During the Summer Game Fest 2022 live stream, Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann took to the stage to confirm that the many leaks were correct. The Sony-owned studio is re-releasing its groundbreaking 2013 exclusive, The Last of Us, for the PS5.
It’s an announcement that appears to have split the gaming community. Some fans are thrilled to have an excuse to replay one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made. Conversely, I’ve seen more than a few gamers question why this remake is needed considering The Last of Us is less than a decade old and is already playable on the PS5 via its 2014 PS4 remaster.
I wouldn't label that backlash as unreasonable. The Last of Us may have originally been released as the PS3’s swansong, but it’s a title that very much holds up to this day and remains highly playable. Remakes are usually reserved for titles that are either unavailable on modern-day hardware or inaccessible to new players due to outdated gameplay/visuals.
The Last of Us, or The Last of Us Part I as Sony is now rebranding it, isn’t really either of those things. And yet, come its release date on September 2, I know full well that I’ll be jumping straight back into the shoes of gruff survivor Joel for my fifth playthrough of one of my favorite games of all time. That said, the remake's high cost of entry is a bitter pill to swallow.
The best just got better
In order to appreciate quite how much better The Last of Us Part I on PS5 looks compared to The Last of Us Remastered on PS4, you really need to watch a side-by-side comparison (see the video below from IGN). The difference really is night and day, and any claims otherwise don't quite stack up from my perspective.
For starters, Naughty Dog has brought its remarkable facial animation system (seen in The Last of Us Part II) to the first game in the franchise, and Joel and Ellie have never looked so expressive. From the reveal trailer, some of the cutscenes look almost unnervingly realistic, and the promise of improved fidelity across the entire game has me very excited to see the remake in motion for myself.
However, the biggest upgrade in The Last of Us Part I might not be the graphics, but rather the gameplay. Remember, this is a from-the-ground-up remake, not an enhanced remaster ala the game’s eight-year-old PS4 port. When speaking on stage to Summer Game Fest host Geoff Keighley, Druckmann specifically mentioned that the AI has been reworked and combat encountered revamped.
The game’s listing on PlayStation Direct, which was erroneously published ahead of the Summer Game Fest showcase, also confirms this remake will be much more than skin deep: “Enjoy a total overhaul of the original experience, faithfully reproduced but incorporating modernized gameplay, improved controls and expanded accessibility options. Plus, feel immersed with improved effects and enhanced exploration and combat,” it reads.
This is music to my ears because if there is one aspect of The Last of Us that is starting to feel a little outdated it’s its combat encounters. Going from playing The Last of Us Part II to its predecessor isn't the smoothest experience. The sequel offers greater character mobility, significantly improved animations and enemy AI that doesn’t just stand around waiting to get shot or knocked out via a stealthy takedown.
If The Last of Us Part I on PS5 can offer the same dynamic gameplay as its sequel, then we really could be in for a treat. I don’t want anything changed from a story perspective, but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to gameplay, and from the sounds of it this remake is going to address these (granted pretty minor) issues.
It’s also been confirmed that the game’s DLC chapter, Left Behind, will be included in the package. Fans have already started to speculate that the DLC could be interwoven into the main campaign rather than merely accessible from the main menu as it is with The Last of Us Remastered. This would be a smart choice, and would further make this PS5 remake the truly definitive way to experience an already phenomenal game.
The $70 elephant in the room
Perhaps the biggest sticking point with The Last of Us Part I coming to PS5 this fall is that it will be released as a full-priced $70 game. Even worse, there doesn’t appear to be any form of an upgrade path for players who already own The Last of Us Remastered either.
The $70 price point definitely stings quite a bit, especially in the wake of the PS5 Director’s Cut of both Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding offering upgrade paths. Granted, there is an important distinction here, those were next-gen ports, and The Last of Us Part I is a full remake. But even a small discount for pre-existing owners of the game would be an appreciated gesture of goodwill from Sony.
I’ve already seen some PS5 owners express interest in a better-looking and better-playing The Last of Us, but also note that the hefty price tag is too much of a dealbreaker for them. This is a stance I can definitely sympathize with, and I very much understand anybody who has previously played The Last of Us deciding to wait for an inevitable sale.
Nevertheless, while some may argue this remake is fairly superfluous and more than a little bit overpriced, I would liken it to purchasing a 4K copy of a film you already own on Blu-ray. You’re spending a fair chunk of money to obtain what basically boils down to a slightly better-looking version of a product you already own.
But in the same way that I didn’t hesitate to upgrade my copy of 1979’s Alien to 4K despite owning the entire Alien Anthology on Blu-ray, come September even though I already own a remastered version that remains perfectly playable on the very same console, I’ll be eagerly installing The Last of Us Part I on my PS5.