I’m starting to feel like I’ll never finish playing The Last of Us, Part II. And it’s all my wife’s fault.
Mind you, this isn’t your stereotypical story about a man’s nerdy hobby and his other half’s nagging insistence that he put down the controller and help out around the house. We are not that kind of couple. No, the problem is that my wife has become as obsessed as I am with the game’s gripping story and incredible visuals, and since she has no desire to play it
herself (“too many buttons”), she won’t let me play unless she’s around to watch.
It’s funny, all this fuss, especially given that I had no intention of playing The Last of Us, Part II to begin with. The original game, released in 2013 at the end of the PlayStation 3’s life cycle, was one of the most compelling single-player video games ever created. It was a simple tale, a sort of post-pandemic, American-horror-story riff on Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub, released years before The Mandalorian would bring that classic Shogun epic swinging back into the pop culture consciousness. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the original The Last of Us was such a perfectly told tale that creating a followup seemed as sacrilegious to me as making a sequel to Citizen Kane.
But I got The Last of Us, Part II for Father’s Day and figured “What the hell?” Even if it lived up to all my fears, it couldn’t spoil my appreciation for the original. It turns out, though—despite what you may have heard from the nerd-rage circles of the internet, where legitimate creative expression is met with ire and only repetitive and pre-chewed fan service is allowed—The Last of Us, Part II is not only a brilliant
sequel, it may well be the single most compelling and challenging work of art released this year in any medium.
And that’s the problem. My wife occasionally watched me play the first Last of Us, and she had a pretty good handle on the
story despite experiencing it only in snippets. But she can’t take her eyes off of The Last of Us, Part II, and now my play time is dictated by her viewing schedule.
That’s why I’m only 35 hours or so into the story, a month after the game’s release. From what I’ve seen so far, though, this new game is a revenge tale that’s ultimately about the futility of revenge—reminiscent of the very best samurai flicks. It’s a necessarily violent (at times) narrative about the personal cost of violence. It’s a non-linear
storytelling experience that not only forces you to see, but also to experience—to feel—the conflicting emotions and motivations of the various major players—each the antagonist of the other. It is, in a sense, a narrative extrapolation of the famous MLK quote: “The reason I can’t follow the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everybody blind.”
What’s more, it proves that in such a contest, no one agrees who took the first eye.
Add to that some of the most impressive HDR visuals you’ve ever seen on any screen and a dynamic surround sound mix so convincing that it has at times made us think there was a real storm brewing in the distance outside, and it’s understandable that my wife treats The Last of Us, Part II more like a movie or TV show than a vicarious gaming experience. (Indeed, she almost seems to forget that there’s
an interactive element at all, except during those times when I need to use the PS4 controller to strum a guitar in the occasional musical mini-game interlude.)
The point of all this is not that you should play The Last of Us Part II if you’re not a gamer. The point is, if you have a gamer in your household and you’ve relegated them to the basement or bedroom, invite them into the home theater or media room. Let
them play on the best AV system in the house. That’s the environment for which today’s cinematic single-player games are designed.
Let’s face it: some of us are already starting to get a little starved for new content to watch, and that problem is only going to get worse as more film releases are delayed or taken off the release schedule altogether. With a new generation of video-game consoles slated for release this Christmas, though—and with any number of new story-
driven games waiting in the wings—you may just find that your spouse’s or kid’s next favorite game may become your new favorite home cinema viewing experience.
Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.