The Last of Us Part 2 was always going to court controversy. From its hotly-debated existence after the 2016 reveal, to the gruesome and polarizing violence of 2018's trailer, it's been a long road to Naughty Dog's sequel launching. Hell, a job in the video game industry was still a mere pipe dream to me when The Last of Us Part 2 was announced.
Now the sequel is finally here, and it's being showered with praise (and to be fair, some criticism as well). Kat wrote extensively about how The Last of Us Part 2 was a reckoning not just for Naughty Dog, but also Joel and Ellie in her review. This is a darker, more violent game than its predecessor, but it's also a story of love and hope against all odds. With June having come and gone (and quite quickly at that), we can now declare The Last of Us Part 2 to be USgamer's Game of the Month for June 2020.
Spoiler Warning: We spoil some elements of the second half of The Last of Us Part 2. Proceed with caution.
The Last of Us Part 2 feels like a wild west epic, with characters journeying across sprawling landscapes and across state lines in pursuit of vengeance. But for all the intricate character developments and evolving narratives over the course of the journey with multiple timelines, the sequel is a surprisingly well-paced affair; a near-constant drip feed of satisfying and intriguing plot information for various characters that all feed into larger narratives. The fact that two of the most interesting characters in the game aren't introduced until two-thirds of the way through is a massive credit to Naughty Dog's ability to juggle multiple character developments and arcs at once, and have them all pay off in meaningful ways.
Similarly, calling The Last of Us Part 2 a game about hate would be doing it a massive disservice. It's easy to hate when you are hated, and one early example of characters rising above hatred is Ellie refusing to retaliate against a slur from one of her own townsfolk, just wanting to put the whole thing behind her and have a nice snowball fight with Dina instead. All the marketing for the game had it slated as a tale of revenge, but the humanity of its story shouldn't be ignored. For all its weary violence and tragedies, The Last of Us Part 2 is a story of hope.
There's a huge amount to unpack with the sequel, perhaps even more so than Naughty Dog's original game. The shocking brutality of the violence. The depiction of a transgender character in Lev. The redemption of Abby and Ellie. The callbacks to the ending of the original game in the hospital. Murdering all those dogs with trap mines. These are just a few of the things that I've been mulling over since I finished the sequel over a week ago. Already we've seen some fantastic writing around these subjects from a vast variety of people around the industry. Just here at USgamer, Jake has written about how The Last of Us Part 2 understands the importance of music in the mourning process.
The Last of Us Part 2 triumphed in a month that had a few high-profile releases. Riot's Valorant finally launched in full back near the beginning of this month, which Eric found to be a pretty enjoyable online experience. If this is a fight for Counter-Strike's throne, Riot seems like it might have found a valiant contender.
Mike went to bat for Desperados 3 during the Game of the Month voting for June. It's a real-time tactical stealth game, where you maneuver five characters, each with varying abilities and skill sets, across massive maps. It might not have emerged as the victor for this month, but Desperados 3 certainly seems like a worthy follow-up to the original game.
Command and Conquer Remastered flew largely under the radar in the middle of the month (likely thanks to Naughty Dog's game). It's an excellent bundle featuring the original two games in the Command and Conquer series, cramming every ounce of content from both games into one shiny, remastered package. The result is that both games play just fondly as you remember they did, and remain games that you'll remember years from now.
But in the end, the choice of The Last of Us Part 2 for USgamer's Game of the Month of June was an easy decision to maket. Now just don't make a sequel, Naughty Dog.