With the embargo lifted and reviews for The Last of Us II beginning to arrive online, a review from video game outlet Polygon appears to directly contradict Naughty Dog’s previous claims that players could avoid killing canine enemies in-game.
In 2019, among the various new additions announced for the The Last of Us II was the introduction of attack dogs, adding a new type of enemy for Ellie to deal with alongside the human Seraphites and fungal Cordyceps.
Players with an affinity for man’s best friend soon found themselves uneasy with the idea of killing canine foes, and questioned whether the gruesome task could be avoided. In Polygon’s preview for the new attack dog mechanics, co-game director Anthony Newman addressed this unease, with Polygon noting that “Newman was quick to note that it is absolutely possible to complete the game without harming a single dog.”
The issue resurfaced earlier this year in May, when a promotional e-mail from video game retailer GameStop stated that “killing dogs is necessary.”
“The game doesn’t pull any punches or ‘stray’ from the idea that while you’re playing as Ellie to survive, killing dogs is necessary.
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.”
GameStop’s e-mail garnered a response from Naughty Dog Director of Communications Arne Meyer. He denied the marketing copy, stating that they “didn’t write or assist writing it.”
Meyer would request that fans not “appreciate out of context screenshot crops without mentioning the source.”
So @naughty_dog didn’t write or assist writing this.
Don’t appreciate out of context screenshot crops without mentioning the source. Folks, please google these things!
This text came from an independent editorial post from a retailer. It’s on their website. https://t.co/nh3nw1StOa
— arne (@arnemeyer) May 7, 2020
He also avoided “confirming or denying anything related to the story,” clarifying that he only “wanted to be clear that we wouldn’t write something about our game in that kind of tone ourselves.”
Not confirming or denying anything related to the story. Just wanted to be clear that we wouldn’t write something about our game in that kind of tone ourselves.
— arne (@arnemeyer) May 7, 2020
However, when discussing the presence of the vicious dogs in the game in Polygon’s June 12th review of The Last of Us Part II, reviewer Maddy Meyers states that “there’s eventually a cutscene with a quick-time event that forces you to kill a dog,” the existence of which completely contradicts Newman’s previous assertions.
“Some of Ellie’s enemies have trained attack dogs, and it’s hard to avoid killing them. Even if you do manage to avoid it, though, there’s eventually a cutscene with a quick-time event that forces you to kill a dog, to hear the animal’s sharp, confused yelp as you smash her skull in with a metal pipe.”
Meyers also notes that “you’re later treated to a flashback in which you play fetch with that same dog,” but finds this attempt to elicit sympathy from players falls short. Meyers points out the conundrum of “if Naughty Dog makes you feel bad enough, maybe next time you won’t do … the thing the game forces you to do?”
As of writing, Naughty Dog has not addressed the blatant, headline contradicting change to the role of dogs in the game’s narrative.