Well, better late than never…
I bought The Last of Us 2 for $8 at a Best Buy sale about a week ago. I finished it in a couple of days. It took me 25-odd hours. (Don’t ask).
I confess that I partially join the collective indignation against it. Not because of the excessive number of recognition and awards it won, but simply because it outperformed other games like “Ghost of Tsushima,” “Final Fantasy VII remake,” “Doom Eternal,” “Hades,” and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”.
I do understand that it was a huge and ambitious project with more than 2,000 people working for years to complete it. That credit to the production team can never be taken away, especially with how smooth the game runs, and the astounding amount of art and literature references you find exploring. It’s practically a movie that you play (one of its great criticisms).
The comments I read when it first came out most were pretty trivial complaints, like the relationship between the two leading girls, the Christian and Jewish symbolisms, the two intimacy scenes, Abbey’s physique/lack of femininity just because she’s muscular (lol) and the 5 times you play guitar for 10 seconds. I didn’t pay much attention to them, but I can’t deny that at certain times it was forced. Since it didn’t affect me enough, I ignored it and continued playing.
Now, I can say that the game is unnecessarily long and repetitive. That there were no challenges/exploration beyond following the scripted route, including the “mini bosses” which were literally “dodge-hit” in increments of one, times three.
What really drained my motivation was the way they told the story. There are better proven storytelling formats. They just had to be adapted into interactive and dynamic gameplay.
The chronological order of a story can be cut into pieces and grouped together, so that the perspective you’re seeing at the time makes more sense. However, the pace and duration of these parts were disproportionate. They could have been reduced and interspersed to make them play out smoothly.
There came a time when I felt held hostage by the plot, I was practically forced to continue playing, even if I didn’t feel like it, just to finish it and witness the ending that they criticized so much. One of the worst feelings one can have as a gamer: Forcing yourself to play without actually enjoying it.
For me, the biggest problem started when they faced each other in the theater, then I had to pretty much play a different story as Abbie until I got to the climax again. For the record, it’s 100% necessary for you to have her perspective and be able to discredit Joel as the hero. But they cut the story right at the moment you were fully immersed in it, just for you to play the same mechanics, but in other areas with the plot from the Scars vs WLF (in order to humanize Abbey even more), and without being close to the thread they initially left hanging with Ellie at the theater. From there you play about 40% of the story elsewhere.
Another important matter is that I never felt intrigued, terrified, or even curious to know more; compared to the work of art that was the first game. I knew that if I continued forward, there would eventually be a door to open, and a cinematic would take me to another area to “explore.”
That last act in Santa Barbara I ran almost all of it simply because I didn’t feel like infiltrating another camp and killing dozens of soldiers, falling yet again into redundancy.
As a general comment, stories with plots of revenge, ending the cycle of violence, the absurdity of the human condition and survival have existed since ancient times, there is no need to change them, just find ways to retell them.
The decision that Joel made literally affected the whole world, we only saw the life consequences from the perspective of a handful of people. I think a lot of the gamers hate came from the attachment we had to Joel because of the whole adventure we had with him in the first game. Only to now be re-introduced to us as the villain who had a change of heart, softened, beaten and realizing the mistakes he’s made in his life. He saved Ellie to, in a way, to save himself (by killing a team of doctors, who are already in short supply in this world).
I was fascinated, truly loved the whole central conflict around Ellie’s life becoming meaningless by not letting her die so they could develop the vaccine to cure humanity. It’s a huge burden for a teenage girl that basically grew and matured as a person strictly through traumatic experiences in a post-apocalyptic world.
In my opinion, the main concept that originated the project was superb, same as the execution to bring it to life, but the final creation that we ended up playing didn’t do justice to what could have been.