Dog did go on fact and state that no animals were harmed in the making of the sequel.  

Image credit: Sony/Naughty Dog

In addition to the cosmetic and narrative choices Naughty Dog has made, the sequel picks up about five years after the events of the first game. The premise and narrative have switched from moral compass Joel to our humble, yet broken, Ellie. The role reversal was an interesting choice by the studio, but it was definitely a welcome one. 

I feel the first ‘Last of Us’ was Joel’s perspective. And the DLC from that title was the birth of Ellie’s journey beginning to take form, so it was only natural that the sequel would be from a more mature Ellie.

Joel is brought to life once again by Troy Baker. Baker still carries every ounce of heart from the original and ups his performance to an oscar worthy level. Then, of course, Ashley Johnson returns as Ellie. Johnson has a tough job of portraying Ellie at two significant portions of her life, but honestly, she nails it.

It’s clear to tell that the events of the first ‘Last of Us’ are still shackled and imprinted into both characters. However, for once, we are greeted with a mirage of peace and tranquility. Something that is a clear departure from the tone and apocalyptic world of the series. 

Image courtesy Sony/Naughty Dog

We finally see growth in Ellie over the span of the five-year time jump.  She is no longer the scared little girl Joel found in Boston. She’s tough, rugged, full of grit and always out to prove herself. Ellie toes the line of walking the straight and narrow in this sequel.

There was an instance of gameplay with her that had me to the point of not wanting to press the action button. I was conflicted with the choice. I had to make it, but to continue the campaign, I did it anyway. 

One interesting discovery was we even come to learn that she has fully come to terms with her sexuality.

Image courtesy Sony/Naughty Dog

The character of Ellie is fleshed to extreme length in the sequel and it’s only logical considering the second arch is her story. In fact, in this case the studio really did exceed expectations. 

I give a clap on the back to Naughty Dog because it felt like it took great efforts for the inclusion of our time period and everything going. In many ways the studio went above and beyond. I will go on record and say that ‘The Last of Us 2’ was very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

The only snippet of information I will dispel is that Ellie feels comfortable with her feelings, to the point of you as the player are almost a conduit for the picture the studio is trying to promote and embrace. 

Image courtesy Sony/Naughty Dog

The studio also has a few other characters that will appeal to certain groups.  However, to name them would be treading into spoiler territory. Due to the fact ‘The Last of Us 2’ is an experience that one should not have spoiled because the integrity of the title would be severely tainted. 

With that being said, ‘The Last Of Us 2’ thrives on simple yet tender moments. Especially at the beginning where you are partaking in a snowball fight. Of course then at the last minute the bubble of time pops around you from a heavy dose of reality hitting you in the face.

The tone of the game quickly changes from happy and upbeat to the cold dark, a mellow world we, as players, love to explore. Then of course spoilers come into effect and the story starts painting a one-sided picture. For those who have played, you will know what I mean.

Image courtesy Sony/Naughty Dog

For those who have never had any exposure to the series, I say that ‘The Last of Us’ is not designed and built like a game. In all honesty it is in the same vein of a motion picture film. The cast has undergone full-on motion capture to achieve every ounce of entirety and realism. 

It felt, for the longest time, that Naughty Dog was playing with me as a person and the choices I was about to make were going to feel real and have a dramatic impact going forward. Even after the completion of the game. I will say one aspect about ‘The Last of Us 2’ is that it feels raw and definitely full of emotion. 

In all truth, this game is going to split and divide the community as a whole. The verdict will be either you love it or hate it. The sense of a middle choice will never feel real or tangible.

“The story is about loss and hate, and revenge. However, it’s also a story about learning how far you are willing to go to achieve your passion for revenge and the justification of when enough is enough”  

Chris Miller

The quote my fellow content creator, Chris made is actually a deep symbolic representation of the theme of the ‘Last of Us 2.’ The sequel is trying to imprint a message of complexity and instill the process of how we, as a species, processes certain feelings and thoughts.

With that being said, the series veterans will probably be disappointed in the decision of a character’s certain fate. At first I was torn, but the more you invest in the narrative, the more chances of you getting a serious dose of juxtaposition.

In all honesty playing this game from beginning to end was an emotional roller-coaster ride. I did and experienced things as a player that would terrify me if I was part of this fictional dystopian universe. 

Image courtesy Sony/Naughty Dog

The very thought of thinking everyone is righteous or full of morality in a world such as The Last Of Us is hypocritical. Especially a reality that is a dark memory and remnant of what our beautiful Elysium used to be is an interesting sight. 

In many ways, Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog feel like they are trying to establish a commentary on the world and how our very conflict incites our destruction. A studio once known for a younger audience appeal has created a game that is more adult and story-driven. I felt that after the completion of the game.

The very essence of gaming has been changed forever in the time being It holds a position in the present. That being said, the very choice of making this magnum opus will have a lasting effect drifting into the future. 

So in all truth, the best way to process this ride and film of an experience is to play it yourself and then construct your own opinion. 

Final thought, The Last Of Us 2 is a game that will divide many but it’s also one that reveals an image of humanity at its lowest and that being said the debate is far from over. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

So if I had to put a grade on this title I would rank it as B+ (or give the game 4 out of 5 stars). The reasoning behind that choice is that it had a strong start, but it fell short through the middle. Then it felt confused at certain story beats, and the ending was powerful and it was real. 

The chapter came to a close and the tale of Ellie and Joel was put to rest for the time being. Now we wait for the studio to make their move. I feel that forcing a sequel would taint the lore of these two games that felt like a personal journey. 

It’s honestly sad to see it come to a close but all good things must end. Of course Naughty Dog should be proud of the work they achieved on this sequel because, as a player, the series was a pivotal one that gave me a new perspective on the value and symbolism of life.

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