Naughty Dog has confirmed the European version of The Last of Us is censored.
In the US version of the game, the multiplayer features dismemberment and exploding heads. The European version's multiplayer does not.
Eurogamer's US news editor Jeffrey Matulef, who, as you'd expect, is playing the North American version, has found that executions with certain weapons trigger exploding heads. The execution with the "Shorty", a sawed-off shotgun, blows your opponent's head clean off in the US version. In our version, we get a blood spurt.
Similarly, in the US version, when you blow someone up with the nail bomb their limbs explode. In our version, there's no dismemberment.
Our tests with the European version failed to turn up any differences between the single-player in the European version and the US version. Human opponents can be dismembered in single-player using the nail bomb, for example.
Shortly after the game released, "Ramify" posted on Naughty Dog's forum to highlight the issue, linking to a number of videos and GIFs that show the discrepancy.
Then, last week, Naughty Dog's "EvangM" confirmed the EU/UK version had been censored, but the North and South American versions had not.
"The gore and violence ratings are subject to local regulatory boards in various countries, so the game must be slightly changed in order to accommodate those choices," EvangM said in an email sent to Ramify, republished on the PlayStation forum.
This explanation tallies with a report by Movie-Censorship.com, which looked into the issue. The site speculated that the change was made to comply with German ratings board USK, which is famously strict when it comes to video game violence, and as a result all of Europe has had the Naughty Dog game cut.
Jump to the 17 minute 40 second mark to see an example of the gore in the US version of The Last of Us.
Apparently Sony has form when it comes to censoring its games for Europe. It produces versions of its games per region, not country, so the UK gets the same version as Germany, and vice versa. This happened with Twisted Metal and God of War: Ascension, Movie-Censorship said.
"I have already paid for the DLC Season Pass completely oblivious that I bought and was playing a censored version of the game (Joel Edition as well!)," Ramify complained. "I understand that from a gameplay perspective, this doesn't change things too much. But I can't shake the feeling I did not buy the game in its entirety, and not how the developers intended this work of art to be played."
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe refused to explain the censorship when contacted by Eurogamer.
PEGI, the pan-European game ratings organisation, awarded The Last of Us an 18 certificate for release. PEGI spokesperson Dirk Bosmans told Eurogamer it never censors games. Rather, it rates games based on the content submitted to it by publishers, in the case of The Last of Us, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.
For adult-oriented games such as The Last of Us, PEGI uses UK organisation the Video Standards Council to rate content. Spokesperson Ginni Zano told Eurogamer neither it or PEGI have any say over games released in Germany, whose USK acts independently.
Of course, this censorship does not affect gameplay at all - it's purely aesthetic. But it's worth noting that PlayStation 3 games are region free, so if you're bothered you can import the US version and it will work on your PAL console.