Welcome to Jezebel, a blog about gaming. I’m Bobby Finger, Senior Game News Editor. Today in the great big world of video games, those playable pixels we’ve all known and loved since the days of Pong, the hottest news is centered around E3, a yearly gaming conference during which studios and industry monoliths present their upcoming titles as a way of generating hype and pre-order dollars. As is typically the case, I have ignored everything other than Playstation news, as it is the only family of systems I’ve remained loyal to over the past 20 years.
This brings me to today’s big franchise headlines:
1. The next Assassin’s Creed game, Odyssey, “will allow players to play as a man or a woman,” which is a series first. Sort of. In this messy and repetitive franchise (of which I’m a reluctant fan), players control present-day characters who use an “Animus” to, like, hack into the minds of assassins throughout history—all of whom are part of an ancient order—in order to discover historical secrets? Honestly everything involving the present is borderline incoherent, but the gist—you’re an assassin who kills bad people throughout history—is as high concept as it gets. And, up until Odyssey, your primary controllable character was a man.
In 2014's Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, you could switch back and forth between a man and a woman (the woman, Evie, had a more satisfying set of skills), and in 2017's Assassin’s Creed Origins, there were a number of extended sequences in which you assumed the role of the protagonist’s wife, another assassin, but Odyssey reportedly marks the first time players will be able to select a female character at the beginning of the game and play as her from start to finish. Her name is Kassandra, she’s a Spartan warrior, and here’s video of her assassinating:
This is good news for Assassin’s Creed fans because 1) representation matters, and 2) this series is stuck on autopilot, and in desperate need of even the tiniest changes that will make new installments different from their predecessors.
2. A new trailer for The Last of Us: Part II! As a very basic and boring gamer, I find myself playing AAA adventure titles with heavily structured play styles almost exclusively. These games—like the Uncharted series, the recent installments of Tomb Raider, 2013's The Last of Us, and Horizon: Zero Dawn—make buckets of money for their developers and end up on “Best of” lists, but many complain that they’re more like “playable movies” than games which require actual strategy and technical skill (i.e. Fortnite, the Civilization series, and most first-person shooters). But this is precisely why I, a guy who just came for the story, enjoy them.
Which brings me back to The Last of Us, a gorgeous, harrowing and all-around unforgettable game about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse (OK technically it was an outbreak of a weird fungus) in which you assume control of a haggard man named Joel who, in the game’s prologue, loses his teenage daughter in the early chaos of the fungal outbreak. (This sounds stupid but I promise you’ll cry.) Twenty years later, most of humanity has died off, and those who remain are either residents of nightmarish quarantine zones, part of the oppressive military keeping those residents in line, or members of the resistance who are trying to fight the infected and find a cure. Early on, he is tasked to escort a teenage girl named Ellie (voiced by Ashley Johnson) to a medical facility on the other side of the country. Why? Because she appears to be immune to the fungus, and he must protect her at all costs so that she can be used to discover a cure. Blah blah blah, it sounds like familiar post-apocalyptic material, but The Last of Us approached this paint-by-numbers story with a surprising amount of grace and tenderness. Players control Ellie for much of the game’s final act, and—in a short prequel released a year or so later—learn that Ellie lost her first love, a girl named Riley—shortly before the events of the first game.
Enter: The Last of Us: Part II, which Sony showed off Monday night. In this pseudo-trailer (coupled with extensive gameplay footage), we see Ellie as an adult, dancing with a woman, making out with her, and—because this is still The Last of Us—brutally killing people who get in her way of her survival. Players of Left Behind knew to expect a little gay romance in this wildly anticipated follow-up, but I’m not sure anyone expected Sony (and developer Naughty Dog) to open with it.
The protagonist of the sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved games of all time is an ass-kicking queer woman who has not been de-sexualized. That’s good gamer news! The trailer is below. (If you want to skip the violent bits—and they’re extremely violent bits—avoid everything between 3:30 and 11:00.)