Last week, I was chatting with my boss Stephen about The Last of Us. We were both playing through the game, and he was acting as a sounding board as I worked on my review. Suddenly, I got a worrying text from him: "A reader just let me know some asshole is in our comments spoiling the end of the game."
"Shit," I thought.
(Note: There are no spoilers in this article.)
A few minutes later, Stephen sent me a screencap of the "spoiler" in question. Turns out, it wasn't a spoiler at all, but rather a scenario invented by the commenter to troll other readers. No one got spoiled. But a lot of people thought they did.
Over the last few days, The Last of Us spoiler-panic has reached a pitch. Most of the spoilers out there have been deduced from a list of cutscenes that was discovered in the code for the game's demo. The cutscene titles, it's been assumed, give enough information to draw conclusions about the ending of the game. They kinda do. They kinda don't.
Since I've already finished, I went ahead and waded into the internet to see what spoilers are out there. So far, most of what I've found is a mix of conjecture and vague half-correctism, with a few bona fide spoilers mixed in. There is some good information in with the bad information, but it's a jumble.
So, good news: If you think you may have been spoiled by some jerk on a livestream chat or a message board, there's actually a good chance that you haven't been spoiled at all.
The better news is that the game is very, very difficult to spoil. More difficult than, say, BioShock Infinite or Game of Thrones, to use to recent examples. The major plot points aren't crucial to the success of The Last of Us; the story doesn't really rely on huge surprises for its impact. It's more of a long-view kind of thing—as I mentioned in my review, the whole game is built on zombie-movie cliches, but the wonderful story it places within those clichés can't really be spoiled, not in the traditional sense.
There are surprises in The Last of Us. Lots of them, in fact. But the best surprises in the game aren't major plot-twists or ending revelations or whatever. They're little things, mixed into the game itself with such frequency that only a full playthrough could really spoil anything. And really, they're less "surprises" and more "things that happen over the course of a good story that you're hearing for the first time."
As Evan adroitly pointed out when writing about having part of BioShock Infinite's ending spoiled for him:
When the work has been strong enough, even spoilers can’t ruin good execution. Seeing the moments leading up to a spoiled plot point—the whole cloth of the story being told, if you will—is what I really show up for. And BioShock Infinite’s whole cloth is very impressive.
And while a good amount of BioShock Infinite's ending relied on the punch of "Holy fuck, I didn't see that coming," The Last of Us is a much more considered, reserved affair. To use an apt platitude, the game is more about the journey than the destination. But it really is.
As the release-date draws nearer, there are going to be more real-deal spoilers out there. Sony was remarkably draconian with their restrictions on pre-release coverage; they asked early reviewers not to get into specifics regarding the back half of the game or the very beginning, and their video restrictions were so extreme as to make meaningful video coverage impossible. (This is why you haven't seen many video reviews or quick-look demos yet.) But even with those restrictions in place, I'm starting to see videos of full playthroughs go up on YouTube, which means that the message-thread spoiler terrorists will start to become more consistently accurate.
If you want to avoid spoilers over the next week, keep your wits about you. And if you do see someone in our comments spoiling the game, please email me or Stephen. But don't get too worried. Even if you do catch a stray spoiler, there's a pretty good chance it isn't real.