Disclaimer: Most of what you’re about to read is based on assumptions made after watching the limited material released by Naughty Dog for The Last of Us Part II.
With The Last of Us Part II finally getting an official release date and a new trailer, I thought it time to address one concern I’ve seen many people express since the gameplay debut at E3 2018. I’ve seen great worry over some of the overly graphic scenes depicted in the slices of the game we’ve seen so far, and I say “slices” for a reason.
I think it’s important to remember, what we’ve seen from Naughty Dog’s latest has been small snippets of a far greater story. We now know that it’s likely Ellie’s love interest, Dina, is killed by a gang of survivors and that’s what drives her throughout the game, but we don’t yet know much more than that. If that is in fact the case, then we know she’s on a path of deep anger and lust for revenge.
Given what we know so far, The Last of Us Part II focuses on the brutality of a post-apocalyptic world, and further, the brutality of revenge. It makes absolute sense that the gameplay and animations should reflect that. It’s clear Ellie wants to make this gang suffer for what they have taken from her, and that sole driver for her character feels very real. The viscerality of the enemy death animations reflects that desperation.
We also see gruesome acts carried out by enemies, not just Ellie, and while some of these scenes are a tad extreme, I think they perfectly reflect the dog-eat-dog world that Naughty Dog is trying to present. The Last of Us isn’t like Uncharted; there’s no gold at the end of the rainbow for these characters, they’re just trying to survive in a cruel and frightening world.
You could also argue that games have been just as gruesome before; think Doom and Wolfenstein. Though those games are arguably more cartoon-like in style, they portray a ludicrous amount of chopping limbs and smashing skulls for your entertainment. I understand that a lot of the concern comes from how realistic the animations are trying to be, but I think this game portrays violence for a very different reason than those other titles. It doesn’t show gore for your entertainment, but rather to rub your face in the reality these characters are forced to live in.
I believe when it comes to violence there is a difference between excessive and thematic. The violence in The Last of Us Part II is a consequence of the world, and of the story. I don’t believe that Naughty Dog can portray the kind of dark emotional story they are trying to if they pull any punches. Through watching the trailers and the gameplay demos, this game feels like a stepping stone to a more mature avenue of video games, and I think it’s a necessary one for the medium to continue to grow. That being said, we’ll have to wait for the full release to find out if they have succeeded.