2013 was not that long ago. It was a year of games like Grand Theft Auto 5, Bioshock Infinite, Rayman Legends, Spelunky, and The Last of Us, all of which would still be considered relatively modern by today’s standards. But despite its modernity, a recent report revealed that Sony is looking to remake the original The Last of Us less than a decade after its first release. The timing is utterly puzzling, especially since there are so many other Sony games that are worthy of remaking first.
Aside from money (which was obviously the impetus), there are a variety of reasons to remake a game: availability, dated controls or presentation, and dated storytelling. Demon’s Souls is not widely available since it was only released on the PS3 back in 2009 before the Souls craze took over gaming. Resident Evil 2 and 3 were on a few more platforms, but the fixed camera angles, inaccurate shooting, and punishing save system make them all hard to go back to. Oddworld: Soulstorm, while not a full-on remake of Abe’s Exoddus, gave the team the ability to finally tell the sequel story didn’t get to back in 1998. All four games have earned the right to be remade.
The many, many ways to play The Last of Us
The Last of Us can’t make those same arguments. The original game is still available digitally on PS3 (for a limited time) and streaming on PlayStation Now. Both PS4 and PS5 owners can still buy the remastered version from 2014 on PSN. PS5 owners even get the game as a part of Sony’s PlayStation Plus Collection. Even though one of those ways is going away soon, there are a lot of avenues to play The Last of Us.
Naughty Dog often caught flak for its combat controls, as people often like to point out with the original Uncharted trilogy. It addressed addressed those mechanical issues by implementing far more tools and gameplay options but also made The Last of Us a slower paced game that didn’t put as much emphasis on gunplay. The methodical tempo was a better sweet spot as it allowed for better tension that also fit with the post-apocalyptic theme. It was tense when Joel missed a shot, but anticlimactic when Nathan Drake did.
Because of those improvements and the tonal shift, The Last of Us still plays excellently today. It’s a unique blend of horror, stealth, survival, and third-person shooting that handles well even almost eight years later. The Last of Us is contemporary enough to withstand eight years of advancements of game design since many of those tenets were established when it came out. The general shooter control scheme, hit markers, forgiving checkpoints, and more were all at a pretty good place in 2013 so there aren’t many glaring issues that tie it to an earlier era.
Storytelling in games has come a long way as well and The Last of Us’ narrative is still one of the finest tales in all of gaming. Depressed dads have become a thing in recent years yet that doesn’t stop Joel and Ellie’s journey from being anything but spectacular. While the rest of the cast did a remarkable job, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker’s standout performances were nuanced and the animation meant to convey those nuances hasn’t lost a step. Like any great piece of fiction, it invites thought and examination with a bold, haunting ending that is the perfect and most fitting finale. The arrival of the PS5 has not sullied what Naughty Dog did in 2013.
Upgrades upon upgrades
A Last of Us PS5 remake is already questionable because the game has already seen more than a few upgrades. The remastered edition that released in 2014 holds up remarkably well thanks to all the touching up Naughty Dog did in 2014 to push the game into the PS4 generation. The stellar art design, detailed environments, and convincing characters only got even more stellar, detailed, and convincing because of the upgrade. Its gameplay also got a welcome boost because of the newly doubled frame rate.
The PS4 Pro marked another upgrade as it bumped up the resolution to 4K, upscaled 4K from native 1880p, or enabled higher quality shadows, depending on the mode. While it didn’t get a full PS5 patch like other Sony games, it received an update just before the PS5 launch that significantly axed the load times on both the PS4 and PS5.
A library of better candidates
There are so many other games more worthy of remaking. The same Bloomberg report mentions that Sony’s Visual Arts Service Group wanted to remake Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a classic that would more readily benefit from a native PS5 edition. Drake’s first adventure remains a charming romp and great debut, but Naughty Dog’s inexperience in the genre is quite obvious. Bluepoint’s PS4 remaster could only do so much and a full PS5 remake could properly bring it up to speed.
Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, Killzone, Ape Escape, and Puppeteer are just very small sampling of the games that could use a remake more than The Last of Us. But, as that report points out, Sony seems more focused on its blockbusters at the cost of the other games. Being this risk averse is troubling as it is potentially ignoring the next big hits from other studios and just focusing on what people already know. People already know The Last of Us and therefore, to Sony, it’s a better game to remake, regardless of the time between the remake and its original release.
The Last of Us would naturally benefit from a remake, but it’s grown with Sony hardware in many ways that negate the need for full PS5 remake and it’s modern enough to not need one in the first place. The Last of Us is still a tension-filled survival experience with a story that hasn’t lost its edge in the ensuing eight years. The improvements from the sequel would undoubtedly be nice to see in the original and more modest remaster-grade enhancements wouldn’t be out of the question, but there are so many other games that deserve being fully remade for the PS5 over a 2013 classic that’s still a classic in 2021.