The Great Debate: Does The Last Of Us Need A Remake?

Stacey Henley: The Last of Us is getting a remake, less than ten years after it originally launched. There seems to be a considerable amount of excitement at the concept, but also some confusion as to why this needs to exist. George Foster, TheGamer’s news lead, is here arguing for the side of hype, while Stacey Henley, TheGamer’s editor-in-chief (AKA the boss, and therefore eternally correct) is speaking on behalf of the confused. George, why don’t you kick things off?

George Foster: I’m admittedly a bit of a Last of Us simp, but I think most people would agree that The Last of Us is one of the best games ever made, and if you don’t then you’d likely at least concede that it’s one of the most influential of the past few generations. I’ve played through it at least six times now thanks to the re-release, and it’s getting a bit harder to ignore that it’s starting to show its age in the gameplay department. Shooting is a bit stiff, enemy AI is both pretty bad and a big downgrade from what it was promised to be during its first demo, movement is boring, and there are far too many puzzles that rely on pallets or dumpsters.

All of this is already noticeable, but then came The Last of Us Part 2 and its improvements in literally every area of gameplay, and it suddenly becomes a lot harder to ignore when replaying Joel’s adventure. The rumours suggest this isn’t just a visual upgrade, but a gameplay one too, essentially putting the second game’s combat and gameplay into the first. If that doesn’t sound like just the best thing ever then I don’t know what else to say to you.

SH: That’s just it, most people would agree that The Last of Us is one of the best games ever made. But it’s made. They made it. They’re done. We know it’s good because we’ve already played it. Not only is the game readily available on disk and digital download (where it was already remastered, remember), it’s also free on PS5. It feels like rewriting history to suddenly look back on a game that everyone, you included, thought was the best game ever and now point to a laundry list of flaws that badly need to be fixed for the experience to be even tolerable to modern audiences. It’s not even a decade old, it’s not showing its age that much.

GF: I definitely agree that it does feel a little early for a remake, considering it’s only been nine years. But The Last of Us feels like such an important game to both PlayStation and even gaming as a whole for what it did for the “games are art” conversation, that having it be playable on every console in the best possible way feels like a no-brainer. To this day, I don’t think that there’s a better game to show friends and family to let them in on what gaming is all about and what it can achieve, except now it’s lost a bit of that spectacle in both its graphics and gameplay when comparing it to its vastly superior sequel.

We also have to bear in mind just how much was improved between one and two. It wasn’t just a graphical upgrade but such a massive reworking of every gameplay mechanic. I’d go on record to call The Last of Us Part 2 one of the best third-person shooters out there because of its improved movement, brutality, and enemy AI. Applying that to the first one is just an incredible prospect.

SH: I mean, this remake isn’t going to make it any more widely available than it already is. It’s literally free on the console the remake will launch on, and it’s hardly a hidden critical darling seeking a new mass market – anyone who has even smelled a video game before knows what The Last of Us is. To this day there’s no better game… and yet it’s also broken, old, and not worth our time?

But okay, sure. Let’s pretend The Last of Us, critically revered as the best game ever when it launched, actually sucks to play. Let’s act like it’s garbage. Certainly I’ll admit The Last of Us Part 2 plays very smoothly and has a hyper-refined appreciation for detail. Anybody want to take a guess at why? Massive crunch, baby! TLOU2 was meant to launch with a multiplayer portion that, two years on, seems no closer to materialising. The way Naughty Dog makes games doesn’t feel particularly sustainable, despite the stellar results. Asking devs to go through that process again not in search of something new, but in order to polish a game universally christened as the greatest of all time, just feels pointless. I can just about swallow the ‘labour of love’ soundbites when they’re at least making something fresh, but when they’re just taking Ellie’s mechanics and resizing them for Joel, it feels like a waste of their time. It’s deliberate stagnation of the industry in order to cash in on a project that has already received untold critical and commercial adulation.

GF: It’s available pretty much everywhere, sure, but having it be available in the best form it’s ever been in and keeping it from feeling any more aged sounds smart to me. Maybe it’s because I’m generally pro-remake as it is or the fact that the first game is so special to me, but I’m just happy to see it at its fullest potential.

I agree that Naughty Dog’s way of making games is unsustainable, as is the case with most triple-A games these days, but this feels like it’ll be a lot easier for the team considering they’ve already got most of what they need from The Last of Us Part 2 itself. Not to agree with the moustachioed Sony man that’s going to try and sell us this, but it isn’t going to be as much work to take all of the models and work put into Part 2 and then rebuild the first game over it. Releasing this will hopefully give Naughty Dog a bit more breathing room for its next game and give something to tide over the fans who are likely already getting impatient.

SH: It achieved its full potential the first time around. It pushed the medium forward in a multitude of ways, so I don't understand the thinking that it somehow has more to give. And if we’re taking the approach of appeasing fan expectations, no great art – which TLOU proudly proclaims itself to be – is made by trying to please all of the people all of the time. If Naughty Dog is worried about fans being impatient, the solution is more sustainable game development; no more space races over rope physics, just healthily and affordably made games by people who leave the office at 5pm instead of sleeping under their desks. And I don’t think making any game between now and its next ‘real’ title is a good way to work, or to think of this remake. It’s either a complete ground-up redo of the entire game, applying the gameplay and level design conventions of Part 2, or it’s a quick graphical reskin, which already exists.

If not for the fact a graphical remaster already existed, I would be able to tolerate the latter as an option. That’s like when they rerelease The Godfather but with better colour resolution and digital flourishes to make this great piece of art look better. What you’re proposing is that Francis Ford Copolla gets James Caan, Al Pacino, and the ghost of Marlon Brando back and makes them act out the entire movie again, scene for scene, line for line, because only now with cutting edge cameras can the film achieve its full potential. It’s the greatest game of all time and it is available for free right now. Why would we possibly need developers to waste years of their career on doing it again instead of making something fresh?

GF: There’s a difference there though in that remaking The Godfather and resurrecting Marlon Brando isn’t possible, while this is not only possible but it also makes a lot of sense considering a lot of the work was already done for Part 2. I’m always up for new things, but if you’re offering me the chance to experience something old but better, I’m going to take it up for sure. I’m biased because this is one of my favourite games of all time, but I truly do believe that the changes that can be implemented here are substantial enough to be worth it. Just adding all the accessibility options from Part 2 would make the first game more playable for a lot of people.

I also think that The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2 are in a unique position as two halves of the same story. Sure, every sequel is technically the second half of a story, but Naughty Dog has always placed these two games together as one overall tale being told. Now we can experience that story, one of the best in gaming, with the same consistent quality throughout. Again, that’s not saying the 2013 game is trash now, but just that it’s a noticeably weaker game thanks to all that was done in the second. Bringing them both up to the same standard and having one of the most memorable stories in gaming now be at its best can only be a win.

SH: Yes, The Last of Us Part 2 being a sequel to The Last of Us is an entirely unique prospect in gaming, I admit. Maybe Naughty Dog could go back and make another Uncharted game. Uncharted 2, they could call it. Looking forward to hearing your argument that these were in fact the first and second thirds of an overall story when Part 3 is announced. Anyway, what I’m getting from this is that you’d be all for remaking The Godfather all over again if Marlon Brando was still alive, which I think sums up how differently we see this whole endeavour.

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