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.

Tuesday morning thinkytimes

No particular theme for today, as there are a number of things on my mind and none of them quite rise to the level of an entire post. So expect a bit of randomness. Good morning!


I had a LASIK initial conference almost exactly two years ago, and holy shit does the post I’m linking to entertain the crap out of me, and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I think it’s something I can actually afford to do. The only question is whether it’s a good use for my money right now; part of me thinks right now is a really good time because I was thinking about switching to contact lenses anyway to keep my glasses from fogging up every time I wear a mask– if I’m heading into a situation this fall where I have to be wearing one all day, and it’s already summertime so I have time to recover, it seems like a good decision. Then again, it’s a good chunk of my existing money, and who knows what kind of bullshit could happen that could lead to me needing it for something else.

If you have any experiences with LASIK, good or bad, let me know– most of the folks I’ve talked to have told me to go for it, but still.


I had to have a talk with the boy the other day where I pointed out that it’s okay to feel like certain things in our house have gotten easier and/or better since Mizu died. I do not miss, for example, having a litter box in my Goddamned bedroom because she didn’t want to leave the room, and the fact that we no longer have to worry about the other cats bothering her means we can leave doors open in our house and don’t have to worry about ever chasing kittens out from under our bed.

Sushi, for her part, has been rather hilarious lately, as she’s been spending most of her time in our room but still doesn’t seem quite convinced that she’s allowed in there, so whenever either of us come into the bedroom she acts like she’s about to be kicked out of the room. She’ll sleep on the bed with us from time to time but sticks herself in the far corner where we’re not super likely to notice her.


I have to admit, I had a bunch of ideas for how the person in the White House’s little Klan rally was going to go last weekend, but “no one shows up” was not among them. I spent all of 2016 assuming this man was going to lose badly and we all know how that went, so I’m not letting my guard down here, but if he can’t fill a mid-sized arena in Oklahoma, pandemic or not, something’s going on.

In other news, there are two primaries I’m keeping a close eye on today– Qasim Rashid’s Democratic House primary in VA-01 and the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky. Kentucky looks like it’s going to be a trash fire, and I’ve not seen any polling on either race, but I’d like to start sending money to someone to get Mitch McConnell the fuck out of office and I’m not going to do it until the primary is over. I’ve donated a fair amount of money to Qasim already because I thought he had gotten out of the primary– I just found out a couple of weeks ago that I was wrong about that– so hopefully he wins today as well.

Also, no force on Earth can make me pay for John Bolton’s book, nor will I read it were I to somehow acquire it for free. I don’t need any further evidence on whether this man is a criminal or not.


Bike/health update: I have, somehow, lost seven pounds already; every time I start any sort of lifestyle change there’s always a quick burst of weight loss right at the beginning, and it’s happened again. Weight Watchers continues to confuse the hell out of me. I have not touched the bike in several days, because the last time I was on it I noticed that the gear the chain was on and the actual gear shown on the gearshift didn’t match … like, at all, and since I’d already switched gears at least once by accident without realizing it I’m going to just take the thing into a shop and have them swap it out, possibly taking the derailleur with it as well. I’ve already fallen off once and I’m not about to do it again, damn it. I suspect this is probably something I could do myself but finding out I was wrong would hurt and we’ve already got one adult in the house with a broken bone.

Pseudo-vegetarianism is going predictably well, although we did have enchiladas for dinner on Saturday and I finished off some turkey we had in the fridge to keep it from going bad. Most of this week’s dinners are going to be plant-based, so we’re continuing it for a bit longer than usual.


Vidya gaemz update: my plan to watch a YouTuber play through The Last of Us 2 appears to have been a good call, as so far nothing about the first few hours of the game have made me think I needed to play it. One thing I hadn’t anticipated is that lingering Dad feelings toward Ellie are still making it difficult to watch her die, and yeah, I don’t really need that shit for an entire game. Watching people react to the game has been really interesting; I’ve never seen a game where so many people looked at the level of violence and went “Nope, not right now” before.

In the meantime, I’ve been having a good time with Desperados 3, despite my lingering suspicion that Desperados is spelled wrong. The interesting thing is that it’s also a really murdery game– hell, so was Nioh 2, and so are most video games, frankly– but it’s all about the way it’s murdery, and it doesn’t go out of its way to make you feel bad about what the game is making you do.

The dialogue around this whole issue has also put the “Are video games art?” question to bed, permanently. The answer is yes.


I feel like I had one more thing, so let’s say this space is reserved for that. As is typical with these sorts of posts, I may update once or twice more as the day drags on.


11:18 AM, Tuesday, June 23: 2,313,445 confirmed infections and 120,451 Americans dead, and Texas is starting to run out of ICU beds.

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.

In which I am sweaty

I did not ride the bike today. I got back on yesterday, going a different direction that (I hoped) would not force me into a heart attack, only to be stopped dead by a truck doing a 180 degree, three-point turn in the middle of the damn road on the one part of the trek that was mildly uphill. Getting the bike moving again from a complete stop while going uphill was probably responsible for 80% of my pulse spike for the trip, but at least I didn’t fall or have to walk the damn thing this time. I’ll take it.

Today, I mowed the back yard, cut down what I think was a sapling but could have been some species of aggressive bush, and removed the ancient, rotting free-standing basketball hoop that our neighbors donated to us several years ago. It was old when they gave it to us and since then one of the support rods has completely rusted through, so it’s moved from “infrequently used eyesore” to “infrequently used, moderately dangerous eyesore” and it was time for it to go. I have moved it to the center of the cul-de-sac, which is where my entire neighborhood puts things that they want to go away. And it will! It is ridiculously heavy and large, but someone will take it away before the garbage truck needs to be called. It’s virtually guaranteed.

In addition to occasionally trying to get exercise on purpose I have also sort of started Weight Watchers this week. I am, so far, at least partially convinced that Weight Watchers is expensive voodoo; my wife and I have discovered that certain foods vary in points when she eats them versus when I do, and I discovered to my chagrin today that a single fucking can of Pepsi was ten goddamned points. A bottle of Gatorade is nine, and thank God I already like unsweetened tea because I’m sure sweet tea is a mess too. I get 60 points for a day and I am given to believe that that is a pretty high number. I am sure there is some sort of at least attempt at science behind it, and sooner or later I’ll do some reading and figure out what that is, but right now? There’s seven more cans of Pepsi in my beverage fridge and I’m drinking each and every one of them before switching over to Coke Zero or whateverthefuck. I’m happy to cut out/down sugar but you gotta let me burn through my stores first.

(Sidenote: this has been true for basically my entire life, but I’ve never really thought about it in these terms until recently: I drink all of my sugar. I almost never eat sweet snacks. I’ll get a craving for ice cream maybe once every couple of months, but a pint of ice cream can last me a week.)

Unrelated, but: I really need to cultivate at least a group of people on Twitter or something who are into video games, because I need to talk to someone about The Last of Us 2. Right now I feel like I don’t want to play it, which is a damn shame considering how amazing I thought the original was, but a couple of the reviews I’ve seen feel like they’ve got how I’ll react dialed in pretty well. Unfortunately, a bunch of other reviews are calling this the best game of this entire console generation. Now, I’m over 200 hours into Nioh 2, so I may have some things to say about that idea, but that’s still pretty fucking high praise. I just don’t need game stress right now on top of everything else, y’know?


7:58 PM, Saturday June 13: 2,071,782 confirmed cases and 115,347 Americans dead. Meanwhile, the WaPo has the number of reported cases today as the highest single-day total since May 14, and passing that date and becoming the highest single-day reported cases since May 8 is not impossible. This is getting worse again, folks.