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Last of Us 2 discussion

So there seems to be a huge disconnect between critical reactions to the game, and fan reaction. Admittedly a lot of the negative responses are a deliberate review bomb campaign by the usual suspects from the cesspool of the internet who take issue at the diverse cast in the game.

Those clowns can obviously be ignored.

But even putting them to one side, we're left with negative reviews by people that had the following main gripes (in some order):

1) They were outraged at
Joels death. Bearing in mind this was a man who literally went on a mass murder spree to save his surrogate daughter from death, and condemned the entire world (and thousands if not millions of people) to a horrific fate in so doing, depriving them of the cure for the zombie virus. This was also a man prepared to leave a young family to die on the side of the road and employ brutal torture. While his motivations are sympathetic (the loss of his own daughter) his actions are horrific.

While the beauty of the first game is it leaves his final terrible decision for the player to mull over without passing judgement one way or another, its nonetheless strange that the rage over his death is so high.

I personally didnt have a problem with this death. Joel has made a LOT of enemies.

Agreed it was awful seeing a character that I had come to see through his eyes, and feel the terrible weight of his actions and motivations die in such a brutal fashion, but really, that was the point. The game wanted me to be angry at this death. It wanted me to hate Abby and see her as less than human. It wanted me to dehumanise her, be angry at her, and want to get her back. This sets the game up nicely IMO.

2) A lot of players dont get the point of having the player play
Abby. They were outraged that they had to play the very character that killed Joel. The first half of the game sets her up as the final boss fight (after a number of mini-bosses) but then forces a switcheroo on the player by making them play her.

I personally thought this was great. I hated playing her as well at first, but then the more I played her, the more I realised that Ellie was even more of a monster than she was. Both characters were prepared to let vengeance consume them following the death of a father figure, and followed a path of vengeance that ultimately cost them everything they held dear, including the lives of many friends. However Abby actually spares Ellie, and walks away, even though Ellie has killed so many people she loves. She evolves between her killing of Joel, and her sparing of Ellie, something that Ellie can not do until it is too late.

3) A lot of players just dont get what the game was about. I see a lot of people complaining that
Ellie does not kill Abby in the games penultimate scene and final showdown. For mine, these people are completely missing the point of the whole game; it's not a game about successfully obtaining vengeance on someone; its a game about the destructive cycle of violence and how it begets nothing but more violence.

It deconstructs the 'fight a series of mini-bosses, then the BBEG, racking up hundreds of bodies along the way' trope. It shows that (like in real life) those people are not just monsters to be killed, they're people - often good people.

TL;DR - leaving aside the usual outraged scumbags who seem to want their media white, male and hetero, many of the negative reviews seem to totally miss the above. They miss the point of the game; and miss what it says about violence, the cycle of violence, and how we dehumanise our enemies in order to inflict violence on them.

I havent seen many (indeed any) of the thousands of negative fan reviews who get the above point (what the game was about, what it was saying about violence and revenge and humanity) and hate it on those grounds (barring a few that claim it was too heavy handed about how it went about it.

They seem to somehow totally fail to get the message of the game (a message the game is at great pains to demonstrate).

Personally, I really liked it. I hated it as well, but that was kind of also the point. Im definitely more on the side of the critical reviewers who are scoring the game in GOTY territory.

What are peoples thoughts on the game?
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Haven't played it. Not particularly likely to. But lots of people, including people who post reviews and comments, fail to interact much with themes and subtexts. It's something of a learned skill and not necessarily the first concern when trying to master a game's controls, keep abreast of the story, and indulge/immerse in the action.

I have played other games when you change character, specifically Halo 2, and I hated every minute I was forced to play the Arbiter to get back to the Master Chief whom I wanted to play. Any intent to get me to see a different POV, develop the story, have fun with different abilities - pretty much lost on me because it wasn't the experience I wanted. I'd have been much happier with a cut scene or two with Arbiter-based exposition than having to spend a much larger amount of time actually playing him. It blew me right out of the immersion I had previously experienced in the POV character of Master Chief in that installment of the series. So, honestly, I can see how people might not appreciate switching to another character even if their specific reasons are different. It can be kind of jarring.

As far as the final showdown,
it sounds like the game is making a fairly momentous decision, whether or not to kill Abby, for the player rather than leave that in the player's hands in order to teach the game's lesson to the player. I can see how that might be unsatisfying for some players.
 

As far as the final showdown,
it sounds like the game is making a fairly momentous decision, whether or not to kill Abby, for the player rather than leave that in the player's hands in order to teach the game's lesson to the player. I can see how that might be unsatisfying for some players.

They did that the first game as well, by forcing you to basically murder everyone at the hospital (and doom humanity) to save Ellie.

I do think that if they did give a choice to the player, most of those critical about the game would have
killed Abby, which misses the entire point of the game.
 

I did not play it. I watched someone do a complete playthrough on YouTube.

I love this as a story. I can understand why it might be a less than ideal design for a game.

In BioShock, the fact that you had to do all the things and did not have a choice really, that fit, because the whole essence of that story was on whether people have a choice.

But, when I played the first Last of Us, I just sat as Joel in the end and did not go and kill people. I tried that. I did not want to play through his effort to kill a bunch of people. Ultimately, I did it, and it left a strange feeling. I realized that the whole game was really just a long TV show, where you occasionally get to shoot random people and monsters. It was not, like, an RPG.

The game has a message you want to deliver, and that message is only really conveyed if actions play out a particular way. So if as a game, you allegedly have control over the main character, but lose that control in any social interaction, it creates dissonance.

Now, I love how the sequel ends. It's a great story! It was bleak and beautiful. It probably evoked a stronger emotional reaction than any other video game I've watched.

But I'm not sure it's a 'game.'

Then again, if you just watch these events as an outside observer, and did not have the same level of action investment that you have as a player in a game, maybe it would hit less strongly.

It's certainly a cool game. The gameplay parts look cool. And the idea of screwing with the players emotions really delights me. I mean, I'm a big fan of the question, are we the bad guys? I've always wanted villains in stories to have reasonable motivations and be the kind of person you can potentially empathize with.
 

I haven't played it, but it seems to exist solely to "subvert expectations" for the sake of it. Which is something I've grown sick and tired of. So, I'm not interested in playing it at all.

(It doesn't help that I also consider the first game a wildly overrated pastiche of video game tropes with all the joy sucked out of it to make it "deep.")
 

Gladius, you are completely wrong in your guess about the purpose of the sequel.

By all means, you have no obligation to play the game, but any fair assessment of the whole product should make it clear that its goal is to put you in the position of empathizing with someone you disagree with. This happens all the time in cinema and literature, but has seldom been done in video games. That 'depth' is not something to be scorned.

This was also pretty much the point of the first game.

It was not designed as a game that would spark joy. It was designed to get you to empathize with the lead characters, and then have them do terrible things so that you would be forced to confront how many people justify their terrible actions. I disagree that it was done simply to be 'deep.' I think it accomplished something that is hard to do in any other medium: put you in the perspective of someone doing something terrible, and making you complicit in their choice. I thought it was a meaningful thing to attempt, and I admire the studio for making the game.

If you want something fun and light to distract you from how crappy things are in the world, no, this is not the game for you.

But if you play it, you might appreciate the message, which is that we can't overcome trauma and make a better life if we're constantly trying to hurt those who hurt us, and that even in places of immense darkness, there are moments of beautiful light. We should be drawn toward those, not toward cruelty and revenge. It's not a particularly controversial idea, but it's something I haven't seen before in a video game, a medium which - at its best - can make you internalize lessons in ways that other media cannot.
 

This was also pretty much the point of the first game.

It was not designed as a game that would spark joy. It was designed to get you to empathize with the lead characters, and then have them do terrible things so that you would be forced to confront how many people justify their terrible actions. I disagree that it was done simply to be 'deep.' I think it accomplished something that is hard to do in any other medium: put you in the perspective of someone doing something terrible, and making you complicit in their choice. I thought it was a meaningful thing to attempt, and I admire the studio for making the game.
If it was meant to make me empathize with the lead characters, it did a pretty bad job of that. I never empathized with Joel. He always came across as a sociopath to me, as well as kind of an idiot. And when he killed everybody in the hospital, it didn't make me think any different of him. I still thought he was a sociopath and an idiot.

TLOU was also hardly the first game to explore similar themes, nor was it the best at doing so. The Walking Dead: Season 1 and Spec Ops: The Line were both considerably more effective with the premise of putting you in the perspective of a character doing evil things, IMO.
 

Gradine

Final Form
I haven't played it myself, but I know there has been a lot of controversy regarding the presence of a trans character within the story. The usual trolls are angry at having to acknowledge our existence; but many in the trans community are not happy with the way that character and their story is presented (to be clear, others have been fine/happy with it)
 

I haven't played it myself, but I know there has been a lot of controversy regarding the presence of a trans character within the story. The usual trolls are angry at having to acknowledge our existence; but many in the trans community are not happy with the way that character and their story is presented (to be clear, others have been fine/happy with it)

Only white hetero gender binary men survive the zombie apocalypse apparently. Sadly the gamer culture has demonstrated itself to contain a highly toxic reactionary element. Not all of us, but they're out there. I just disregard those critiques.

Im more intrigued by the critiques of the game that didnt seem to get the story (or the point of the story).

Personally, I rate the original as the best narrative game I have every played, if not the best game I have ever played. You're railroaded into the story but it's done in a way that worked. When you put the controller down at the end of the game, you're thinking about it for weeks on end, in a way that only a great piece of art or film or text can do.

I dont think the sequel quite lives up to those lofty heights, but I found it a fantastic game nonetheless, with some bold choices made in how it went about it. If anything I found the message the sequel was driving to be too heavy handed, and too obvious, where as the original drew you in emotionally before the devastating pay off at the climax.

I just find the critiques of the game of people that dont get it weird. Literally people are calling it a 'failed revenge story' where the protagonist is unsuccesful in her goals, when that is the exact opposite of the message it rams down your throat the whole game.

It makes you uncomfortable with violence and shows how murder and revenge is wrong, and has you empathising with the 'bad guys', but that's the whole point.
 

I haven't played it myself, but I know there has been a lot of controversy regarding the presence of a trans character within the story. The usual trolls are angry at having to acknowledge our existence; but many in the trans community are not happy with the way that character and their story is presented (to be clear, others have been fine/happy with it)

I don't think people who've actually played the game are bothered by the trans character. The leaks made people think the, like, villain of the game was trans, but she's not; she's just buff. But there's another character who is trans, and I've seen only praise for his portrayal.

If anything I found the message the sequel was driving to be too heavy handed, and too obvious, ...

I just find the critiques of the game of people that dont get it weird. Literally people are calling it a 'failed revenge story' where the protagonist is unsuccesful in her goals, when that is the exact opposite of the message it rams down your throat the whole game.

Yeah, for some people the underlying moral seems obvious, but others seem to not get it at all. Or, more unsettling, they just really disagree with the idea of violent retribution being a bad idea.

But I think the actual message of the story is a bit more nuanced than you're making it out to be. It's not merely 'revenge is bad,' but that recovering from trauma requires reclaiming agency in your life. I'd go into a deeper dive, but only if you're interested, because it'd be a long spoiler-y comment.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Haven't played it the first one kinda bored me.

Point if a game though is to have fun. If the ending isn't fun that's a problem ymmv.

Ending sounds fine gonna come down to execution.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
Godfather is not a fun movie. 2001 isn't a fun movie. They're still interesting.

Bit different than a game. You watch a movie you play a game.

Both play and game imply fun. If a games not fun I don't play it.

I'll watch a documentary or movie that's serious and not fun but different format.
 

Haven't played it the first one kinda bored me.

Point if a game though is to have fun. If the ending isn't fun that's a problem ymmv.

Ending sounds fine gonna come down to execution.

The first game was bleak as well. It basically spends the whole game building a relationship between you (as Joel; a bitter survivor who lost his daughter 20 years earlier) and Ellie, as a surrogate daughter.

It promises hope of his redemption and hope for a cure for the zombie epidemic the whole way through and then suddenly
at the end it has you making a terrible choice to protect Ellie by murdering a hospital full of people and dooming the world to the zombie apocalypse by denying them a cure.

I mean it was bleak.

But they absolutely nailed that landing. The slow burn to the grim conclusion. The way they left it in the hands of the player to mull over the ethics and morality of that terrible decision. It was amazing.

The characterisation was on point too, and not just the main characters; also the supporting NPCs.

I'm serious when I say it was the best game I think I've ever played. Definately in my top 3. No other game (and indeed no other media) had had me introspective and reflective of it after absorbing it like that game. It haunted me for a long time afterwards.

I'm glad it wasn't spoiled for me before hand - I came in blind and came out the other end blown away.

It highlighted just what the medium of computer games can do. Unlike a movie where you watch it, you're actively involved in the action. You're not questioning a characters actions as they unfold in front of you on a acreen, you're questioning those actions as you control them participating in them.

It features on nearly every best games of all times lists for a reason man.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The first game was bleak as well. It basically spends the whole game building a relationship between you (as Joel; a bitter survivor who lost his daughter 20 years earlier) and Ellie, as a surrogate daughter.

It promises hope of his redemption and hope for a cure for the zombie epidemic the whole way through and then suddenly
at the end it has you making a terrible choice to protect Ellie by murdering a hospital full of people and dooming the world to the zombie apocalypse by denying them a cure.

I mean it was bleak.

But they absolutely nailed that landing. The slow burn to the grim conclusion. The way they left it in the hands of the player to mull over the ethics and morality of that terrible decision. It was amazing.

The characterisation was on point too, and not just the main characters; also the supporting NPCs.

I'm serious when I say it was the best game I think I've ever played. Definately in my top 3. No other game (and indeed no other media) had had me introspective and reflective of it after absorbing it like that game. It haunted me for a long time afterwards.

I'm glad it wasn't spoiled for me before hand - I came in blind and came out the other end blown away.

It highlighted just what the medium of computer games can do. Unlike a movie where you watch it, you're actively involved in the action. You're not questioning a characters actions as they unfold in front of you on a acreen, you're questioning those actions as you control them participating in them.

It features on nearly every best games of all times lists for a reason man.

I own it but the poor PS4 gathers a lot of dust. We use the Xbox to watch everything and rarely console game now.
 

I own it but the poor PS4 gathers a lot of dust. We use the Xbox to watch everything and rarely console game now.

Even though you likely know the ending (which makes the game) it's still worth a play through to see how the devs worked the character arcs, had you along for the ride in the relationship, got you invested and then had you make a terrible choice based on that investment.

Going in blind, I was shaking as the credits rolled. Very few works of art have had me thinking about them afterwards as much as that game. I get that you have no 'choice' in the outcome, but you dont have any in a book or film or painting either. Playing it gives a unique perspective to feel what Joel 'feels' a lot more personally, and to invest more in his eventual terrible decision.

I honestly feel that giving the player a choice (instead of railroading the player) would have lessened the impact. It wasnt so much about your choice; it was about you living someone else making that choice.

It just worked on so many levels.

I see what they went for for in the squeal, and while it mostly worked on me, I did find it heavy handed at times. It was uncomfortable, and intentionally so, and that isnt necessarily a bad thing (it can in fact be a good thing). There were controversial decisions for sure (turning the protagonist into the antagonist and vice versa) but they largely worked for me.

I compare it to the disconnect with other games (like Uncharted) where you play a likeable roguish charming goofy adventurer... who racks up a kill count of literally hundreds of people by the end of the series, who you mercilessly slay with no remorse or second thoughts from literally the opening scene of the 1st game.

Video games have struggled with mass murder, heroes seeking revenge on BBEG's for some slight, dehumanising the 'bad guys' and ultra violence for so long (even with protagonists, and in genres where it doesn't fit), and this game is itself a critique of those tropes, as well as shining a light on how we see and choose to empathise with those we hate.

I really liked it. Not as much as the original, but I really dont get the hate.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Even though you likely know the ending (which makes the game) it's still worth a play through to see how the devs worked the character arcs, had you along for the ride in the relationship, got you invested and then had you make a terrible choice based on that investment.

Going in blind, I was shaking as the credits rolled. Very few works of art have had me thinking about them afterwards as much as that game. I get that you have no 'choice' in the outcome, but you dont have any in a book or film or painting either. Playing it gives a unique perspective to feel what Joel 'feels' a lot more personally, and to invest more in his eventual terrible decision.

I honestly feel that giving the player a choice (instead of railroading the player) would have lessened the impact. It wasnt so much about your choice; it was about you living someone else making that choice.

It just worked on so many levels.

I see what they went for for in the squeal, and while it mostly worked on me, I did find it heavy handed at times. It was uncomfortable, and intentionally so, and that isnt necessarily a bad thing (it can in fact be a good thing). There were controversial decisions for sure (turning the protagonist into the antagonist and vice versa) but they largely worked for me.

I compare it to the disconnect with other games (like Uncharted) where you play a likeable roguish charming goofy adventurer... who racks up a kill count of literally hundreds of people by the end of the series, who you mercilessly slay with no remorse or second thoughts from literally the opening scene of the 1st game.

Video games have struggled with mass murder, heroes seeking revenge on BBEG's for some slight, dehumanising the 'bad guys' and ultra violence for so long (even with protagonists, and in genres where it doesn't fit), and this game is itself a critique of those tropes, as well as shining a light on how we see and choose to empathise with those we hate.

I really liked it. Not as much as the original, but I really dont get the hate.

You won't like games I play. Stellaris for example is sandbox strategy game. You can play space hippies, fascist, Communists, genocidal dalek types or eat the Galaxy with a tyrand type give mind.

I liked uncharted but didn't complete the 3rd and 4th one. Maybe 3D action/adventure games aren't my thing.

I did enjoy the new Tomb Raiders, never got into to old ones.

Between Steam and the Xbox/PS4 hard drives I have a heap of games I should get around to playing.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
@Flamestrike I'm not really invested into the game, so I don't have an opinion myself, but I can tell the following things as an observer that add up to the observed backlash (rather than hate? hate is such a strong word...).

Naughty Dog wasn't in the public's best graces.- News of developers abusing crunch time have been pilling up for at least a year, and in the last couple of months Naughty Dog became infamous for being particularly awful to their staff. This took away a lot of good-will that they would otherwise have.

Fans were blind to Joel's defects.- Regardless of the character being objectively an awful and selfish human being, a substantial portion of the fan base was heavily invested in Joel as a character. They wanted a continuation of his story, not another character's. So there was a misalignment of the expectations of this group of fans and the goals of the developers.

Sony acted like a greedy cartoon villain.- There was a leak in the leading weeks to the launch was very damning to the situation. The content of the leak didn't sit well with some fans and many decided to cancel their preorders. Sony refused these cancellations, and they went after a lot of people reporting on the leaks and this triggered the Streisand effect. And the way they went about it -by firing fraudulent DMCA takedowns- soured the launch.

And then they had to launch it on Father's Day Weekend.- You know, we are talking about a -misguidedly or otherwise- beloved father figure in fiction that is unceremoniously murdered in front of his child. This is extremely shocking and distressing on a good day. It gets way worse in Father's Day. I know not everybody had a good father, but if you got even a half decent dad, you love him, and find this timing in poor taste. (Also I think a good deal of this game's players are fathers themselves so they feel directly insulted by this)

This is about the worst of the times to launch this one game.- Unlike 2014, right now we are in the middle of very bleak times. Maybe the gaming community deserves the message of the game, but it is the last thing it needs right now. It is in times of crisis, chaos and epidemic when people turn to fiction and entertainment for comfort, and reassurance. People want feel-good games and this game is very very much the opposite of a feel-good game. I haven't played it -nor plan to, I don't own a PS4-, but I have seen some playthroughs and this thing is very very disturbing and very graphical and brutal with the death animations.

The game lacks catharsis factor.- I've seen players hating going through the game, getting angry over Joel's death and then being forced to play as his killer. They only made it to the end with the hope of seeing retribution as a way to let go of that built up anger. Then they are denied the chance of retribution, and without an outlet to discharge that anger and frustration, they turned it towards the game itself.

So this all combines into pretty intense backlash.
 

There are two sets of reviews. Sites that let anyone post reviews have tons of 0s. But on sites that only let you review once you've bought the game, the ratings are pretty high.

It's an excellent game, and yes, it's bleak, but I think the story as a whole is positive.
 

There are two sets of reviews. Sites that let anyone post reviews have tons of 0s. But on sites that only let you review once you've bought the game, the ratings are pretty high.
This is a flawed way of looking at it. Those sites you mentioned in the latter category only allow reviews from people who bought the game from that particular site. It's an incredibly self-selecting sample and not at all an accurate measure of a consensus opinion. And even those sites don't require that you finish the game to review it, just bought it.
 

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