The Last of Us Remake, titled The Last of Us Part 1, is an upcoming re-release that encapsulates the decades-long problem with Sony’s gaming strategy.
The gaming giant seems perfectly content to spotlight big-budget cinematic experiences on its PlayStation consoles. Gameplay, however, is secondary to that experience. Otherwise, why would Sony greenlight a remake, price it as a $70 premium game, and give it away? without the multiplayer component that fans loved?
In short, The Last of Us did not need another reissue. Not when the previous Remaster, released in 2014, is backward compatible on the PlayStation 5 and has more features.
Recommended shooters you should play right now
Cinematic Experience Plague
The reveal of The Last of Us Part 1 perfectly illustrates how flawed Sony’s approach to gaming has been since taking the world by storm with the original PlayStation. The company loves cinematic games that feature huge budgets, cutting-edge visuals, and gritty melodrama. With this laser focus on looks, gameplay becomes an afterthought. PlayStation AAA games don’t need to innovate with their gameplay, because repetition is enough. In Sony’s eyes, a good story and high production value trump mediocre gameplay. That’s why we get mediocre titles like the very forgettable The Order: 1886.
The writers have a story to tell with their carefully crafted cinematic campaign, and they won’t let silly intrusion like gameplay get in the way of their glorious narrative. For example, Naughty Dog capped the frame rate of the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End campaign at 30 frames per second to create a cinematic viewing experience at 1080p. Want smoother gameplay? Play multiplayer, which capped the resolution at 720p, but offered much smoother action at 60fps (as well as vastly improved movement and gameplay mechanics).
For some odd reason, game industry leaders seem to think visual fidelity is more important than game feel, and prefer to hide fun gameplay in optional secondary content rather than showcasing it in the campaign. Rockstar Games gives you a horse with cold-shrinking testicles. FromSoftware gives you a horse that can perform sick double jumps and ride the wind over the mountains. What seems the most fun to play?
The ultimate goal of a video game is to offer a Game for the audience to play. Yet game narratives have become so overbearing that it’s now common, even expected, to have commands snatched from you in order to present you with a walk-and-talk cutscene or knowledge dump. What were once rare, CG treats have become cinematic abominations that can easily bloat a game’s runtime by hours. It’s as if a generation of movie majors couldn’t get production gigs and threw themselves into the gaming industry to make surrogate films disguised as video games.
Gameplay is king
(Picture: naughty dog)
It’s really refreshing when a studio has the discipline to limit story scenes, or even present their story through gameplay interactions. Remember how rare cutscenes were in Metroid Prime? Wasn’t it cool that you could use Samus’ visor to analyze data logs to learn more about in-game events? Wasn’t it cool that you could skip it too, because the gameplay was good enough to stand on its own?
Games like Elden Ring are similarly minimalistic, so you can dedicate hours to the story, or just skip it and slay weird monsters as you travel the world. Would The Last of Us be as beloved if the game lacked cutscenes or if you chose to skip them the first time around?
The answer is, perhaps. When developers like Naughty Dog don’t have to work within the confines of a narrative, they can be surprisingly creative with their gameplay. Factions, The Last of Us multiplayer, is proof of that. Without a restrictive plot to limit what players can do, Naughty Dog has become inventive, even innovative. Factions married the story’s survival elements to a competitive multiplayer environment, designing classic shooter modes with strict rules that encouraged player cooperation. Many modes severely limited respawning and healing, so you often only had one life to complete objectives with your teammates. Stealth and other boring campaign elements were best represented in multiplayer, so stealth skills and moves were key to outplaying opponents.
With Sony’s emphasis on looks, gameplay becomes an afterthought.
The potential for greatness is there, but the emphasis on story cohesion and cinematic experiences radically hampers the creativity these titles need to innovate and elevate their gameplay. A game might look better, but play worse during a campaign, on purpose, because the developer and Sony want it to. see good when marketing the title. Fun concepts and experimental gameplay are often relegated to multiplayer, where they can fade into obscurity if they don’t catch on. In the case of The Last of Us, there are still fans who don’t even know the game had a multiplayer mode.
What’s worth it?
So why buy The Last of Us Part 1 again? There’s been no mention of any narrative changes, and given how popular the plot is, there’s no way Naughty Dog will alter it. Additionally, it has been released twice so far, and it gets an HBO adaptation. You can get the same narrative experience for a much cheaper price with PlayStation 4’s The Last of Us Remastered.
Recommended by our editors
Of course you could say you don’t need to buy the new remake. Yes, that’s obviously true, but that’s not the problem with the current situation. The problem is, this remake is a blatant cash grab, with a focus on visual fidelity and presentation. There are some minor gameplay tweaks, but Naughty Dog didn’t even feel the need to expand on them when announcing the Summer Game Fest game. The only worthwhile improvement, a remake of Factions multiplayer, was apparently not big enough to be included in the premium package.
We know that Naughty Dog is working on a multiplayer project. What was originally meant to be a multiplayer expansion for The Last of Us 2 has evolved into a much larger and distinct enterprise. This was expanded upon in the PlayStation Blog(Opens in a new window), which reveals that a new standalone multiplayer project is in development. But given the way Sony is pitching The Last of Us Part 1, with its premium price and the exclusion of Factions, I suspect this new multiplayer project will also be a premium product. Rumor has it that this online game is free to play, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Don’t give them a dime
I understand. People love The Last of Us. They love its story, the moral puzzles, and the ambiguity that the setting and characters portray. But Sony triples here. The company treats you like a sucker, and anyone willing to pay more money for less product tells Sony precisely that.
Sony’s obsession with cinematic gaming isn’t going to change anytime soon, but you can at least demand more gameplay for your money. If you want to play The Last of Us, buy the remastered PS4 version. Otherwise, keep your wallet closed until these companies make a real effort to earn your hard-earned cash.
The Last of Us Part I is heading to the PlayStation 5 on September 2, 2022. For more on Summer Game Fest, check out PCMag’s video game feed. Also check out our YouTube channel The Pop-Off(Opens in a new window) for more discussion on video games.
Receive our best stories!
Register for What’s up now to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every morning.