Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
In hindsight, the most critically acclaimed, fan-divisive video game of the year couldn't help but be polarizing. 2013's The Last of Us was a landmark accomplishment—a worthy tale about the love that a parent can have for a child, and what horrible deeds a person will commit in the name of love. The fans would spend the proceeding seven years creating art, interrogating every aspect of the narrative, and wondering what would happen to these characters that we'd come to love. It was unreasonable to believe that developer Naughty Dog could please everyone. And so, they decided (correctly) to simply tell the story they wanted to tell.
The result is a tale of two women: Ellie and new protagonist Abby, who [SPOILER ALERT] is the daughter of the surgeon that Joel killed in the first game. Ellie is small and stealthy; Abby is strong and combat-trained. Both women are motivated by their loathing for each other. If the first game was about love, then this game is about hate, and the ways it consumes love and subverts it. The visual aspects of this game are extraordinary, with some of the most accurate renderings of fire, water, smoke, gore, moss, and shattered glass, but the narrative is what Naughty Dog took a real chance on.
The Last of Us Part II is a dark game, about cruel people doing unforgivable things. It is masterful in telling its story, to the point that I felt miserable and dirty for having witnessed it. To say I "enjoyed" it isn't quite right; I would say that I "experienced" it. But whatever 'it' is, it's definitely memorable; I still find myself discussing its plot points and ethical questions months later. I remain conflicted, and perhaps that's the point.