It may have not been a total surprise thanks to leaks more than a year ago, and sadly on the very morning of its reveal, but a remake of the 2013 masterpiece The Last of Us is officially coming to PS5 this September, with a PC release to follow. The remake of Naughty Dog’s epic PS3 action-horror game is visually a big step up from the remastered version released in 2014 for PlayStation 4. That’s because this remake isn’t just a simple uprezzed, slightly revamped port running on PlayStation 5. The Last of Us Part 1, as it’s officially called, features fully redone character models and environments, tons of improved textures, improved animations, 60 FPS performance, new accessibility features, and new combat options and revamped enemy AI building off the work done in The Last of Us Part 2. Awesome! This means it will not only look much better than any of the previous versions of the game, but the gameplay will be slightly different, too. Or dynamic, as the marketing departments love to say. But the big question is: is The Last of Us remake actually worth your $70?
A Perplexing Price Point
New textures and animations are great, but The Last of Us remake launches on September 2 with another newly overhauled feature that has been met with some blowback by fans—a price tag that will cost $70 for the basic version, $80 for the Digital Deluxe version, and $100 for the Firefly Edition. If you’ve been paying attention to PlayStation this generation, it’s not totally shocking to see this game launch at this price since that’s very much in line with the launch price of nearly every first-party PlayStation game on PS5. The Demon’s Souls remake was $70, Returnal was $70, the PS5 version of Horizon: Forbidden West was $70, and God of War Ragnarok will be $70 when it launches. $70 is here to stay for most PlayStation games, like it or not.
But The Last of Us launching at 70 bucks feels a bit steep. Now, before I really dive into my personal opinion on this, I want to make it clear that I absolutely adore The Last of Us and I think the remake looks gorgeous and I’m not telling you how to spend your money. Or save your money! You can handle that! You’re good at this! Or not. Who knows. We all buy dumb stuff. I spent $13 on a beer at the zoo the other day and it had clipart drawings of meerkats on it. I actually bought two of them. That’s $26 just to get my buzz on and look at animals that were half asleep.
But back to The Last of Us, which launched for $60 nearly a decade ago. Then the remaster launched a year later for $10 less. And in 2022, you can buy The Last of Us Remastered on your PS5 for $20 or access it as part of the PlayStation Plus collection if you’re a PS Plus subscriber. That means if you already have a PS5, you can play The Last of Us Remastered, which I think is still a very good version of that great game, in various ways, all for way cheaper than $70.
The Updgrades Look Impressive (So Far)
Now to be fair, from what we’ve seen, this remake is a drastic visual overhaul of The Last of Us. The brand new character models look awesome, they’ve got grittier and more realistic textures—just look at all of the wrinkles and scars you can see on Joel now! The developers went back and rescanned all of the original actor’s capture work and reanimated everything to feel more natural. The overall lighting is probably the most drastic improvement here. The remake pops more and feels less muted, there’s a stronger emphasis on contrast, the darker color levels feel more solid black and less muddy brown. The foliage that generally overruns the game world looks more natural and even expanded at times. And the level geometry seems rebuilt and more detailed.
We’ve still only seen snippets and not gone hands-on with the game yet ourselves, but from what we can see, everything feels decidedly more next-gen. Naughty Dog is one of the most technically proficient game developers working today and it’s awesome to see them making a dedicated PS5 game that isn’t held back by the PS4, and it’s clear a lot of work went in from the developers to make these leaps.
As for the promised gameplay improvements, well, it’s a bit harder to figure out where those will come into play based on what we’ve seen so far, but Naughty Dog has promised modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options. How substantial those will be in practice we’ll have to wait to see, especially as we don’t know if the team has also made changes to levels to accommodate newer gameplay additions. There’s also the usual PS5 bells and whistles, like 3D Audio, haptics, and adaptive triggers, meaning you might get to feel gross, nasty stuff in your hands, like tiny saliva vibrations when a Clicker hisses and spits at you. Yuck.
There’s also ton of stuff implemented in The Last of Us 2 that I’d love to see return here that would further improve the experience, like Ellie having a permanent, unbreakable switchblade, a dedicated jump button, and the ability to go prone in high grass and foliage. Although, some of those would require redesigning environment layouts in the game, and from what we’ve seen we don’t quite know how much Naughty Dog has changed the structure of actual levels and missions. Generally speaking, handling characters in The Last of Us 2 felt more natural and intuitive and that’s the kind of thing that I hope ends up in this remake—and the kind of thing a trailer won’t really tell you.
Some Features Are Left Behind
So, back to that $70 price. We’ve talked about what is definitely in this remake, as well as what might be, but we do know for sure that the PS5 remake of The Last of Us does not include the popular Factions multiplayer mode that appeared in the previous version. It does have the Left Behind DLC, which is fantastic, but if you’re looking for some Last of Us multiplayer action on your PS5, you’ll have to wait until Naughty Dog launches the recently teased standalone multiplayer Last of Us game in 2023, which is a more ambitious project and most likely where Naughty Dog wanted to invest its multiplayer resources. That’s a pretty big omission for a game that costs more money than the versions that do contain the Factions mode, so this is definitely a bummer for people who really loved that mode.
But the biggest sticking point for me as to why I am not clamoring for a $70 remake of The Last of Us is that this is not necessarily a game that even “needs” a remake. The original still plays great, and while remakes are all the rage these days, recent remakes like Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII were far more drastic overhauls of their originals, mostly because remaking a game from the ’90s and remaking a game from nine years ago are going to yield different results. Demon’s Souls was at least over a decade old when PlayStation released its remake, and never had a PS4 remaster.
But there are some pretty clear reasons as to why the remake is probably happening. There are likely millions of PS5 and PC owners who have never experienced this incredible game before, and millions more will be introduced to this universe for the first time when the upcoming HBO show launches. It makes sense for PlayStation to have a prettier, more modern game ready to cash in on the hype, rather than directing HBO viewers to the download of a nine-year-old game.
You Keep Finding Something to Fight For
So, with all that said, am I going to spend $70 on this remake? Well, no. Probably not. I’ve experienced this game already, I own multiple versions of this game, I love this game. It’s a masterpiece, and while I appreciate all the clear work that’s gone into modernizing it, that’s still a steep price tag for something that’s almost entirely a known quantity to me and I could spend that money on a brand new video game experience instead. Or the aforementioned beers at the zoo. Personally, I feel like $50 would have been the perfect price here, as it’s largely the same game as it was in 2013 but missing an entire multiplayer mode. PlayStation shouldn’t be so beholden to that $70 ideal and be willing to offer experiences on more of a sliding scale.
But if this game is somehow new to you, well, The Last of Us is one of the greatest games of all time. It absolutely rules. The remake will almost certainly be the definitive way to play it and also just act as a fantastic graphical showcase for your PS5 or gaming PC. The new gameplay enhancements could even be a bigger deal than Naughty Dog is letting on, too. So, if all of that adds up for you, by all means spend that $70.
Brian Altano is a host and producer at IGN. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.