The Last of Us Part 2‘s second trailer was debuted at Sony’s PlayStation Paris Games Week 2017 presentation today, lifting the lid on the upcoming sequel for the first time since the game’s announcement late last year. While Joel and Ellie were nowhere to be seen in this new footage, Naughty Dog instead decided to introduce players to a selection of new characters, along with some of the most gratuitously violent scenes that have ever been featured in a video game trailer.
The original The Last of Us was an incredibly violent game, but that violence never felt out of place. Within the context of the game’s setting — a post-apocalyptic world where only the most ruthless / desperate survive — Joel administering nigh-on limitless punishment to anyone who crossed his path was a matter of survival, and it never felt like Naughty Dog were behind the steering wheel fawning over the bloodshed. However, The Last of Us Part 2‘s second trailer delves into torture porn realms of excessive gore, and removed from the context of a story exploring the reasoning behind that violence it felt severely jarring to watch.
In the trailer, an unknown gang is shown attempting to hang a young woman as their ring leader glides a knife against her stomach, with the implication being that an unborn child is about to be gutted from her womb. However, she is distracted when two of her underlings drag over a young girl — who appears to be no older than Ellie from the first The Last of Us — before they are both instructed to lay her on the ground and “clip her wings.” One of the men then takes a hammer to her arm, repeatedly hammering away at her elbow until it breaks, with it then dangling lifelessly from the rest of her body, bent and misshapen.
If The Last of Us Part 2 is handled as deftly as the original game, then perhaps this scene works within the context of the rest of its story, no matter how disturbing it is to watch. However, Sony using it as one of the earliest pieces of marketing for the sequel feels misguided, with intense and graphic violence placed at the forefront of its presentation. The desperate violence of the first game worked great, but it wasn’t its selling point — here, a spotlight is placed upon it so bright that it leaves every other facet of the trailer in complete darkness.
Of course The Last of Us Part 2 is going to be violent game, because the series is set in a violent world. There’s no time for worrying about spilling too much blood when you’re one of few survivors remaining in the post-apocalypse, and more-or-less every person left alive are those who have done whatever it takes in order to survive. No one left in this world is going to faint at the sight of blood, so we can conclude that more than a few of them wouldn’t baulk at the thought of breaking a young girl’s arm with a hammer. But to strip that violence of its context, place it in a trailer and therefore attempt to sell a game on the back of a claw hammer turning a young girl’s arm to mush? That’s SAW levels of gratuity, and it suggests that the necessary violence in The Last of Us has been replaced by the fetishized violence of an Eli Roth film.
That may not be the case, but considering that this is only the second trailer we’ve seen for The Last of Us Part 2, it’s pretty discomfiting. Hopefully this doesn’t reflect the nature of the game itself, as while I am all for The Last of Us Part 2 plummeting to darker depths, brutalizing children just for the shock factor is completely at odds with what I loved about its predecessor.
Watch the trailer below and let us know your thoughts in the comments: