Why The Last of Us Part 2 Is Already So Controversial

The bar has been set high for The Last of Us Part 2, although the buildup to the game’s launch has not been without controversy. Over the past few years, several factors have aided in not only increasing anticipation for the Naughty Dog sequel, but also in ramping up the tensions surrounding The Last of Us Part 2’s official release.

The Last of Us was originally launched in 2013 and gave players the chance to assume the roles of both Joel and Ellie, a smuggler and teenage girl trying to make their way across America in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested society. What’s even more important is that Ellie is immune to bites from the infected, so guaranteeing her safety may be the only way for players (and the world at large) to uncover a cure or vaccine.

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As the original game did a lot to set up potential directions for a sequel, players are expecting The Last Of Us Part 2 to pick up where The Last of Us left off, or at least fill in the blanks for what the characters have been up to in the intervening years. Even though the game doesn’t officially release until June 19th, and much of its plot still remains a mystery, there are several reasons why some players already feel disappointed or angered by this sequel, even though they haven’t played it.

Controversy started brewing three years ago when one of the first trailers for the game was released. In the short teaser, a seemingly pregnant woman is shown being dragged across the ground, tied up in a noose, and almost disemboweled by a fellow female. Then, a second woman is shown having her arms smashed, or, as the female antagonist described, having her “wings clipped.” The 2017 trailer for The Last of Us Part 2 was heavily criticized for its representation of female violence, particularly its portrayal of women-on-women violence. Many players found the trailer distasteful since the violence was clearly only being used as a shock tactic, not to enhance the gameplay or story.

Jim Ryan, president of Sony International Europe, later defended the trailer, saying it wasn’t designed to be played by people of all ages and that players should expect this level of graphicness from the series. “The Last of Us obviously is a game made by adults to be played by adults,” he explained, CNN reports. “I should never prejudge this but it will probably be rated ‘18’, I think it’s fair to say. And there’s that market for those people who like that sort of game. Adults who like that sort of game.”

This wasn’t the only The Last of Us Part 2 trailer to cause a stir. In 2018, an official clip was released in which Ellie shares a same-sex kiss with another girl. Even though the character had come out as gay in the first game, the new trailer still led some viewers to accuse the sequel of having a ‘gay agenda,’ or in other words, of trivializing Ellie’s sexuality to make a political or moral point.

Related: HBO’s Last Of Us Won’t Erase Ellie’s Lesbian Identity, Writer Promises

Some are upset that Naughty Dog would choose to focus on LGBTQ+ issues because they don’t see the relevance or importance in it, whereas others see the game as trivializing the politics of sexual identity, thereby actually harming LGBTQ+ folks. Neil Druckmann, writer and creative director on The Last Of Us Part 2, responded to the controversy on social media only to say he wasn’t letting it bother him. “For each one of these bigoted & sad posts I get 1000s of positive ones from amazing fans. Both kinds inspire greater diversity in our games,” he wrote.

Another reason that The Last Of Us Part 2’s release has been controversial is that the date has been constantly pushed back. While this may have at first only ramped up anticipation for the game, when it happened a second time it only worsened the frustration of fans. The game, which was in development for six years, got its first delay in December 2016 in order to focus on further developing and refining the title, and then The Last of Us Part 2 was delayed once again in 2020 due to issues the coronavirus crisis created.

Furthermore, the fact that details of the plot were leaked to fans has also been a source of frustration, as some players couldn’t help but to end up stumbling upon spoilers online no matter how hard they tried to avoid them. Even if the leaks weren’t a disappointment – though many gamers claim they are – having the storyline ruined is maddening in itself, and reduces the excitement fans have for the game’s release. Although are several major (and valid) reasons as to why The Last of Us 2 has already caused so much controversy ahead of its launch, hopefully, the game lives up to expectations and proves to be well worth the wait.

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