On the off chance that you’ve accidentally clicked on to this by mistake or didn’t notice the spoiler warning, this is your final warning. I will be talking major spoilers for The Last Of Us Part 2 so if you haven’t finished the game, go and do that then come back. Even if you’ve seen the leaks or don’t care about spoilers, I’d still highly recommend seeing it for yourself before just reading these ramblings of madman.
Of course you can always read my spoiler free review instead right here.
Right, warnings are all out the way so let’s crack on. I won’t really be touching on any gameplay mechanics or visuals because I pretty much covered all of that in my non spoiler review. This will be mostly talk on the very controversial story that Neil Druckmann and his team at Naughty Dog treated us to.
Let’s start with one of the games biggest talking points and also one of the biggest complaints some fans had about the story – Joel’s death at the hands of new playable character Abby. There’s no getting away from how much this one hurts. Even with the leaks spoiling this big reveal for some, it doesn’t soften the blow (no pun intended) of losing our main playable character from the first game so early in the sequel. Although this one was rough, it had to happen in order to get the amazing story we were given. Ellie’s backstory already means she’s dealing with a lot of mental demons but witnessing this event obviously sends her off the deep end, driving her to go on a revenge mission which would eventually lead her to lose everything.
In my non spoiler review, I spoke about the use of some real life songs that really take this story to the next level. It’s of course Joel’s cover of Pearl Jam’s Future Days which I refer to, a piece of music that is so interwoven with the games story that it’s impossible not to mention. It goes without saying that the opening lyrics of this song foreshadow the events of the entire game, “If I ever were to lose you, I’d surely lose myself”. Although it’s Joel who originally sings this to Ellie in one of the games early scenes, it’s Ellie who sadly loses Joel and herself. The revenge mission she decides to go on results in her losing the love of her life Dina, who leaves Ellie and takes their child JJ with her. The father of that child – Jesse loses his life trying to help Ellie, and Tommy ends up a shell of his former self… She truly did lose herself after losing Joel and it breaks this old mans heart. While I’m mentioning these characters, I just want to point how how incredibly voice acted each one of them is. Hats off to Ashley Johnson, Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Shannon Woodward, Stephen A.Chang, Jeffery Pierce and more for what was an outstanding performance.
I understand that a lot of people strongly dislike a lot of this story and that’s fine, personally I think it’s incredible and hard hitting storytelling which results in a game that will stick with me for a long time. I want to quickly address some of these complaints before moving on to speaking about Abby. The big criticism I keep hearing is just how dumb Joel and Tommy come off when they first meet Abby, quickly giving up their names and where they’re from. I completely agree that this would have never ever happened in the first game, Joel would have likely left Abby to die or been more weary of her intentions, but this isn’t the same Joel.
It’s so important to remember that four years have past since the events of the first game and even more importantly, a lot has happened in those four years.. or a lot hasn’t happened I probably should say. Joel and Tommy have clearly been enjoying a safe and trouble free lifestyle for a long time, I’m sorry but that would change a person. I’m not saying that a part of the old Joel wouldn’t still be there, but there’s absolutely no doubt that after years of peaceful living that he would let his guard down a bit and become more trusting having been surrounded by so many good people for so long. Especially when you compare the old Joel who was continuously surrounded by down and out desperate people in the Boston quarantine zone. It can be hard to fathom this idea of a new Joel coming of the back of part 1 but it didn’t feel out of character to me, especially as the game moves forward and we get more flashbacks to Joel’s recent lifestyle where the biggest stress he had to worry about was a homophobic barman and what to trade for coffee beans. I will admit that maybe they should have fleshed this out more before brutally murdering him, but come the end of the game I felt they had done a great job in justifying their actions at the beginning.
Moving on from Joel, let’s talk about the woman who ended his life – Abby. It felt like a very typical Naughty Dog move to have us play as Joel’s killer before the murder takes place. This would have been cool just for the shock factor but then the game reaches its halfway point and we once again take control of Abby just as Ellie finally catches up with her. The fact that the game makes us play as Abby for half the story is a controversial move which many do not like. There’s no doubt that Abby is difficult to warm to, but I felt that if you stick with it and stay open minded then you are rewarded with a character who is just as easy to connect to as Ellie.
I think what may have turned off a lot of players to Abby’s side of the game is how obvious Naughty Dog’s intentions are. Straight away you feel forced to care about the killer of our favourite character and forget about the hours and hours we’ve just put into Ellie’s mission to kill the character we’re now in control of. There’s no denying how jarring this change is and I’ve seen a lot of people ditch the game at this point. I’m not going to chastise these folks as I completely understand that feeling, I had it as well but there was no way I wasn’t going to see this story through. Then something happened, I began to care about Abby’s story. The war between the WLF and the Seraphites was engaging and her backstory with Owen (and his adorable aquarium) was all of a sudden enough to keep me invested. At this point though, I still didn’t like Abby.
Given that her father was murdered by Joel, I definitely sympathised with her but that didn’t mean I had to like her. Then after being captured by the Seraphites and meeting Yara and Lev, that began to change. Her relationship with these two characters, particularly Lev, was the turning point for Abby which made me not only like this character but also question my actions as Ellie to this point. Yes I realise that this was the writers obvious intentions which they wore clearly on their sleeve, but that doesn’t stop it from working. Just because you can see the end doesn’t mean the journey there can’t be brilliant and this one is just that.
I loved the relationship between Abby and Lev so much that it even began to reflect the one between Joel and Ellie for me. It was at this point that I’d gone from playing as Ellie in the first half, wanting to kill any WLF member who got in my way so that I could brutally get revenge on Abby, to now hoping for some sort of resolution that meant both characters could survive given that I now care for them equally. It meant that the two main boss fights in the game were difficult and uncomfortable to play..
Playing as Abby trying to kill Ellie was just horrible, I didn’t enjoy a single second of it but I can’t help but feel that’s the point. You’re not meant to want Ellie dead but your hand is being forced. Though I will admit to resenting her a lot for killing Alice, Mel and Owen, they deserved better! I’m still not sure whether this Ellie boss fight is a good thing or not, overall I think it helped me view these two characters on an even playing field but I hated playing every second of it and would often let Ellie defeat me as I thought that’s what I wanted.
What really took me by surprise was the final boss fight where you’re back in control of Ellie in an effort to finally get revenge and kill Abby. Even after coming round to Abby and enjoying her as a character, I genuinely thought I’d have no problem controlling Ellie in completing her mission. It turns out though that it wasn’t that easy and I’d severely underestimated how much Abby meant to me. It was exactly like the Ellie boss fight where I just didn’t feel comfortable with what I had to do. I didn’t want to break apart the relationship between Abby and Lev like Abby did for Joel and Ellie. I didn’t want Abby dead anymore. Thankfully neither did Ellie in what weirdly ended up as a happy ending.
Ellie’s last minute decision to spare Abby may be seen as an odd one to some and I can see why. Remember though that this is a very troubled and broken young woman. Her last second realisation that killing Abby won’t make the pain and flashbacks of Joel go away was a good enough reason for me to spare her. It shows that Ellie isn’t completely lost to revenge and hatred and leaves a tiny bit of hope that she may be able to live a somewhat normal life again if she ever catches up with Dina. I have absolutely no issue with people not digging this last minute bait and switch, but given how much death we’d been put though, how much I’d come round to Abby and not wanting Ellie to completely lose herself to all this, I happily took this weird ending with a dash of hope.
The final scene with Ellie in her empty farmhouse having lost everything is heartbreaking enough, but to then pull out Joel’s trusty guitar which we as the player have been strumming away on through the entire game, and have Ellie not be able to play Joel’s song anymore due to losing her fingers in the final battle is nothing short of devastating. It’s at this point where she has truly lost everything. It’s sad, it’s depressing but it’s a brilliant story which I’ll never forget.
Before I wrap up, I also want to quickly speak directly to the minority of people who left a few negative reviews revolving around the game being too ‘woke’ with Ellie being a proud openly gay protagonist and Lev coming out as trans. 1. We’ve known Ellie is gay since the Left Behind DLC, I assume you just chose to ignore that? And the way they handle Lev’s situation is done with such nuance and respect to what the character is going through that you can’t help but warm to him in a big way. And 2. If you are upset by this then feel free to fuck off and never read or watch my content in the future you ignorant homophobic prick.
Needless to say, my score hasn’t changed from my first review. I’m still at a 10 with no sign of changing my mind anytime soon. Is it flawless? No, but what is? Can you find plot holes? Maybe but it’s never enough to derail this incredible story. I will address more reasonable criticisms directly in an upcoming video (make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel for more) but I’m in love with this game and I can’t deny it.
The Last Of Us Part 2 is still