By Patrick Brady, Staff Writer
“The Last of Us Part II” was released on PS4 this summer. It’s a sequel to “The Last of Us” – a phenomenal, story-centered video game, developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
“The Last of Us” revolved around Joel, a hot-tempered, dismissive man, voiced by Troy Baker, who tries to transport an early teenaged Ellie, voiced by Ashley Johnson, across the post-pandemic, hostile world. Through their travels, they develop a father-daughter bond with one another.
Whereas, the story of the second game centered upon a late-teenaged Ellie and her pursuit against the people who committed an atrocious act against someone in her life.
While the main theme of “The Last of Us” was letting go of the past, the sequel focuses on brutal revenge.
Before the game was even released, some of the main story campaign details were leaked online. These leaks upset many beloved fans, not only due to the timing – as the game was being delayed – but also the gruesome content.
As a result, the gaming community lashed out against Naughty Dog, and demanded that it be released sooner than intended. Reluctantly, the studio listened, and a month later, the game came out.
Despite hearing about the supposed leaks and controversy surrounding the game beforehand, I decided to play through it myself. After all, “The Last of Us” was – and still is – my favorite game of all time.
The second game was better than I anticipated, but it did not live up to the quality of the first one.
As far as gameplay went, the camera was smooth and locked at a solid 30FPS. There were significant changes made to the gameplay mechanics, which added to the immersion.
For instance, a dodging mechanism was added, which helped in combat with other enemies. Also, certain characters could retrieve arrows and knife enemies without losing the resources. These new elements made the game feel a lot more cinematic.
There were also a lot more resources scattered throughout the world, which made it easy and quicker to stock up on the inventory. Although, this did slightly take away from the immersion of the game, since the resources did make it easy to defeat enemies in a timely fashion.
Along with the new gameplay mechanics, the graphics were outstanding. Not only were they significantly better than the first game, but they looked sort of next generation. It was surprising how the developers were able to pack so much graphical fidelity and detail into the base PS4 system.
But the story itself ruined a lot of the game’s cinematic experience for me. Rather than focusing on character development, the story focuses on getting revenge in the bloodiest ways possible.
In the first game, players could empathize with the characters, and therefore justify their necessary acts of violence. But in the second game, the characters weren’t fleshed out and almost always seemed one-dimensional.
Therefore, as a player, it was hard to relate to them on a personal level. And their violent acts felt forced, rather than natural.
In particular, the player almost always felt sorry for Ellie in the first game. Whereas, in the second game, her motives behind the violence were over-the-top, and completely went against her character arc.
Even though “The Last of Us” had some incredibly violent scenes, it was always relevant to the story. And while Joel was almost always mutilating zombies or thugs, it was always to protect Ellie, who he considered a “daughter.”
Violence doesn’t scare away players if it furthers the plot. But mindless and irrelevant violence from beloved characters can become frustrating if it doesn’t further the story.
At the end of the day, “The Last of Us Part II” felt more like fan-fiction, rather than a sequel. While the gameplay was fun and innovative, the story relied too heavily on violence and shock value.
The game felt like a bad attempt at reviving a long, forgotten franchise.