Full disclosure: I've completed the game last week and I was trying to gather my thoughts. I hadn't read the leaks and I pre-ordered this game last year. I've bought the special edition. I'm no leak hater, Youtube watcher.
I give this game a 3/5 stars. I don't recommend this game. I believe it's the ugliest game I've ever played. A torture porn, miserable, hopeless, soapy and purposeless adventure where nothing good came out of and all the characters got destroyed. It also has great moments and it is a software marvel.
The first game was beautiful. A tragedy, but beautiful. A man who finds a new daughter and a girl that was a salvation object that finds a family. It was a simple tale and for that it was a masterpiece. The second one feels complicated, too long, a bit convoluted (a reordering would help) and worst of all, it destroys everything we know to replace with something new that sometimes feels forced.
As a technical piece, it's marvellous. The sound is spectacular and the graphics are more detailed than anything else I've played. The acting is also superb as well as directing, photography and camera work. The battle system is very good, although it gets repetitive (it's a long game). All this put together a game that feels more immersive than anything else out there. I'd say that this game is the true definition of what immersive means and for all that I give the 3 stars. The team deserves the kudos.
But the story doesn't work well as the first one. The first bad impression was the teenager feel. The first game was more adult as the intended audience would supposedly enjoy. This one is romantic: kisses, smiles, sex, guitar songs, and, guess what, love triangles. And the writing on this is kinda on the cheesy soapy side. On Abby part I get to have two "date" sections. The first one was long enough. The second was on Christmas. Both sections could've been shorter cut scenes instead.
The love triangle is on both sides: Abby and Ellie. Actually, they're both like the same thing on everything:
Ellie fancies someone who has involved with another one. Abby too.
Ellie has a pregnant friend who is involved in the same love triangle. Abby too.
Ellie's pregnant friend was impregnated by the love triangle guy. Abby too.
Ellie's is not very romantic, she's not the "I love you" kind. Abby too.
Ellie's a bit sarcastic, acid, has that teasing way to interact. Abby too.
Ellie's only think about the mission, no shenanigans. Abby too.
Ellie's not the kind who follow orders. Abby too.
As much as we can say that there's a purpose on those similarities, it's hard for me to see this as credible. What are the odds that someone so like myself comes for my father? Even their voices sound quite the same when they scream.
This game has much more characters than the first one, but you play alone a lot. I miss the interactions between Ellie and Joel. That's nothing like that in this game. It's too moody all the time, too lonely. Plus, the new characters are not very well developed anyway. It feels rushed, too much complexities and things that the audience is supposed to be "smart to get". With the benefits of a way more powerful console than PS3, I was expecting more group activities, but instead, it's just lonely revenge.
And that's a lot of revenge. Everyone knew that it was a revenge game. But I thought the revenge would be just the start of something greater. But it's just revenge after revenge, after more revenge. And it's a long revenge game and the battle system can't support that. At the start on Ellie's part, I could feel the battling evolving and trying out things during confront were getting enjoyable. But by the time I got to going upstairs the building with Lev, I was getting very tired of doing the same thing again and again. The multi floor stages were a nice addition, but in the end, the gameplay feels like the first game but longer.
Abby part was the longest part for me. When we changed from Ellie, I thought I'd have to play with Abby just for a couple of hours to understand a few things. So I wasn't into Abby and I rushed it. But it never ended. It took a while to get that Abby was like the other half of the game. More than that: Abby was the new protagonist and Ellie the mad woman boss.
Abby part also brings unbelievable things. A bridge like that between two buildings? That was impossible and kinda ridiculous. I know that the same can be said about zombies, but no way people would get to the idea of crossing that with all that bad weather (or even in good weather). The Seraphites are also a bit ridiculous. It's hard to believe that would be a community so cruel like that. Crushing kids arms like nothing? A mother that would kill his own children for some sort of new faith. And the trans person victim of the only (im)possible religious community in the game (I'm sorry, but that has to be political). We can say there are all sorts of diversity, including the darker skin drunk "Latino" that doesn't take anything serious (how can it get more stereotypical?), but no normal people of faith. Except the one guy that once mentions "Lord", but, guess what?, he's dead. In all the diversity and multiple groups everyone has its own reasons, only one group is inherently evil: the religious community persecutors of trans people.
Characters that survived are all destroyed. Tommy lost family, eye. Ellie lost family, fingers. Abby, well, at least she might've got to the fireflies, but after losing everything. Lev lost mad religious mum and sister. Do we get to see Jackson again? "No", that would be too "happy moment" right?
There are lots of extraordinary theories about this game and I kinda of admit that many make sense and gives this game a sense of intelligence, but still, it's hard to get over the Joel killed like a pig, Ellie turned into the game mad boss, and Tommy into an absurd senseless dick. This was made to shock the audience, to polarise, to be polemic. It's too much attention grabbing. The good simple tale of The Last of Us is gone.
I will not mention the f-words that even kids get to shout or hear. The drug usage. The unnecessary sex. Maybe there I get to be too moralistic and naive. I just think that stories can be good without all that. The first one was great without that. We don't need to go the Hollywood crappy TV way.
Without the technical marvel that this game delivers, I could give it a 1/5 stars. It's a too long too painful 30 hours. Ugly, brutal, tiresome. I begged for it to end at the farm, but how about adding some slavery and crucifixion like stuff? Wow. How couldn't I see that coming?
Can we also cut Abbys right arm off and have the player remove her eyes with a table spoon by pressing triangle before she get to the island? I can see some member of ND team making that question before the final cut.
But at least, I can't wait to see the Naught Dog engine being deployed in the future. This game visuals alone is a better presentation of PS5 than the real PS5 games. The craftsmanship is something else and that's the only good thing I'll take from this game.
Interesting, a few of those parallels between Abby and Ellie I didnt pick up at first. The difference is that the game tries to make you love abby and hate ellie (since in the first game we loved ellie and this one is about hate).
Gotta agree with your take on trying to hard to be polemic just for the sake of it, it was one of my main issues with the story.