The Last of Us Part 1 Feels Like a Cashgrab

The ground-up remake of Naughty Dog's seminal 2013 game hasn't made the best first impression.

Posted By | On 12th, Jun. 2022

The Last of Us Part 1 Feels Like a Cashgrab

After a year of leaks and rumours, recently at Summer Game Fest Kickoff Live, Sony and Naughty Dog officially unveiled The Last of Us Part 1 at long last. The fact that its announcement trailer ended up leaking merely hours before the official unveiling took the element of surprise out of the whole process, but even so, a ground-up remake of a game as seminal as the original The Last of Us is a momentous thing. And yet, as things stand right, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed about how the game is shaping up. It’s still early days, and there are still things about the game that we don’t yet know, but based on what we’ve seen and heard of The Last of Us Part 1 so far, it’s hard not to come away disappointed.

Since the day the leaks first claimed that a remake of The Last of Us was in development at Naughty Dog, the one question that has come up more often than anything else is- why? Confusion as to why the project even exists has been widespread, and many have wondered – usually out loud – if the remake even needs to exist. For the longest time, I’ve personally been on the belief that those reactions are premature. After all, for a long, long time, there were many who felt that The Last of Us Part 2 did not need to exist, that a sequel to the original game was unnecessary, and Naughty Dog proved that notion thoroughly wrong. So who’s to say they couldn’t knock the ball out of the park with the remake and do something similar? Sure, that’s inherently harder to do with a remake than it is with a sequel, for obvious reasons, but if there’s one studio that has the talent to do that, it’s Naughty Dog.

The Last of Us Part 1

The thing is, right now, it’s very hard to disagree with anyone who argues that this seems like a wholly unnecessary remake. What’s worse is, even if details revealed in the coming weeks turn reception around, even if it no longer seems wholly unnecessary, it would still feel like a bit of a cashgrab. That’s a strong word that gets thrown around way too quickly in the games industry, but it does feel accurate here for several reasons.

The biggest reason, of course, is the game’s price. Sony is one among several developers that’s fully committed to normalizing the $70 price tag for current-gen console games and turning that into the new industry-wide standard. That price point is excessive no matter what, even for completely new games, but when you price a remake at $70, and when that remake is for a game that’s barely even a decade old, a game that, again, does not necessarily need a remake, that price gets even harder to justify.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Sony sticks with this price on PC when the game makes it over to the platform. Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s PC launch will tell you that the backlash against that price will be far bigger among the PC audience than it has been on consoles, and it’s been pretty big on consoles, which means they’ll probably catch a lot of flak for that. If they don’t sell it for $70 on PC though, that just proves that that really isn’t a price that they need to set for the game, that they could just as easily be selling it for $60, which makes their aggressive pricing on PS5 seem even more aggressive. That’s the definition of a lose-lose.

Pricing is something that Sony has come under fire for more than once over the last couple of years, and unfortunately, this is another one of those times where the company’s anti-consumerism is showing plainly. The game’s deluxe edition, for instance, is the perfect example on that- spending an additional $20 to get in-game boosts like faster reloading speed and crafting speed and healing speed and what have you? No, thank you.

The Last of Us Part 1

That $70 price tag would have been a little easier to swallow if The Last of Us Part 1 didn’t seem like such a conservative upgrade. Visually, it looks about on part with The Last of Us Part 2- which, incidentally, makes the fact that it’s being made exclusively for PS5 (alongside PC) that much more confusing… but that’s beside the point. The point is that visually, it’s not a massive upgrade. Yes, it looks better than The Last of Us Remastered even at a glance, but of course it does. It’s eight years younger than it. Remastered still looks pretty damn great though, and nobody in their right minds would look at it and call it unplayable because of its visuals. Part 1’s visual upgrade is noticeable, yes, but it’s not noticeable enough to not feel needless. It’s not the kind of upgrade that makes you look at the original and decide that there’s no way you’re going to be able to go back and play that.

Meanwhile, during his interview with Geoff Keighley at SGF Kickoff Live, Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann also revealed that no new voice lines or scenes have been recorded, and that the remake is just using the performances of the original game, thrown on top of new animations and character models. That, in turn, means there’s going to be no changes, tweaks, or additions made to the story. So if, for instance, you were hoping to see the remake integrate Abby into its endings to make it connect with Part 2 a little bit better- well, that ain’t happening.

Of course, even though The Last of Us Part 1 is looking faithful to a fault (almost to the point of being boring) when it comes to visuals and story, there’s every chance that it ends up making up for that with changes and enhancements made to its gameplay. That’s certainly what Naughty Dog is suggesting so far. Even though we haven’t seen any gameplay so far, the remake will supposedly bring improvements in stealth, movement, combat, exploration, AI, accessibility, and more. According to Druckmann, Naughty Dog has taken a lot of its ideas and lessons learned from Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Part 2 and applied them here in the remake. That, at the very least, is an exciting proposition. Being able to play through the first game’s story with gameplay and level design that’s closer to what was found in Part 2 is an intriguing prospect.

The Last of Us Part 1

But intriguing enough to warrant the game’s $70 price point? I’m afraid not, because given how conservative of a remake this is from at least the visuals and story perspective, it’s hard to shake the feeling that even at a $60 price tag, it would have been called unnecessary by many. I mean, pretty much anyone who owns a PS5 and has a subscription to PlayStation Plus has free access to The Last of Us Remastered anyway- and that game, incidentally, has more content on offer, because unlike the remake, it also comes with the multiplayer Factions mode.

It just doesn’t feel like this is something that Naughty Dog was itching to make, that this is a project that the studio decided to move forward with because it felt it would be a meaningful upgrade. Back in April 2021, journalist Jason Schreier said while speaking with MinnMax that a big part of why Naughty Dog decided to move forward with The Last of Us Part 1 was because, quite simply, it needed something to do. Its next main projects were in pre-production at the time, which in turn means that none of them had an awful lot of people working on them.

Coming fresh off of The Last of Us Part 2, a bulk of the studio’s employees were left with nothing to do and no project that was at an advanced enough stage to be in need of them. And so, realizing that a remake of The Last of Us would be a decent way to keep them occupied and fill the gap until the next main project was ready to bring them onboard, the studio decided to push forward with Part 1.

Call me crazy, but greenlighting a project for no reason other than not having anything better to do isn’t exactly the best endorsement for that project.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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