One of PlayStation's most prestigious modern franchises, The Last of Us, finds itself in hot waters again with the upcoming launch of The Last of Us remake on PS5.
Similar to how it was before the launch of The Last of Us 2, the social media forums are now riling up with angry fans, supportive fans, and a bunch of people who don't know why it's always The Last of Us that finds itself in dire situations every time before release.
This time, the issue isn't just about leaks or whether the game is good or bad, it's about something bigger, one that paints an undeniably terrifying image of the future of Naughty Dog and PlayStation.
Analyzing the controversy surrounding The Last of Us remake
Ever since its announcement, two questions have repeatedly popped up. First, do we really need a remake of The Last of Us? And second, why does a remake of a 10-year-old game that's already available on modern consoles cost $70?
Both are valid concerns, and while the first has the liability of being subjective, it's the second that's been stirring all sorts of discussions within the games industry.
Naughty Dog soothed a fraction of the community's concerns regarding The Last of Us remake by stating that it features "modernized gameplay." At the time of the reveal, nobody knew what that meant since there wasn't any gameplay footage to go with it.
Fans started assuming, given its high price tag, that the changes would be significant, with new additions like the prone and dodge mechanics that made the combat in The Last of Us 2 so memorable.
As it turns out, that isn't really the case, and the combat in The Last of Us remake pretty much walks in the footsteps of the original rather than its superior sequel.
On a personal note, we don't think it would make sense for Joel (a 50 years old man) to start throwing himself on other people's backs or have the reflexes to swiftly dodge a devasting attack or have a flexible enough body to fit underneath a rusted vehicle, like Ellie (a 19 years old extremely agile woman) is capable of doing so in The Last of Us 2.
As such, the above expectations were absurd to begin with. But why would such expectations sprout up in the first place? Does it have to do with the recent releases like Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy 7, both of which have set an incredibly high bar for modern video game remakes? Or is it simply the $70 price tag?
The Problem with The Last of Us remake
The real problem with The Last of Us remake isn't its shamelessly high price tag or its relatively inferior nuances when compared to something like the Final Fantasy 7 remake.
If anything, the latter is a reimagining of the original, and fans should be aware of the differences between a remake and a reimagining of a video game.
The upcoming next-gen iteration of Resident Evil 4 is also a reimagining of its 2005's counterpart. The only problem with The Last of Us remake is how misleading it has been from the start.
It isn't the first time Naughty Dog has misled or tried to hold back information from the fans.
One of the reasons why The Last of Us 2 wasn't received well within the community was because its trailers were misleading. There were story moments and character interactions that weren't part of the game but were purposely put in the trailers to mislead fans.
After the release, Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann admitted to "deceiving" its fans with trailers and promos just so they could "surprise" them later during an episode of Kinda Funny Games' Spoilercast.
There's more to it meets than it meets the eye, and PlayStation probably had a bigger role in this misleading marketing technique. Maybe it feared that game wouldn't sell well if Naughty Dog remained more transparent about the game's story in the trailers? Maybe it wasn't confident in Naughty Dog's bold approach to the sequel?
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As it turned out, the deceived marketing backfired, and we were left to wonder how The Last of Us 2 would have received if the developer had averted fans' expectations from wandering in a direction different than intended.
The Last of Us 2 wasn't the first Naughty Dog game to mislead its fans. The studio had previously pulled off similar stunts with the Uncharted games, though to a smaller extent.
In the case of The Last of Us remake, the studio promised "modernized gameplay" but didn't follow up the statement with raw gameplay footage to prove its point. The reveal trailer lavishly indulged in the next-gen visuals and overhauled art style, which is a huge selling point in itself for veteran fans and newcomers, but lacked any combat snippets.
If not for the recent leaks, we may not have gotten to know or seen other changes aside from the visuals in this $70 upgrade. Truth be told, there is no raw combat footage here, either. There are a few snippets of Joel shooting enemy AI's, as the rest of the presentation focuses on discussing the game's improved visuals, overhauled AI companions, DualSense features, and everything that should have been an afterthought.
The Last of Us remake controversy - All for nothing
What's funny about this ongoing The Last of Us remake drama is how oblivious Naughty Dog and PlayStation remain to the popularity and success of its post-apocalyptic franchise.
The Last of Us is one of the most immersive and popular video games of its time, and the studio didn't have to go over the length to sell a visually and mechanically enhanced variant of it to the millions of returning hardcore PlayStation fans or the excited PC players who would get to experience it for the first time.
The Last of Us remake would have sold (and would still sell) millions of copies with ease despite its heavy price tag. In fact, even if Naughty Dog gave an upgrade path to the loyal fans who had already purchased the game twice on PS3 and PS4 or given these players an option to play the game via its new PS Plus subscription service, there would still be a humungous player base who would have bought the game at launch. Games like Forza Horizon 5 are a stark example of this.
In short, The Last of Us remake didn't need any special marketing techniques or enticing PR statements to become the next big PlayStation hit though by taking this route and misleading fans with its dubious practices, Naughty Dog and PlayStation have yet again broken the trust of thousands if not millions of hardcore fans of the franchise.
The studio is rumored to be working on a brand new IP, and it's no doubt that it would be something special, something that Naughty Dog and PlayStation would market extensively when the time comes.
However, given the numerous breach of trust, it would be difficult for an abundance of Naughty Dog fans to believe everything they see and read about this game (or any future Naughty Dog game) online before its launch, something that could affect its sales and its ability to retain players.
For more on The Last of Us, why not check our section dedicated to video game news, guides, and features.
Featured image courtesy of Naughty Dog.