The Last of Us remake? Don’t need one. How can a game not even a decade old, one that has already received a next-gen-aligning remaster, even be considered for a full remake treatment? This is how I felt when I first heard murmurings of a PS5 reimagining of Ellie and Joel’s maiden tale, less than a year after I’d guided them through their second blockbuster outing in The Last of Us 2. Truthfully, the idea of Naughty Dog remaking Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece felt premature, in the same way young celebrities really shouldn’t write memoirs under the age of 25. As a means of getting up to speed ahead of TLOU 2, I replayed the first game and rolled straight into the second. And while there was an obvious jump in visual quality, the gap felt like an organic one – that technology had moved on in the seven years between outings, and that by acknowledging this, I was in a better position to appreciate both games for what they were.
And then, bang. The Last of Us: Part 1, officially revealed in all its glory during the Summer Game Fest at E3 2022. It was unexpected – its appearance was not on the E3 2022 schedule, let me tell you – and it looked so positively gorgeous that I found myself eating my words faster than a Clicker gnawing on a hapless human’s neck. What the hell do I know, anyway?
Building tension: can this golden age of horror remakes sustain itself?
The hows and whys of The Last of Us: Part 1 are undoubtedly multifaceted. When I put my original reservations about a TLOU remake to the wider GamesRadar+ team, my colleagues had a number of theories as to why it makes sense at this point in time. The cynics among us recognised that a better-looking game creates new business opportunities. Nine years on from the original, there are inevitably players who are yet to experience the OG adventure, and thus remaking it against today’s standards is a sure-fire way to reignite interest. This same logic extends to players who played and enjoyed TLOU, who will be equally keen to see it fully-reimagined with an impressive new lick of paint, and, presumably, tighter controls and a more intuitive UI, as per The Last of Us 2.
As was also revealed at Summer Game Fest, The Last of Us’ HBO series is on the cusp of release. Should the TV adaptation do well, it’s not a stretch to assume Sony and Naughty Dog would be keen to capitalize on its success by promoting its source material – and having the original game looking its best in that event, with both games featuring on PS5, makes sense from their perspective. Another inevitability, surely, is the fact we’ll see another The Last of Us game at some point in the future – be that another sequel, a prequel, or some form of spin-off should the standalone multiplayer Last of Us game perform well . Again, modernising the 2013 horror venture would allow the games’ publisher and developer to bundle the would-be trilogy in one big sparkling AAA package on modern hardware.
Looking at things through a less cynical, less financially-driven lens, however, it should be noted that The Last of Us is one of the few big-budget games out there that actually merits a fully-fledged remake. Whether I or anyone else thinks it’s too soon is a different argument, but Ellie and Joel’s debut outing is one of the few games of the last 20 years that has even so much as earned its place in the conversation. Put sales and money and profits and coinciding television shows to one side, the original game is a bloody good one. In fact, few horror games of the modern age have captured the hearts of so many at once, through its near-perfect balance of action, horror and emotive storytelling – something I don’t think has been bettered since, besides its own sequel several years on.
As I’ve alluded to before, we appear to be in the golden age of horror game remakes. And while I’m unsure if it can sustain itself, if the glorious before and after screens we were treated to during Summer Game Fest are anything to go by, it seems The Last of Us: Part 1 will raise the bar even higher than the one set in horror remake terms by Resident Evil 2 in 2019. With Resident Evil 4 now officially confirmed, talk of a Silent Hill 2 remake abound, and Dead Space and System Shock games promised for next year, it truly is a frightening time to be a horror fan. Add this to the fact that Slitterhead, led by Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama, looks like a modern take on the old-school formula and is due next year; The Callisto Protocol looks like Dead Space 4 in all but name; The Last Of Us’ long-awaited and much-anticipated multiplayer mode has finally been confirmed; and that Bloober Team’s 2016 Layers of Fear is in-line for an “expanded and updated” variation – named ‘Layers of Fears’, incorporating the first two games, plus a DLC, and running on Unreal Engine 5 – and just the thought of keeping pace at this point seems as daunting as these games’ nightmarish worlds.
I’m fully-aware that pretty much everything is for show during events like Summer Game Fest, but the beaming reaction to the The Last of Us: Part 1 trailer from Ashley Johnson – the actor who plays Ellie – seemed genuine. On stage with Troy Baker (who plays Joel), she said this was the first time she’d seen the remake’s new footage, and seemed assuredly blown away. As much as I may have doubted it beforehand, I felt the very same way from the comfort of my living room. With no stake in the games, the HBO series, Naughty Dog nor Sony, I still don’t think we needed Part 1 as it will appear come launch day on September 2, 2022. But, wow, am I now excited to see more. The Last of Us remake? Don’t need one. But, actually, I cannot wait.
Played too many of the best horror games and reading this from under the covers? Don’t blame you!