In the world of gaming, today is pretty darn close to what Avengers: Endgame meant to Avengers: Infinity War (minus the seven-year wait time). Today sees the release of The Last of Us Part II, the sequel to 2013’s instant-classic action-adventure game from Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment.
The original The Last of Us, which began its life on the PlayStation 3 before getting gorgeously remastered for the PlayStation 4, told the story of a post-apocalyptic world where the older Joel takes a young woman, Ellie, across the United States. Ellie appears to be immune to the virus that has affected the majority of the country, turning those that are bitten into mindless and murderous Infected; Ellie’s immunity could lead to a cure.
The Last of Us was written and played like a Hollywood blockbuster, and made you care about the characters in a way that few games usually do. The voice acting was superb, the gameplay easy top pick up, and the story compelling, never going easy on the gamer or the characters. Years after its initial release, it feels more relevant than ever, which makes the release of The Last of Us Part II all the more timely. Designed exclusively for the PlayStation 4, the game picks up some five years after the conclusion of the original game, with gamers taking on the role of Ellie this time out, as she comes into conflict with a cult. Unsurprisingly, the game is getting raves across the board.
What makes the release of The Last of Us Part II something bigger than “just” the arrival of a new video game is that it comes while we’re all in the middle of this pandemic. And while some provinces and states across North America are opening up, some too quickly in many people’s minds, few would argue that the world is closer to an apocalyptic story then it has been for generations. Certainly, the vibe is more two minutes to midnight than any other time in all my 43 years. While we may not be surrounded by bloodthirsty cannibals or zombies, many of us live in fear of the monsters who don’t believe in protecting themselves or those around them from Covid-19. Negotiating with them seems as futile as trying to talk an Infected out of of attacking you in The Last of Us.
Along with the broken mirror that The Last of Us series holds up to our world today, it’s arrival and the hype surrounding The Last of Us Part II suggests that audiences may consider whether to leave the house for their entertainment in the future. With its familiar characters, great visuals, and continuing story, The Last of Us Part II is the summer blockbuster moviegoers want, especially since the cinema-going experience has been put on hold for the moment. Which begs the question, will audiences want to go back to theaters any time soon, especially if theaters refuse to put into place guidelines that are for the greater good? As much as I have loved going to the movies, with the way the world is at the moment, it’s going to be hard to justify getting my butt into a seat anytime soon, especially if we see studios continue to put first run movies on VOD. Playing video games, especially one with the scope and budget of The Last of Us Part II, makes that decision much easier. Why simply watch a blockbuster when you can take part in one?
That mentality relies on developers and companies like Sony and Microsoft continuing to step up their games, as it were, and making epic titles that will engage hardcore and casual gamers alike. Considering what Sony has planned with its PlayStation 5, and with an eager audience starting their The Last of Us Part II adventure this weekend, possibilities for video games seem more exciting than ever before.
A copy of The Last of Us Part II was provided to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada.