Promotional emails from retailers like GameStop have been circling around for The Last of Us Part II since Naughty Dog and Sony posted a new trailer for the game on Friday. One such message highlighting an immersive new mechanic meant to make The Last of Us Part II feel hyper-realistic and immersive has inspired feelings of shock and horror in games because the way it's represented feels downright chilling.
GameStop's description for the game in an email that went out on Thursday — which can also be seen on the retailer's website listing for The Last of Us Part 2 — lists several "new features" that "GameStop is excited for," and one such feature focuses on how Ellie will have to fight and kill dogs in the game.
"One of the most noticeable new features of the game is the inclusion of dogs," the description reads. "These dogs are in the game to follow your scent and will attack you as soon as they have sniffed you out."
Things get darker pretty quickly.
"The game doesn’t pull any punches or 'stray' from the idea that while you’re playing as Ellie in a struggle to survive," it reads. "You’ll also have to deal with the fact though that each dog has an owner, which will call out the dog’s name and cry in absolute horror when they discover their lifeless furry best friend. You’ve been warned."
For this to be the first feature that GameStop lists as a cause for excitement feels bizarre, to say the least, as if the retailer doesn't take this surprisingly dark feature seriously enough.
Twitter users like Villager Rights Activist were mortified, and wrote, "this promotional email I just got about the Last of Us 2 was a choice..." The language even prompted a response from Naughty Dog Communications Director Arne Meyer, who explained, "Naughty Dog didn't write or assist writing this ...This text came from an independent editorial post from a retailer. It's on their website."
While this description is causing some controversy, it nonetheless presents a realistic and groundbreaking feature, albeit a gritty and traumatic one. Features like this can only make the world of The Last of Us Part 2 that much more immersive. Screen Rant reported in September 2019 that the game will feature "named enemies" so players will feel more remorseful after having to kill them. Naughty Dog has gone through the effort of naming almost every person — and dog — that players encounter during the game.
When people die, those around them will act accordingly. Killing a dog will cause its owner to call out for it. Killing the dog's owner first will cause the dog to attack you on sight. This sort of dynamic also applies between people. In every case, characters will call out the names of their dead companions. Ellie will probably have to kill all of them anyway, but this creative decision adds to the realism and immersion of The Last of Us Part 2, but in a chilling way.
The Inverse Analysis — While this is a very distinct feature in The Last of Us Part 2, it's odd that GameStop chose to highlight it in a promotional email. For a game that's already running into backlash because of the story leaks, pulling attention to what may be one of its more disturbing features may not be the best marketing strategy. But again, this is a decision made by GameStop, so Naughty Dog shouldn't be punished for it.
The Last of Us Part 2 will be a gruesome game, even if you never encounter a single dog. The first game already featured plenty of brutality, and the sequel will have even more. Many of the game's trailers show how violent people are in the apocalypse, and this new dog mechanic is just an extension of that. We'll have to see if it pays off when the game comes out.
The Last of Us Part 2 will be released as a PS4 exclusive on June 19, 2020.