The Last Of Us Part II and review bombing: the reasons behind it and its failure

The latest Naughty Dog game has been the victim of a review bombing soon after its release, creating a sharp division among the players. Why did this happen, and what generated all this heat about The Last Of Us Part II? This article is completely spoiler-free!

In the last ten years of web history we have witnessed multiple cases of review bombing hitting some of the most waited and acclaimed products on the gaming market, but the practise of review bombing it’s not limited just to the world of video-games as we have multiple examples of it. Starting from the cinema, recently there have been cases of bombing review of films such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the all female-led Ghostbusters or TV shows like the recent Batwoman.

What is review bombing, though? Review bombing is an Internet phenomenon of leaving extremely negative user reviews, usually involving a large number of people, in the attempt of harming the sales, the popularity or the potential success of a published product such as, indeed, video-games and films. The term is often associated with reviews and scores left on websites such as Metacritic, Steam or Rotten Tomatoes, just to give out some examples. Sometimes this phenomenon is generated by the poor quality of a product but, more commonly, is associated with political, social and cultural issues.

Just to quote the above mentioned examples, Ghostbusters was the victim of review bombing because of its all female cast of main characters, Batwoman because the leading character was depicted as a lesbian and Star Wars: Episode IX just because it was insanely bad and it pretty much ruined an entire saga with some mad choices. Three different examples that make us understand better how review bombing works and how these large groups of people choose their targets: video-games, however, are definitely the most favourite targets, with a large number of examples: from Mass Effect 3 ending, to the paid mods of Skyrim, to GTA V after the try to stop the single player and multiplayer mods to Death Stranding or Pokémon: Sword and Shield, or Marvel’s Spider Man, which received zeroes as well when it came out.

This time it was the turn of The Last Of Us Part II, and it seems that this phenomenon has become a common thing for such resonant titles. I read so many comments about the game after completing it to the point of suffering inside because of what I was reading. As I largely discuss in this article dedicated to the story of Part II, the game must be played to be judged, reviewed or simply understood, just like any film, book or product must be experienced personally before even thinking of giving an opinion. So, how is it possible that on the midnight of day one of the release of the game, there were already so many negative reviews (and so many zeroes) about TLOU? The game is extremely longevous, and it took me almost thirty hours to finish it.

One of the main reason, is the leak of some extremely relevant details of the plot happened two months ago (leaks I have been trying really hard to avoid during this period of time): many players decided they didn’t like what it was going to happen and that they weren’t even going to bother playing the game (I won’t talk about the specific event here, this is a spoiler-free article). More than that, this section of the public decided to try to sabotage the game release, by lowering the score on the very first day to a 3.4 (at the time of the article it is standing to a “majestic” 4.5/10 based on almost 90.000 reviews). Users reviewed and gave their scores without even playing the game or trying to understand the circumstances of why a particular event happens and how, the choices that lead to it and, in general, completely ignoring the whole picture of the situation. A game designed like The Last Of Us inevitably needs to be played, it needs the player to actually live in the world narrated by the story and the events: it is so complicated that it is almost impossible to cover up every single topic that the game raises during its long rung asit would be just restrictive, imagine reviewing it without having played it through.

The critics to the plot of the game, though, are more understandable (for how much unjustified they are without having played it) than just criticising the game because of the sexual orientation of Ellie, a thing that was already known since the first game, and her relationship with Dina that it was shown in one of the first teaser trailer for the game. I read a lot of negative comments about this, among critics of people that believe that another character present in the game is a transgender (which is clearly false, if you know who I am talking about…). Even if it this was the case, what would the problem be? Or, what is the problem with Ellie being homosexual? Does it really justifies the accusations of bad story writing? Of course it doesn’t. Everyone has different tastes and the freedom of speech allows us all to express our opinions on a topic, but it is a totally different thing trying to sabotage a game just because “I heard”, or “somebody told me”. Play the game, and then criticise it, discuss it and confront it with the people who liked it and try to open up a dialogue about it.

Reading comments such as “there are too many Asian people in the game”, or other that express hate towards a specific group of people is just scary and utterly ridiculous that in the 2020 we still are in this place, where people judge others just because of their ethnicity or because of their sexual orientation. Even worse, the fact they try to harm the years-long work of a group of people that gave everything they had to bring a fantastic product as such. A game like The Last of Us should never go below a full 7 at least, just for the technical component of it, independently from the plot and the choices of narration, which is still superb, anyway.

I read people that even accused the creators of false advertising just because they cover a plot twist in the trailers, a totally normal thing that has been used multiple times (remember the Infinity War trailer with the Hulk in the battle of Wakanda or Thanos on Titan having only two Infinity Stones instead of the four shown in the film?). This is not an example of false advertising. False advertising was, for example, what No Man’s Sky promotion campaign promised to the gaming community and that in the end was a complete lie to make you buy the game.

All this hate towards The Last Of Us Part II feels a bit like a witch hunt, at the end of the day. There are critics made by people who actually played the game that could be good for a confrontation between the two sides, but the problem is that these bunch of reviews get lost among the ocean of the meaningless and full of hate review bombing storm that it won’t end up that soon, apparently. Despite all this, the game is smashing the market and breaking record after record, becoming the most successful PS4 launch ever: it is great to see how, sometimes, these extremely negative phenomenons just don’t have any effect on the people that still wants to play a game, live and enjoy the story and its characters and then share their views with the community. More playing, less review bombing.

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