The Last Of Us is being remade… for the second time in less than seven years?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Last Of Us and The Last Of Us Part II.

What on earth is going on with these far-too-soon remakes? Not only are we getting the visually disappointing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition later this year, but now the 2013 PlayStation 3 title The Last Of Us is apparently being remade as well. What a stupid idea that is. Evidently Sony, a company celebrated across the PlayStation 4’s lifespan for its great crop of exclusive titles, is creatively bankrupt, running out of ideas and being forced to go back to previously-successful titles desperately looking for games to remake or to produce unnecessary sequels to.

The Last Of Us Part II was released last year, and whatever you may think of its merits there can be no denying it was a controversial title. Rather than expanding the franchise or taking it in a new direction, Sony and developer Naughty Dog opted to revisit the same characters – and tacked on a story that didn’t go down well with many fans. Given the sequel’s controversial reception, I wouldn’t have expected that a return to the world of The Last Of Us would have been on the agenda so soon, but there you go.

The Last Of Us Part II was poorly-received by many fans.

Forget about the sequel. The original The Last Of Us is one of the best narrative games I’ve played in a very long time, such that I was even able to see past its horror elements – a genre I don’t usually enjoy. The characters were wonderful, the story pitch-perfect, and the setting unique. Eight years on from its original release, it’s still a fantastic game.

Visually, the game looks great. Its levels are tense and atmospheric, and I once described the game’s world as “hauntingly beautiful,” a description I stand by. By 2013, Naughty Dog and other developers were truly able to take advantage of the PlayStation 3’s powerful hardware, and they created a game that looks just amazing.

This screenshot hardly does justice to the visual beauty present in The Last Of Us.

So why does it need to be remade?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. As with the Mass Effect trilogy, The Last Of Us is just too recent to see any significant changes or improvements, either visually or in terms of gameplay. Remastering or remaking the game – which has already been done once, shortly after the PlayStation 4 launched – is simply a cheap way for Sony to make money.

Rather than investing time and money in developing a new game, Sony sees a remake of The Last Of Us as a cash cow; a cheap way to reuse and recycle content it already owns into a “new” package that fans will lap up to play on their new consoles. That is, if anyone has been lucky enough to find one of the approximately eight consoles Sony manufactured in time for last year’s launch.

The Last Of Us was remastered in 2014 for the PlayStation 4.

To be totally fair, this applies to Microsoft’s Xbox Series X as well. But the PlayStation 5 launched too soon with not enough stock available, and with no plan in place to keep consoles out of the hands of scalpers and touts. The result has been total unavailability of consoles except to players who are willing to pay double the official price – or more – on sites like eBay. This incredibly anti-consumer move was blamed on the pandemic – as everything is these days – but my response to that is simple: if you didn’t have enough supply to fulfil consumer demand in the run-up to launch, you could have simply delayed the damn launch.

I’m sick to the back teeth of companies across the entertainment industry using the pandemic as an excuse for everything. There’s a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, silicon, and other key components in computer chips and other electronics. This is having an effect on PC components, games consoles, phones, and even cars. The smart, consumer-friendly thing for Sony to have done last year would have been to institute a six-month delay, launching the console later this year when more units had been manufactured. As it is, PlayStation 5s are sold out everywhere, a situation unlikely to change any time soon. But we’ve drifted off-topic.

Good luck finding a PlayStation 5 for its recommended retail price!

With so few games on PlayStation 5 right now, and Microsoft’s Game Pass service seemingly coming from nowhere and catching them off-guard, Sony is scrounging around looking for anything to shove on the new console to make it appear to be a worthwhile purchase for players. PlayStation 5 isn’t close to being worthwhile yet, by the way, so if you haven’t been able to find one, don’t worry. You aren’t missing out on much!

PlayStation 5, like its predecessor console, has serious issues with backwards compatibility. “Most” PlayStation 4 games work on the new system, according to Sony, but older titles don’t. So perhaps they see that as an excuse to give a relatively recent, good-looking game like The Last Of Us a facelift? Except, of course, as I mentioned above there’s already a PlayStation 4 version of the game which should be compatible with the PlayStation 5, so even that excuse – poor though it was, as a lack of proper backwards compatibility is Sony’s own fault – doesn’t hold water.

The Last Of Us created a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic world.

This is a naked attempt to squeeze more money out of a successful project, and to avoid taking the risks associated with creating something new. If it hadn’t already been done, making this the game’s second remake, I guess it would have slipped under the radar. But the absolutely ridiculous, kind of pathetic situation of remaking the same game twice in less than seven years just makes it laughably obvious.

Instead of selling a copy of The Last Of Us on PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 for less than £10 (the PlayStation 4 version is £7.99 on the PlayStation Store at time of writing) Sony clearly plans to push this “remake” as a big deal and slap a hefty price tag on it – perhaps they’ll even try to get away with making it a full-price title. But what would fans get for that money? How can you make a decent-looking game from only eight years ago look substantially better? Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is trying to accomplish that same task, and when I look at that game’s own pre-release marketing material, I can’t even tell which screenshot is from which version. They look so similar it’s not even a joke.

Promo art for The Last Of Us. Remember that this game is barely eight years old.

The Last Of Us is in the same boat as the Mass Effect trilogy, and the fact that it had a PlayStation 4 remaster already actually makes it even worse. I thought this was a joke when I first saw the reports, but apparently this is true. Sony actually plans to remake an eight-year-old game for the second time and sell it as new. I’m glad I don’t own a PlayStation 5 if this is what we can expect from the company this generation.

No matter what they decide to officially title it, I hope we can all agree here and now to only ever refer to this abomination as The Last Of Us Remastered Remastered – so as to emphasise what a stupid idea this truly is.

The Last Of Us is out now for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, with the PlayStation 4 version able to be played on PlayStation 5. The Last Of Us and The Last Of Us Part II are the copyright of Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Does The Last of Us Part II deserve to be scored 3/10?

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us was one of my favourite games of the 2010s. I’m not a fan of horror in general, but its fungus-apocalypse setting was something unique in a zombie genre that was overrun by samey titles. Most importantly, The Last of Us was an engrossing story set in a world populated by characters who felt real. The story was what made The Last of Us worth playing; its third-person cover-based shooting/stealth gameplay was nothing new or innovative, and although its graphics were good even on the PlayStation 3, very few titles are interesting for visuals alone.

The story is where The Last of Us Part II fell down. There is currently a huge disconnect – as there often is nowadays – between the game’s audience and professional critics. Critic reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, giving the game 8/10, 9/10, or even 10/10 perfect scores. While it’s harder to aggregate non-critic viewpoints, Metacritic currently has the game at around a 3/10 – which is in line with reviews I’ve read on blogs and seen from non-professionals.

We could talk all day about how critic reviews are often unrepresentative of “normal” people’s experiences in entertainment – there are countless examples across film, games, and television to back that up. I also don’t want to accuse anyone of writing paid reviews; the practice does exist even in professional criticism just as it does in amateur criticism – an issue I’ve tackled previously. But in the case of The Last of Us Part II, there is simply no evidence that any individual publication accepted money for positive remarks so I will not be touching that with a barge pole.

Ellie, as seen in an early trailer for The Last of Us Part II.

The way I see it, critics and the game’s wider audience are looking at The Last of Us Part II from different angles: critics are looking at every aspect of the game, where fans are focusing on the story. The technical aspects of the game are fine. Its third-person cover-based stealth/action gameplay is an improvement on its predecessor, which it really ought to be coming seven years and a whole generation later. The game’s visuals have received much praise, and there can be no denying that environments and character models are graphically impressive – again, though, this is something we should be expecting in 2020. “Good graphics” or “nice scenery” can hardly be called features pioneered by or unique to The Last of Us Part II.

There’s an interesting comparison that comes to mind: The Rise of Skywalker. I reviewed this film a few weeks ago, and there are some similarities that are worth taking note of. The Rise of Skywalker – much like The Last of Us Part II – is visually impressive. Its special effects, CGI, costumes, etc. were all fantastic. And in both cases, no one can really fault the quality of acting performances, nor of much of the behind-the-scenes work. The editing in The Rise of Skywalker was certainly a problem, but beyond that, both projects are technically sound – but with stories that their audiences felt were crap.

At the end of the day, most people don’t pick up a game or watch a blockbuster film for the technical expertise of those behind it. If a studio is pumping huge sums of money into a project, those things are expected to be present. The Last of Us Part II should be a game that plays well, looks good, and has no major bugs or glitches. That’s the bare minimum for a game in 2020 to be considered adequate. Audiences come to The Last of Us Part II or a film like The Rise of Skywalker purely to be entertained and enthralled by a story, and if the story is deemed to be a failure, then no amount of technical perfection can salvage the project.

In The Rise of Skywalker’s case, the poor editing and pacing meant that even technical “perfection” wasn’t present, but even if The Last of Us Part II can be said to have hit every standard for being a great game from a gameplay point of view, a poor story can still make it a thoroughly unenjoyable experience. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from players who literally put the controller down and stopped playing, turned off by the game’s narrative decisions. If a game’s story is so poor the game itself is unfinishable, it’s definitely a bad game.

The Rise of Skywalker was a visually impressive film let down by a truly crap story.

I don’t like to say “I told you so”, but as soon as it was announced that The Last of Us was going to receive a sequel I felt it wasn’t a good idea. The first game was so good and the story so wonderfully engaging that almost anything that came next would struggle to live up to the expectations fans would have. And narratively speaking, Joel and Ellie’s road trip across a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic United States was a complete story. The two characters even reached their “happily ever after” moment at the end of the game; any sequel using the same characters would have to get around that somehow. This isn’t a problem unique to The Last of Us, and it’s something that many sequels struggle with.

I would have argued, if I had been in the room, that if there was a need to make a second game at all it should have left Joel and Ellie behind and looked at some other aspect of the interesting fungus apocalypse setting. Perhaps a prequel focusing on the immediate aftermath as civilisation is in the throes of collapse – that premise worked well for Fear the Walking Dead. Joel and Ellie could have cameos, but from my point of view I regarded their story as complete.

There’s an expectation in 2020 that every successful project shouldn’t just be a standalone work – it needs to be expanded into a franchise. Partly this is a corporate decision, as companies see already-successful brands as easy money when compared to the risk of investing in a wholly new setting. And partly there is an artistic or creative element – there were those at studio Naughty Dog who felt there was a second story worth telling.

In a way, storytelling is subjective. Different people enjoy different kinds of stories, and what one person considers a clever narrative or an interesting plot twist may be considered an appalling betrayal by someone else. I often point to Luke Skywalker’s character in the film The Last Jedi when discussing this. Many fans felt that Luke considering an attack on young Ben Solo, and the subsequent depression he fell into after his Jedi temple was destroyed was out of character and the worst part of the film. I personally felt it worked well and showed, among other things, how anyone can find themselves battling depression.

However, there are fundamental narrative structures which have existed, in some form, for practically as long as there have been stories. Messing with these too much can lead to the whole narrative unravelling, and in my opinion, The Last of Us Part II suffers from this exact problem.

A promotional screenshot for The Last of Us Part II.

The first narrative point that The Last of Us Part II misunderstands and thus gets wrong is that stories need heroes and villains. Joel, the protagonist of the first game, is an antihero, not just for the violent life he led but for the decision he makes to save Ellie instead of potentially allowing the Fireflies to explore a cure based on her natural immunity to the fungal disease that triggered the collapse of civilisation. But even antiheroes are heroes – Joel may be deeply flawed, but as the character we played as and followed for the entire first game, it’s his story we relate to and sympathise with, not some new character.

When Joel was killed in The Last of Us Part II, in some ways it felt like an inevitability. He’d led a violent life since the apocalypse and had made many enemies, so his chances of living to a ripe old age were definitely lower than most people’s! But instead of the game turning into purely a tale of revenge, with Ellie setting out to bring Joel’s murderers to justice, The Last of Us Part II forces players to take on the role of Joel’s killer, and to experience much of the game from her perspective.

This narrative decision undermines the basic structure of fiction – that there needs to be a clear protagonist and antagonist. The Last of Us Part II ends up with a convoluted and terribly confused story as a result of failing to follow this most basic of storytelling rules. As the audience, we’ve been invested in Joel and his story. We’re on his side, despite everything he’s done. Joel was our hero – and yet we’re asked to take on the role of his murderer. This character is our villain, or at least should be. Of course it’s true in the real world that every story and every fight has two sides, and in many cases, both participants are equally in the wrong. But this is fiction – we have a protagonist we root for and an antagonist we don’t. If this had been Abby’s story from the beginning, killing Joel would feel fantastically satisfying. But it wasn’t her story.

The Last of Us Part II at key points looks like it’s going to be a story about bringing Joel’s murderer to justice; this is Ellie’s quest in the sections of the game where she’s the playable character. Yet when that storyline should have reached its climax and Joel’s death should have been avenged, Ellie lets Abby flee. This moment, for many players who made it as far as the end, completely ruined whatever remained of the story.

A story that aims to be about justice – which, in a post-apocalyptic world, has been reduced to the old adage of “an eye for an eye” – needs to conclude with justice being done, somehow, in order to feel satisfying and conclusive. Even if Ellie had been killed at the end of her quest, if Abby had died it would have at least felt like a concluded story. The Last of Us Part II set itself up as this kind of narrative, so when it fails in the final act to deliver on that narrative, everything else in the story up to that point feels like a waste of time. And when the story was weak and so fundamentally flawed to begin with, that’s something many fans found to be unforgivable.

Ellie was the focus of The Last of Us Part II’s marketing campaign, not the new character of Abby.

As we’ve recently noted with Game of Thrones, sometimes trying to be clever and subversive leads to a story falling apart. There is a reason why stories have always had clear protagonists and antagonists; heroes and villains. There is also a reason why a story about bringing a murderer to justice needs to conclude with that justice being dispensed. The Last of Us Part II pulled at these fundamentals of storytelling, thinking itself clever and innovative. Instead, the story came apart at the seams. Nothing could compensate for that in a game that was all about story – not visual effects, not acting, not gameplay.

Does The Last of Us Part II deserve to be scored 3/10? That was the question I asked at the beginning of this piece. And the answer will depend on what you think is important in a game like this: is it the narrative? Or is it good enough for a game to look good and play well?

There is no denying that The Last of Us Part II is technically good. A lot of skill went into every aspect of its creation. But for me personally, I come to a game like this for its storyline. If the story fails, the game fails; they are inextricably tied together. So yes, 3/10 seems like a fair score for a title like that. It accounts for the fact that the gameplay is technically sound, preventing it from being awarded 0/10, while acknowledging that the game’s raison d’être – its story – is a complete failure.

The Last of Us Part II is available now for PlayStation 4 only. The game is the copyright of Naughty Dog and Sony. All images courtesy of The Last of Us Part II press kit on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Last Of Us Part II seems to have had major plot points leaked…

Spoiler Warning: Not only will we go over some of the alleged leaks from The Last Of Us Part II, but there will be spoilers for the first game’s ending too.

Once upon a time I worked in the video games field. I mostly did website content and marketing for a big company (that shall remain nameless) but I got to know a number of people in the industry – at the company I worked for, at other companies in the city, and even in games journalism.

The leaked cut-scenes for The Last Of Us Part II seem to have come from Naughty Dog’s QA department – or perhaps an outsourced QA tester. QA, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, stands for “quality assurance”, and these are basically product testers, people who play through a game to find bugs and glitches so that the developers don’t have to. In my own experience I did some work with the QA team, but it was primarily proofreading and copyediting for in-game text – both tasks that could be given to a QA department depending on the structure of a company.

The company I worked for was, on the surface, ferocious about information security. Non-disclosure agreements were signed, and one clause in my contract was that I couldn’t undertake similar work for a “rival” company for at least 12 months after leaving the company I worked for – all under the threat of being sued or even arrested. But in practice, it wouldn’t have been hard to leak information. In my role, for example, I would take screenshots or use screenshots and videos taken by others on a regular basis to form part of the company’s marketing material. These images and videos would be unencrypted, with no identifiable information contained within the file. I was often working with games that hadn’t even been announced, yet it would have been incredibly easy to copy them onto a floppy disk (sorry, am I showing my age?) or USB drive, or email them to myself or someone else. Considering how many people worked in the office I was in, it’s a wonder leaks like this don’t happen more often, even in normal times.

And these are not normal times. With “non-essential” jobs all but shut down, practically every large games company around the world has shuttered its offices and asked members of staff to work from home. This can include QA testers. If it was easy to record and copy information, including images and videos, while working in a busy office, doing so from home would be a piece of cake – and I would speculate that that is precisely what happened.

A nefarious leaker has spoilt the plot of The Last Of Us Part II!
Photo Credit: Unsplash

The motivation for anyone to leak significant information about an entertainment product escapes me somewhat, I must admit. Some people have guessed that it was someone “disgruntled” within the company who was using the leaks to make a point. But my guess is that most of these people do it for attention. Seeing articles (like this one, ironically) and knowing they alone caused all the fuss is surely at least part of what motivates leakers.

The Last Of Us was released in 2013, and ended somewhat ambiguously. It was one of my favourite games of the last generation, and one of the things I liked about it is that it was a self-contained story. Of course the world the game created had scope to tell many other stories, and in a way I’m not surprised to see another entry in the series, but as a one-off game it felt like lightning in a bottle – something not easily recaptured. I was sceptical of the idea of a sequel from the beginning, just as I would be if a sequel were announced for a film like Sam Mendes’ 1917. Why? Because it was a single story. It doesn’t need further explanation, yet in the current era of sequels and franchises, almost every successful entertainment product comes under pressure to follow suit and churn out something else.

Regardless, The Last Of Us Part II has been made, and is, by all accounts, practically complete. The pandemic has delayed its release, as it has for many other titles, unfortunately, but work on the game is largely done.

The question of “what comes after an ending?” is one that sequels struggle with all the time. Look at the direct-to-video Disney sequels like The Little Mermaid II or Pocahontas II for how a sequel can be difficult to handle. The fundamental issue is that a story like The Last Of Us is complete. The ending may have been ambiguous, and it was certainly an emotional gut-punch, but it was an ending. It was even a semi-happy one, at least from Joel’s point of view. The point isn’t that nothing was ever going to happen to these characters afterwards, because if we got lost in that world and it felt real then of course we would want them to go on and live their lives. Instead, the point is that we didn’t need to see it, because our interaction with Joel and Ellie was purely their road trip across America in the first game. That was their story; that was the only part we needed to see. While you could absolutely argue that there’s scope to take another look at The Last Of Us’ fungus-apocalypse setting, if it were up to me I’d have left Joel and Ellie out of it – or included little more than a cameo appearance from them.

An atmospheric promo image for The Last Of Us.

Now we’re getting into spoiler territory, so I’m giving you one last chance to jump ship.

Not only does Ellie seem to find out that Joel lied to her about the operation and what happened to the Fireflies, but Joel himself is killed. To repeat what I said a moment ago, I’m not sure I wanted to see this next chapter. I was quite content to leave Joel and Ellie in the hills approaching their new home, to conclude their journey as they become as close as family; as Ellie finds the caregiver she never had and Joel finds someone to care about after losing his daughter. Those character moments defined The Last Of Us for me, and over the course of a game I’ve replayed several times, the coming together of the two central characters is what made it a fantastic story.

Killing off one of them – or both, if you believe some of the less-reputable rumours out there – is just not what I’d have chosen. And I know, reading spoilers out of context can be a bad thing, because a story is about more than just one single plot point. But if you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’ve just been through something similar with The Rise of Skywalker – the latest Star Wars film. Because I can’t go to the cinema I’d read a synopsis of the plot long before I saw the film, and I was thoroughly unimpressed with what I’d read. On the day I was finally able to sit down and watch it I still thought that there was a glimmer of hope – but it was not to be, and The Rise of Skywalker was an utterly crap film. In short, my gut feelings about story points tend to be right more often than not. And when it comes to what I’ve seen and read about The Last Of Us Part II, I’m expecting a let-down.

I’m strongly of the opinion that some stories are one-offs. They don’t need sequels or to be spun out into bigger franchises; they accomplished what they needed to in a single story. Other games have fallen victim to this – the Mass Effect trilogy was a single, complete story, yet a desire on the part of EA and Bioware to revisit its world led to the disappointment that was Mass Effect: Andromeda. The first Mass Effect warranted a sequel – the Reapers were still out there, even though their vanguard had been defeated. But Mass Effect 3 was a final and definitive end, even if you got the “extra-good” ending. Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t need to be made, because sometimes complete stories are best left alone.

Promo image for The Last Of Us Part II.

While I’m hopeful that any game I’m somewhat anticipating will be good, the big spoilers and leaks that I’ve seen for The Last Of Us Part II serve only to reinforce my opinion that there was no need to make a sequel, or at least not one that brought back the same characters. And while it is absolutely true – as I’ve argued myself in the past – that the sequel doesn’t “ruin” or in any way change the original game, which will still exist and can be revisited to my heart’s content, I still feel disappointed in what I’ve read.

A game like The Last Of Us was purely a story – one for which the term “cinematic” was practically invented. The gameplay was secondary to the story, and in that sense it’s a title that I would be just as happy to watch as I was to play. Those kind of games are rare, but they’re fantastic when their developers get it right. That’s why The Last Of Us was one of my picks for the top ten games of the last decade – you can find the full list by clicking or tapping here. While I have no doubt that Naughty Dog will make a success of the gameplay of The Last Of Us Part II, and that the game will be polished and free of the kind of glitches and bugs that plagued titles like Mass Effect: Andromeda, if the story isn’t up to scratch none of that will matter. For gamers who just want any old action-shooter, maybe it’ll be fine. But for someone interested in the story it won’t be a success. It will simply be another example of why tacking on a sequel to an already-complete story can be an impossible task.

The Last Of Us and The Last Of Us Part II are the copyright of Naughty Dog and/or Sony Interactive Entertainment. Promotional images courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.