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The Last of Us Part II: Why has the game divided the community so much?

(picture credits: essentially sports)
(picture credits: essentially sports)
Rahul Bhushan
ANALYST
Modified 02 Aug 2020, 20:19 IST
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The Last of Us Part II, perhaps the most anticipated game for the PS4, is finally out and is a little over a month old at this point. The game had immense hype and expectations attached to it, given the acclaim and success of the predecessor. The game was, no doubt, going to be a massive undertaking for any studio.

2013's The Last of Us was quite the lightning-in-a-bottle for Sony and Naughty Dog. It was a game that the developers even felt could be the end of Naughty Dog, given the risks they were taking.

The success of 2013's The Last of Us

During the time Uncharted 3 was being developed, Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann were heading a team that was working on another game for the PS3.

The smaller team was tasked with developing The Last of Us. After a long developmental period, the game came out during the latter stages of the PS3 to unprecedented acclaim and financial success.

The game was heralded as not only one of the best games for the PS3, but one of the best games in the history of gaming, period. The game was exceptionally well-received, and many applauded the efforts of Naughty Dog for pushing the boundaries of storytelling in video games and establishing videogames as a legitimate art form for storytelling.

Naughty Dog were then expected to repeat the kind of success of The Last of Us when they announced a sequel.

The Last of Us Part II: Why has the game divided the community so much?

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Problems in Development

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A message from the studio:

A post shared by Naughty Dog (@naughty_dog_inc) on

The Last of Us Part II's developmental period was marred by setback after setback. Bruce Straley, who had been instrumental in both Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us, chose to leave the company for a sabbatical after a long career in game development.

During the developmental cycle, reports of an excruciating crunch period began to surface. The game's release date was pushed multiple times, and thanks to a significant story leak, several important parts of the game made their way to their Internet before release.

Eventually, the game was finally released on Ju the 19th. Early reviews were up on the Internet, and they were extremely positive. The Metacritics score reflected a historic 96 score for The Last of Us Part II, a week before the game was out to the public.

Release and Backlash (Spoilers)

Before the game had even come out, several Youtube channels and message boards across the Internet had already lambasted the game for its story elements.

Shortly after the game was out, users had bombed the game's user rating on Metacritic for an abysmal 3.4 rating.

The score grew better over time but the game divided the community like no other game in recent memory. While there is a vocal portion of the community that adore the game and its many ambitious decisions, some have legitimate complaints and have voiced their displeasure with the game.

As a rare case in gaming history, all the criticism lobbed at The Last of Us Part II has been purely directed at only the story.

What are the reasons for the game's divisive nature? (Spoilers ahead)

The Last of Us Part II's game director, Neil Druckmann, before the game had even released, had stated that the game was going to be divisive by design, and that "fans of the first game might not necessarily like The Last of Us Part II,".

This has been the major reason for contention for a lot of players, with many claiming that The Last of Us Part II's ambitions to tell a more divisive story has resulted in alienating a large portion of the fanbase.

Conversely, a lot of players lauded Naughty Dog for attempting to tell a more ambitious story, and in a way that has not been explored a lot in Triple-A gaming.

1) Character Decisions

Several critics have stated that the character decisions in the game are not supported by their personalities, and are merely there for the convenience of the story.

The major one being Tommy and Joel, two hardened survivors for 25 years, revealing their names to a group of heavily armed strangers. This eventually resulted in Joel's brutal torture and death at the hands of Abby.

While fans of the game attempt to explain this as a momentary and accidental character slip-up, detractors of the game are not entirely satisfied with that explanation.

2) Playing as Abby for practically half the game

(picture credits: polygon)
(picture credits: polygon)

Much like The Last of Us, the sequel eventually turned out to be a dual protagonist game as well, but in a much more subversive way. The game finally gives the player the control of a character who has, up until this point, been the primary antagonist of the game, for killing one of the community's favourite characters.

This resulted in a lot of players voicing their displeasure. According to them, Naughty Dog had alienated the fanbase with this move.

However, this decision was meant to evoke a sense of discomfort and for players to assume the point of a view of a character they usually wouldn't have. Abby is given a proper backstory, and the motivations for her actions are fleshed out fully in The Last of Us Part II.

Lack of Focus

Players also felt, that as a result of perspective shift at the halfway point in the game, it took away the game's momentum it had steadily built up until that point.

However, players felt that the decision felt incredibly forced and took away a lot from the overall game's quality.

3) Misleading Marketing

Joel was not precisely put front and centre in the marketing for The Last of Us Part II, but a couple of trailers indicated a larger role for Joel in the sequel. However, that was not to be the case as characters models were explicitly replaced for the trailers.

This led to a lot of players levelling criticism at Naughty Dog for misleading the audience into believing Joel would be a huge presence throughout the game, and not just in flashback sequences.

In Conclusion

While the game's divisive nature is by design, players with legitimate criticism of the game are in the right for not enjoying the game. However, The Last of Us Part II is an important game for this generation and gaming as a whole.

The studio, in an attempt to tell a more ambitious story in the Last of Us Part II, had to run the risk of being divisive and drawing the ire of the community.

While it would've been easier for the studio to make a more digestible sequel, and play it safe, it wouldn't have done justice to the groundbreaking original game.

Published 02 Aug 2020, 19:43 IST
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