Thoughts on The Last of Us Part II

Somehow I’ve let the better part of a month go by without writing anything here, and I think I’m just in one of those creative dry spells. Whatever the case, I did spend some time playing through The Last of Us Part II and I thought I could at least put a post together about it. First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the developers of this series, Naughty Dog, you should look into their games. The Uncharted series has been long running and each game is definitely worth playing through. Somehow Naughty Dog has figured out how to push the systems their games run on to their maximum capabilities, along with pushing the boundaries of storytelling in video games. Adult themes, beautiful locations, graphic violence… it’s all here, but it elicits emotion in ways that only the best films of Hollywood can. I’ve never felt tears welling in my eyes from playing a video game until I indulged in their stories, and I cannot recommend these titles enough. The first game in this series was gut wrenching as well, but you grew to love Joel and Ellie and carrying them through to the end of the timeline was an amazing journey.

The sequel starts you off playing as Joel again, coming back home from some journey, and home being a settlement somewhere in the western portion of the United States. One thing I should notate now is that I plan to talk about various parts of the game including the finale, so spoilers will be present. You probably should skip the rest of this article until you’ve completed the game. But hey, if you want to see if the overall plot even interests you in the first place, read on! So this game puts you into the direct control of various characters, all of whom have a tale that directly intersects with the others. From what I remember about the first game, you only played as Joel save for a short bit playing as Ellie, but this game puts you in the shoes of Joel, Ellie and Abby, and at the same time jumps around on the timeline. There are flashbacks to where Ellie was a younger girl, ditto this for Abby. Joel is really the most limited character, because after playing him at the beginning, you’re given control of Ellie, and soon enough Joel is dead. That’s not entirely a spoiler I suppose as we all knew that was coming, but it was still sad and I’m glad there were some flash backs of him throughout the game because he was a really great character and I missed him after a time.

Joel’s death was fairly traumatic. This settlement where these folks live is still a part of this post apocalyptic setting, so there is still the ever present threat of the infected. We see plenty of examples of how they have evolved throughout the game as well, because various new forms exist in the sequel. Due to the need for supplies and the need for living people to protect themselves, this settlement has several outposts nearby, and groups of survivors head out to them regularly to keep the area infection free along with grabbing anything of use they might find. They are not the only bastion of society though, and soon enough it becomes apparent that some of the other humans in the area are not so friendly.

Those who played the first game might recall the main plot, where Joel who is a smuggler, was paid to smuggle a girl (Ellie) to a “Firefly” (one of the new world factions) outpost because it was determined she was immune to the virus as she had been bitten but never turned. It turns out that what the Fireflies needed from her to make a vaccine would kill her. When Joel found that out, he broke into their lab to rescue Ellie, and inadvertently killed some of the Fireflies. Well, turns out that one of the scientists he killed was the father of this girl Abby, and she has been looking for Joel for a long time. Rumors made it up to Seattle where she was staying, and her and some cohorts headed south to find Joel. They do find him while he is out with Ellie and his brother Tommy, and they seriously injure both Tommy and Ellie while Abby beats Joel to death. They let the other two live, as she felt she had her revenge, and they head back north while Ellie and Tommy decide that they need to avenge Joel in a similar way. Tommy ends up leaving without her though, and through some other story bullet points, Dina joins Ellie in her journey to Seattle. This is probably the point that many people took issue with, as the now main character enters into a lesbian relationship with another character, and I heard the SJW’s ruin everything cries from the mountaintop. Whatever your preference or orientation, this is still good storytelling and fucking get over it already.

There are some seriously intense moments throughout the game. As I said, there are a bunch of flashbacks and moments in time where you play the game through Ellie’s perspective and then Abby’s. First there’s the journey to Seattle with Ellie and Dina, but then as you progress you eventually play as Abby and see what she has been going through with her WLF companions and we’re also introduced to a local fanatical faction that are called the Scars. They are more tribal and less dependent on technology, while the WLF (Wolves) are militaristic. Conflicts are abound between humans and the infected. Eventually Ellie kills off a few of the people who were present when Joel was killed, and also follow’s Tommy’s trail, finding more dead. She eventually kills off a couple more and then finds Abby. Abby ends up shooting and killing some of Ellie’s friends, and nearly kills Dina, but shows mercy due to the Scar kid she’s been helping. She agrees to part ways and never wants to see them again, and you’d think that would be the end.

In what I first thought was the epilogue, we see Ellie and Dina in a farmstead along with an infant. We can presume that Dina managed to have the baby and they’ve started this new life. Presumably this is not far from the settlement they stayed at near the beginning of the game, because Tommy shows up and says that he’s found Abby again, this time in Santa Barbara. Dina chases him off saying they’re done with that, but soon enough you’re having visions of dead Joel and can’t help but want to track her down again. Dina warns you that she won’t wait around, but you head out anyway.

This final sequence sees you tracking down Abby, getting caught by some other faction that had already caught her, fighting your way free, and then sneaking into their base to rescue Abby. You find her put up on a stake in this harbor, a cruel death awaiting her. Letting her down, she then cuts down the Scar boy (Lin) and they head off for a boat to escape. It’s this point where you fight her again, and though you win the fight and could have drown her to death, for some reason you let her go, and she takes off. In a strange twist, each of these characters had someone kill their people, became obsessed, had the chance to kill each other for revenge multiple times, and then had a change of heart when it came down to it. I suppose we all are still human after all.

The true epilogue happens next. Ellie returns to the farmstead and finds it empty save for her stuff in one room. Dina and the baby are gone. You play Joel’s guitar one last time, and then head off into the wilderness, presumably to find Dina, or perhaps start yet another new life. It was a sad but fitting end. I hope that we are not done with this world, but perhaps there are new characters and stories to explore. Whatever the case I thoroughly enjoyed this title and I highly recommend picking it up.

Uncharted 4: Complete

It’s been a while since Uncharted 4 released, but I finally finished it off. I made a screenshot dump post a couple of months ago, when I thought I was over halfway through the game. Going by number of chapters, I was actually over halfway through the campaign, but the last few chapters felt much more stretched out, as the game begins to open up with exploratory levels and vehicle travel. This isn’t something that’s new to the series by any means, but Uncharted 4 was much more expansive than its predecessors. Or at least, it sure felt that way.

Keeping with my vow to start blowing through my backlog, after realizing that I hadn’t beaten many games at all this year, I’ve already completed two more and made progress elsewhere. At the beginning of this month, I managed to complete the new DOOM, and now Uncharted 4 can be struck from the backlog list as well. I did already add another game to my collection since the steam sale though, so this is only a minor step in the right direction, but it is progress nonetheless. Unfortunately No Man’s Sky comes out in just about 3 weeks, so my backlog is going to collect dust again rather soon as I dive into that, but this is a story for another day. Back to Uncharted.

Honestly, there are so many improvements in this title it’s hard to know where to begin. The controls are intuitive; the climbing, jumping and rolling mechanics are all very sharp. The cover system and gunplay are spot on. I never felt overly challenged, despite going straight to hard difficulty for my first playthrough. The graphics are incredible, and smooth throughout. The action sequences are absolutely ridiculous, but that’s definitely nothing new for this series. It’s just so much prettier and smoother that it feels like a huge step up for the IP. It is unfortunate that the subtitle is “A Thief’s End” and this is the last we’ll be seeing of good ol’ Nathan Drake. He keeps his sense of humor to the very end though, and that’s where this game really shines.

The writers at Naughty Dog should feel proud. Not only did they make Nathan a more mature and responsible guy, but they made him more loveable, and there were so many points in the game oozing with real emotion, and that’s not easy to do in a game with a “meathead” protagonist. No, I don’t think Nathan Drake is a meathead, but I’ve heard the argument plenty of times anyway. Overall the growth of the characters and overall charm of the narrative pulled me in deeper than I thought I could go. And of course, there’s plenty of death and destruction to go around.

My only complaint with the game? The goddamn sword fight finale. Holy shit I had to do that so many times before finally getting through. In a game that is primarily about gunplay, WHY would you make the final encounter end with a sword fight? And an annoyingly implemented QTE one at that? It really is a minor complaint, but holy fuck was I screaming at my TV before I completed the game.

Having now played through all four games, I would still rate this one the highest despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. 9.5/10 Here’s some screens of the latter half of the game. They might be a little spoilery, but hey, the game’s been out for two months. Enjoy.

Uncharted 4 Screenshot Dump

Just a short post today, as I wanted to get something else in before the end of the month. I’ve mentioned it several times already, but I’ve been playing Uncharted 4 quite a bit lately, mixed in with a few other larger titles. Uncharted 4 is really a great looking game, Naughty Dog have really made the PS4’s potential shine, though I’m sure they’re basically maxing out what it can do. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful game to behold. The addition of a photo mode in this sequel has given the opportunity to exploit the fact that I can take screenshots on my console as a built in feature. I’m still a little tickled by that, despite the fact that it’s been possible on PC for ages. Still, I wished for the feature on PS3, where  I typically took shitty cell phone pictures of my TV. But I digress.

I wanted to share some of the beauty that is Uncharted 4. There shouldn’t be anything too spoilery in them, but there are a few trophy unlocks and blurry action shots, just for good measure. Have to take the good with the bad, I suppose. Let’s take a look:

Beautiful, no?