Let’s take a moment to talk about a game that I would summarize as a reflective, violent and beautiful vengeance suite.
I’m (yikes) 11 hours into The Last of Us Part II. When I finished the first game I was staunchly against a sequel – I felt the story ended perfectly and the gameplay was so finely tuned that it just felt complete. So now that I am playing the sequel, those pangs are almost gone.
While gameplay wise it doesn’t do anything terribly new (hey a jump button) but man, it’s so finely balanced and smooth that it plays flawlessly. Think the jump from Halo to Halo 3 or Gears 1 to Gears 5 in controls – it becomes an extension of you. The sound design is gorgeous, the art design still spooks, and the graphics are just jaw dropping – I can’t wait to play this on a PS5 with hopefully bumped up specs like 60 frames per second.
But while I was spoiled on story beats by Reddit/ResetEra (grumble) the spoilers miss the finite details of the human interactions and emotions on display between characters – there is a flashback scene that left a punch in my gut that might be one of my favorite scenes in a video game ever.
I also think (could be wrong) that this is the first major company AAA published game with the focus on a LGBTQ character in the lead role without playing the angle for gross video game exploitation for kicks. There’s going to be arguments for and against this, but I think it’s a bold step in an evolving direction. It’s another touchstone that makes games more inclusive vs keeping barriers up (it’s 2020 – games should be for EVERYONE).
Also this is a VIOLENT game. Throats are slit, heads are bashed, noggins explode – maybe take some breaks between plays (see Shadow of Mordor). Ellie is a badass and I get the arguments for the rough nature of the stealth kills, but I get the context of it being in a post-virus world. Mileage is going to vary.
It’s weird playing a game about a death virus during a time of, well, a death virus…but if anything it gives the game a moment to reflect and understand the choices we make, like a tree, can grow limbs in unexpected or unwanted ways.