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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Thu July 02, 2020 2:04 pm 
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Monkey_Driven wrote:
It's certainly the best drawer/cabinet opening game I've ever played.


Yes. Rockstar, take fucking notes


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Thu July 02, 2020 2:11 pm 
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It did crack me up how everyone in the apocalypse was just constantly writing undelivered letters.

Dear Maria,

I’m being lynched as I write this. I’m infected too btw. I know you’ll never read this. Feed Sparky.

PS See if you can find my superhero card for me.

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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Thu July 02, 2020 9:18 pm 
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McParadigm wrote:
It did crack me up how everyone in the apocalypse was just constantly writing undelivered letters.

Dear Maria,

I’m being lynched as I write this. I’m infected too btw. I know you’ll never read this. Feed Sparky.

PS See if you can find my superhero card for me.


They don't have social media or texts!


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Fri July 03, 2020 1:45 am 
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I just want to watch gun upgrade videos.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Fri July 03, 2020 3:07 am 
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Finished the game this evening. I'll try to write something up after a few days.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 12:35 pm 
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:thumbsup:

Ya'll weren't kidding about that subway section being intense, holy shit. The level of tension in this game is insanely good at times


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 3:16 pm 
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Monkey_Driven wrote:
Finished the game this evening. I'll try to write something up after a few days.

Checking this thread every day like
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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 3:48 pm 
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McParadigm wrote:
Monkey_Driven wrote:
Finished the game this evening. I'll try to write something up after a few days.

Checking this thread every day like
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Haha, it will likely be a long, spoiler filled post. Hope to write it tomorrow or Tuesday.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 7:11 pm 
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I must say the
Spoiler: show
flooded Seattle section
was horrible. It seemed like something out of Uncharted. It just didn’t fit.

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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 7:23 pm 
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Horrible is a bit strong.

That section (if we are referring to the same part) had two of my favorite areas in the game.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 7:48 pm 
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McParadigm wrote:
Monkey_Driven wrote:
Finished the game this evening. I'll try to write something up after a few days.

Checking this thread every day like
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:lol:

Also Dina's ass :nice:


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Sun July 05, 2020 9:58 pm 
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Monkey_Driven wrote:
Horrible is a bit strong.

That section (if we are referring to the same part) had two of my favorite areas in the game.


The arcade area was great, however, i’m referring to the time on the boat. It didn’t fit the world they crafted.

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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 2:05 pm 
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I made the mistake of clicking on a Reddit thread about this game. Jesus Christ, these people need to get over it. Filled with hateful, completely unnecessary bile.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 3:34 pm 
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Last of Us Part Two Review

The original Last of Us is my favorite video game of the past decade. Being one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, it deserves all of the praise. It was the pinnacle of the third person action game genre and the story, characters, multiplayer mode, and gameplay still hold up today, even as other games have taken and improved elements from it. Naughty Dog grew up and in many ways took the rest of Triple A video games with it. They proved you can tell genre stories with nuance and complicated characters, while maintaining engaging gameplay. To say the sequel was highly anticipated would be an understatement.

I'm sitting here a few days after finishing Part Two still searching my thoughts and emotions for how exactly I feel about it. In some ways, this is the highest compliment I can give a story-based video game. I play a lot of games. It's not rare to play an RPG or other action game and not remember key plot points of major character's names, just hours after killing the final boss. The level of thought I've put into analyzing almost every inch of this game is a testament to what it achieves. This is art. Bold choices are made because that is the creators' vision, not some focus group, message board, or studio executive.

Part Two is not going to connect with everyone. In fact, it has already proved to be incredibly divisive. But there's no denying this game has a lot to say about human behavior. Its faults lie mostly with pacing issues and the limitations of video games as a mode of storytelling. Similar to Red Dead Redemption 2, it is a fascinating example of what a veteran studio can do with an almost unlimited budget to tell their story. Both games share a lot of similarities (complicated characters, environmental immersion, gorgeous visuals, mature themes, etc.), but Red Dead is held back by how open ended it is. Giving players so much choice makes the narrative lose focus. The Last of Us is laser focused throughout. Every moment is intentional, even when they drag on a little too long.

On a technical and gameplay level, I'm not sure games in this genre have been better. Character animations, level design, environmental design, and the sheer scale of the city are all exquisite, made almost impossible to believe on 7 year old hardware. As a sequel (or part two), it makes the natural gameplay improvements you would expect (like jumping and swimming!), but it is the smaller details that really stuck out to me. The enemy AI is also a noticeable step up. This could be the best third person stealth game I've ever played. I highly recommend playing this on a hard difficulty to maximize the survival horror elements and to give each encounter even more tension.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the game and highly recommend it. It is a heavy, dense game that can be an emotional slog to get through, but the payoff and conversation around it is ultimately worth it. The characters and performances, both old and new, make it stand out from the pack of narrative based games. I cared deeply about their journeys. It tells an expansive tale, going beyond the zombie tropes of the first game and exploring new influences. Even without a coherent or worthy story, it would still be worth your time for the sheer technical excellence. Time will tell where it ranks on my list of all time favorites, but I'm so happy it exists. Much like Breath of the Wild, God of War, and RDR 2, this game will heavily influence the next generation of gaming.

Now, on to the spoilers. Please read after you finish the game.

Seriously, don't click on this unless you want to be spoiled.

Spoiler: show
The Last of Us Part Two is about the consequences of a single-minded, selfish obsession. Often these obsessions are related to the people and things we love. Joel's obsession with saving Ellie and using her a proxy for his lost daughter cost him his life. Tommy breaks down, both physically and romantically in hunting down Joel’s killers. Abby loses all of her friends and herself in the four year pursuit of Joel and the fallout after. Ellie experiences the worst consequences of this type of obsession. She not only sees Joel brutally murdered, but she becomes an unflinching murderer herself and is directly responsible for the loss of her friend, lover, adopted son, and fingers (!). Abby is saved by Lev and Yara. She rediscovers her humanity and purpose by seeing their profound love for one another. She abandons her revenge on Ellie when she is told Dina is pregnant. The cycle of violence will just continue if she chooses to kill Ellie in that moment. It is a very intentional choice to have Abby's "awakening" happen before Ellie. Ellie's flashbacks to Joel on the porch and Abby's relationship with Lev save her right before the point of no return. She is freed from the burden of her obsession but has lost everything important to her. Luckily, she is still alive and can go off to find herself again. It's not a overly cynical game. If anything it ends on hopeful notes, but it has really dark moments.

I've avoided most reviews and discussions around this game in fear of spoilers, but I am kind of surprised how many people are focusing on the violence in the game. Calling it gratuitous or overdone seems like a reach to me, given the world in which the story takes place. It would be incongruent to downplay or hide it. The violence and intensity of the combat is intended to make the player uncomfortable with character choices AND serve as foundation for gameplay tactics. I don't personally find this installment to be any more brutal or unforgiving as the first game. It's just given more graphical detail. And there are no cannibals this time around. I’m not sure it is fair to single out this game as a critique on the violence in games and coming to grips with the violent acts of the players. There are plenty of consequences of the violence here. It is something to discuss in a larger conversation about the limitations of mainstream games, however.I’m not sure a game about opening drawers and exploring abandoned worlds would sell 10 million copies.

There are two bold choices that make this game a story worth telling, the murder of Joel early on and making Abby the playable character for almost half of the game. Bold choices for bold choices sake don't pay off unless they serve the overall narrative. These two are fundamentally important to the themes and characters arcs in this story. Naming the game Part Two instead of the Last of Us 2 seemed like a marketing choice to me at first, but they play out as necessary halves. I really wonder how the reaction to this game would be different if there were no leaks. It has taken the conversation away from how incredibly risky these choices were. The good news is they mostly paid off!

The Death of Joel

The story would not exist without this event. It would have no forward momentum. The scene itself is deeply unsettling, wonderfully shot, and makes sense as a consequence for Joel's actions. Joel has done some horrible things in his life. He accepts his fate, so should the player. I loved being able to see this scene play out from two different perspectives. It's so heartbreaking to see him care for Ellie in his final moment. Luckily, we get to see the pivotal moments between these two characters in flashbacks. The museum flashback in particular might be one of the most memorable, emotional moments in gaming for me. As a father myself, I was deeply moved at their connection once again. We also get to see him finally disclose to Ellie the decision he made in Salt Lake City. The choice to kill him early in the game pays off with Future Days (!) as a running theme and that final porch scene. He dies early but his presence is felt throughout.

Abby

The creative decision to play as Abby and see her perspective is such a welcome and inventive way to tell a more expansive story and to highlight how personal and damaging Joel and Ellie's decisions can be on the wider world. Her character proves to be way more than a functional piece of the story. There is a depth to her backstory and performance that make her stand beside Joel and Ellie as fleshed out, complete characters. She also mixes up the gameplay and serves as a Joel stand-in, both in playstyle and her relationship with Lev. The latter of which is a nice play on the Last of Us formula.They are two sides of the same coin in many ways. Both suffered traumatic losses and remade themselves to cope, only to be changed back by a relationship with someone younger and more innocent. By the end of the game I did not want Ellie to target her. I wanted them to coexist and realize the error in their ways. Her story is just as tragic and then hopeful as Ellie's and it doesn't seem like a retread. Naughty Dog always has a surprise or two in their games and this might be the biggest one yet.

Flashbacks

I wanted to touch on the flashbacks throughout the game. Sometimes their use can be superfluous or a lazy way to tell character backstories, but they are essential in this game. They break up the violence and heaviness of the Seattle scenes with levity, humor, and soulfulness. In a sense they demonstrate the beauty of love and why these relationships lead us to making such costly choices. The mixed timelines also give context to previous scenes and decisions without tipping off character actions. I'm really looking forward to replaying the game to look for subtle details in these scenes.

New Characters

This is a mixed bag for me. Dina is a home run. She is instantly believable as someone Ellie would fall for. I was rooting for her from the beginning. Jessie is good too, though in a smaller role. I shrieked when he was killed so suddenly. Abby’s friends are hit or miss. Owen’s performance didn’t connect with me in most scenes. It seemed distant or vacant? I didn’t really buy his relationship with Abby until the boat scene in Seattle Night One. The others are fine, perfectly acceptable video game fare. Lev is a good character, but his part is written sort of inconsistently in what he knows and doesn’t. I really felt his relationship with Yara.

Representation

Much of the initial criticism from the leaks seemed to revolve around the SJW checklist this game checked off (transgendered character, females leads, lesbian, bisexual girl, etc.). I never once groaned at these things because none of these character traits brought unnecessary attention to themselves. The best examples of underrepresented populations in the media are like this. Lev’s story is wonderfully told in an understated, but tragic way. Ellie’s sexuality serves as a plot point at the very beginning of the game, but it is very small and it leads to the game’s climactic porch conversation with Joel. Abby’s muscles (I hate even typing this) seem to be debated and ridiculed by some corners of the Internet, but it serves as a physical representation of the transformation she made to become a “Joel hunter”. Her long braid was also a nice touch.

This has gone on for too long at this point, so here are some criticisms I have before finishing up with some small things I really enjoyed.

Disliked
- The heavy Max Payne meets Tomb Raider vibe of the attack on the Rattlesnake compound. I get what they are going for here, but it felt unnecessarily cruel. Santa Barbara was beautiful though.
Many quiet moments of exploration and drawer opening drag on a little too long. They are beautiful to explore, but they take away from the narrative momentum. I bet 20-30 percent could be cut and the game wouldn’t lose anything.
- Companion AI is still a bit wonky. It is not uncommon for my ally to be in sight of an enemy and for them not to be seen.
- I did not like being bit by dogs and I really did not enjoy killing them. Especially Alice. Poor girl.
- Maybe one too many aquarium scenes.
- Not enough locations. Seattle is beautiful, but the landscape is not varied enough. The indoor locations had more variety, but some types of places were repeated too much. Wish there was more time spent in Santa Barbara or another location.
- I wish it was a bit easier to avoid conflicts. Violence is easy in this world, but I wish sneaking was a bit easier to open those stuck doors.
- I played on Hard and was never at a loss for ammo or supplies. I wish the crafting parts were more rare.
- Too many safes to crack!
- Maybe one too many close escapes by Tommy
- I wish there were more opportunities to play two different enemy types against each other
- I wish there more interactions with bloaters and heavy enemy types

Liked
- The environmental design and storytelling was exquisite. The arcade, record stores, hotel pool and lobby, hardware store, aquarium, and museum were all so well done. I could spend hours in them if you let me.
- Splitting the games into three distinct parts with some flashbacks thrown was a great choice. It almost felt like three games. Was getting heavy Lord of the Rings and The Wire vibes. This is a long game!
- Small touches like Ellie keeping the toy for Sam in her room and saying how she doesn’t like Halloween stores were such good reminders of bad memories in her life.
- The animations and character details
- Upgrading guns and the attention to detail of the workbenches
- Sound design
- How heavily certain sections leaned into the horror aesthetic. The island felt like a Resident Evil game. The Jackson sections with Abby felt like 28 Days Later. Some of the basement sections were creepy as hell (like the introduction to the shamblers).
- Whatever the hell the infected blob was in the hospital. Inside was clearly an inspiration here.
- The lighting and HDR effects
- The two different human enemy types (WLF and Scars) mixed up the gameplay enough to keep things interesting. The whistles are terrifying and will haunt my dreams.
- The skywalk scene with Lev helping Abby calm her fears was beautiful
- Chasing Tommy, the sniper. It felt like a Bourne movie.
- The collectibles were fun and worth reading, especially the trading cards
- The open areas for exploration. The downtown Seattle section near the beginning felt like Shadow of the Colossus
- Escaping the island with Abby and Lev as everything burns
- The theatre
- Future Days really works in the context of the game, especially without BoB's studio fuckery
- The pot scene
- Joel and Ellie’s porch scene at the end was absolutely perfect
- Not being able to play the guitar properly at the farm nearly broke me
- The ambiguous ending of Ellie’s destination

Much much more!

I look forward to discussing this game with you all when you finish it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 5:09 pm 
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Great write-up, MD!

I just finished the game last night. Whew.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 5:20 pm 
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tree_ wrote:
Great write-up, MD!

I just finished the game last night. Whew.


Yeah, it's a lot to unpack.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 5:32 pm 
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:thumbsup:

I actually think this game demonstrates less the limits of video game storytelling and more the relative limits of movies and television. The storytelling here wasn’t bound by tropes, formulas, time limitations, fan service, demographic marketing concerns, or epic spectacle the way those mediums have been in recent years. This series is, to me (a 40 year old luddite who barely played a video game between 1995 and 2017) a demonstration of why video games are the future of storytelling.

I agree about the drawer opening stuff. The payoff on all that searching around just didn’t amount to much. I quit doing it except where I absolutely had to, after a while. I also agree that the AI (while getting better) kind of takes you out of your suspended disbelief with dumb behaviors.

I didn’t mind killing dogs. Maybe it’s the Dakota in me, but I don’t find killing dogs more upsetting than killing people.

I think it’s a testament to this game that
Spoiler: show
sitting on my couch at 2 in the morning and finding emaciated Abby up on that cross genuinely shook me.

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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 5:47 pm 
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McParadigm wrote:
:thumbsup:

I actually think this game demonstrates less the limits of video game storytelling and more the relative limits of movies and television. The storytelling here wasn’t bound by tropes, formulas, time limitations, fan service, demographic marketing concerns, or epic spectacle the way those mediums have been in recent years. This series is, to me (a 40 year old luddite who barely played a video game between 1995 and 2017) a demonstration of why video games are the future of storytelling.

I agree about the drawer opening stuff. The payoff on all that searching around just didn’t amount to much. I quit doing it except where I absolutely had to, after a while. I also agree that the AI (while getting better) kind of takes you out of your suspended disbelief with dumb behaviors.

I didn’t mind killing dogs. Maybe it’s the Dakota in me, but I don’t find killing dogs more upsetting than killing people.

I think it’s a testament to this game that
Spoiler: show
sitting on my couch at 2 in the morning and finding emaciated Abby up on that cross genuinely shook me.


I think you're right here in the sense that games should stop being compared to those more traditional forms of media. A "cinematic" video game is sort of reductive language because it already limits what it can or should be.


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 6:09 pm 
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Well, in that "cinematic" means to compellingly express via visuals, it's a perfect word for this. This game is more cinematic than most cinema. I too was often stunned, jaw-dropped, teary-eyed, and shocked many times throughout, and I play many many games. And yeah, that Abby moment McP referred to... just wow...


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 Post subject: Re: The Last of Us Part II
PostPosted: Mon July 06, 2020 6:13 pm 
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tree_ wrote:
Well, in that "cinematic" means to compellingly express through visuals, it's a perfect word for this. This game is more cinematic than most cinema. I too was often stunned, jaw-dropped, teary-eyed, and shocked many times throughout, and I play many many games. And yeah, that Abby moment McP referred to... just wow...


Spoiler: show
I didn't even recognize her. Kind of embarrassed how long it took me to find where she was. Then, boom. Stunning.


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