News of a video game remake is always the bellwether to a hurricane of discourse. Has it really been that long? Does this game really deserve a remake? This week, the eye of the storm is The Last of Us, as fans debate whether or not the visuals in the just-unveiled remake look measurably better than those of the original.
Announced last night during Hot Geoff Summer’s kickoff showcase, The Last Of Us Part I is a total remake of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s seminal apocalyptic action game for PlayStation 3. (Sony inadvertently leaked the remake’s existence a few hours before the show, taking some wind out of the sails of the official reveal. Naughty Dog is also developing a standalone multiplayer Last of Us spin-off.) Part I, which sports improved visuals and “modernized gameplay,” is due September 2 for PlayStation 5 and at a later date for PC.
When The Last of Us came out in 2013, it was widely considered the ne plus ultra of graphical fidelity for its era. The remastered version for PlayStation 4, released in 2014, looks even better. You could make a case that, at least in the era of diminishing returns for graphical fidelity, The Last of Us Remastered is already a pretty modern-looking game.
Two sides of the debate around The Last of Us Part I’s visuals can be neatly summed up by one of two statements made in response to Naughty Dog’s announcement of Part I on Twitter:
Right now, Twitter is awash with side-by-side images comparing The Last of Us Part I to its predecessors. Some mashed screenshots of the remake against the 2013 original, where the muddier visuals are obviously more stark. Others use the remaster as a base point, which comes across as comparing a very pretty game with a very pretty game.
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This ginormous display will let you experience deep blacks and bright whites that pop and an impressive range of vibrant colors.
Getting into the weeds, some folks acknowledge visual improvements while also expressing disappointment with the changes in art direction those improvements bring. For instance, Joel, the protagonist, looks more weathered and weary in the remake, bearing a closer resemblance to his character model from 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, set several years after the events of the first game.
The reveal has also sparked some questions about whether or not a remake of a relatively recent—and relatively good-looking—game is worth the allocation of Sony’s resources. Naughty Dog, one of Sony’s most prestigious first-party studios, could be working on anything else right now, whether that’s another entry in its popular Uncharted series or an expansion for The Last of Us Part II. (Last night, Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann said he’s helming a new project at the studio but didn’t share any further details.)
Others have baselessly posited that a remake isn’t a Naughty Dog passion project but rather part of a Sony-directed marketing push for the forthcoming television adaptation. (Druckmann, who’s an executive producer of the show, teased a single production still during last night’s event, showing stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey crouching in a dimly lit room.) The series, currently in production at HBO, does not have a release date.
There’s logic behind the idea that, ahead of the show’s incoming premiere, Sony would want to drum up buzz for newcomers and freshen the memories of longtime fans. It is, however, purely speculative. Sony did not respond to a request for comment.
To be clear, I…am not totally sure where I stand on all of this! That’s a question for Future Me. I mean, who knows! Maybe Last of Us feels like a whole new game with its controls brought up to 2022 standards. Maybe the visuals on PS5 pop in a way I won’t be able to grasp until I play it in action. These are the sorts of things that cannot reasonably be assessed until a game is out.
But there’s one affront I’m pretty damn comfortable in assessing today: $$$$. The Last of Us Part I is listed at the soon-to-be-standard price point for next-gen games, with editions ranging from $70 for the base to $100 (with the pricier editions including a slew of in-game perks and gear off the bat). PS5 owners who subscribe to PS Plus can currently get The Last of Us: Remastered at no extra cost. It’s one of the games in the PS Plus Collection.