LTTP: The Last of Us Part 2 is incredibly problematic in 2024 [long ass post warning]

I recently got around to playing TLOU2. The catalyst for this was learning the plot was inspired by Neil Druckmann’s views on the israel/Palestine. Given the ongoing conflict in the news, there would be no better time to play it.

My conclusion, to save some time for people who don’t want to read a wall of text: In 2024, TLOU2’s sketchy Israel/Palestine subtext is really hard to ignore. It is at best, the most intensely problematic game since RE5, and at worst just straight up bigoted.

After playing the game and feeling really gross about the messages it appeared to be trying to sell me, I looked online to see if there was anyone else who saw what I did. This was all I found.

The Not So Hidden Israeli Politics of ‘The Last of Us Part II’ (

Israel, Palestine and the prickly politics of The Last Of Us season 2 (

HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Reignites the Game’s Israel/Palestine Discourse | The Mary Sue

The vice article in particular resonated with me, as its author, Maiberg is also from Israel. And as such he was able to point out some problematic elements that I actually missed. As he puts it:

“As someone who grew up in Israel, I recognized a familiar, firmly Israeli way of seeing and explaining the conflict which tries to appear even handed and even enlightened, but in practice marginalizes Palestinian experience in a manner that perpetuates a horrific status quo”

I noticed most of the same things noticed, but as someone playing in 2024, in the shadow of an actual genocide being carried out on live TV, TLOU2 does not come across as a game that accidentally marginalizes real world people. It comes across as a game designed to marginalize them.


I won’t rehash he plot here. Ellie’s chapter was fairly straight forward. Pacing was slow, but tricking some rando into walking into a trip mine and watching his pelvis disappear in a cloud of red mist was never not fun. But then we get to Abby and this is where shit goes south.

Ellie’s story is about hunting Abby down to get her revenge. Abby’s chapter is all about trying to humanize the ‘bad guy’ of the story. Both sides etc. The first thing we see her doing is helping a wounded animal. The second major thing we see her doing is literally petting a dog.

And all through it all you will have characters telling her she’s sweeter than she lets on and that she’s a good person. The game intentionally mirrors her to joel up to the point of even giving her an adorable yet badass LGBT sidekick to serve as a morality pet. You know the drill here. Grizzled badass meets child and through protecting them from a nightmare world of violence becomes a better person. It’s an old trope. Lev (the sidekick in question) is relevant only because because he’s a Seraphite.


The Seraphite/WLF conflict is where things get uncomfortable.

As the articles point out, the factions are heavily coded to resemble the IDF and the Palestinians. The WLF are military, professional. They have a familiar, first world aesthetic, relatively unchanged from a pre apocalypse military. They use Jeeps and call out flanking maenuvres. They have adorable german shepard sniffer dogs that the game names and keeps track of so you can be guilty when you kill them. More importantly we spend half the game with them so they get humanized. Even minor characters get names.

The seraphites are extremely muslim coded. They dress in robes and hoods, they attack on horseback like Bedouin raiders. They draw arcane symbols on walls instead text. They are described as religious fanatics. They talk about a prophet and martyrdom. They even have shibboleth they use frequently “may she guide your way” that is used with very similar cadence and frequecy to the islamic “blessings and peace be upon him” when talking about their prophet. They stone people to death for various sins, especially apostacy. They don’t use modern technology and have a more primitive lifestyle. Oh and they are also transphobic and practice child marriage. It’s like every nasty post 9/11 stereotype of muslims rolled into one group. No adorable dogs for them either.

What separates the two groups is how the narrative treats them. The WLF get to be humanized. Ellie killing them and deciding to torture one is considered to be a sign that she is going too far, even when the people she kills include a person who tried to murder her in cold blood at the start of the story. The game clearly wants you to think of them as human and their deaths as sad, regardless of what they might have done previously.

The seraphites never get this treatment. The only important members of the faction are killed before uttering more than a sentence, or killed off screen by another character. The closest thing to a seraphite ‘character’ we get is a large black man who serves as a kind of chapter boss for Abby. Said boss is large, inhumanly strong and keeps on fighting long after he has taken what should be debilitating damage. (this character was a big part of the essay And she was less than a dog” written about TLOU2’s OTHER racism issue.)

The last half of the fight has him attacking the player while sporting a massive Glasgow smile that makes him look positively inhuman. He has no real dialogue and no significance other than being a monster for the player to defeat. And he’s not the first.

Unique among the factions, the seraphites have access to your classic video game Brute style enemy. You know the one. The big slow one that exaists to soak up ammo and draw attention from smaller enemies. No other faction in TLOU has an army of 8 foot tall freakish behemoths that can snap your neck with one hand. In the middle of a grounded, realistic setting, one faction inexplicably contracted out to umbrella corporation for a bunch of Tyrants.


This would not be the first horror game to have problematic elements. RE5 was infamous for racist imagery. N’gai Croal spoke out about this even before launch but wasn’t really taken seriously. In recent years the discourse has caught up. We can see how it happened. The new flavour of zombie introduced in re4 do act more like people, and as the infection progresses they do regress to more ancestral and primitive forms of behaviour. RE4 had innocent townsfolk regress into murderous savages who dress like monks and burn people at the stake. You can see how transplanting that behaviour to Africa could result in RE5, especially if you only have a Japanese perspective, (lets face it, any Dragon Ball fan knows full well that Japan does not have the same filter for racist imagery that north America does. Mr. Popo looks like a hate crime.)

TLOU2 does not have that excuse. Its later, we know better and the lead on the game is from the area whose indigenous people are being dehumanized by proxy.

In the backstory, the two groups have tried for peace in the past but the ceasefires never held. The most recent dustup happened after “We killed some of their kids” as Abby says not 10 minutes after the dog petting scene. “Why can’t they just stay on their island?” wonders another character.


Late in the second act, the WLF invade the Serphites’ island home with the explicit aim of wiping them out. The player is forced to participate. Literally seconds after the game shows people loading children away on a wagon to get them out of the combat zone, they become enemies for you to fight. Since TLOU has extremely scant stealth mechanics and essentially no non lethal takedown options, you have no real choice but to kill them all. Unless you spend 30 minutes save scumming per encounter, you will have to get a decent bodycount. The game does not address this, it does not condemn it. When you finally find lev (your reason for being there) he has killed his own mother off screen because she would not accept him being a transman. The WLF turn on the player in order to kill lev, forcing Abbey to protect him.

Abby does not tell her former friends not to do a genocide. Or not the kill children. She simply says that Lev is not one of them anymore and thus they don’t need to kill him. It’s not that Seraphite life matters, it’s that he isn’t one. He’s not part of them and thus worthy of existing now. That leads to some combat and eventually to the giant monster black man fight. Even while being genocided the Seraphites STILL get to be subhuman monsters out to get us for no reason and the game treats the annihilation of an entire culture with less emotional weight than Ellie not being able to play guitar anymore.

This is what the articles are talking about when they talk about how TLOU2 unintentionally pepetuates a horrible status quo. It wants to be seen as even handed. Both sides. Cycles of violene. Can’t we all just get along? But it clearly takes a side.

And I’ll said it plainly here. I don’t belive there was anything unintentional about it. I think this was someone’s idea of a good time. Don’t belive me?


In a 2020 interview, Neil Druckmann said that his main inspiration for the plot of TLOU2 was the 2000 Ramallah lynching, where a crowd of palestians lynched a pair of IDF soldiers in relaliation for Israeli military actions that had killed 100 people, several of them children.:

Oh, man, if I could just push a button and kill all these people that committed this horrible act, I would make them feel the same pain that they inflicted on these people.

He proceeded to spend a quarter billion dollars making a game where the player can do just that.

When the Seraphtes are introduced to the story, they are in the process of lynching two WLF soldiers. There’s subtext, and then there is text. And then there is whatever the hell this is. It is especially out of place considering this is the only real interaction Ellie has with the Seraphites, who are otherwise only relevant to Abby’s story. It is also here that we are introduced to the Seraphites’ method of communication, which instead of military style barks takes the from of birdcalls and whistles. Hard to say one side is not being dehumanized when they literally don’t communicate like humans.

It COULD have been a useful scene if it happened to Abby. Recreating Druckmann’s experience of being horrified, wanting vengeance and then thinking better of it later. But instead it adds nothing to the plot, or the characters. It doesn’t affect the Seraphites, or Ellie at all. It’s especially out of place considering that given Ellie’s mission of personally reducing the WLF numbers to single digits, the Seraphites would make natural allies. Since they, like Ellie, are people who take exception to the WLF randomly invading their homes and murdering their families.

The only thing it does, is recreate a traumatic experience that ND had been stewing about about for literal decades, and allow him, to literally “push a button and kill all these people,make them feel the same pain.” And force the player to enagage in it. In a game where the player is constantly being guilted about the lives taken, this is one of the only exceptions. Until you play as Abby and start killing Seraphites en masse.


It’s very telling that in the game’s ‘can’t we all just get along’ messaging, it’s the IDF coded side that is the one that gets humanized. That’s they one we all need to learn to forgive. Seraphites? They all get ethnically cleansed in act 2 and nobody says a second word about it. A game whose entire theme is the futility of revenge ends up feeling ABOUT taking revenge on real world people.

Druckmann would later say, of his earlier quotes that he then felt gross and guilty about his lust for vengeance. It clearly didn’t last. 20 years later he had players taking his revenge for him. As much as the narrative tries to both sides the issue it becomes very clear that to Druckmann, some kinds of people are worth mourning. Some kinds of lives matter. And a very specific kind does not.


About 1500 people died during Hamas’ Oct 7 attack. Each one was a tragedy. In response, Neil druckman posted this:

Reddit -

Since Oct 7 the IDF has achieved a death toll ten times higher in children alone.

Of this, Drcukmann said nothing. Not when israel bombed all the hospitals, or when they destroyed all the schools. Or when they attacked people lining up for food. Children murdered…he said nothing. Mass graves discovered. He says nothing.

It’s not like others haven’t spoken out. John Cusack, Mark Ruffalo, Liam Cunningham, Bernie fucking sanders. Bela Ramsey who plays Ellie on the show called for a ceasefire Aaron Bushnell immolated himself in protest. Half the cast of scream 7 got fired for speaking out. Josh sawyer spoke out.

All Druckmann has done since oct 7 has been shill a game whose themes directly reference current events, and whose message is supposedly about the futility of revenge and the problematic nature of cycles of violence,. There was no better point in human history for a game with the message TLOU2 is supposed to have. And he said nothing.

The whole situation is a goddamned Geneva convention speedrun whose perpretators are bragging about their crimes on fucking tiktok. And the man who made a game allegedly about how we should all get along because cycles of violence are bad, is suspiciously silent when that cycle of violence favours him.

Maiberg, in his “The not so hidden politics of TLOU2” article thinks that TLOU2 fails. That it tries to be even handed but betrays an unintentionally one sided view of a real world tragedy.

I don’t think it fails at all. I think is what it is trying to do. I think the guy who wanted to push a button and make the brown people suffer made a game that lets people d just that. I think he cloaked it in some faux south park style “don’t you see, everyone is wrong” centrism when it clearly and obvioulsy was taking a very specific side. I think the seocnd half of the game is basically a masturbatory murder fantasy he made us play.

And as the real life counterarts of said murder fantasy make it a reality, his silence speaks volumes.


I think there’s some context missing here.

Then in his early 20s, Druckmann witnessed news footage of a crowd lynching two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. “And then they cheered afterward,” Druckmann, who grew up in Israel, recalls. “It was the cheering that was really chilling to me. … In my mind, I thought, ‘Oh, man, if I could just push a button and kill all these people that committed this horrible act, I would make them feel the same pain that they inflicted on these people.’"

The feeling faded, though. Eventually, he looked back and felt “gross and guilty” for his intense feelings. With “The Last of Us Part II,” he wanted to explore that emotional tumult on a didactic level.


Even with all that context, it does not sound like his views have changed when it comes to Israel’s aparteid regime. So, he can miss me with his ‘gross and guilty’ feeling.


I have no problem with the main post but I have moved it into off-topic since it mainly deals with real world issues


Couldn’t agree more and it’s been interesting seeing how some have managed to avoid this focus, especially given the outspokenness of so many game developers. Since I first saw that Vice article, after I finished TLOU 2 (which already sat extremely poorly with me narratively), it just made all the more sense why I hated the story of TLOU2 so much… despite its best efforts it was very much a “revenge for me but not for thee” tale, and with context reads like an IOF fantasy. I won’t be buying anything from ND going forward for sure, but it’s pretty gross how many turn a blind eye.

Furthermore, no one should be making excuses for Druckmann or people that defend the game; when there are people with everything to lose being vocal since literally day one, and when people like Druckmann have the platform they do, it’s imperative. If nothing else, than for me to recognize whether or not they’re a decent human being that I want to support… but we’ve seen the power big name voices have in these conflicts, instead we’re largely seeing our young people coming out for what’s right and others losing their jobs for speaking out (reminder: for literally just wanting innocent men, women, and chlidren to stop being massacred by a state-sponsored genocide).


Even watching a walkthrough of the game on youtube felt miserable to me. It’s a beautiful and well crafted game for sure but the story was just boring and overly gruesome for no reason, unlike Part 1, which had these tiny glimpses of hope and told a pretty well rounded story about loss that Part 2 lacked. It was just a mess without even bringing politics into it.

I won’t judge Druckman on his tweets, it was probably emotions talking more than reason, which is understandable in the context. He shouldn’t have twitted that, that’s for sure. The 7th of october was something cruel and extremely violent, things only humans are capable of, and what ensues was just a demonstration of terrorism vs destruction by the mean of armed forces. And it has not even ended yet.

TLOU 2 showed that killing people doesn’t bring back the dead, it just makes more people angry and revengeful. They nailed that I guess, but I’m not sure it was a story worth telling imo.


Yeah I can’t speak to the politics, but the game is a misery simulator. There was a time when I was younger and edgier that might have resonated with me more then. I just chalked it up to getting older.