Last of Us Part II: Regeneration through Violence

22 Jun

It has been seven years, since the Last of Us came out, and times have changed, but my curiosity toward finding out every piece of information of development was always in the back of my mind. Dreaming about scenes of the future game were always in my head, and the first game got me through dark times. It’s hard to see so much hatred for the Last of Us, due to controversy with Youtubers and copyright strikes, the review is not based around the politics of Naughty Dogg. The game is what I was waiting for. During the week, it has been severely overcast in Richmond Virginia. It seems to set the stage for when I am going to play the Last of Us 2. The haunted feeling of having to dream of the game for seven years is coming to a close. The waiting has been years in the making.  

            What should be said that hasn’t already been said in reviews. What has to be said is the voracious anger replaced by the love of the first game. Four years later, Ellie and Joel live in Jackson, and they have built a life together. The first hour and a half of the game cuts back and forth between Ellie and the secondary character, Abby, who are intertwined from the first game, through different series of events. Abby’s father was the doctor who Joel stabbed as he took her out of St. Mary’s Hospital. Abby murders Joel out of cold blood, but Ellie has no idea how or why Joel is killed. What then begins is Ellie and Abby’s journey through different days, as each section for the characters are named after the same day, Seattle Day 1, which is confusing at first, because the stakes are raised. Ellie is chasing after Tommy, following his bread crumbs of violence against the WLF. As Maria says to Ellie, “Bring my dumb ass husband home in one piece.”

            Ellie’s journey comprises the first three days, as she moves through a hostile world, trying to make sense of her complicated history with Joel through flashbacks. The flashbacks, which is called in literary terms, in medias res, or in English, into the middle, without preamble. Many youtube reviewers don’t know about this term, and most consumers of entertainment only like linear stories. The flashbacks are rather invigorating due to the constrast of the dark overtones. (This is also seen with Abby’s journey as this technique shows the similarities and differences between the characters). What Ellie has wandered into is a city that is about to erupt in a civil war between the Washington Liberation Front, a private militia based in Seattle, and the Seraphites, or SCARS (due to the scars made to there faces) a group of religious fanatics who use bows and arrows and worship a woman who made a religion after Outbreak Day occurred. 

            Abby, who is muscular and built, training with the Washington Liberation Front, after the Fireflies are destroyed by Joel’s hand, Abby and her boyfriend Owen, who Abby lusts over “finding a lead” toward Joel and Owen says, “It’s this isn’t it?” which if they find Joel, it will only mean Joel’s death. The distinction is that Abby must face up to the facts that most of the characters despise Abby, except for Manny, after she is saved by two Apostate Seraphites, Lev and Yara, and she starts to overcome her own “prejudice” toward the Scars, and then stakes her entire life to help Yara after she is hurt. The two character intertwine at the end, and it is certainly a game that took from the “regeneration through violence” themes in most literary textbooks.

            The themes of fanatical hatred course through all 34 hours of the game, keeps the quiet moments filled with tension as you explore for secrets, weapons, and parts to upgrade your weapons. Fanatical hatred is inhabited in every character, as Ellie becomes less of the “good guy” and more into the “anti-hero” and that’s a good thing. A society is disarray is not going to understand how people feel and what they believe after that is “inconsequential.” The textbook “Regeneration through Violence” by Richard Slotkin seems to be the guiding inspiration for the game, and what loss and grief can do to rational people.   

            The Pros: Stunning gameplay, voice acting, harrowing story, and the risqué quality of the nonlinear format. (FYI, open world games are not my forte, but Naughty Dogg has always been good at internalizing all the tropes of a genre, making them a “trendiest trend setter” but not the originator, and that’s okay). The upside is the relationships that the characters have, which show how obsession can drive people to the brink of death. A lot of the game can be very funny in places where it didn’t intend to be, adding a lightness to the overall weight of the drama in tow. It’s fun, exhausting, so be sure to play it in bursts, if you can. The safe combination parts were fun and adds more depth to moving the safety lock. If you put the sound on a bose system, you will hear everything. It’s that immersive. 

            Con: They should have made the death of Joel apart of the flashback as she has to become the grizzled “anti-hero,” much like Joel. Another con is the monster reveal, that didn’t seem to let the player know what it was going to be through the Artifact hints, but after you see Alien, you know how someone can craft a truly ingenuous species with originality. The monster, which MckFireandIce labeled it the “rat king” which almost to some extent does look as though it’s a rat, but it seems to me like people that were pooled in a collective mass, or a blob, that couldn’t escape when the hospital was filled with “infected.” It’s a tank of a creature that has to be destroyed with every last bullet and bomb. It almost feels like a boss battle out of the Resident Evil series, and while it is fun, the first impressions of it feels slightly off for the Last of Us part II.  

            Opinion: The whole “gay relationship” with Ellie and Dinah doesn’t surprise me, because I’m oblivious to it, but again, this is 2020, much of the relationship is “human” when it doesn’t concern the love scene. My opinion is that the love scene was too fast, which did take people off guard, and in all due respect, all I said was, “Hasn’t anybody at Naughty Dogg watched a porno?” Here’s what most people will say when it comes to something original, “If the structure of the work was in a book or television show, it would be accepted.” As a writer of fiction myself, that’s completely untrue. Anything new is immediately mislabeled once it comes out. I have done it, and nobody liked it when I did it, so Naughty Dogg must feel the same criticism too. What I do think is contentious, is the ending, because it will sell you the happy ending, but it feels very dreamlike and it doesn’t really belong with Ellie’s world. The ending could have been differently. If she had the happy ending but woke up, and ended the fight with Abby after she was left, it could have felt like a good pay off.

            Final Opinion: The game is definitely a must play for any fan of the original, and it is a dark and very angry game, but it is more prevalent with the times we are facing in the pandemic of Covid-19. I am excited over what they do next with the very ambiguous ending.

            Score: 8/10       

Adendum (July 27th 2020): After upon further speculation, there are some cases as to why this game is a ten out of ten, and while my 8 still stands, there is very good reasons for giving this a ten out of ten. After such careful consideration, that is the first passing review, but a video here gives a perfect reason as to why Last of Us Part 2 deserves a ten out of ten.

Otherwise, I have given this a ten out of ten on my Metacritic score, after some careful thoughts, because it meant to condense what I thought into a shortened view. What is important is that I don’t have the same impressions of the Rat King as before, but it can be frustrating on the first play-through, but the controversy surrounding Metacritic made me consider the score, because the review bombs weren’t giving it the chance to help them like the game based on biased viewpoints of people who didn’t play the game. Apparently there are more features in the game that can help make it easier to play, like having a slow motion button that’s very reminiscent of Days Gone slow motion zoom. What can be said is that we must consider the context of the game before judging something based on the merits of a leak, and not the game itself. I have been on the end of people’s blade when it came to being misinterpreted by readers, and it does make the review harder to consider honest and people thinking “you are a shill.” Trust me, I haven’t been paid for this review, and anyone who wants to suggest that, can go join the lemmings off a cliff.

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