“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.” -unknown
I spoke of Part I when I reviewed it seven long years ago as my new baby, me the father, eagerly awaiting its arrival. Now fast forward to the dogshit that is 2020 and its little sister has arrived with more fervor and angst than her big brother could ever hope to muster. And damn if she isn’t one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It says a lot that such a dark, despairing game like this can bring a much needed break from the relentlessness that is our plagued reality. Anyway, she’s here and she is something else.
I want to start this off by shouting from the rooftops about how amazing Naughty Dog is and the peerless work they produce time and time again. From the impeccable Uncharted series with all its levity, action, and engaging gameplay to the harrowing, macabre nature of The Last of Us now with two games unleashed. They are, in my most humblest of opinions, the best at what they do.
Part I became my favorite game of all time and now Part II is giving it a run for its money. I can’t think of a single complaint to hurl at this game. It is a polished gem meant to challenge in more ways than one those who dare take it on. The story is supposed to leave you conflicted with heroes blending with villains creating a blur of imperfect beings just trying to navigate this deteriorating world where the person with the biggest stick survives. With Part I it was very much a good guys and bad guys scenario. Now, things have become murky with questionable, downright deplorable choices being made on all sides of a quandary not one person can honestly claim any kind of amnesty. Blood is strewn about by the gallons and no one is clean of it. This is the true complexity and ultimately its beauty of Part II acting more as a surveyor than participant. By the end it’s debatable who if anyone is in the right. I would strongly argue no one is. There are no winners here, no righteous in the face of evil, just complicated turmoil at its most volatile.
As intense as Part I is, it’s a lullaby compared to its successor. I think more than any game I’ve played the saying “go for broke” is a truly apt description of all that Part II is, what it strives for and what it’s trying to convey and comment on in the face of our very rocky reality currently barreling down on us. It is unforgiving to its characters and to its players leaving nothing left in the tank. They went for broke and it paid off in a way I’ve never experienced with a game before. In moments simultaneously I would feel remorse and excitement. I would anticipate and dread what was next and I couldn’t get enough of it. I hate the infected, I hate facing them in all their terror and yet I find such a thrill in defeating them. And to do so with such brutality I’ll admit is quite satisfying. I become anxious when I know between Ellie and the next accomplishment is a hoard of both living and infected all bloodthirsty and ravenous. I also take the same trial on with a certain amount of glee, welcoming all challengers.
This game is a concoction of trepidation and earnestness constantly tearing at me making me wonder why I’m putting myself through this and answering with a firm, “Because I have to, I want to, despite my apprehension I need to face this thing.” Maybe this is all a bit over dramatic speaking about a videogame in such a critical way but I can only speak on my experience. When I say Naughty Dog put me through the wringer I can’t overstate it enough, I was changed by the end of the laborious forty hours it took for me to defeat this beast. And you know what? I enjoyed every bit of it, even when I didn’t. That might be nonsensical but there it is and I’m sticking to it.
When Part I ends we are left wondering what has happened to our weary heroes, fresh from tragedy and travel. As Part II carries on we learn that tensions between Joel and Ellie have only grown, Ellie’s suspicions of Joel’s actions in the Seattle hospital having never wavered. She reaches a point where it’s all known but never spoken of and she looks to Joel to finally reveal his truth to her, Joel never taking such a step. This naturally infuriates Ellie bringing into question her loyalty to Joel, wondering if he deserves anything but her cold silence. As life trudges forward the safe haven of Jackson becomes no match for the harsh forces surrounding this tranquil oasis. As they venture out on daily missions to check perimeters and search for supplies the history of Joel and Ellie comes back to haunt them in a way that turns Ellie into a one track killing machine absolutely hell bent on vengeance, no matter the cost. The saying goes, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” In this case two just won’t cut it. This trek into pain and loss will require a mass grave.
The genius of this game, what really stands out about it is the unbiased viewpoint you must take as you embody roles found on both sides of such a contentious state of affairs. You further your relationship with Ellie, learning of her love and disdain for things, both evoking extreme violence in her should the situation call for it. You see that past occurrences still plague her, they still affect her relationships with everyone around her, for better or worse. As her journey reaches a point of maximum immersion and confrontation the story stops only to view the same things from an entirely different perspective. The once thought villain, the abhorrent Abby is shown to be anything but a product of her environment complete with her own tragedies much the same as Ellie. In fact one of the greatest misfortunes of their final encounter is that by the time we reach that peak of violence and loss, we now know they aren’t so different. They both have lost someone special leaving them entangled in a directionless, harmful path of blind hatred leaving nothing but vulnerable human beings facing their decisions of unforgivable, atrocious, copious amounts of bloodlust. They set out to right the wrongs committed against them only to find that at the end of such a perilous journey is emptiness, a kind of pain all its own.
Say what you will of either Ellie or Abby, they embark on journeys although misguided are nevertheless relatable to anyone who has ever loved and faced their loss. By game’s end I didn’t hate Abby anymore, I felt for her. I also felt for Ellie, grappling with this hideous, insatiable desire to find the unknowable catharsis she desperately yearns for through blind vengeance. There was never going to be a light at the end of such a dark tunnel, no gold at the end of the rainbow. It was only ever going to end in utter, indiscernible chaos.
This game left me conflicted, feeling for the once thought remorseless villains. I wanted revenge just like the heroine of this story. I wanted it to end as it tore me apart watching beloved characters die in horrifying fashion. It did everything and beyond what I could have ever hoped for in a game. In a period of forty hours spread out over eleven days I was in a flux of emotions ranging from anger, complete shock and sadness to triumph and completion. I wanted more, I wanted it to end and I was left with a bittersweet feeling when it finally did provide me mercy and closed out this particular chapter of such a harrowing chronicle. I am a lover of cinema and The Last of Us Part II is the most cinematically oriented game I have ever experienced and I am grateful for having the experience of ripping through it. The thought of a Part III right now is nothing short of exhausting to consider but given time I will cautiously but optimistically embrace the next part of such a fully realized, fully immersive story of love, loss, and blood soaked retribution. Game of the year.
Rated M For: Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language and use of drugs
Approximate Game Time: My personal time was 39hrs and 37mins. Game time ranges from about 25 hours to 42 hours.
Game Type: Horror, Survival, action, adventure
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Characters: Development, realism, and relatability: 5/ Visuals: 5/ Replay Value: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls!
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the game trailer below:
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