The Last of Us Part II was easily one of the most anticipated games of 2020 and was welcomed with loving arms due to the state of the country and hype from the first installment. Weeks prior to the release, however, major spoilers and plot points were leaked to the public and it caused somewhat of a virtual riot in the form of review-bombing. While these angry online warriors didn’t actually play the game, their disappointment ended up being partially justified after the game was released and real reviews started going up.
I was “lucky” enough to avoid the spoilers and play the entirety of the game with an open mind. Honestly, I wish it was spoiled for me. The story is brutal and reminds you over and over again of the good times spent on Part 1 and makes you want to go back there, but not in a good way. From here on out, there are spoilers; you’ve been warned.
This plot is not for the faint of heart. If you were looking for a suspenseful, father-daughter adventure like in Part 1, then don’t play Part 2. The biggest thing that fans of Part 1 were upset about when the spoilers surfaced was the death of Joel within the first hour of this 20+ hour game. When it happened, it wasn’t heroic or satisfying but rather cruel in both how he physically died and how the game treated him as a used toy. For clarification, you don’t play as Joel at all unlike in Part 1 where he was the main protagonist of the game and he pretty much wasn’t even able to put up a fight against a group of former Fireflies who were now part of WLF. By the time Ellie reached him, was already down for the count. They did get to share one final look before Abby (we’ll get to her in a sec) delivered the fatal blow with a golf club. So right away the game pulled the rug up from under us and practically destroyed the relationship that Joel and Ellie had built in Part 1. Joel does resurface in flashbacks where we find out that he confessed to Ellie what he did to save her from the Fireflies and that it created a rift between the two for years. Just to put this into perspective, do you remember when Joel was cold to Ellie in the beginning of Part 1, but over time, grew to like her and used her to move on from his own daughter’s tragic death during the outbreak? Do you remember the cool giraffe scene in Part 1 where Joel and Ellie were both in awe together? Do you remember Ellie saving Joel from certain death by being brave and facing the Infected and dangerous people all by herself? Well, you can throw that out the fucking window because it doesn’t matter.
After Joel’s death, it looks like the game turned into an old-fashioned revenge story with Ellie, Dina, Jesse, and Tommy tearing through Seattle in search of Abby and they rest of her WLF crew. After tracking down and killing everyone besides Abby, the group decides it’s time to return to Jackson because Dina is pregnant with Jesse’s kid (of fucking course). Right before they head out, guess who shows up…yea it’s Abby. Abby easily puts a bullet in Jesse’s face and is threatening to shoot Tommy when she decides that she wants to tell her side of the story.
So we start off with a flashback from Abby and discover that her father was the surgeon that was going to fatally operate on Ellie and was then killed by Joel. This sent Abby on a revenge journey of her own to track down her father’s killer. After accomplishing that goal, she and the rest of her group decided to return to everyday life with no clue that Ellie and friends were looking to return the favor. The game proceeds to take you on an adventure with Abby and tries to humanize her and justify her killing of Joel. All while the developers gave her cartoonishly-ripped arms. I mean look at the size of these pythons:
Now I don’t have some inferiority complex where women have to be smaller than men but come on, that’s bodybuilder status in a world where supplies/food are limited. Did she loot a GNC store? Did she have an all spinach diet? Like I said, I don’t have any problem with this but the story hardly mentions any motivations as to why she set out to obtain such a physical appearance that would take constant work to maintain.
Anyway, Abby’s side of the story has her team up with a couple of outcasted Scars (main rival of the WLF) to survive and look for Owen, Abby’s ex-boyfriend. Throughout Abby’s side, you get to see the personalities of the rest of the group that were involved in Joel’s death and who will eventually die one way or another in the next 3 days. You also get to experience the all out war between the WLF and Scars in the later parts and I have to say that I didn’t care one bit about any of it. You knew the whole time that Abby wasn’t in any real danger since she shows up in the theater to confront Ellie later on.
Back at the theater, Tommy tries to fight back against
Popeye Abby and she easily slams him back to the ground where she shoots him (he survives) and Ellie can escape. Abby chases her down and the game basically forces you to beat the shit out of Ellie even though I would’ve rather just put the controller down. Then here comes pregnant Dina to save the day apparently, but she too succumbs to the pure strength of the mighty Abby. Abby is about to slit Dina’s throat when Lev (one of the Scars that was with Abby) tells her not to for some reason. I still don’t understand why as Lev had no involvement in their previous affairs and has no idea who these people (Ellie and Dina) are. Abby decides to spare the puny humans and warns them not to return to Seattle.
The story then skips some time (perhaps a year or two) and Ellie, Dina, and JJ (Dina’s kid) are living on a farm by themselves. Everything seems fine and happy but then Ellie decides to once again go after Abby as if she had any shot in the world of defeating that absolute tank. Abby and Lev went to Santa Monica to look for Fireflies when they were captured by a group called the Rattlers who practically brought back slavery. As Ellie made her way down to California, Abby and Lev tried to escape, got caught, and as a result were tied to a post on the beach and left for dead. Ellie found them and cut them down but wanted to fight Abby after realizing that the once heavyweight champ had slimmed down and was visibly exhausted. After a brutal payback beating in the shallow water, Ellie was on the verge of drowning Abby but then decided not to and let them escape. Ellie then returned to the farm to find Dina and JJ gone. And that’s it folks.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing you are supposed to take away here is that revenge only leads to more death and suffering. In my opinion, that lesson wasn’t enough to salvage the convoluted storytelling required to get the shock value from Joel’s death, Abby’s relation to all of this, and the open ending. I would have much rathered a larger time jump from Part 1 to Part 2 where Joel is either dead already or too old to fight so that his character development remains intact from Part 1. It seems silly to throw all that time spent emotionally investing yourself in Joel and Ellie in the dumpster and basically start new by introducing different characters around Ellie to then also discard them one way or another. It left me wondering why I was looking forward to this game in the first place. I didn’t have fun playing it necessarily, I didn’t like the Abby character at all, and after Joel’s death, every death afterwards felt inferior. On top of all the flaws in the story, the gameplay was almost copied and pasted from Part 1 and every quick-time event was just mashing the Square button. I have to give credit where credit is due, however, and say that the visuals are stunning and easily one of the best looking games on PS4 if not the best. Naughty Dog’s ability to build an environment filled with detail is unmatched. Oh yea, no multiplayer at launch…
The Last of Us Part II will undoubtably be added to the long list of games that was overhyped and underdelivered. Better luck next time.