The Last Of Us Part 2 spoiler review – Naughty Dog's secrets
GameCentral takes a more detailed look at the sequel to The Last Of Us, with just enough spoilers to discuss the story properly.
The Last Of Us Part 2 was a very difficult game to review. For a start Sony prevented reviewers from saying almost anything about the game’s story before release. Which made things very difficult when the storytelling is the primary appeal of the game and it was only the much more prosaic nature of the gameplay which could be described in detail. But now that the game has been released, and many have had a chance to complete it, we have the opportunity to go into a bit more detail on what is undoubtedly one of the best video game stories ever told.
There will be spoilers from this point on, obviously, but only so many as are needed to discuss the plot and character motivations. We won’t be spoiling the ending in any detail, or what happens to either of the main characters, but we will be discussing one major character death and the game’s main gameplay and narrative twist, so be warned.
This article is intended for those that have already played and beaten the game or just don’t care about spoilers. We strongly suggest that you do play the game before reading any further, although in truth we did know many of the main plot points before we started playing, thanks to the well-publicised leaks, and we don’t honestly feel that affected our appreciation of the game at all.
*** WARNING: MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS ***
In our original review all we could really say about the plot is what Sony themselves had boiled it down to: ‘Ellie pursues vengeance after a traumatic event’. The game starts, with no attempt to one-up the harrowing opening sequence of the original, with Ellie and Joel living in a large and well organised survivor camp in the wilds of Wyoming.
The zombie-like infected only seem to be a minor problem, there’s no sign of marauders, and food is plentiful. Life is as good as a post-apocalypse can get and yet both characters are clearly miserable, even though Ellie has found a new girlfriend.
Anyone who’s played the first game will immediately guess that Ellie has learnt what Joel did in its finale, where rather than allowing the Firefly militia group to use Ellie to create a cure for the infected – a process that would kill her – he murdered most of them and took her away, making up an unlikely sounding lie to explain what happened.
The catalyst for the story though is not Joel or Ellie, but a brand-new character called Abby, a member of a Seattle militia referred to as the Wolves. Abby is the daughter of the head Firefly surgeon and while she is seeking a very personal vengeance against Joel she’s joined by a number of friends who blame him for dooming the entire human race and all but destroying the Fireflies.
You get the chance to control Abby very early on, in a short playable section where she catches up with and attacks Joel. Although, as with many of the game’s pivotal plot moments, Joel’s brutal death is just an uninteractive cut scene. Even from the start though, Abby’s vengeance is not all consuming and she spares both Ellie and Joel’s brother Tommy, since they had no part in what happened. (Although Tommy earlier admits to Joel that he would’ve done the same thing in his place).
Even though Ellie knows what Joel’s done (but not Abby’s personal stake in events) she soon sets off in pursuit of Abby and the Wolves, accompanied and fully supported by her pregnant girlfriend and many of her friends. The friend circles around both Ellie and Abby offer little to no argument against either character’s actions, clearly setting out the game’s themes of a never-ending cycle of violence and hatred.
What gets the point across most effectively though is that the already bitter Ellie becomes so laser focused on revenge that she never once questions what’s she’s doing, as she tortures and kills Abby’s friends in order to get to her. She is visibly shaken by some of the things she does, but rather than show any remorse she just becomes increasingly more hypocritical about what she’s doing and the enemies she’s fighting.
The other key plot element that couldn’t be revealed in the original game is that you play as Abby for almost the entire second half of the game, complete with a separate set of weapons, equipment and unlockable skills. Although despite Ellie being barely the size of one of Abby’s biceps the two play almost identically.
By the midway point Ellie has become seemingly irredeemable, with acts of violence that are truly sickening. Abby’s trajectory is supposed to be the opposite but while she is a significantly more sympathetic character the game doesn’t do enough to outline what kind of person Abby was before she met Ellie.
The militia she’s a part of is painted in similarly vague terms, and while its leader is shown to sanction torture, and is implied to be considerably less humane than Abby and her friends, there’s not enough detail to tell exactly what kind of organisation they are. The game is similarly vague when it comes to a rival group of religious fundamentalists, which commits acts of sacrificial violence seemingly as a matter of course, but which a late game plot development suddenly begins to portray in a more positive light just to make others look even worse.
At one point Abby makes a reference to also having tortured people in her past but a lengthy chapter before meeting Ellie, and a flashback with her father, are essentially wasted opportunities to delve further into her backstory. Her character still works though, in that it shows how a traumatic situation can bring out the best in people as well as the worst (a typically excellent acting performance by Laura Bailey doesn’t hurt matters either).
At times Abby’s experiences do seem oddly divorced form the wider story though, as her redemption is cemented by her taking in and protecting two runaways from the religious cult. It feels odd because Ellie is barely ever aware of either character but, again, they’re so well scripted and acted that the disconnect never becomes an issue. Plus, it’s just a relief to play as a character whose motivations are to help people rather than to torture and kill them.
The Last Of Us Part 2 is a story about hate but it’s not quite as depressing an experience as some will portray it as. There’s very little hope in Ellie’s side of the story but there is with Abby’s, despite the horrific things that happen to her as well. Hate is the driving force of the plot but it’s empathy which is the most pivotal emotion, both Ellie’s loss of it and Abby’s willingness to put herself in danger for complete strangers.
Naughty Dog’s style of storytelling may be frustratingly uninteractive to some but what they’ve achieved with The Last Of Us Part 2 will be rightly regarded as an important milestone for video games. It’s an action game that makes you feel increasingly guilty for committing acts of violence and furious when other people die, not because they were some hackneyed love interest, but because you knew them as a decent, ordinary person – whereas the person that killed them thought of them as just another faceless target.
The Last Of Us Part 2’s message isn’t just about human nature, and the easy willingness with which people dehumanise each other, it’s also about video games themselves and how they portray violence and use it as entertainment. The Last Of Us’ gameplay may be relatively unoriginal but it is still enjoyable and how you feel about that by the end of the game is likely to be very different to how you were at the start, when shooting people in the face still seemed like good, simple fun.
Unlike the original The Last Of Us, the sequel leaves more obvious hooks for a follow-up, but given what a left turn this one took it would be foolish to try and guess what it might be about. No doubt some fans will immediately start coming up with their own complex plot ideas, but that’s not what The Last Of Us is about. It’s not the lore that makes it interesting but how the characters are portrayed and what they say about human nature, video games, and the people that play them.
Formats: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: 19th June 2020
Age Rating: 18
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