Let’s talk about: The Last Of Us Part II


Never in the history of at least my gaming life have I experienced such backlash and a dividing of the audience as I’ve seen with this game. Having now finished it and enjoyed it, I’ve been trying to figure out and understand some of the negativity and hate thrown at this game which on a whole has been a massive critical and commercial success. Below I’ll give a short review on the game, and tackle some of the issues people are having. Warning: SPOILERS ahead.

A woman scorned…

This is a revenge tale that follows the character of Ellie, in a world struck by a virus who herself is immune from, and having to deal with the revelation that Joel, her friend and father-figure from the last game saved her from being killed by doctors who wanted to create a vaccine from her blood. Set 4 years after, Ellie’s out to avenge the death of someone she cares about on a journey where violence and hate prove a corrosive pursuit. It’s not a new idea, many movies have tackled a similar subject but in video games it’s quite unique but handled well here. At its heart it’s a stealth / action based journey set in a world not dissimilar to The Walking Dead. Characters and the performances are incredibly nuanced and deliver emotions more convincingly than any game I’ve played (it’s even better than Hellblade or for it’s time Half-Life 2). Production values and visuals are incredible, easily some of the best on PS4 (if not ever) and gameplay is slick, brilliantly realised with intense action, great atmosphere and tons of memorable encounters. It’s also particularly daring with its twists, which brings me to the criticisms, some of which I do understand.

SPOILERS AHEAD: stop reading if not finished TLOU2

Final warning….. SPOILERS

A beloved character from the first game, Joel is killed early on. Online leaks spoilt this and caused many fans to make their mind up about the game before even playing it. Also, at certain points you take control of the main antagonist, Abbie who is painted early on as bitter and evil, but as you play through her segments her driving force becomes more understandable. Yes, I took a while to warm to her and her segments take up a bit too much of the game with some parts (the skyscraper) feeling padded out or unnecessary. However her relationship with the two Scars members proves a worthwhile highlight. Yet the game asks a great deal of the player to be onboard with this character, and I can see those shocked or offended by a Joel’s death, would find the Abbie segments too big an ask. I almost wanted to stop playing when the game had me controlling Abbie whilst fighting Ellie. But I persevered and am glad I did. Where it went with it’s revenge ark – was incredibly powerful even if it made for quite a bummer ending.

the face of evil…?

Yet the hate levelled at this game … sigh. Threats to the game makers and performers, petitions to have it remade. Entitled much? I agree it won’t be a story everyone can get behind, I may even have ideas how it could have played out differently to get the same result without ‘forcing’ the player to do certain things in the name of hammering home it’s message. Yet for daring storytelling, assured game design that may not break the mould but polishes it to near perfection … I found very little to complain about. There is no room in this industry for such hate and threatening behaviour though. If you don’t like the game, just don’t buy it, don’t play it, express your opinion but keep the bile and hate to yourself. Not many game designers have the audacity to deliver a story in this way, and such a backlash might only cause the industry to shy away from such bold manoeuvres in the future.

Beauty in dark times…

I personally loved this game and have found myself coming back to many sections again for collectibles, the gameplay and for the rich and (at time’s ridiculously) detailed world these brilliantly realised characters inhabit. Is it perfect? No, structurally I’d have liked some of the fat trimmed here and there as well as more ‘choice’ given to the player rather than just violence as the only action. But with that said it’s a game I won’t easily forget.

A-Z Challenge – conclusion


Starting this challenge on May 1st, I guessed there would be times it would get quite challenging (duh), as in order to keep on track I would sometimes have to watch a movie from my Blu-ray collection that I wasn’t in the mood for. As the weeks went by, I would swap and change titles to better support what mood I found myself in, and to explore a variety of genres and sometimes titles different countries.

… in support of physical media

I think on a whole the final list of 26 movies is a nice and varied one. Below you can take a look at the list in full (complete with my verdicts) and draw your own conclusions … and maybe feel inspired to attempt something similar yourself?

Arietty – Recommended

Betty Blue – Good

Carlito’s Way – Recommended

Die Hard 2 – Recommended

Edge of Tomorrow – Recommended

Frenzy – Good

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Essential

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Poor

Interstellar – Recommended

Jurassic Park – Essential

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Good

La La Land – Recommended

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Recommended

North By Northwest – Good

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Good

Parasite – Recommended

Quantum of Solace – Good

[REC] – Recommended

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance – Recommended

Time Bandits – Recommended

Unforgiven – Good

Vertigo – Good

The World Is Not Enough – Good

X-Men Days of Future Past – Recommended

Your Name – Essential

Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain – Poor

I’m really proud to have completed this challenge in the time frame i gave myself (ending on June 30th) and hope to attempt something similar again in the future. If I was to pick a highlight from the movies I saw, it’d probably be Parasite, although watching Time Bandits again was great fun too. I also enjoyed discovering some Hitchcock movies. Disappointments? Unforgiven, which I found quite boring, and Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain which wasn’t as good as I remembered. Otherwise I had a good time with the majority of my choices. Now though it’s back to normal and high-time I got onto checking out some newer movies that I can review.

Craig.

A-Z Challenge – update 3


Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.

La La Land

Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.

I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.

Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Controlling the narrative


Since when on earth do we as game players, movie / TV watchers or music listeners get to dictate how our favourite form of entertainment turns out? Yes, we put faith in developers, writers, musicians and directors to tell a story, write a piece of music, develop a game to our satisfaction, but not for one second do we have a right to dictate how it turns out. Yes this is something I feel strongly about so thought I’d put my thoughts down in a post.

The recent Star Wars movies for example have not been to everyone’s taste (and neither do they have to be) but there has been an uprising in recent times of a certain, very vocal group of people who seem to want to alter how things turn out to their liking, and go about review-bombing, shouting their disdain on social media and in YouTube videos, as if they really believe their anger and (somewhat entitled) attitude will change how something is. Boo hoo they say, they ruined Star Wars for me! Wake up, they were not making it just for YOU. Real art is largely about the creator / designer / artist and if people like it that’s great but it’s not the point of a creative work. A creative work is to be creative!

Oh we didn’t like our favourite band’s new album? That was ‘their’ vision, not yours. You didn’t like it – move on, there are plenty of other albums out there you might like. In games, The Last of Us 2 is a prime example. It takes risks and introduces (dare I say it) bold twists and revelations to tell it’s story. It’s not just a carbon copy of its predecessor like many games before it. It’s borrowing narrative story telling from TV and movies to push the medium in a direction we don’t normally see. Yet some fans are butt-hurt because it’s not the game they expected – er, did it have to be? Were the game designers primarily focused on pleasing their fans, or did they actually want to be imaginative and creative? That’s how story telling is meant to work. We as fans don’t get to write the story. We are the audience and if we don’t like it we don’t have to play it. Jeez, write a review, post a comment but don’t believe that you can make something you don’t like change – isn’t that a little egotistical?? To such people I say: Quit your wining because Santa didn’t bring the exact present you wanted. It’s not all about you.

So yes, we don’t get to control the narrative of popular entertainment, The most tiresome entertainment is often that which panders to what is popular or expected. Thrilling entertainment surprises and takes risks. If it’s art we are here to experience it, love it or hate it but the point is we are reacting and that’s all that’s necessary. A creator should not compromise their own creation based on a reaction if it’s something they themselves are proud of. We don’t dictate it to our own agenda, that’s what personal taste is all about, we can choose to watch a different movie, we can play a different game. So enough with the hate. Quit the review-bombing in hopes of changing a meta-critic score. You’re not here to dictate, rather you’re here to respond and have your opinion but remember… it’s your opinion and like the entertainment itself … nobody has to agree.

A-Z challenge – update 2


Well I’ve reached letter L, so that means six more movies under my belt. As you’ll be aware for F I went with Alfred Hitchcock forgotten classic ‘Frenzy’, and then for G I gave the original Swedish version of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ another watch. Damn, that’s a great story with a stand out performance from Noomi Rapace, and yes I must watch that new Dragon Tattoo movie that came out recently with Claire Foy in the lead role. Next up was H where I went with a Harry Potter movie as previously reviewed, which was er… ok. Following this for I was the brilliantly mind boggling ‘Interstellar’ from Christopher Nolan, an intricate sci-fi movie that remains a real tear-jerker for me (that scene with Matthew McConaughey watching the video messages!). Then we came to J which was the blockbuster classic and still a favourite, ‘Jurassic Park’. That music! That T-Rex attack! Still so effective.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

I’ve just now for K finished watching ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ a movie from writer/director Shane Black starring Robert Downey Jr that’s very much like Black’s other murder/mystery action comedy The Nice Guys, and whilst it’s not the easiest movie to follow plot-wise … the dialogue, likeable characters (including a super-sexy Michelle Monaghan) still made for a great time.

I have a working list I’m picking from and some titles on that list are getting swapped in and out, and yes that June 30 end date is nearing ever closer so I really need to get moving. I’ll of course, report back again soon.

Craig.