Well, this is going to turn some gamers off. Naughty Dog’s recent games have long been known for their brutal depiction of violence and thought-provoking exploration of adult themes. But according to new information on The Last of Us Part II’s official website, the ESRB has given the upcoming title an M rating solely for a scene in which Ellie meets a fast-talking dog who continually swears and smokes cigarettes.
Frankly, this is a pretty worrying development for anyone hoping to see Joel and Ellie’s adventure play out with the typical maturity the legendary series is known for.
“With this latest title, we really wanted to bring the mature themes of the series to the forefront, which is why we introduced T.J. the Talking Dog, a mean little hound who has a pack-a-day habit and isn’t afraid to call a passing Cordyceps-infested human a ‘motherfucker’ if they deserve it,” said Last of Us Part II co-director Neil Druckmann, saying he felt the ESRB rating was entirely deserved given the rough-and-tumble canine’s penchant to “curse like a sailor and drink whiskey like it was water” and inclination to dress in a leather motorcyclist’s vest. “I wouldn’t want a kid seeing T.J. puffing away like a chimney on his beloved Marlboros and thinking this sort of thing is cool. Make no mistake, this is an adult-oriented game made expressly for grown-ups.”
“Some fans might think it’s a bit gratuitous, but the entire team agreed that a swearing dog with a smoker’s cough was exactly what we needed to move the series forward,” he continued.
Druckmann went on to detail the three-minute cutscene, in which Ellie—visibly upset by the recent death of an unnamed ally—discovers the hard-living dog standing at the opposite side of the street, where he urges her to “buck the fuck up about that shit” before having a coughing fit and ashing his cigarette into a roadside corpse. He added that the fox terrier has no direct dialogue with Ellie herself, who spends the scene staring blank-faced at T.J. as he barks out several more slurs and repeatedly mentions his sexual desire to “scrounge up some goddamn tail,” before scampering off into a dilapidated building to search for some alcohol to blow off steam.
Here at OGN, we’ve got to admit that we were a bit let down to hear that The Last of Us Part II will break away from the series’ visceral fistfights and heart-pumping gunplay in order to introduce this gruff dog, especially since Druckmann stressed that T.J. would play no further role within the rest of the narrative and that there would be no explanation for how a talking animal factors into the title’s largely grounded universe. But if anyone can pull off a narrative coup like this, we’re sure it’s a gaming juggernaut like Naughty Dog!
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