The story is too long. It doesn’t do anything new. It threatens to end far too many times, and then doesn’t. The gameplay just can’t sustain itself for as long as it needs to. And the marketing was just straight up Hideo Kojima levels of misleading, and I think a lot of people are right to be upset about that.
But I loved it. People say it is thematically shallow, but I don’t think it is. It’s not a story about revenge or violence – it’s a story about trauma. I was diagnosed with PTSD last year, and I connected with it very strongly.
It’s about a viscous, cruel, broken world and the people who are a product of it. It’s about how alliances form and then disintegrate in the wake of that world. It’s about how trauma can shape and define you, and the people around you, in ways you wish it didn’t – in ways that often only serve to make things worse, and that you don’t see coming. The wrong people always end up being the ones who suffer the most in the wake of traumatic moments.
It’s about trying to build meaning out of a history of painful memories that you wish you could shake but can’t, because the moment has gone and you have no true outlet for the feelings your body refuses to let go of. This game understands and respects all of these things.
And it’s so damn large in scope. If nothing else, it’s ambitious. It takes the time to humanise the people you’re fighting against, to the point that at the end, you feel sick to your stomach watching Abby fighting for her life at the hands of Ellie. It was the same feeling the ending of the original gave me – I feel truly awful, not so much about what was happening, but that I completely understood why and couldn’t honestly condemn it. I thought the story was heartbreaking.
The craftsmanship is peek Naughty Dog – the lighting, sound design, music and facial animations were especially brilliant. The storm on Day 3 was astonishing. The lighting during the sniper battle. The fields of torch-wielding scars. Haven burning to the ground. That beach.
I thought the acting and characterisation was uniformly excellent. I’m trying to think of a character I didn’t ultimately like and care for, and I’m coming up short. I loved Ellie’s single-mindedness and self-absorption, constantly licking at her own wounds in her journal. I loved Dina’s upbeat nature and loyalty, and I hated seeing it betrayed in the end. I loved Abby’s fierce determination, and it broke my heart how small and weak she was at the end. I so desperately didn’t want either one of them in the situation they were stuck in.
The gameplay feels tense, and the animation makes it feel very desperate and unpredictable. It wasn’t a very difficult game, but I wasn’t really looking to be frustrated or challenged, just excited. But by the time Santa Barbara came around, I was fucking done playing the game and just wanted to finish the story.
The hospital basement was crazy. The first encounter with the scars was really atmospheric. The nighttime sequence with Abby as she heads for the aquarium was unforgettable – although quite how she’s in the mood for a quick fuck after being almost hung to death I don’t know. The sky bridge and descent through the hotel were really memorable. Each of the two fights between Abby and Ellie were fantastic. The sniper battle with Tommy. Ellie swimming through the sea. The stadium. There are so many incredible, memorable moments in this game.
I see a lot of people upset about the game, and I thought I’d just share my honest impression. I thought overall it was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.
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