The Last of Us Part 2: Those Who Hate It vs. Those Who Love It
The Last of Us Part 2: Hate It / Love It point of view
The Last of Us Part 2 basically cleaned house at the VGA’s and continues to clean up awards from various media outlets, and as expected it has become a point of contention among those who liked or loved the game and those who disliked or even hated it. Now there are fan wars going on with those praising it for winning and those screaming the show is rigged and paid off.
So this article / video is pretty much a summarization of what both sides seem to feel about the game, as those who love it often discuss the reason why they love it, whereas those who hate it rarely give points of view. So I will be reenacting the point of view of those who hate it, afterward I’ll reenact the point of view of those who love it, and then I’ll finish up with my point of view of the game. Now you can’t discuss this game without mentioning spoilers so please be aware that there are spoilers inside this article, so if you haven’t played The Last of Us Part 2, and want to continue to remain spoiler-free, you might not want to read this until after you’ve played the game.
Here are the top 5 reasons why “I” (gamers) hated the Last of Us Part II. (use to be Top 6)
1. I wanted and expected the game to be a continuation of Joel and Ellie’s adventure, and less than an hour in I realized that’s not what’s being offered here. Millions came into this game expecting this game to be a continuation from where the first game left off. Fans were excited to continue the journey of Joel and Ellie after the brilliant adventure of the first game, and all excitement for this continuation is throw out the window and for some fans, it’s almost a slap to the face or worse spitting in their face, as this game is nothing of the sort. To make matters even more damaging to them is that you do get these moments, but only in flashbacks, and it shows what the game could and should have been in their eyes only to bring you back into the grim reality that the flashbacks are moments teasing you of the story you wanted, but will never have. Joel is brutally murdered at the beginning of the game. This ties back into the prior topic, on this not being the continuation of the story you wanted, but seeing the act happen on screen is both sad and infuriating, not only because of how unnecessarily brutal it is, but also because this is not the way the main character and hero of the last game is supposed to go out. The death wasn’t earned, there was no build-up to it, and as a result, it just feels out of place and an attempt to be dramatic for the sake of shock value.
2. The story SUCKS. There’s no real story here or journey here especially compared to the first game, there’s no real character development for the cast outside of Ellie and Abby, again who we hate, and maybe their love interest, and overall the game doesn’t say anything it’s just mission to mission, kill to kill. The first game was all about the relationship between Ellie and Joel and the people who helped them along the way, so dropping that for a tale of revenge is seen as an inferior story, especially when the only real character development is spent on Abby, one last time we hate her.
3. Abby is an awful character and you’re forced to play as her. You hate Abby for killing Joel, you hate Abby for “being a cheater”, you hate Abby for being a buff looking gender-neutral woman, and you hate this game because they make you play as Abby who once again you hate if you didn’t realize that by now. Abby is an unlikeable character, so has no emotional range, you don’t feel anything for her, she’s just there. And After killing Joel, you don’t even want to finish the game once you realize that you have another 10+ hours to go in order to beat the story that you have to complete as Abby.
4. The game is all over the place and the pacing is bad. The game isn’t coherent at all, and it’s all over the place story-wise. It’s also jarring to play through 10+ hours as Ellie to then have to basically start overplaying another 10+ hours as Abby. Although the campaigns are different, it’s still over 20 hours of the same fundamental gameplay, and because of that the pacing is off and the game starts to drag and feels longer than it should have been. So having a weak story and stretching out for 20+ hours just makes the game bad, for a game / franchise that thrives on its story.
5. The ending was terrible. We lost Joel, so at least we get to see Ellie come out on top and get revenge right…Wrong. Not even the most basic win was given to gamers, which was the final nail in the coffin. After this grueling dark journey Ellie ends up with nothing, losing her “wife”, the baby she loves, and even her ability to play music the one thing that continues to connect her with Joel, and we’re supposed to be okay with that. Meanwhile, Abby gets to continue surviving, and possibly even found the group of Fireflies she was looking for potentially living a decent life again. Yeah, the game is trash.
So there you have those are the 5 reasons why some people hate The Last of Us Part 2, and I can clearly see those points and understand why people dislike or even hate the game, and they’re not wrong for how they feel about it. But let’s dive into the same reasons as to why people love The Last of Us Part 2.
1. I wanted and expected the game to be a continuation of Joel and Ellie’s adventure, and less than an hour in I realized that’s not what’s being offered here, but I was willing to stick with the story and see where it goes anyway. This is one area that both parties can at least initially come to an agreement, they both wanted to see more Ellie and Joel, however, after Joel is killed players have to make a mental decision on how to emotionally deal with this. Am I going to remain unconsciously outraged at this game, or am I going to take a moment and reset my emotions to continue to play this game as a blank canvas? Those who choose to no let go of the internal outrage I find often hate the game, whereas, those who do tend to enjoy the game. Joel’s death while traumatic, didn’t shape your overall experience of enjoyment for the game.
2. The story doesn’t suck, it’s a story about revenge. Those who enjoy the story feel as if they see it for what it is, a story about revenge, as they still went into the game expecting this to be a continuation of Joel and Ellie, however, after Joel’s death they remember what Naughty Dog forwarded them about this being a story of revenge, and after changing their mindset on what to expect over the next 20+ hours, they were able to enjoy the story.
3. I simply didn’t hate Abby. Once fans progressed through her campaign they didn’t hold hate for Abby anymore. We see her at the beginning of the game as an enemy and someone we want to kill to get revenge for Joel, but as we go through her story we start to see that her point of view is that of someone who sees Joel as the enemy, and in her eyes she’s right. Let’s take a more realistic approach, if the entire world was dying of cancer, and your parents were the physicians capable of making the cure for billions of people around the world at the cost of one life, and a random man who brought the cure in the form of a girl killed them and plenty of your friends and their family members and you had the opportunity to get revenge clean and free, would you not seek it. And that’s the understanding that gamers who like the game are able to get even if they wouldn’t commit the act of killing Joel, they understand Abby and why she did it, which turns the hate for her, into at worse an, "I still don’t like you but I understand your point of view", up to pitying her and feeling bad that she’s now in a cycle of death that she thought she was ended by killing the man who killed her father.
4. The game was a bit long, but I still enjoyed it. I think the length of the game is one area where fans on both sides can agree. The game is a tad long especially compared to what they expected which was around 12 - 16 hours and not over 20 hours. But once again where opinions differ is that if you’re enjoying the game and it’s 20+ hours then it’s like the more the better, and for those fans, it wasn’t an issue, because people play multiplayer games, RPGs, and sandbox games for hundreds of hours often times doing similar game to game moments, so why should The Last of Us Part 2 be knocked for giving you over 20 hours of gameplay.
5. The ending isn’t the ending I may have wanted, but that’s okay, although I at least wish Ellie ended up with something. I think all fans can agree they wish Ellie at least came out with some kind of win, whether that was to return home to her family or something. But the controversial decision to let Abby live doesn’t make the ending terrible to them or the game trash.
And those are the counter-arguments from the side of fans who loved the game compared to those who hated it, and I can clearly see those points as well, so I guess I’ll dive into my point of view of The Last of Us Part 2 and what I feel Naughty Dog could have done differently to make the game significantly less divisive and a critical hit among the vast majority of fans.
Now like everyone else I came into the game expecting to get a continuation of Joel and Ellie. I remained spoiler-free so I knew nothing about the alleged leaks, and still don’t know anything about them to this day. I was ready for a 10 - 12 hour adventure with them front and center, but as soon I as played as Abby for the first time I immediately sensed something was up, and I jumped off the cliff at the very beginning to get 2 deaths in just in case. I don’t know what made me feel that way (possibly the eerie music and the fact she was randomly in the mountains as if she was sneaking into the city, which would have been a cool set-piece if things happened there). But upon getting to Joel’s death, I felt anger and sadness, but not for Joel, because he was dead at that point, but the fact that Ellie had to see it and watch helplessly. And I feel that’s truly what rubbed gamers who hated this moment the wrong way. Not only is Ellie helpless to do anything to stop someone she loves regardless of their current issue, but so is the player. You are helpless to do anything to save a character you helped survive in the last game only to have him murdered in front of you. And as I said earlier it’s at this moment that you either continue the game in internal frustration or reset your emotional compass and so I reset my emotional compass and from that point on I realized how daring and just how amazing this game is.
And I know the people who still hate the game have just threw their arms up in disgust and some of you probably stopped reading, but hear me out, and I’ll explain why I enjoyed the game but also why I agree with you on there being choices made with this game that could and should have been done differently.
So let’s start with the biggest point of contention, the story. The Last of Us Part 2 isn’t a bad story, the problem is it’s not an overarching story based around a journey like the first game, it’s a story based around the moment, and what makes the story so jarring and divisive to gamers is the formate the story is told, which is using a “non-linear narrative”. I’d say that 99% of the people who bought the game have no clue what a non-linear narrative is or heard of it before this article, but looking at the name I’m sure you can guess what it is. It’s a story that is not told in a linear fashion, meaning the story can and often does jump from one point to another, and back, then to another, and so on. I can promise you gamers who don’t like this story / style of writing, don’t read a lot of varied creative writing material, because it’s somewhat of a common writing style especially in thrillers (The Last of Us Part 2) and mystery writing, and if you are not used to this style of writing I can completely understand how it can instantly be a turnoff, because most of our minds are mentally program to follow things in sequence so we logically understand what happens next, but The Last of Us Part 2 goes completely against how our minds work. This forces us to give up control and forces us to have an even greater amount fo suspension of disbelief than most people are naturally inclined to give because we don’t like being forced to go somewhere we don’t want to go, and when you add that this is also not the story you’re wanting to be told to you it’s an instant clash for many people, and as a result, they can only summarize that this sucks. But again the story doesn’t suck in my opinion it’s just that games, for the most part, have spent every generation telling us linear stories, point A to point B, ABC, and 123 stories, so when you get a game that says point A to F back to A then C, ABZCDY, or some other combination it doesn’t sit well and can cause genuine frustration.
I somewhat felt for Abby. Abby is a flawed character, and IMO a lot like Joel, which is what I assume Naughty Dog was aiming for, but it just didn’t come across as well as they might have hoped due to the nonlinear story. But for the most part, Abby is simply doing what she feels is right. Joel murdered her father, a man she admired and loved, and that many others did as well, who could have at least extracted a cure that with time could have saved the world, but Joel killed him, an action that many people took when they played the first game. As much as Abby’s campaign is a life lesson for Abby it’s also one for the player as Joel, in the sense that your actions can come back to harm you. I replayed the first game again to get refreshed, and you soon realize that Joel wasn’t a good person at all during the events of the outbreak. After he lost Sarah he became hardened, and understandably so, but you look at how he ended up, and you understand that Joel has enemies, possibly hundreds, and he was going to have to atone for his crimes. Joel tortured people, so much to the point his brother Tommy wanted nothing to do with him, he’s alluded to killing innocent people by telling Ellie there’s no such thing as an innocent person possibly another reason Tommy left Joel, and he killed the doctor unnecessary out of anger to save Ellie as well as Marlene, someone Ellie also looked up to. We see Joel go through somewhat of a redemption journey as he becomes a fatherly figure towards Ellie, but that doesn’t take away from all the death he has committed, and the loved ones of those people he’s killed have every right to seek revenge in this lawless world. And in character fall apart with her poorly conceived relationship with Owen and while infidelity is a bit harsher, it’s reminiscent of the scene in the first game where Ellie nearly pleads with Joel to not leave her as he’s the only person left who’s stayed with her and that she loves telling him she’s not his daughter, and he flat-out tells her’s no she’s not and walks on her. He makes amends, and Abby tries to an extent, but the key point I’m making with this is they are both flawed characters, who in the end try to do the right thing or what they feel is the right thing. Not to mention that Abby’s campaign while not better, is the more entertaining in my opinion as far as set pieces and wow moments go.
Now that we have that out of the way my final thoughts on the game are the things I would change as they tie into the pacing and ending which would have been the final two points.
First and foremost I feel that Neil Druckmann should have stuck with a linear story-arc, it’s traditional, it’s safe, and it’s expected, but it works. As creators and artist, we want our creations to be a 100% expression of what we feel it should be, and I agree with; HOWEVER, when you’re in a medium where you’re selling the art you create as entertainment you have a small obligation to your fanbase to meet them at least some of the way, and going with a nonlinear narrative off top eliminated the enjoyment many fans would have been able to have otherwise with the game.
I personally feel 2 hours of both Abby’s and Ellie’s campaign should have been cut and instead combined along with all the little moments you have with Ellie and Joel in order to make a quick 5 - 6 hour campaign for Joel which would have given fans what they wanted, then it should have immediately cut to Abby’s campaign leaving out the details of what’s going on, so people could simply get to know and understand Abby without the backlash, and finally cut at the theater scene and go back to Ellie’s campaign. This would technically still be a non-linear narrative, but it would be significantly easier for fans to follow, and it wouldn’t cause nearly as much backlash within the first hour of the game. Doing this will also somewhat fix the pacing issue as it will trim the small amount of fat from Abby’s and Ellie’s campaigns, making the pacing less noticeable as you go through 4 campaigns in the game over 20 hours instead of just 2. I say 4 because the final chance I feel should have you play the last mission in California as Tommy and not Ellie, let Ellie stay with Dina and their baby allowing her to have a small win after this struggle, and have Tommy leave alone to go after the lead he has on Abby, and his story can play out where he couldn’t let it go and ends up losing everything with only Ellie being there for him as he ends up infected (since you know Ellie got herself bit to free herself from the tree trap). I can’t see anyone having an issue with the story unfolding in this way, outside of people who truly just want to see the game crash and burn, and I feel the game would have still gone over critically and possibly even better than it has as it’s still a dark, brave, but more inviting story instead of feeling grim from beginning to end.
So I have things that I felt they could have done differently, but that’s the creative writer in myself talking and it doesn’t take away from what was delivered, and what was delivered was a brave and daring game that test the limits of players emotional responses and maturity for those who stick with it, and as such it is a divisive game because not everyone wants to be emotionally drained by dark subject matter, and not everyone wants to play games with this type of writing style or shock factor to beloved characters. So I understand both sides especially when it comes to the story.
But while the story of The Last of Us Part 2 will always be subjective, what isn’t is that this game is a Master Class Lesson in every other aspect. The graphics of the game especially on base PS4 are Master Class, the Acting and Cast are Master Class, the Audio design is Master Class, the Gameplay and Physics are Master Class, the Accessibility of the game is Master Class, the moments and battles such as Joel’s death, the infect hordes, the car chase, the museum, Ellie and the hotel flashback, Abby’s entire time on the island, Abby and the bridge, Abby and the hotel, Abby and the car chase, Abby burning Island, Rat King, and Ellie California are all Master Class. And that’s exactly why The Last of Us Part 2 is not only a game I enjoyed from beginning to end, it’s also my Game of the Year 2020.
My advice for those who are on a full on toxic hate campaign regarding The Last of Us Part 2 is to simply let it go and move on because the game is going to continue to win plenty of awards because critically it deserves it. It's winning technical awards because it's a technical achievement. It's winning best narrative because Naughty Dog has set such a high bar on narrative and believable characters in video games that even if they have a slight misstep (not saying this is a misstep) they story and characterizations are still going to be A-Class amongst games because they are in a class of their own already. Let go of the toxicity, let the game do its thing because in a few months we'll be looking for early GOTY 2021 contenders, and stop harassing the people who worked on the game. It's okay to not like the game, but spending your time and energy on constantly patrolling for places to hate the game, or making merchandise to bash said company to pander to hate that you build up for your audiences, just isn't healthy for your personal well-being. To Naughty Dog congratulations on trying to move the medium forward even if the game isn't perfect and divisive. This will lead the way for more mature and thought-provoking experiences in gaming.