Due to the games recent and highly controversial release, I will be avoiding discussing the controversy in-depth, to spare readers from spoilers, at a later date I will offer my opinion on the narrative choice made by Naughty Dog, but for now, on with the review!
Pushing the Limits of the PS4.
The Last of Us 2 is a beautiful game, that rivals Red Dead Redemption 2 in what it has managed to coax out of a console in its twilight years, with very few games yet to release on the PS4 and only one more remaining major exclusive before Sony dedicates itself to PS5 it’s nice to see just what talented developers can accomplish with 7+-year-old hardware.
The Last of Us 2 is truly stunning, the world design is second to none, and the motion-captured animations pay off to bring the world to life, the subtle expressions and gestures used by the main cast of characters bring them to life in a way many games fail to accomplish.
Small things like the way Ellie scrunches up her nose, or the way Dina raises her eyebrows felt organic, these little mannerisms of the voice actors helping to bring the characters alive, while watching a cutscene I rarely thought this is a good game, or this is an excellent cutscene, I was focused on the story, the narrative is where Last of Us 2 truly shines, and the graphics are the provable icing on the cake.
More of the Same, Just Refined.
Mechanically, Last of Us 2 is very much like its predecessor, and while we have a slight reduction in crate puzzles(thankfully), puzzles still make an appearance, with the added power of the Ps4, allows for some new and inventive solutions such as Tarzan like swinging on tables and using grappling hooks and power cables to progress through the levels.
While the story is very much a linear affair, the large environments with lootable locations give the appearance of an open world.
Combat and stealth have both seen some TLC, and the flow between the two feels more immersive, due to the main protagonist no longer using single-use shivs, stealth kills are now easier and quieter, mostly due to Ellie seeming to never be more than 6 inches away from her famous knife.
Abby, however, seems to not have the foresight to bring a knife along, suffering from the Joel mentality of the first game.
One bizarre combat mechanic from the first game returns, and this is the rapid decaying of melee weapons, a steel pipe should in no way break from bashing some guy across the noggin, and lets not even talk about how axes break after a mere five hits on a humanoid target.
Overall like Last of Us, the combat in Last of Us 2 is very enjoyable, and the limited ammunition requires you to plan out each and every encounter, with so many run and gun games on the market this is a really nice change of pace.
Forced or Organic Diversity?
I like the cast of characters in Last of Us 2, I feel they work well together and are interesting and unique enough to stand apart,t and not feel like generic ally one, and generic baddie two, racially I feel its spot on and represents what most western communities are like in 2020.
Naughty Dog, well-intentioned and wanting to be inclusive have tried to insert too many sexualities into too small a group, 97% of humanity is heterosexual, and while they did not intend to be patronising including 5 LGBT+ (bisexual, lesbian, trans-male, trans-female (or masculine bodied female depending who you ask), non-binary) characters in a very small core cast feels like they are virtue signalling, it just doesn’t feel like genuine representation, even if they intended it to be so.
I am not saying that each of these characters in their own right is not a good character. I feel The Last of Us 2 has some of the best-written characters in gaming period.
I think Abby ( trans-female or masculine bodied biological female), is a fantastic antagonist, whom you can’t help but feel empathy for, her story is a fantastic mirror of Ellie and her motivations make sense, I could easily see her being the protagonist if you look at the events of Last of Us from a certain point of view.
Our main protagonist Ellie (lesbian) and her relationship with Dina(bisexual), is handled very well.
Some Christian games can go overboard in sounding religious, some LGBT+ characters in video games are almost a parody and talk and act like they were written by a 12-year-old straight boy, none of the LGBT characters in The Last of Us 2 suffers from poor writing, they are all excellent characters who happen to be LGBT, not simply LGBT characters who were randomly assigned a plot.
Ellie and Dina have an organic and very realistic relationship. Their relationship sprung from a deep friendship which is evident. You can see they care deeply about each other, and are willing to die for one another.
Their relationship works because it is well written, not because it is straight or LGBT.
Think of the Children!
I am aware than many Christians parents are furious about the portrayal of a lesbian couple in a video game, but let’s be honest kids shouldn’t be playing Last of Us 2 due to the excessive gore and violence, and anyone mature enough to play the game, are mature enough to understand Ellie and Dina’s relationship.
Christians in this area have gone astray, if you do not agree with LGBT relationships, the sheer hatred you display for those in the LGBT community is far worse, Jesus said to love one another, not hate and marginalise them.
By all means disagree with their lifestyle and opinions, just like they are free to disagree with yours, but as human beings, we can disagree on an issue/issues and still find common ground, still show love to one another, when you see people campaigning to stop a gay man from being a news anchor or a school teacher, you know there is a hatred issue there.
When Jesus was asked what the most important Laws of God/Commandments were, he answered (Mark 12:30-31)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself, There is no commandment greater than these”
As Christians, we would do far better to focus on doing that he commanded us to do (love each other, help the poor, take in the stranger and refugee, care for the sick, spread the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom) than obsess over what goes on in peoples bedrooms.
This second will be greatly expanded in the future. I can say the choice, however, not to have Joel (the main playable character from The Last of Us) be playable in The Last of Us 2 was a good decision.
I felt Joels story arc had a good conclusion, bring Ellie back to Jackson, he gave her a life and a family, for much of The Last of Us Ellie was a non-playable character, and getting to see the world through her eyes, and seeing her utilising things Joel taught her feels organic and a worthy condition of their adventures together.
The Last of Us 2 is excellent and one of the best games of the PS4 generation, but it’s not for children or sensitive individuals, it is at times incredibly grim and very violent.
I can only recommend it for older teenagers and adults.
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Platforms: Playstation 4