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What the critics are saying about The Last of Us 2

Naughty Dog's much-anticipated The Last of Us Part 2 has certainly had a rough road to release. The sequel to 2013's hit The Last of Us was originally planned to release in February of this year, but was then delayed twice. The first postponement saw TLOU 2 pushed back until May to give Naughty Dog more time to polish the game and to reduce crunch. Then, in April, it was delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak. Thankfully, "indefinitely" ended up not being as long as we'd feared.

Then, of course, there were the infamous leaks where late-game content was shared for the entire internet to see. The story of the leaks would make an entire article (or several) by itself. However, in spite of all the setbacks, the real, actual, final release date of June 19, 2020 is almost here. Now that the long wait is nearly over, critics have been sharing their thoughts about Naughty Dog's upcoming game. The news so far sounds pretty good.

IGN's Jonathan Dornbush gives TLOU 2 a perfect 10/10. He lauds it for succeeding as a sequel to a game that, in his mind, didn't want one. The ending of the original The Last of Us is powerful and intentionally ambiguous. We  didn't know where main characters Ellie and Joel stood with each other after his final lie to her, and it seemed like that was how Naughty Dog wanted it. However, according to Dornbush, the sequel "...not only [has] a complex, profound story that gives it a reason to exist, but also deep and satisfying evolutions to the original's third-person action/stealth gameplay."

Alex Avard of Gamesradar says that the game has "consumed" him. He waxes poetic about everything from the level design to the cutscenes before diving into an analysis of the game's philosophy and what morality really means in a totally lawless world. A game that you can't stop thinking about, even in your dreams, is a powerful experience for sure.

Fascinatingly, some of the most negative things we heard about TLOU 2 came from the people working on it ⁠— the very people who should be the most eager to see it succeed. Writer/director Neil Druckmann warns fans of the original that this new installment may not be for them. In an interview with Wired, Druckmann said that some players didn't like what the sequel did with (or to) certain characters, or some directions that the story went. In fact, he revealed that some outright hated the game. He fully expects it to be the same when TLOU 2 is released to the world at large, and he's okay with that. Wired quotes Druckmann as saying, "I'd rather have people passionately hate it than just be like, 'Yeah, it was OK.'"

Troy Baker — the voice actor for Joel — agrees, saying that the sequel's going to be "divisive." Baker was referring specifically to Joel's story and character development, but it seems to be true for almost all aspects of the game.

For instance, Polygon's Maddy Myers slams the game's repeated focus on the morality of life in the brutal world of The Last of Us, and the characters' seeming inability to learn from their mistakes. Her snarky subtitle, "Did you know murder is wrong?" really says it all. According to Myers, TLOU 2 harps on that lesson over and over again while at the same time not letting Ellie learn it.

One of the most interesting reviews, and one that really ties together these opposing views of the game, comes from The Verge's Andrew Webster. He begins his piece by saying the game "isn't fun." If you think that's the start of a negative review, though, you're dead wrong. Webster goes on to say that TLOU 2 is brutal, exhausting, and deeply uncomfortable, and that's what makes it great. It's not fun because it's not supposed to be. Rather, it's a powerful statement about the toll that violence takes both on its victims and its perpetrators. It's especially poignant since it's shown from Ellie's point of view, a young woman who has been both victim and perpetrator.

There are a few notable exceptions, but on the whole The Last of Us Part 2 is being met with critical acclaim. While the game's own director says outright that it's going to divide fans, most critics feel that it's a harsh, heartbreaking, yet beautiful masterpiece of gaming.