I’m writing these very late because I frittered away my Sunday playing video games and assembling furniture. My back pain’s basically gone so in its place I have developed a condition which I’ve decided to call “flatpack hand”.
Although lockdown has been basically fine, I was surprisingly sad about reaching the summer solstice — the longest day of the year — while still being stuck inside. It felt briefly as though I’d lost a year, or at least a summer, of my life. Oh well. Stay safe. There’ll probably be another.
I use Chrome at work (vs Safari elsewhere) since that seems to be the path of least resistance. It’s not a good browser but it does have extremely permissive extension support. So I ended up trying uBlock Origin for the first time this week and it’s been a revelation, specifically its ability to block “annoyances” like cookie banners and subscription modals. The web is much nicer without having to manually dismiss five pieces of bullshit on every page I visit. I’m worried that I’m already acclimatising and the web will slowly become unbearable on my non-work devices.
In preparation for seeing Doctor Sleep at some point, we watched The Shining (which I’ve seen many times) and Room 237 (which was new to me). Room 237 is frustrating but curious. The theories in it are completely without value and it’s irritating to sit through the inane details, but, well, The Shining is a great film and I found it interesting to see the different ways that it’s captured the imagination of some obsessive people. Fortunately I don’t recognise Jack Torrance’s insanity from anything in my real life but I’ve definitely met people like the fans in Room 237.
The Last of Us Part II came out. I’m taking my time because I want to give it my proper attention and make it last rather than race to the end, so it’s going to be a while before I know what I think of it as a whole. In the meantime, here are some spoiler-free initial impressions.
The first few minutes made me happy by giving me exactly what I wanted: a little bit of Joel and Ellie just spending time together. It’s been so long since we saw these two that it wasn’t obvious to me that it would all still work. But yeah, they nailed the performances and everything feels right. A relief.
It looks amazing. The amount of visual detail is fantastic. It opens with a recreation of the first game’s ending and the brief closing shot of Ellie looks unbelievably good. It is very impressive what they’ve been able to get out of the PS4 hardware.
The scope and scale feel way more ambitious than the first game. The occasional puzzles and chunks of nonlinear exploration give it more of an Uncharted vibe: no actual climbing but much more verticality and general freedom of movement, as well as larger open areas to explore, reminiscent of Madagascar in Uncharted 4 or the Western Ghats in Lost Legacy. It’s good to see Naughty Dog going bigger and bolder with each successive game, every one building significantly on the strengths and innovations of its predecessors.
You can feel the months of crunch in the early sequences: people everywhere, background action everywhere, groups of NPCs having their own conversations that you can overhear if you stand nearby. I have mixed feelings about how ostentatious this is. It’s impressive and makes the world feel more real, but do games really need it? Could everyone have just gone home on time instead?
Above all else, it is a frightening and emotionally engaging experience. The writing and performances and visuals and 3D audio all add up to something that feels just as gripping as the first game despite the bar being so much higher now. There are interesting new systems and I love what they’re doing so far with player agency and complicity. I’m still early in the story but I’m already surprised by where it’s going — it’s very much not just a lazy retread of the last one.
Speaking of which: I’m delighted that it doesn’t have multiplayer. That would’ve been an especially egregious waste of time given all the delays, so I’m relieved they put their limited energy into the part of the game that I’ll actually play. I expect they’ll end up adding multiplayer later as DLC or a separate game entirely, Lost Legacy style, but that’s fine cos I can just ignore it and it doesn’t detract from the game I got.
The accessibility options are extremely good. In keeping with tradition the default font is too small to read from a sofa on the other side of the room, but unusually it only took me a second to change a setting and make all of the UI larger and more legible. It is such a rare luxury to be able to relax and see what is happening. This degree of attention to accessibility is groundbreaking and I hope it gets widely emulated by other developers.
Overall: it is brilliant. I’m happy to finally have it and excited to play more. See you in a week.