I recall having a conversation with an acquaintance recently on The Last of Us Part II, and how it improved upon every asset from graphics to engine, that its heralded predecessor was celebrated for. I always said that I wasn’t ready to go back to the first game, after only completing it once. There’s no perfect game in this world, regardless of how many 10 out of 10’s a title receives. But The Last of Us perseveres and provides a closely apt definition of the term in gaming; only something I believe Naughty Dog can deliver. So with The Last of Us Part I announced, many were confused by how perfection could be improved upon. I’d say that the Remake itself is a preservation project, with hopes of those that have yet to experience this incredible tale, and provide an entry point for those looking to play the first chapter without having to resort to an aged delivery.
‘Aged gracefully’ would not be a term that I would apply to the first game, in a mechanical sense, regardless of how ahead of its time it truly was. You can go back and appreciate it for what it was in 2013; a prelude to the next generation in the PlayStation 4, on PS3 consoles. Naughty Dog sought to push boundaries every time the released fresh, and vital content for the afloat Sony home console that was only king on its deathbed. The Last of Us, truly catapulted the PS4’s success story and had fans aghast over how high the bar was set. I mean, it’s there and you could simply go back and play the title at anytime you like, but younger fans that were too young to even remember the first game are accustom to tech that is years ahead of what The Last of Us provided, not to say that the original is a completely flawed experience in comparison to a Horizon: Forbidden West let’s say, but there are some slight wrinkles that have become noticeable enough for gamers to lose interest.
An example I would apply here would be that I recently got my PS3 out of storage, because I wanted to play inFamous 2, the refined and polished version of the two that were on the platform. Going back to it after recently playing through inFamous: Second Son, I can only say that as much as I loved it back when it first released, it’s rough sitting through the first hour or two of the campaign. Now some might say that I’m comparing apples to oranges, and while I would say sure but The Last of Us and inFamous 2 are only two years apart. If I were to make a more apropos and direct comparison, I recently went back to Uncharted 3 in the Nathan Drake Collection, and even playing through the first few chapters, I lost interest quick due to aged mechanics. These are PlayStation’s premiere games that were the backbone of that generation but somehow, just don’t live up to today’s standards. It’s jarring sometimes how nostalgia-tinted some memories of titles truly are, but age somewhat poorly, and 9 time out of 10 it’s always titles post-PSX/N64.
Let the comparison game, begin.
But okay, there is a fine line in how old a game, a movie, a TV series or whatever form of media may be, before its considered for a retelling, a new lick of paint or a remake. The Last of Us Part I, looks to preserve performances by Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie) by keeping most of its cinematics intact. But a renewed outlook on how you carve your path to Salt Lake, is an imperative piece on how one remembers the game itself. Not actually playing through the campaign again, I did recently help a friend with a few difficult obstructions in the Remastered version of the title for PS4. Although the game had been sharpened with some lighting fixes and some model and texture alterations, it still played like the 2013 PlayStation 3 game, and I found it to be fine but evident that it was not The Last of Us Part II. While adequate to fulfil its narrative, gameplay-wise the title is merely an old chapter in gaming development, and how it pursued to push other developers to go above an beyond. It’s aged, gracefully but not timeless.
The Last of Us Part I will now give players that avenue to either revisit the title in a very “Mandela Effective” experience that undoubtedly have some say that it wasn’t justified, but I guarantee you, it will be after returning to the original after only sampling it. Now, the question is ‘Was this a necessary remake?’, well that answer to that is Yes and No. No to those that have already played the original and have no intent of revisiting it, but I’m keen to go back. I said to myself that I would never touch it again, it was the PlayStation 3’s “Ocarina of Time”, and would only be usurped by its own sequel, and low-and-behold, as polarising as its plotline was its gameplay surely superseded it, tenfold. To be spoilt (not spoiled) with The Last of Us with Part II’s engine and mechanics is surely an appreciative, and ambitious love-letter from its creator Neil Druckmann, and Naughty Dog.
The Last of Us Part I, will arrive September 2, 2022 for PS5 & PC at a later date. (Image: PlayStation)
The conversation of comparison will unequivocally continue until its release on September 2, 2022. But until then the hype and anticipation for The Last of Us Part I will be at an all time high, with some devout having their qualms of going back into a completely rehoused version, one that could unexpectedly take turns that could effectively improve or diminish an unblemished reputation that has been the catalyst for many, many video games post 2013. However, my hopes are that the remake does its original iteration justice in both preserving its entire act, and giving newcomers one of the biggest emotional thrill-rides that they’ve yet to see in gaming, ever. If there has ever been a video game that has made me simply go numb in the first ten minutes of its campaign, it’s been The Last of Us, and I’m sure that those first ear-ringing, jaw dropping, spine-tingling, inhumane moments will have fans, old and new gripping their controller tight, or going completely limp from shock. I swear.