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A New “The Last of Us” Game Is Here — and It’s a Big Deal

January 8, 2021 • April Miller

On June 19, 2020, Sony Interactive Entertainment worked with developer Naughty Dog to release “The Last of Us Part II” for the PlayStation 4. After its predecessor’s release in 2013, this installment has been a long-time coming — and fans and critics have a lot to say about it. Now that the dust is settling from the release, it’s important to look at why exactly this “The Last of Us” game has garnered so much attention.

Game Design

The original “The Last of Us” game was — and still is — wildly popular. As of 2018, Naughty Dog announced that it had sold over 17 million units, making it one of PlayStation’s best-selling games of all time.

Now, “Part II” is here and picking up a few years after the first installment left off. You switch between playing as two characters — Ellie and Abby — as you fight your way through a post-apocalyptic world. Then, the sequel takes what the first game offered and builds upon it vastly.

The game design is stunning, with breathtaking visuals and landscapes. It pairs this beauty with the existential fight to stay alive. Zombie-like creatures and hostile humans plague the scenes. You’ll need to use weapons like rifles, bows, machetes and hammers to make it through alive. Then, craft things like health kits and build your skill tree.

With a gripping storyline and suspenseful gameplay, you’ll be on your toes the entire time during this action-survival game. It challenges the notions of right from wrong and good versus evil. It’s an intense and graphic game, with an emphasis on the cycles of violence.

Due to the killer gameplay and design, “Part II” sold 4 million copies in its release weekend, setting the record as the fastest-selling PlayStation 4 exclusive.

Accessibility

One main reason “The Last of Us Part II” stands out from the crowd, and even its predecessor, is its inclusion of accessibility features and customizations. You can turn on presets that aid visual, hearing or motor skills. The control customizations, too, will help some individuals with disabilities.

For vision, individuals who are blind or have trouble seeing will find accessibility features of aid. Text to speech, target assistance, audio cues, larger scaling and extreme contrast are just a few of the vision accessibility aids. “Listen Mode” also focuses on players finding enemies through hearing and spatial awareness.

In terms of hearing, the awareness indicators, subtitles, prompts and notifications and vibrations are invaluable. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can turn these features on and enjoy the gameplay.

Additionally, anyone with impairments or disabilities that affect mobility can use the motor accessibility features. These include auto-pickup and swapping of weapons, camera assistance and auto-targeting — to name a few.

The inclusion of these aids is groundbreaking. It shows that centering people with disabilities is possible. It creates an environment where everyone can play. This momentum must now continue onwards.

Queer Storylines

Another area of attention is the representation of queerness in the new “The Last of Us” game. “Part II” prominently features three queer characters. First, the main character, Ellie, is canonically gay. This central focus on her queerness takes a step in the direction of progress. It’s solid representation of an identity that lacks screen time — across the video game industry.

Instead of hiding their sexual orientations in “Part II,” Ellie and another, bisexual character, Dina, are openly queer. It’s an important move for inclusion that must continue.

The third openly queer character is a transgender young man, Lev. In the game, Lev is on the run from a religious community that is unaccepting and intolerant. He attempts to balance his religious nature with loss and trauma throughout his storyline.

With what little representation trans individuals have in media and video games, Lev’s identity is a powerful move. Some critics and fans have praises his character and storyline. Though, some trans individuals point out that Lev’s storyline might be one that’s more digestible for cisgender audiences.

Regardless, Lev opens the doors for more trans characters to follow in the video game industry.

Reception

The reception of “The Last of Us Part II” has been an area of much coverage. According to Metacritic, an aggregate reception scoring site, the game has “universal acclaim” with a score of 94 out of 100. User score is a much different story, though, with a 5.6 out of 10 — which used to be even worse, at 3.4.

Critics praised the complex storytelling, high-stakes and thrilling gameplay as well as the realistic world building and design. The characters and voice acting, too, have received much acclaim. Why, then, did users review-bomb it?

According to the user reviews, many people disagree with the plotlines and dialogue. Others feel it loses logic. Others are intolerant of the progressive representations. What’s really going on, though?

Users posted many of these reviews the same day as the game’s release. Is that enough time to fully process the 25 to 30-hour game? Likely, the answer is no.

In fact, Metacritic recently changed its user scoring procedure. Starting with the release of “Ghost of Tsushima” on July 17 of this year, Metacritic posted a message to users that said, “Please spend some time playing the game” and asked users to come back and review it a day later. As of now, the game has a 9.3 user score on the platform.

If review-bombing keeps up, Metacritic — and all other sites that include user scores — will need to find new ways to focus on honest feedback.

The Next Installment

With the PlayStation 5 coming out sometime in 2020 or 2021, all eyes will be on what Naughty Dog does next. Do you think its first game for the PS5 will be “The Last of Us Part III?” How long do you think the game will be in development?

There’s no confirmation of a third installment. However, with the worldwide success of “Part II,” it would be a smart investment.

You can purchase “The Last of Us Part II” for the PS4, starting at $59.99.

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