My Evolving Thoughts on The Last of Us Part II

My last post was a very emotional rant on the recent leaks and the debacle surrounding The Last of Us Part II. While I wanted to get my initial thoughts out, more news has developed around the situation. This has allowed me to understand everything better. My rant was not an accurate description of the event itself, but rather an emotional release for my disappointment about the leaks and the rumors. I am going to leave that post on the site, as I think it is a funny rant and shows my initially passionate views on the topic, and as I continue to write about the game, I want readers to see my evolving thought process.

First, let me discuss an assumption that was wrong. I mentioned a rumor that the game was leaked by a disgruntled employee, and I ranted against that as if it was the case. While I did not explicitly state that I believed it to be true, my lengthy complaints about working conditions made it seem that way. Now we know that Sony was hacked and the game was leaked. While some believe that Sony and the studio could be lying, the inevitable court information will show exactly who the leaker is, and Sony would not be foolish enough to lie and later be contradicted in court. I admit that I should have been more skeptical of the first rumors.

I made a mistake accepting those first explanations, but the working conditions still need to be examined in the gaming industry. While an employee did not cause this, it is a hard truth that video game development is an arduous job with disproportionate benefits. We need to keep this in the conversation, as it was a highly reported problem at Naughty Dog, Rockstar, and many other studios. Developers work hard to deliver quality to the gaming community. Improving their workplace from a culture of crunch and toxicity needs to be part of our discussion after this leak.

Aside from my lack of doubt over the internal leaking rumor, I still stand by most of my rant. I have seen even more leaks, and given them all more thought. While I am a massive fan of the first game, there is no way I can enjoy the direction of this sequel. Many people argue that we need to see the game fully to grasp the plot and appreciate the storytelling decisions. I understand this argument, but I simply can’t agree with it. There is nothing, in my view that can redeem the leaked plot details. The details themselves degrade the quality of the characters and ensure that the whole story goes in an unsatisfying, forced direction.

The discussion about if the game has a political agenda is also raging online. I know that this game was trying to make several points on that front, but the story’s content makes me find the political debate unnecessary. This is for one simple reason: I buy stories with good content, regardless of the message. If politicized elements of this story were changed or removed, the plot would still be trash. Any good political theme needs to be clever and convincing, allowing the audience to decide on the themes themselves. Beating the audience over the head with messages is always bad storytelling – I believe people conflate this with having political themes in general. The politics of the game are irrelevant to me, as the story is the same low quality with or without them. I do see hypocrisy in Naughty Dog treating workers poorly while advocating for culturally leftist ideas. I think this should be a focal point in our discussion of politics in the game, rather than just being outraged over the themes themselves.

This game deserved a proper release, and I still believe this whole situation is a shame. Still, knowing what I know, I am standing by my decision not to buy the game when it comes out. I may rent the game or buy when the price comes way down – but I can’t justify spending over $60 for something that I know won’t be entirely worth it. The gameplay looks suspenseful, the graphics look great, the music sounds excellent, but the story is a ruining factor. In a single-player, story-driven game, the plot and characters form the foundation, and The Last of Us Part II  has a pathetic one.

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