In which I review THE LAST OF US 2 without ever playing it

I loved The Last Of Us— I bought a PS3 basically just so that I could play it, and I called it the best game of 2013 after I beat it. If you’re not familiar with that review– and why would you be, since I wrote it seven years ago– you might want to give it a quick read before you read this. Also, I intend to spoil the hell out of the sequel, so if you’re going to read this you should probably have either already beaten the game or not plan to play it. Lemme throw a separator in here to help you out:


SPOILERS ABOUND BEYOND THIS POINT


If you didn’t read the previous review, here’s the important parts: I really connected with this game as a dad, and that resulted in 1) paternal feelings toward Ellie that made the part where you play as her, and thus get killed over and over and over again, really emotionally difficult, and 2) totally understanding why the game ended by forcing you to gun down the scientists who were trying to find a cure for the Cordyceps fungus– because it would have killed Ellie, and there’s just no universe where Joel would have ever allowed that to happen.

I got all kinds of whispers and rumors about this game before it came out that made me feel like playing it– especially right now, with all the other shit going on in the world and in my life– was not going to be an emotionally sound decision. Kotaku called the damn game a “misery simulator.” I don’t need that. But … damn, it was the sequel to what is still one of the best games I’ve ever played! Made by the same people! How do I just ignore this?

I decided to watch a Let’s Play on YouTube instead, which would provide me with the game’s story– in this case, most of what I cared about– and allow me the ability to either 1) buy the game if I decided that’s what I wanted or 2) nope out at any time. And so for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a couple of half-hour episodes a day as they’ve been being released, and up until last night I was more or less still secure in my decision but also thinking eeeh, I probably could have bought this, but never really coming close to the point where I needed to. Plus, it’s violent as hell, to the point where I don’t want my son exposed to it yet, so I’d only have been able to play after he went to bed. This decision worked for me, is what I’m saying.

Well, the guy I’m watching isn’t as into the story as I am, and after having to watch him complain through one of the quieter parts in the denouement at the end of the game, I decided fuck it and went ahead and Googled the spoilers for the rest of the game. And this is where I’m exercising my nope the fuck out option and not even watching the rest, because despite having watched probably 90-95% of it the game has somehow saved a good 2/3 of its assholery for the final minutes.

Huh. I haven’t actually spoiled anything yet.

Here’s the thing: The Last of Us 2’s central thesis is that every decision you can possibly make is going to lead to loss and heartache. That there are no good people, that there is no forgiveness in the world, that where forgiveness does exist it is a fatal mistake, and there is no way, ever, to do the right thing. That the right thing is in fact an illusory concept from the beginning. It’s going to come back and bite you in the ass eventually no matter what you do. Literally every decision any character in this story makes leads to pain. Every single one. There are two moderately sympathetic characters, neither of which are playable, and both of them are put through utter hell. The two protagonists, Ellie and Abby, are both repeatedly shown to be awful people, and I think Ellie absolutely gets the shorter stick in that regard, so if you, like me, came into this game predisposed to like her as a character because you viewed her as a daughter … well, be prepared for the game to hurt you for that as well.

Every decision every character makes in this game leads to the death of their friends and family members. Every single one. And in case you’ve picked up elsewhere– because I haven’t talked about it yet– that revenge is a major theme of the game, be aware that the game shits on its characters both for seeking revenge and for not seeking revenge. Both are terrible mistakes. You cannot escape them.

I, uh, don’t need this in my escapist fiction right now. There’s a place for depressing entertainment out there, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that your average Holocaust movie is told with a lot more hope for humanity than The Last of Us 2. There is nothing but nihilism here, nothing at all, and I don’t need it.

The gameplay looks to be about exactly the same as the first one, by the by. That’s a recommendation; if a semi-stealth shooter with absolutely gorgeous graphics is what you’re looking for and you’re capable of ignoring the story you probably will have a good time with this. I can’t; or at least I can’t with this particular series. I’m not even watching the last couple of episodes now that I know how it ends. I’m fucked up enough from reading about them; I don’t need it in my head. I’ve got enough real emotional stress right now without letting fictional misery in.

Ignore this one

Be it known that after 132 hours spread across my first two playthroughs and an additional 85 hours spread across my second two, and three months and five days after the game’s release date, I have now played through Nioh 2 four complete times, and that unless I decide to go through all of the Twilight missions and beat all of those, I have well and truly exhausted all of the game’s content until the DLC packs start releasing.

… and let’s be honest, I’m probably going to go through those Twilight missions too. Maybe not twice; my Onmyo build has definitely emerged as my favorite, so I’ll probably just do them on that build.

Favorite game of all time? Entirely possible. While I own games I’ve played through four times (at least a couple of the Soulsborne games, all of which I’ve played through at least twice, and I think I’ve got 4 playthroughs of DS3 and Bloodborne by now) I have not ever since the days of the old-school original Nintendo played through the same goddamn game four times before moving on to something else. Nor have I ever ponied up money for DLC before it was released, and I’ve already bought all of it. Nor, to this date, have I gotten every single trophy for any PS4 or PS3 game, although there were a few Xbox 360 games I did that with.

Good job, Team Ninja.

Taking today off

I can’t handle the world right now, so watch my favorite YouTuber react to the news that Demon’s Souls is getting a remake for the PS5, and understand that not only did this immediately sell me a PS5 but that my reaction wasn’t much different.

Tell me some good news in comments.

BOOYAH

Damn right I am Nioh.

On the zone

YES, I’m still talking about this.

I’m most of the way through my third playthrough of Nioh 2, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that I’ve got close to 200 hours into the game by now. This has been, for the one or two of you who cares, a switchglaive-and-tonfas build, and last night I finally got to the mystic arts fight for the tonfas, leaving me with only one more Achievement needed to platinum the game.

Let me back up a bit: you have the option of using several different weapons in Nioh 2, and toward the end of the game, if you have used a weapon enough and built enough proficiency with it, a one-on-one fight opens up against another user of that same weapon. If you win that fight, you unlock “mystic arts,” which are basically top-tier abilities for that weapon. There’s an achievement associated with each of them, but that fight can be brutal.

And the tonfas are the fastest weapon in the game, and the mystic arts fight is against Hattori goddamned Hanzo, who is a brutal bastard regardless of the circumstances. This fight is made especially difficult by the fact that my playstyle for this character has been significantly less aggressive and more methodical than usual.

And here’s the deal with Nioh 2, and with a lot of the games that I’ve been enjoying lately: if you fuck up, you’re gonna pay for it. So you are fighting the fastest boss in the game, with the fastest weapon in the game, and if you screw up even once during the fight he’s gonna beat you to death on the spot. I fought this bastard for an hour last night, on a playthrough where I’ve been dispatching most bosses on the first try, and most of my fights were ending with me still having heals left, because you don’t have time to heal if dude hits you once and you die. I had half a dozen fights where I got him down to maybe a third of his health bar and then boom bap dead because of one tiny slip-up.

And then … click.

And all the damn sudden I could see the Matrix.

And I beat the bastard and he hit me one time, and only because I very slightly mistimed what ended up being the killing blow and he clipped me for a tiny bit of damage as I was taking him out. One. Fucking. Hit.

After a solid hour of him annihilating me, over and over again.

I love this damn game.


10:59 AM, Saturday May 16: 1,445,867 confirmed cases and 87,643 American deaths. The death rate really has been slowing down lately, but we should have an idea by mid-week whether states opening up prematurely was as bad an idea as I think it was.