So The Last of Us Part II is finally out and it’s received much critical and commercial success, with good reason. It is a fantastically well-polished game that plays tightly, looks gorgeous and has some interesting gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately all of that is tainted by the borderline grotesque amounts of violence it contains.
Now before you go assuming I’m just some violence denouncing SJW let me say this, I love violent games, I was raised on violent games, DOOM, GTA, Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, you name a bloody game I’ve played it. My issue isn’t so much with the violence and gore in The Last of Us Part II as much as it is the way in which the violence is used to shape the narrative, and in my opinion the narrative suffers because of the violence.(“That was the last TWIX!”)
Of course I can’t argue that the original “The Last of Us” was a violent game, because of course it was, but at its core it was an emotional story that was driven by loss and pain but with moments of hope sprinkled throughout. The main character Joel had his daughter murdered in front of him, powerless to do anything, he shuts down emotionally. It isn’t until he meets Ellie and slowly builds a surrogate paternal relationship with her that he opens up; it’s an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. While it uses death and violence to tell an emotional story, it never lets the violence steer the narrative.
Conversely, The Last of Us Part II is a one trick pony, it’s got violence and death to make us feel sad and that’s all it’s really got. Before we go any further I’m just letting you know we’re entering spoiler territory here, but in my defence this was spoiled months before the game was even released. Okay? Good! So Joel dies, no wait, sorry, Joel is shot, tourniqueted, then held in place and beaten to death with a golf club while his adopted daughter cries and begs the killer to stop. It is a horrifyingly graphic scene that depicts the worst aspects of humanity all in an attempt to set up an emotional revenge plot that (in my opinion) doesn’t pay off.(To off set the misery.)
Obviously I get that the writers were going for a story about how “revenge is never the answer” and “violence begets violence” but for my money they went for the low hanging fruit. They wanted to tell an emotional story, I get that, but why more death? Why does the emotion have to be grief…again?
This speaks to a larger issue within our medium, the desire to be taken seriously by others, the video game industry is desperate to be seen as equal to books and movies, desperate to be taken seriously, and what’s more serious than death? Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, Lee The Walking Dead, Thane Mass Effect, those are just some of the “emotional” deaths in video games. The issue is now that video games are taken seriously, the sheer amount of violence is having the opposite effect, making video games appear childish and gratuitously violent for the sheer sake of it.
I think the reason The Last of Us Part II’s story bugs me so much is that there was the option to go for an emotional story that didn’t involve so much death and abject misery. This could have been a story about betrayal and forgiveness instead of revenge. So we know that Joel saves Ellie at the end of the original game, despite her wishes and despite the fact she could cure the world with her sacrifice. She makes him swear that the “there’s no cure” story he spun was true and he does (lying to her).
How about Part II picks up with Ellie finding out the truth and storming off telling Joel she’ll never forgive him. We go through the whole game with Ellie brushing off Joel’s attempts at reconciliation and finally he saves her life at the end and she still can’t forgive him, because some things can’t be forgiven. It would have been an emotional story without the childish need for gratuitous violence and what’s more it would have been far more narratively interesting.
Look I get that the writers wanted to tell their story their way and that’s fine I guess, but they chose the lesser option in self-indulgent attempt to appear “grown up”, much to the detriment of the story and the series).
Well, those are our thoughts about The Last of Us Part II and its use of violence, do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below. Also don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel and if you’re feeling generous feel free to donate to our Patreon, thanks for reading.