I’m going to start this with a list of disclaimers. First of all, The Last of Us is easily one of my all time favorite games. My friends get tired of me constantly heaping praise on it. Second, I’m still looking forward to The Last of Us Part 2. I was super excited when the first trailer came out and watched it on repeat multiple times. Finally, this is a critique of the most recent trailer that debuted at Paris Games Week, not a critique of the game itself, obviously.
All the previous said, the trailer for The Last of Us Part 2 that closed out Sony’s press conference at Paris Games Week left me, dare I say it . . . disappointed. If you haven’t seen it already, here it is below.
The purpose of a teaser trailer is ultimately to garner excitement for the game, teasing enough to intrigue you but not enough to spoil anything major. The problem is that this trailer misses that mark entirely for a whole host of reasons.
The first reason the trailer misses the mark is because it introduces entirely new characters with no setup or connection whatsoever. As I stated in a previous article, what drives The Last of Us and makes it such an exemplary game isn’t the gameplay (it’s solid, but not groundbreaking) and it’s not the story (you can describe the whole plot pretty simply, it’s also not groundbreaking). What makes it so good is the characters and their interactions with each other. Ultimately, you care about them. Possibly more than you’ve ever cared about a set of characters in a video game before. And the new trailer lacks that element entirely by adding new characters without any reference or sighting of the old ones that we loved. Even seeing Tommy would have been more impactful than this brand new cast.
The second reason the trailer fell flat for me was that there was no direction. It was hard to find purpose or meaning in the madness. Teaser trailers often obfuscate and confuse on purpose, and that’s fine. But in doing so they typically give you enough to speculate with and prod you into wanting to know more. Is Joel still alive? Why did Ellie kill all those people in the house? What is it she plans to do? The first trailer got me excited while at the same time making me want to know more and speculate. This most recent one lacked any context whatsoever, to the point the only thing we can speculate is whether or not the woman shown is Ellie’s mother. And that’s a theory that lacks enough evidence to be taken as more than just a guess.
Finally, there’s nothing that made the trailer stand out. Yes, the visuals are absolutely beautiful (always a guarantee with Naughty Dog), but otherwise nothing makes it . . . special. Maybe the violence is more brutal and abundant than in most game trailers, and some people have called out the trailer for its violence. But I think those people are missing the point. What makes the trailer disappointing isn’t the abundance of violence. That’s something we’re used to in The Last of Us. It’s part and parcel of the survival world. What makes the trailer disappointing is that there’s nothing special about it. You don’t even realize it’s a Last of Us game until the very end when the clickers show up, and I think that fact highlights the biggest problem.
In the end, there’s nothing to make me like this trailer. There’s nothing to make me want to see more or find out more about the characters. Nothing beyond base curiosity born out of a hope that these new characters don’t take the franchise into a direction that steals from the core story of Joel and Ellie. I don’t think this trailer means that the game is going to be bad, and it hasn’t decreased my excitement for the game. It just hasn’t increased it, and I honestly expected more. Bear in mind this is just my opinion, but I’m trying to put words to a feeling that I’ve had about the trailer since watching it. And I’m sure many of you feel the same way.