Naughty Dog Delivers a Rock Solid Game, and a Mediocre Story
A strong opening, a middling beginning and a weak ending. That may dissuade you from reading the rest of the review, but we should really talk about what was missed in TLOU.
Should go without saying but just in case; SPOILER WARNING AHEAD!
Story – Stakes Set High, Payoff Never Comes
So unless you’ve somehow managed to miss the entire controversy surrounding The Last of Us 2, here’s the skinny. The story gets off to a very strong start, setting up some major consequences for the unfolding events.
We follow two main characters throughout the main story, Ellie and Abby. Ellie should need no introduction, one of the characters from the previous game, Ellie is trying to find purpose in the world. After her choice to help the human race was ripped away from her in the last game she struggles to figure it out.
Abby is one of the new characters in the game. Her story ends up coinciding with Ellie’s in a very tragic and violent way. See, Ellie is struggling to forgive Joel, she still appreciates him but blames him for most everything that went wrong. Which is completely fair, but then Joel is murdered at the hands of Abby in an extremely gruesome fashion.
What follows is a long trip of uneasy alliances, heading towards a looming destination. The whole game sets up this idea of Ellie being unable to move on from Joel, and plotting when to kill Abby.
What’s The Story?
Here’s the thing, the middle of the game is just nothing but exposition set up and reveals that are meant to be surprising. But it just feels like retreading old ground, which is unfortunate for how original and shocking the set up is.
Ellie and Abby just never quite feel like the pair that move the story forward. Despite the importance that they both play, they somehow feel unimportant in the middle of the game. There are definitely standout moments, don’t get me wrong, they’re just too far and inbetween.
Now, it’s time to talk about the ending, or where the game completely falls apart. When Abby and Ellie finally get to the end of the journey and find an escape, Ellie tells Abby she can’t leave. She can’t forgive Abby for what she did, and she needs to feel vindicated from Joel’s death.
Then, nothing. She tries to kill Abby, fails to follow through and just gives up and sits down in the water with nothing but her conscience. So nothing that was set up, the death, the revenge plot, the effects, the subtext, nothing pays off in the end.
Now look, I understand that Ellie learns to forgive. She somehow sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and when they show the flashback with Joel it leads you to believe that he’s the catalyst. Here’s my question, how in any way shape or form is Joel the catalyst for learning to forgive?
Because he asked Ellie to forgive him in a very roundabout way and she wanted to try? So her form of trying is failing to follow through on the vengeance? What happened to The Last of Us? What exactly is the fallout and consequences of this story if nothing happens? People died at the beginning for what reason?
I’m seriously asking at this point, what happened? Let’s compare this to the first game, the ending is dark, twisted, unexpected and completely unseen. It takes the player by surprise, it does something completely different that no other game had really done before.
Joel becomes a freaking monster to further a selfish end, Ellie learns to not be selfish I guess. Sounds like an ending for Uncharted, not The Last of Us 2.
Gameplay and Graphics – A Step Up for the Ages
Now, this is where The Last of Us 2 really solidifies itself as a game changing entry.
If you played the first game, the core basics are still there, but the fluidity and way that you interact with enemies and geometry is completely new.
Ellie interacts with the world in a way that no game has really accomplished before. She crawls through grass, under cars, clings to walls and corners and it just feels terrifying. Partially because of how slow it is and incredibly detailed in how you can go about it. You can interact with a lot more in the game than in the previous game.
Doesn’t hurt that this game is on a different level when it comes to graphical detail. There is love poured into every detail of the game. From seams in the wood, to cracks in the brick, the physics of individual blades of grass, facial animations etc.
There’s maybe only two other games that come close to the graphical detail present in this game. Even then, the motion capture work in The Last of Us 2 is the best in class since Halo 5.
The Last of Us 2 does a few things better than any other game in the action adventure genre. Gameplay is extremely fluid, the geometry is interactable in ways that most games can only dream of.
Unfortunate that Naughty Dog played the ending just so safe, especially in comparison to the incredible story of the first game. We just wish that Naughty Dog had found a way to maintain that momentum and carried through more than just the opening two hours of the game.
Whatever the case may be, the gameplay, graphics, half of the story, pacing and MoCap is second to none in the industry. You’ll cry, you’ll scream, but you might be more than a tad bit disappointed if you expect the same that we did.