The last of us part two probably was the most awaited exclusive for the PlayStation 4 this year and even before that there was a huge hype behind it. Everyone was expecting to know what happened with Joel and Ellie after the ambiguous ending of the first title back in 2013, but did it meet the expectations?

The last of us part 2 had it all to be the game of the year and even some weeks prior to its release the specialized press worshiped it as a masterpiece. However, none of it really matters when the audience is the judge and executioner, and they spoke clearly.

The game received a huge amount of hate and it suffered from the so called "review bombing" on the Metacritic site, which basically led to a stakeout of their system to qualify games. It seems that, once again, the coming of The Last of Us is causing a lot of changes in the industry but maybe not for the better.

The hate that this game has caused is such that even the developer Naughty Dog and some voice actors behind it have received threats and all kinds of insults, which leads to the question, should the players be allowed to have so much power when it comes to criticize a game?

It is obvious that games, particularly this one, exist because there was interest but overall love for the characters. The first TLOU succeeded because of its great story, which presented the relation between a broken father and a young girl trying to find her place in a devastated world. The game became a banner for the videogames as another form of art because of its cinematic presentation and a well-developed story.

The impact that the game generated was important but maybe and just maybe, the impression of greatness from the first TLOU is what is blinding the audiences from seeing the actual message and intention of the series.

It is important to remember that the concept on which TLOU stands is not new. We have seen the story of humanity trying to survive in a postapocalyptic world filled with zombies or infected people over and over again. To cite some examples: The Walking Dead and World War Z in movies and series, and Resident Evil or Left 4 dead in videogames

And probably one of the most valuable lessons from the aforementioned examples is that zombies are not the biggest threat in a postapocalyptic world, is the same greed and despair of other persons what represents the biggest threat. In a world where resources and safe places are odd, people will do everything, literally everything to fulfill their needs, which obviously includes killing and take advantage of others.

TLOU is conscious about this fact and it always has been. One of the most remarkable mechanics in both games is the ability to use common materials such as rags, alcohol and pipes to craft weapons or healing items. This mechanic makes the player decide whether to use a certain product or not in a given moment and also it takes the player to constantly explore the surroundings in search of valuable materials. In the “easy” difficulty this does not have a lot of relevance since there are a lot of things to use, however in the hardest difficulties this is pretty evident.

In the same way, since the first game it was pretty evident that humans were a threat. As a matter of fact, the most stressful situations were not caused by clickers or runners but by humans. The very own ending is just the depiction of a man blinded by his devotion to a girl that he sees as his new daughter, which leads him to sacrifice the possible salvation of mankind in exchange for an ideal life where he can protect his daughter and live happily with her.

Everyone knew that the actions of Joel towards the ending of the game were wrong, he was not only stopping the creation of a cure but also killing innocents and torturing them. As players it was easy to empathize with Joel because we were the witnesses and partners in crime, no matter if unconsciously we knew that it was wrong.

The events that detonate the story of the part two are just a consequence of what we experienced seven years ago, and once again the rage that the game causes is not because the game is being unfair but because we only knew a part of the story.

The people at Naughty Dog were conscious of it and even if players did not realize it, it was one of the main pillars on which the game leaned.

The Videogame as a form of art

No matter where and when the question “what is art?” always starts a big conversation. Everyone has a different point of view and a different definition but one of the most common and accepted definitions is that art is “something that evokes emotions or feelings”. The power behind this statement is that art does not have to provoke just pleasant sensations but also discomfort. As humans, of course that we try to escape from any kind of problem and pain but also, we cannot help it and sometimes we look for those sensations out of pure curiosity.

The part two of the last of us takes this to the extreme and bases its experience on the rage, not only Ellie’s rage but also the player’s. At first the game seizes this mutual thirst of vengeance and provides the players with more tools and weapons than ever. It still keeps the survival experience from the first game but it gets so easy to forget since now the players are not looking to protect someone or look for a cure, now they just want to make pay the persons that caused them so much suffering, no matter the cost. Also, the stealth options are still there but unless the enemy are clickers then it does not seem as a proper way to get revenge.

It does not end there, if TLOU2 had been just that then it would not be special, it would be just one more game about killing but with a bit more of refinement.

The element that caused so much controversy was the inclusion of Abby in the story and not as an incidental character whose only objective is being the villain, no, basically she becomes an important figure and half of the game revolves around her. We get to explore all her motivations and troubles.

The great majority of complaints come from this fact and of course that it is not pleasant to play as Abby, but the game has a good reason for it and unfortunately many failed to see that, which led players to experience those parts reluctantly. Abby is there to show the player the cruelty and pain that Ellie’s actions caused in her search for vengeance and also to show that they were not just soldiers but humans with problems, relations and hopes.

The parts where the player controls Abby depict Ellie as what she really is: a person that is taking lives out of a tantrum just to fulfill her ambitions. In parallel, this is not far at all from the actions of Joel at the first TLOU, is just that now we get to see the consequences that such actions can trigger.

In a similar way the presence of Abby is there, as ironic as it may sound, to live the same arc of Joel where she has to rescue a kid and take him away from the destiny he could face if he stays with the cult where he was raised. The difference this time around is that at least the players know that the act of rescuing him is the “right” thing to do, and if they kill some people across the way it would be beneficial since the persons from the cult are despicable human beings.

Finally, the most important thing about Abby’s presence in the game is the fact that she is, in a way, an advanced stage of what Ellie could become if she were to accomplish her vengeance. Players get to control as Abby after the first half of the story, a point where she has reached her long-awaited vengeance but then…nothing, life continues and she realizes that nothing has changed, her father is still dead and she still feels empty. She is now looking for a reason to live since she has nothing to live for in her group, no ambitions, no hopes or any kind of relationship that could retain her in Washington, the main scenario of the game and the remains of the city where she was forced to live after losing her father.

It is hard to perceive this if we stubbornly only see the world according to Ellie, but how can we help it? After all, the experience with Abby does not compare with the whole game we got to play as Joel and Ellie seven years ago.

That is why the game is so uncomfortable, because it plays with the nostalgia and the love for such-well known characters in a way that few developers would dare to do so. As mentioned before, the fate of the characters is non-trivial, every action of the past has its repercussion in TLOU2 and as hard as it can be it is a reality we must accept, after all The Last of us is not about heroes and villains, it is about survival in a hostile world, where concepts such as “moral” are outdated.

The fragility of life

One of the most outstanding characteristics in both games of the series is the ability to make the player feel fragile. Of course, they are games and they are supposed to be fun, otherwise it would be extremely frustrating to die just with one shot from the enemies, although something like that happens when a clicker approaches the characters.

In this sense, the series tries to recreate as much as it can the feeling of living in a world without safe places, and even if in-game the players feel invincible, during several cutscenes we get the confirmation that the world of TLOU is merciless one.

During the first game it is easy to believe that Joel is the toughest man on earth but when the part of winter arrives and he gets hurt, it is impossible to not feel despair, specially when his life is at stake because of an infection, something that in the “real” world would be fixed with a visit to a hospital.

In the second game this sensation is even stronger, not because of an illness but because we realize that weapons are lethal. As said above, the cutscenes deal with the lethal plausibility of guns or knifes and without any notice beloved characters, friends of both Ellie and Abby get killed or seriously injured. The shock these cutscenes provoked was evident, but once again, the audience seems to forget that no one is invulnerable or untouchable.

It is true that Ellie has some kind of advantage over almost every person because of her immunity but still, she is a human being and during the last section of the game this fact is threw onto the player's faces.

At the end, The Last of Us part 2 finishes with several and deep repercussions for almost all the main characters. They end up with scars, both physical and mental. Their bodies, minds, and relationships end up without repair and they realize that, specially Ellie, who sees this reality, one that Abby could not see.

TLOU2 is not a perfect game but it is not a complete failure as many claimed, it is just a game that is honest with itself, a game that depicts the uncomfortable consequences that the first game triggered.

It may take several years for the audiences to walk the same path as Ellie, a path where they will come to realize that there is no power in this world that can change the reality, because life is what it is, not what it should be.

Image from Alexey Savchenko

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