The Last of Us: What Went Right, And What Went Wrong?

Daria Paterek

The Last of Us is known for its stellar storytelling, fascinating main characters, and engaging combat. However, user opinion shifted upon the release of The Last of Us 2, which divided the fanbase. With the imminent release of The Last of Us TV Show, Daria reflects on the successes and failures of the series.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us 2.

What went right…

The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic action game released in 2013, exclusively to PlayStation. The Last of Us follows Joel, a smuggler, who must escort teenager Ellie across the United States. 

The Last of Us is a masterpiece in narration and an example of how video game storytelling should be done. The game heavily immerses the player into its apocalyptic world, as players have to carefully ration resources and use stealth/combat strategically to fight clickers (the zombies in The Last of Us, who are fast and spread the disease through both biting and air). The best part about The Last of Us is the relationship between Joel and Ellie, which keeps the player mesmerised in their journey together. 

The Last of Us received critical acclaim from both players and critics. Within seven days of release, the game sold over 1.3 million units, becoming the biggest video game launch of 2013. 

The Last of Us was widely hailed as a masterpiece, by both critics and players. Upon the announcement of a sequel in December 2016, players rejoiced. The sequel was in the works, players were excitedly coming up with theories, and everything was ready for a flawless sequel release. What could go wrong?

What went wrong…

The build-up to The Last of Us 2 was rough. Naughty Dog delayed the release date numerous times. The delays came with the allegations that Naughty Dog enforced a terrible crunch-culture, forcing employees to work 12-hour workdays, which didn’t seem to end. The next delay occurred due to COVID-19, as the title was suspended indefinitely.

Before the biggest leak, there were also some minor game leaks on 4Chan, which we can now identify as unreliable and untrue. The leak that occurred on the 27th of April (arguably the biggest leak in video game history) included massive spoilers such as:

  • You play the first half of the game as Ellie before switching to Abby.
  • The game forces you to fight Ellie from Abby’s perspective.
  • Dina is pregnant with Jesse’s baby, and she and Ellie are trying to start a family.
  • Joel dies at the hands of Abby.

Alongside the spoilers, a large amount of gameplay was leaked, including a snippet of multiplayer mode. The first conspiracy was that the leak was orchestrated by an angry Naughty Dog employee. This was quickly shut down by both Sony and Naughty Dog, as they said that the leaks were a result of hacking.

In an attempt to steer away from the controversies, Naughty Dog released the official release date. What else could go wrong? Just a week before release, the first three hours of gameplay were leaked. Just two days before release, the ending was leaked.

This leak had seemingly massive consequences for the release of The Last of Us II. The spoilers led to the heavy discourse around the game leading up to release. What makes these leaks so shocking is that major plot elements were leaked, that the game was one of the most anticipated sequels of the decade, and that The Last of Us II already had one of the most turbulent releases. 

I still have mixed feelings about The Last of Us II.  The Last of Us could have remained without a sequel. It is perfectly self-sufficient, and while it gives us a slightly ambiguous ending, that didn’t necessarily warrant a sequel. 

In terms of gameplay, The Last of Us II is ground-breaking. In terms of narrative, The Last of Us didn’t need a sequel

I don’t hate The Last of Us II. It’s an aesthetically pleasing game with flawless animation, a gorgeous world, and enticing combat. Yet I dislike it for the reason that I loved the first game – storytelling. Naughty Dog took an experimental approach to The Last of Us II. Playing as the antagonist for half the game isn’t something I expected, and I didn’t play the game for Abby. I played it for Joel and Ellie. The story is also just depressing. While that may seem obvious in a post-apocalyptic world, The Last of Us had moments of hope (giraffe scene), whereas The Last of Us II was continuous gloom and suffering. In terms of gameplay, The Last of Us II is ground-breaking. In terms of narrative, The Last of Us didn’t need a sequel.

While the leak seemed to have short term consequences for the game, including review bombing, which decreased the user score to 3.4, the long term consequences seem invisible. The Last of Us II received the most Game of The Year awards and received flawless reviews from critics. 

What’s next?

In its release weekend, The Last of Us Part II sold over four million copies worldwide, earning the title as the fastest-selling PlayStation 4 exclusive. With such a gigantic fanbase and financial success, it’s no surprise that The Last of Us is not disappearing any time soon.

The Last of Us TV Show will air on HBO in 2022. Starring Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsay as Ellie, the TV show has finished filming last Sunday. I remain hopeful that since it is a TV show, the atmosphere, relationships, and themes of the game will be fully explored.

The question at the back of my mind is: will the TV show deepen the fanbase’s love for The Last of Us, or will it further expose the problems with the franchise (particularly the sequel)? 

Daria Paterek

Featured Image courtesy of Instacodez via Flickr. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image.

In-article video 1 courtesy of PlayStation via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article video 2 courtesy of GameNews via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @TheLastofUsNews via @twitter.com. No changes were made to this image.

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