It’s not often that such a well-crafted piece of art is obscenely controversial upon its release, but here we are. The sequel that thousands, maybe millions of people have been waiting nothing to do (unless you’re a selfish idiot going to Broadway). However, despite raving critic reviews, the audience reviews absolutely shit on the game, with some angry “fans” sending game developers and voice actors death threats for their roles in The Last of Us: Part Two.
There seems to be two main gripes with the game from these people that really have nothing to do with how good the game actually is. Their issues stem from either their attachment to a particular character’s story not playing out how they’d like or the game being too “political.” Now, you may think I sound a little bit like the Game of Thrones showrunners who defended their season 8 atrocity by claiming people were upset due to their expectations for beloved characters. The difference is that Game of Thrones had characters do complete 180s in terms of their story developments in ways that made no sense with the narrative they built up over the years, The Last of Us: Part Two, however, makes complete sense in terms of storytelling and is done brilliantly.
The part of it being too “political” is simply a way for someone to thinly veil their homophobia or transphobia. It would be like claiming Django Unchained is “too political” because it is a film featuring a black man and the issues he suffered because of his race, rather than treating it as a part of the story. Yes, there are homosexual and transgender characters in the game, but these are legitimate and well thought out elements of the story, not some imagined pandering to liberal opinion.
The story that The Last of Us: Part Two delivers is nothing short of incredible. For me, it offers some of my favorite aspects in a story: strong and tangible character growth, a truly long and grueling journey for the protagonist and clever manipulation of time within the story (in this case via playable flashbacks, some of which are very long and rich).
As with all Naughty Dog games, the voice acting is nothing short of incredible. The emotionally perfect lines, whether funny or distraught, are absolutely fantastic combined with the top-notch visuals. You will literally feel like you are playing an hours-long film. I’m having trouble thinking of other video games that come close to this level of being considered an interactive film. The only ones in the same ballpark as Last of Us: Part Two that come to mind for me are obviously the first Last of Us, as well as Uncharted 2 and the Quantic Dream games (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human).
Aside from the visuals, acting and story, the gameplay itself is phenomenal. The game is absolutely terrifying (especially if you play on a high difficulty with headphones at night like I did). The stealth aspect and multitude of different ways you can go about dealing with groups of enemies allows for several different styles of play. The animations are absolutely brutal and killing infected is shockingly satisfying, provided you have enough ammo or melee weapons to do so.
Like everything else, no matter how well-made something is, not everyone is going to enjoy it and that’s okay. If the story just isn’t your cup of tea, then that’s certainly fair. But even if you aren’t enamored with the game’s plot, the actors’ delivery, graphics, gameplay and overall depth of The Last of Us: Part Two is still exceptional enough to justify spending a chunk of your quarantine time on.