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In Defense of Naughty Dog’s ‘The Last of Us’ Remake

If recent rumors are to be believed, Naughty Dog is not only hard at work on a multiplayer expansion for their latest release, The Last of Us Part II, but are also working on something else entirely: a full-fledged remake of the original Last of Us video game. Expected to be rebuilt from the ground up, this remake is not your typical remaster or re-release, something that the original Last of Us already experienced on the PS4. That was merely an updated version of the PS3 release with higher resolution and increased frame rates. No, this remake is expected to come with all the bells and whistles introduced in The Last of Us Part II. From the upgraded Naughty Dog engine and incredible graphics update that comes with it, this Last of Us remake has the potential to re-ignite the passion for the first game.

While the development of this project is something that sounds conceptually exciting, it seems the execution is lacking, at least in the eyes of fans of the franchise. Even moreso with fans of PlayStation in general. There’s an animosity not only towards Naughty Dog as a studio, but towards PlayStation itself, as fans have developed a sort of viewpoint that paints these two companies as single-minded and not open to new or exciting ideas. The so-called “recycling” of content has left something of a bad taste in the mouths of PlayStation fans. These worries should be quelled, though, as The Last of Us remake is something that shouldn’t be considered a symptom of a larger problem. Rather, it should be looked at from the perspective as something to help new fans explore the journeys of these characters that they have grown to care for so much. To provide a larger access to this story and in a new and better way isn’t something that should be seen as a bad thing, for a myriad of reasons.

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The New Naughty Dog Engine

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Image via Naughty Dog, Sony

While this may seem obvious, it’s something that needs to be adressed. Naughty Dog has come a long way since 2013. Two console generations later and their latest engine for game development is extraordinary. It’s something that even competitors’ internal reviews have said to have “set a new bar” for what is expected in the new generation of consoles and video games. What game from that generation deserves an upgrade more than The Last of Us?

Released as a bookend to PlayStation 3 era, the game did everything it could and pushed that console to its limit. With the remastered version on PS4, we were treated to a small taste of what was possible for that game on a much more powerful console. Now in the generation of PS5, we have yet to discover what Naughty Dog is capable of on the console. Much like its predecessor, The Last of Us Part II was released at the end of the PS4’s life cycle, and as such pushed the console to its limits as well.

With an enhancement update giving us targeted 60 FPS and enhanced resolution, this bookend PS4 title rivals the likes of PS5 titles Miles Morales and Resident Evil Village. This is a truly impressive feat. To be able too see what Naughty Dog can do on a new console, with a game as iconic as The Last of Us, there is real potential here. Look no further than the opening to Part II, which recounts some of the events of the first game in stunning new detail.

There are also the new mechanics introduced in The Last of Us Part II that would make for exciting new additions to how characters play as Joel. To be able to dive, crawl, and dodge would change a lot of the scenarios from the original version of the game. This would open up new ways for players to experience Joel and Ellie’s harrowing journey, providing a fresh experience for even seasoned players who have played the games many times before.

Bend Studio and Days Gone

In light of The Last of Us remake news, caught in the crossfire was the Oregon-based Sony Bend Studio, which had been tasked to help Naughty Dog on their multiplayer project. On an unrelated note, the studio had tried pitching a sequel to Days Gone to Sony, unfortunately being unable to gain traction due to the lengthy development and mixed reception of the first game. PlayStation fans confused this as Sony cancelling a potential sequel to a new IP in favor of remaking an old one. However, this is isn’t the case at all. The stunted development of a potential Days Gone 2 and Sony Bend’s involvement with The Last of Us-related projects was serendipitous at best. The animosity towards Naughty Dog isn’t warranted and the confusion of this situation needs to be addressed. The inability of Sony Bend to continue on with their project has no correlation to Naughty Dog and their aspirations to remake one of their best stories from the ground up.

The most important thing to mention is that Bend Studio, according to the same Bloomberg report, was able to separate itself from the Naughty Dog projects after all. Now working on a new IP, any qualms PlayStation fans may have with the company and its decisions shouldn’t be focused towards Naughty Dog or their remake, as it is evident they are not the reason behind the discontinuation of other franchises within PlayStation Studios. RELATED: 10 Best ‘Last of Us Part II’ Moments, From Joel’s Guitar to Ellie’s Kiss

HBO and Finding New Audiences

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One of the more important contributions this potential Last of Us remake delivers is the upcoming release of the live-action adaptation in form of a television series for HBO. The Last of Us show has some serious talent behind it. With the likes of Pedro Pascal in front of the camera and Kantemir Balagov behind it, HBO is showing that it’s taking the show and its success very seriously. With the adaptation expected to premiere sometime late next year, Joel and Ellie’s story on the small screen is sure to engage general audiences, or even fans of the horror and zombie genre, not necessarily just those who are fans of the video games.

With that being said, that leaves room for The Last of Us remake to not only succeed, but be necessary. The investment the audiences bring to the characters of Joel and Ellie will surely bring a relevance back to the first game, and while the remastered version for PS4 is more than acceptable option, the allure of an updated, visually pleasing version of the game for general audiences to pick up is too big of an opportunity to pass up. The possible late 2022 release of the show also gives more than enough time to get the game shipped in time for audiences to experience the story of Joel and Ellie in more ways than one. The synergy between the show and a potential remake could introduce audiences not just to Joel and Ellie, but also open up the possibility of exploring a plethora of other video game stories that are just as engaging as The Last of Us.

Overall, The Last of Us remake is something that should be seen as a labor of love and an opportunity to introduce new fans not only to that story but to video games and the thematic potential they have as a whole. This remake isn’t something that should be seen purely from the standpoint of a cash grab or getting in the way of new IPs or exciting new developments in storytelling. If anything, this remake encourages that.

Naughty Dog has an opportunity to take what is already considered one of the best video games ever made and make it even better. To be able to use the potential of the PS5 and the new Naughty Dog engine, in addition to possibly releasing alongside the HBO adaptation for real PlayStation Studios synergy, The Last of Us remake definitely has more than enough reason to exist, and is something that should be welcomed with open arms.

KEEP READING: ‘The Last of Us: Part II’ Locations and Their Real-World Counterparts, Revisited One Year Later

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