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Why The Last Of Us 2 Deserves To Win Best Action/Adventure Game At The Game Awards

Leading up to and following its release in June 2020, The Last of Us 2 was the subject of numerous controversies. Some of these remain worth considering, like an outcry over the crunch time required of developer Naughty Dog's employees. Others, like the bizarrely misinformed but nevertheless transphobic backlash against new lead character Abby, not so much.

Those who chose to write off The Last of Us 2 because of Naughty Dog's business practices or valid concerns over representation are, of course, well within their right to do so. That said, there's a contingent of players equally worth acknowledging who found some of the content others found objectionable to be not necessarily perfect but nevertheless impactful and thus worthy of deeper inquiry.

There's no definitive answer as to whether or not the numerous risks infamously taken by The Last of Us 2 ultimately pay off. For some, that answer is a resounding yes — for others, an enthusiastic no. But, for its boldness in virtually all elements of its design, The Last of Us 2 deserves to win Best Action/Adventure game among its many nominations at The Game Awards this year.

The Last of Us 2 pushed the boundaries of gaming

There are those who might justifiably question how The Last Of Us 2, a AAA title and therefore designed at least partially by committee, could meaningfully push the boundaries of gaming. By comparison, Hades (a Game of Year, but not Best Action/Adventure game nominee) redefined the well-trodden rogue-lite genre. This is partially due to being an indie release and never needing to sell big. Lower expectations allow for greater experimentation.

That said, some of the decidedly mixed reactions to The Last of Us 2 were due precisely to its refusal to meet player expectations. (Further details require a spoiler warning.) That a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed games ever would not match what some, if not most, players were expecting equals considerable financial liability, each moment undermining fans' preconceptions thus made all the more impactful.

That The Last of Us 2's refusal to compromise its vision at the highest level of gaming (in reference to size, not necessarily quality) could set a precedent that future big releases need not curtail their content to what players want and can instead stick to what's most creatively fulfilling is absolutely award-worthy.

The Last of Us 2 is the best action game released in 2020

The Last of Us 2's controversies are worth analyzing not because they define it but because they're its sole Achilles heel. Its raw gameplay is unqualifiedly excellent. Players can choose between ducking enemies altogether and high-octane, ninja-like combat, both styles comparatively complex and effective. Its graphics, too, are state-of-the-art.

Meanwhile, most of its competitors – Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Ghost of Tsushima, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – may be nomination-worthy but are incomparable in gameplay variety and originality. Fellow nominee Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales' moment-to-moment gameplay is arguably just as fresh as TLOU2's, but many of its key features were introduced in 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man.

Most importantly, The Game Awards is an awards show and not a definitive judgement of quality. The winner should simply be the game most deserving of an award. The Last of Us 2 showcases the cutting edge of action game combat and presentation, in addition to an adherence to artistic principles unrivaled by its AAA competitors. For those reasons, The Last of Us 2 is the best choice to win this year's Best Action/Adventure game award.