Review of the reviews: Is The Last of Us Part II any good or not?

If you’ve been a fan of Naughty Dog’s groundbreaking original, The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic game that focused less on zombies and more on the flaws of being human beings, you have most likely seen the drama surrounding the sequel of this game unfold. Now that the pre-release reviews are out, people still seem more divided than usual. Why is that? What’s happening? Is The Last of Us Part II any good?

This contains no spoilers.

How are the reviewers rating The Last of Us Part II?

Most major outlets have already given The Last of Us Part II glaring reviews. IGN calls it Masterpiece with a perfect 10 rating. Gameinformer follows suit and gives it a perfect 10 on 10 ratings. Pushsquare gives it an outstanding 10/10. Gamesradar 5/5.

I’m not a video game journalist so I don’t keep tabs on when games get such a perfect score all around. Like most gamers, I only keep tabs on games that I’m interested in. As such, the last time I saw such an amazing review all over was when the insanely-anticipated, highly sought-after game, God of War, was reviewed.

God of War joined the small league of extraordinary games that built up immense hype leading up to their release and managed to actually deliver on it.

Remember No Man’s Sky? I salute the developers for continuing to work on it, but you can’t deny it broke the heart of so many video game enthusiasts who had been waiting for something truly great. Procedurally disappointed, they were.

Will The Last of Us Part II join that league? Only time will tell.

If you’re going to read the reviews..

I would suggest paying more attention to the reviews that don’t give out any rating. When Polygon dropped rating games, I appreciated the new direction they were taking. Games are complicated in modern days and a mere number simply cannot do justice to what a game is and isn’t good for. 

Games are complicated in modern days and a mere number simply cannot do justice to what a game is and isn’t good for. 

With that said, I strongly suggest giving a read to the stuff published by Ars Technica, Inverse, Polygon, and Destructoid. This won’t necessarily change your mind either way. You could be disagreeing with all of them, but if you’re trying to get as many aspects of the game as you want before you spend cash and 25 hours into the game, the reviews will be helpful.

Will The Last of Us Part II deliver on its promise? Will the fans’ experience be on the same level as some of these glaring reviews?

The main reason people are suspicious of the game being actually any good — and thinking the reviews are paid (more on that later) — is the leak.

A word on leaks..without the leaks

After someone leaked the entire plot of The Last of Us Part II online, and people have had a chance to read almost all of the major parts of the story, Naughty Dog was hit with what could probably be the biggest storm it had to weather ever. 

People were highly critical of the story decisions and a lot of them, including prominent YouTubers with a massive following, took to YouTube to share their disgust at the story that they gathered from the leaks. 

Sony did what any corporate company would do; it unleashed its naughty dogs, I mean, the lawyers equipped with DMCA strikes.

Seeing the spoiler taking the internet by storm, Sony did what any corporate company would do; it unleashed its naughty dogs, I mean, the lawyers equipped with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) strikes. That took down who-knows-how many videos from YouTube, including videos that were completely spoiler-free. 

Heck, Sony even took down PlayStation’s own tweet by striking with a DMCA claim. 

This poor handling of the fanbase was massively criticized. This also partly fuels the apparent disgust at the game and people feeling reluctant to trust the reviews published by big-brand gaming publications.

Is the story really bad? 

First of all, as of today, the story is still a secret. Reviewers are not allowed to talk about certain parts of the story. However, come a  couple of weeks later, the story will be all over the web, and neither Naughty Dog nor Sony’s naughty dogs will do anything about it. 

The question remains, do you still distance yourself from the story of the game in order to experience it yourself, or do you find that out? 

It’s a slippery-slope, for sure. If you don’t know the story, you don’t know if it’s good. If you know the story, you know whether it’s to your taste or not, but then, you’re spoiled. The experience is ruined for you. 

However, most people who looked at the leaked story material and trashed it for being disgusting were missing one key point: Experience. If you wrote up the main points of The Last of Us (the original) and gave it to someone, they might like it, but they won’t be amazed-for-life by it. People loved The Last of Us because they experienced it. Sure, the story, the believability of the characters, and the realness of the environment, all played a part in it, but without sitting through hours of the game and actually experiencing the events unfold before your eyes, you would not be as emotionally invested in the story. 

That’s what’s missing from the leaks. You got an overview of the story, but you didn’t ‘live’ it. Don’t get me wrong, you could still play through and hate the story for what it is, but you’re less likely to hate it when you’ve had the chance to experience the events firsthand. 

Since stories are subjective as well, it’s hard to tell whether the story is actually good or bad. Everyone can only share their opinion. But if you’re going to be trusting someone’s opinion on the story, choose someone who has actually played the game instead of someone who just looked at the game’s script and made an instant decision.

Are the reviews paid?

Something you need to remember about reviews of anything that has to do with entertainment — movies, music, video games — is that reviews will always be subjective. If you thought Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the best games ever released in modern times, it wouldn’t take you too long to find out someone who hates this game because there are no cars. 

If you thought Fortnite is the lamest game in modern history, you will find out in a few milliseconds that there are thousands if not millions of people who enjoy it. All of that points to a reality that all art is subjective. 

Having said that, I don’t blame you for questioning all of the major gaming publications that are bestowing The Last of Us Part II with raving reviews. It does sound suspicious. But it is also possible that they just happen to have liked the gameplay, graphics, and maybe a little bit of the story enough that they thought they were doing the game justice by giving it a perfect score. 

What I don’t think, though, is that the reviews were paid. The industry can often be evil, but it’s not blatantly so that the video game publications will start accepting money in exchange of good reviews, especially so for a game of this magnitude that will be deconstructed piece-by-piece in less than a month by hundreds of people on blogs, social media, and YouTube. 

I do, however, have a sneaking suspicion that some of these major gaming publications might have been biased towards Naughty Dog — either because they have good relation with the game studio/developers or simply because it’s the personal favorite of the writer who is tasked with reviewing the game. 

Mind you, this is not the same as getting paid for the review. The only thing you can say about it is the fact that the reviewers are not being objective in their review of the game because they are personally biased toward the game, or the game studio/developer. 

That brings us back to the point I was making: All reviews of art — movies, music, video games — are subjective. When you’re reading a review of a game or a movie, you are reading into the person who wrote it, not necessarily the science behind it. 

The Last of Us has a lot of hardcore fans around the world who will forgive minor (or even major) flaws in the game’s storyline. And that’s okay. It’s a game, after all. Its purpose is to entertain them. If they are entertained, they are free to let the world know.  

In the case of The Last of Us Part II, it just happens to be that everyone tasked with reviewing the game from big publications has loved it enough to think a perfect 10/10 score is justified. 

Will I like this game? 

Instead of “Is this game any good?” the question should be, “Will you like this game?” Nobody can tell. A review by SkillUp is doing its round on social media as some sort of ‘proof’ that the game is bad. I’ve watched this video and I think I agree with all of the points he raised. However, as he himself makes it a point several times in the game, you could like it if you enjoy doing less of certain things (like environmental puzzles) and more of certain other things (like repeatedly clearing enemy areas). 

In the coming months, a stream of videos and articles will show up online that will take both sides of the discussion. Some will love the game for what it is. Some will hate. 

Will there be a middle ground? Of course, there will. You could like the game’s graphics and gameplay mechanics and hate it for its story. You could like the game’s story but hate its gameplay. And in each of these scenarios, you will find — if you look hard enough — that you are not alone. 

Video games are pieces of art, and The Last of Us Part II is no different. The best way to avoid wasting time in a fan-war of ‘haters vs fanboys’ is to accept that there’s going to difference in opinions, and everybody is entitled to their own. 

As for whether you will like the game or not, if you really want to find out before you purchase it, you should read or watch reviews done by people that you personally agree with 90% of the time when they say something about a game. And it’s not just for The Last of Us Part II, it’s for any game in the future.

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