The Last of Us Part II: A Kindergarten-Level Game of Revenge

After the original video game The Last of Us released in 2013, and an additional story was added a year later, many fans were left satisfied. Despite the game ending on a cliffhanger, most adored the open-ended story, and didn’t expect the developer, Naughty Dog, to release a follow up to the story. So of course, when The Last of Us Part II was announced in 2016, many fans were left in shock. “They’re making a sequel? For what?” Every fan around the world thought that exact thought at that moment. It was out of nowhere.

But, most were optimistic. The original game is a masterpiece to many. So, most anticipated that if Naughty Dog planned to continue the story, it would be of the same quality, if not better. So, on June 19, 2020, many fans opened their arms up to The Last of Us Part II, ready to experience what should’ve been Naughty Dog’s magnum opus.

In a lot of ways, fans were not at all disappointed.

The graphics are phenomenal; many couldn’t differentiate the game from reality. The soundtrack was amazing—the same instrumentations occurred from the original, and more diversity was added to the music as a multitude of new characters flocked in. The acting was phenomenal with absolutely astonishing performances by many, like the returning Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, as well as the newcomers like Laura Bailey and Ian Alexander. The gameplay was extremely fun, and added new flavors and mechanics to an already great combat system.

But the writing was absolutely nothing short of atrocious.

This game absolutely butchers some of the characters. Some of the cast are written with the proper care, like Joel or Tommy, but most were horrible. The new group of characters introduced from the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) were completely fumbled. Some of them function fine; among the highlights are the characters Manny and Owen, but others were just abhorrent. 

Abby, one of the game’s lead characters, was so mistreated and written so terribly and mercilessly that her actor, the previously mentioned Laura Bailey, was actually sent death threats in real life, despite her acting being absolutely phenomenal. Abby was written as loyal to a fault, being ruthless and merciless as a character just to protect the ones she loves, but then switched at the midpoint of the story to try and appeal to your sympathy, as a kind-hearted and loving individual. This doesn’t work for many, and actually ended up making many players hate her.

Despite this, most players actually ended up liking Abby more than our other protagonist. Ellie is the other playable character, and it’s said with absolute despair that Ellie’s character is absolutely destroyed. There is no finer example of a character assassination in media, as all of Ellie’s traits in the original are completely flipped on their head. In the original, Ellie is portrayed as reliant on others, sympathetic, and loving, even at one point admitting she’s horrified to go out alone and end up lonely in the end. She also says at one point that her first kill made her feel sick. Yet, in this game, she intentionally embarks on dangerous missions all alone, and seems to have literally no remorse, slaughtering people pointlessly as though for sport left and right. Ellie Williams in Part I is completely different from Ellie Williams in Part II, and it’s horrible. 

Beyond this point, it’s recommended that you stop reading if you haven’t experienced the story of the first game. It will spoil a portion of that story’s ending.

To give a very brief and simple synopsis of the plot: Joel and Ellie end up settling in Jackson, Wyoming after the end of the first game. They live there for years and years, finally becoming happy and enjoying what it means to finally live a safe and settled life. Eventually, tragedy strikes the small town, as someone close to our protagonists is murdered. Ellie sets out to track down the murderers, traveling across state after state just to track them down.

Not much else about the plot could be said without spoilers. On paper, it sounds like it could work out as a great plot. But this is a revenge plot where the villain is forgiven without warning, completely contradicting everything that Ellie set out to do. They’re let free, and left to live. It’s a ridiculous change of pace, and it comes out of absolutely nowhere. Naturally, almost every player was left angered at the ending, having left with a dissatisfying note and, again, one of the most appalling cases of character assassination ever. It’s like a kid on the playground wrote the script.

The Last of Us Part II had lined up to be a work of extreme excellence. It looks great, sounds great, and features some of the best names in the motion capture industry. But the writer’s room failed the creative work. The pacing is terrible, the characters are absolutely ruined, and the entire production suffered the price. If you look past the multitude of paid reviews, all the eye can see is negative reviews for miles.

Not all hope is lost, though. The HBO series for the games was recently renewed for a second season, and it’s been confirmed that it will follow the event of the second game. Perhaps the showrunners can fix this ruined story? Only time will tell.