What's going on with the last of us 2? [CW: discussion of intense violence/sexual assault]


i’m worried about the last of us 2, and i want to tell you all why.

it’s been several years since i played the first one when it came out, so my memories of it aren’t too clear anymore. i loved the story, i liked the gameplay well enough, but mostly by the end it was the intense narrative around joel and ellie that really had me going. the multiplayer was rad too.

fast forward to the modern day. there’s a last of us 2 trailer with somebody getting severely beaten with a hammer. yesterday i see a gif of a women in the game hung up with a rope, her shirt lifted up, and somebody running a knife over her stomach. i was like … “huh?”

i searched my admittedly foggy memories of the first game, trying to remember any heinous scenes of violence or sadism, and i couldn’t recall any. was the first game also big on torture porn and i just erased it from my memory?

i’ve changed quite a bit as a person since the first game out. violence in general is more off-putting than it used to be, but this kind of slow, sadistic, particularly nasty violence that seems to have become more prominent recently really puts me off these days. i only vaguely remember the ending of the first game, but i of course imagined myself playing the second, curious about where the story would go with joel and ellie. now i’m kinda waiting for impressions to see just how nasty of a game it is, and might end up avoiding it entirely.

so… what’s the deal with the last of us 2? why all the torture? is this game-of-thrones-ification of videogames? what is happening? i realize i’m only referencing two scenes in the game (which will certainly contain much more than that), but still … these are the two pre-release scenes i’ve seen, and they’re both super fucked up. this worries me. does anyone feel the same way?


I remember being super put off by the trailers for the first game, and it wasn’t after I actually played it that I got some appreciation for the characters and world Naughty Dog created. They screwed up with the marketing of the sequel, but I’m not too concerned yet about the final product. That all said, I still think the series doesn’t need a sequel but I’m happy to be proved wrong.


the original game was all nasty violence presented nastily, people getting run through, executed, drowned, beaten to death. yall remember the guy who kidnaps ellie and the implied threat of sexual violence in that sequence? cannibalism? all that sorta stuff?

i’m not a fan of TLOU for other reasons, but i think you might be looking back with some rose-tinted specs there, bud.


The moments you’re referencing were both from the same scene FYI, but regardless it does feel strange that the very dark scene was the sole focus of a piece of marketing material. I guess they might be positioning it as “The Dark Middle Chapter™” and gratuitous violence was their go-to.

That said, a lot of times the devs and the marketing team barely communicate, which is how you get things like the infamous Dead Island trailer, and this might be lacking important context.
Like Navster says I’m not concerned about the final release, and I agree that we never needed a sequel in the first place but I have a certain degree of confidence that the main Naughty Dog team can pull it off.


apparently so! like i said, it’s been a long time, and maybe i should go back to the first one and see how i feel about it now.

it might just be that at that time that stuff didn’t really bug me, so i don’t really remember it. for reference, i’m a person who saw the first four SAW movies on opening night in the theater. i haven’t always been squeamish about these things, it’s a relatively recent development…


It sounds like we’ll be seeing more of it at E3 so I’ll be curious to see what kind of tone it goes for there. For my part I found the combination of that very uncomfortable trailer and the incredibly lacklustre response from Naughty Dog following the sexual harassment allegations sapped all my interest in The Last of Us 2. I enjoyed the original a lot back in the day but nothing that has come out of Naughty Dog recently has left me enthusiastic about the sequel.


The difference though is that those moments in Last of Us 1 have context from you having played the game up to that point. Like imagine if the debut for Last of Us 1 was a cutscene from one of those points instead of the in-game footage of them going through the hotel. It’d get the same reaction 2’s cutscene trailer got. Them leading Last of Us 2 with that cutscene made me not very optimistic.

The original Last of Us has a brutal debut trailer too, but it’s also one of the best game trailers ever made because it tells you basically everything you need to know about how both characters work, how the game will play, what the setting is like, how Joel and Ellie interact with each other, etc. They also had two versions of it they’d show at trade shows/etc., one involving the side path through the hotel where you avoid almost all of the enemies in the area completely. It pulls all of that off by just showing a few minutes of the game being played. So even if you’re not down with the violence, you knew it would be a well-made game overall and that thought was put into its execution.

2’s introduction to the world just being a cutscene cutscene that’s just a no context beating/etc. and not a snippet of actual in-game action makes it seem like Naughty Dog drank their own marketing Kool-Aid and forgot that The Last of Us is incredible because yeah it COULD have just been Uncharted with zombies and folks would still eat it up but instead they fine tuned everything about how it controls, how the shooting works, and everything to fully commit to the setting.


I was also super put off by the kind of violence Naughty Dog used to market the game.

Like I dunno I don’t get hype for women getting beat up with hammers, personally. But hey a lot of people I know who aren’t particularly good people think that the trailer was the epitome of “mature storytelling” so who am I to say, right?

Also the utterly disappointing response by both Sony and Naughty Dog in regards to sexual misconduct allegations has basically made me want to avoid both with a 10 foot pole.


the whole “this is mature storytelling” aspect of it is kinda bothersome to me. there seems to be some expectation/standard among some creators that if you’re making an “adult” game/show/movie then it needs to have sex, violence, or even better sex plus violence. and it needs to be flagrant. as if that’s what adults demand in their entertainment. i don’t really get it.

tangentially: more often than not when i turn on a netflix original that is supposed to be for adults, this stuff is thrown in my face within like 10 minutes of the show starting. i was kinda hyped for the show altered carbon, for example, and i turn it on and within three minutes i’m watching two blood covered women make out in a shower. i feel like it’s kind of insulting, to be honest. that this is the hook, that this is what will get me hyped, that you have to lead with that. similar feelings regarding the last of us 2 trailer.

maybe i’m suddenly a weird and prudish old man, the world has turned and left me here, etc. i dunno.


Part of the change in the marketing from LoU to LoU2 might be the idea that people already know what to expect game-play wise. So, if they just come out to show more game-play, they aren’t going to get as much coverage beyond, “that sure does look like Last Of Us.” Though people would be excited either way.

Instead of focusing on game-play, they went with the dark and uncomfortable to watch trailer. I’m not too impressed with the direction they chose to go, but some of the analysis of the trailer makes me curious about what they’re doing with the story. Is that scene set in the past (Ellie’s mom?), if it’s Ellie, whats up with the baby?

There’s gross stuff in the first game, but it isn’t lingered on, its out of focus/not in frame, or its interrupted shortly after it begins. The trailer scene was odd because it was the first instance of torture I can think of in the story they’ve told so far, and they want you to see it, but without context its hard to understand why.


The lack of context- who the hell are these people being tortured? - made the TLoU2 trailer not only off-putting but uninteresting. It’s easy to show shocking images, but making them have emotional weight takes actual talent. But the first game, to another commenter’s point, is full of brutal “intimate” violence like we saw in the trailer for the new game. You may remember some hubbub at one of the games’ conferences when TLoU was announced, and the crowd was hooting and hollering at your avatar bashing people’s heads in with bricks and what not.


TLOU was part of that post-Spec Ops: The Line wave which wanted to have its cake and eat it too in terms of trying to condemn violence while also deriving all of its visual pleasure from the hyper-aestheticised execution of violence

i really think that folks trying to argue the original game didn’t have the exact same problem need to revisit that thought with the gift of retrospect. the violence in TLOU1 isn’t profound and it isn’t justified by the story; it’s gratuitous, and it’s meaningless, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that TLOU2 would market itself this way, given how reliant that production company is on empty spectacle.


Moments after a massacre done single handedly by Ellie and dad…

ELLIE: guess man was the real monster after all

Now watch my drive


They all kind of missed that The Line succeeded because the entire campaign was a complete evisceration of the relationship between a player and a developer, forcing the player into situations where it is impossible to be the hero while promising it and purposefully provoking them. The head writer even rants about how we’ve turned transgressive content into something “cool” and how developers have to take responsibility for that.

I think the first TLoU worked because it wasn’t trying to be edgy or cool, but tell a fairly human story. It took itself very seriously and ended in a way that made you question what you experienced.

The marketing …was not that.

It’s definitely a wait and see situation for this one. I suspect the marketing team and actual development team have different aims, much like that Tomb Raider reboot where a dimwitted produced bragged about Larua getting assaulted and one of the devs having to leave their cave and scream to the highest mountain that he was full of it.