How Leaks Are Hurting the Reputation of Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog has suffered from several significant leaks recently and it is slowly affecting its reputation as a company. The studio who was once seen as PlayStation's golden child is now being accused of being greedy money-grabbers due to the latest leak.

How Leaks Are Hurting The Reputation Of Naughty Dog

The thing which Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us Remake is becoming best known for is leaks. Last year was the first time that we heard anything about Naughty Dog remaking the game, and that was through online leaks. Then, the day before Naughty Dog was due to officially announce the remake at the Summer Game Fest 2022, online leaks emerged revealing details of the reveal. Even the latest gameplay deep-dive video has leaked before it has been officially posted.

You can check out the video below from SPD Gaming to gauge whether or not you think that there is a significant improvement in the game’s moment-to-moment gameplay.

The Last Of Us Remake PS5 New Gameplay Leak 11 Minutes (HD)

The thing that stood out to me most whilst watching this footage was how the gameplay sequences are virtually identical to The Last Of Us Remastered. The UI is identical, the voice acting and sound effects are the same and the movement and combat animations are almost indistinguishable from the original.

I have watched this footage multiple times at the time of writing and the only slight improvement that I can see is in the fluidity of the animation. There are certain points in which the movements seem slightly smoother and less awkward than the original. With that said, it is an incremental improvement which would not be noticeable to the majority of the general public.

I do not doubt that if you were to play through this sequence in the exact same fashion on The Last Of Us Remastered on a PS4 Pro and compare it side-by-side with this footage, hardcore gaming fans would likely notice a slight difference. With that said, the difference would be negligible. This is the case for both cut-scene footage and gameplay footage; unless it is shown side-by-side, the difference is not immediately clear. Is a minute visual make-over really worth the $70 price tag that they are charging for it?

The difference in the fluidity of the combat animations is clearly an improvement over the animations in The Last Of Us Remastered. However, can you say that the alteration in character design is necessarily an improvement over the original? Sure, the character textures may be a higher resolution and more pixels may have gone into the character’s skin and clothes, but looking at the two images below, can one unquestionably be designated as looking better than the other?

The difference isn't all that obvious until it is shown side-by-side with the original.

The difference isn’t all that obvious until it is shown side-by-side with the original.

When the remake was officially announced during this year’s Summer Game Fest, various gaming news outlets began quickly posting comparison photos and videos, (similar to the one above,) in order to exemplify the visual overhaul present in the remake. Upon viewing those comparison images, many gaming fans noted the minuscule difference between the two. One thing that the fans also noted was that whilst there is a discernible difference between the two, one wasn’t necessarily an improvement over the other.

The design of Joel and Ellie has been changed for the remake in order to be more in line with the flashback sequences present in The Last Of Us Part 2. The new character designs have been criticized for not being in line with the personalities of each character at that point in the timeline.

For example; Ellie doesn’t look as baby-faced as she did in the original game. She looks more confident and self-assured, instead of the innocent, naïve child who she was in the original game. Similarly, Joel seems to have lost his edge. Instead of being the dishevelled, grisly survivor who we remember from the first Last Of Us game, this new version looks closer to the more comfortable, cosy, father-figure whom Joel eventually evolves into by the events of The Last Of Us Part 2.

These are characters who have grown up in a brutal, chaos-ridden world. They should look permanently run-down and bedraggled. Sometimes they don’t get to sleep or eat a decent meal for days on end. The original captured that haggard look much better than the softer, more healthy-looking models present in the remake.

This environmental comparison exemplifies the slight visual upgrade in the remake.

This environmental comparison exemplifies the slight visual upgrade in the remake.

The argument could also be made that, as the character models have been taken from the flashback scenes from The Last Of Us Part 2, along with the fact that this remake is literally titled; The Last Of Us Part One, surely the gameplay should be consistent across both games?

Why were the gameplay systems from Part 2 not applied to this remake? That discernable difference would have been a selling point and could have provided fans with a legit reason to go back and play this thing. As it stands, if you play through this remake with the intention of playing Part 2 immediately afterwards, then you will have to re-adjust to the varied control scheme of the second game. And there is a distinctive difference between the two.

Due to the fact that you play as Joel in the first game, (a much heavier character than either of Part 2’s protagonists,) the gameplay in that title feels heavy and cumbersome. Whilst this heavy, clunky feel is something which I enjoy about the first game, the fact that it still looks to be present in this remake is just something else making it inconsistent with the lighter, more dynamic feel of the sequel’s gameplay.

Many believed that the whole reason for this remake’s existence was to make the two experiences of Part One and Part Two more consistent with one another. Evidently, this is not the case, which again begs the question: why did Naughty Dog bother remaking this game which doesn’t even feel all that dated, when they could have been focusing on a fresh, new idea?

The Last of Us Part I - Announce Trailer | PS5 Games

The announcement trailer above states that the game has been remade from the ground up. The accuracy of this statement is debatable. Sure, the remake will feature all new textures and lighting effects. New organic and inorganic models will also be utilized, along with new particle effects.

However, there will be elements recycled from the original game. The largest reused asset will be the audio. All of the voice over clips and sound effects will be identical to those used in the original game, barring some possible higher fidelity clips and possible use of binaural sound.

Whilst the environmental models and the character and weapon models will all be brand new, they will be layered over the same wireframe core of the original game. The reason that this overlay approach is being favoured over starting entirely from scratch is apparently to keep the landscapes and body language of characters consistent with the original game.

Sure, these recycled elements will be built upon for the sake of current-gen technology. However when your trailer claims that this game has been, “rebuilt from the ground up,” it sticks in the throat just a little. All of a sudden, that phrase comes across as hyperbole and feels like the wrong way to describe this project.

The Last of Us Part I Rebuilt for PS5 - Features and Gameplay Trailer | PS5 Games

The day after the extended gameplay video leaked, Naughty Dog put out this official deep-dive video which also showed off some gameplay. This video confirmed that the remake would address one of the original game’s major criticisms. The visibility of the player’s AI companion was always an immersion-breaker in the original game.

As shown in the video above, an overhaul of the game’s programming has allowed for the AI companions to now be aware of the enemy’s line of sight. This hopefully means that the AI will be clever enough to avoid the enemy’s glance and not ruin the immersion.

Whilst that is a worthwhile improvement, the question remains; are these small upgrades worth the hefty $70 price tag? The answer to that question will undoubtedly vary from person to person, however, it seems ubiquitously incredulous that Naughty Dog would have the gall to slap a full-price charge on a remake of a ten-year-old game with negligible improvements over the remastered version which is available for under $20.

For a game such as this, $40-50 seems like a much more appropriate price point. Does that mean that the extra $20 has just been added on for the sake of name recognition? Why did this thing have to be $70 and not $50? Is it just pure greed?

Before summarizing, I would like to state that as someone who qualified with an Honours degree in 3D Animation at university, I understand more than most just how much work goes into these projects. I am not saying that VFX artists and game developers don’t deserve to be paid well. My issue lies with a greedy corporation milking its fan base.

The point is that Naughty Dog really has to do something about all of these recent damaging leaks. The company’s previously stellar reputation seems to be slipping by the minute with every new leak which emerges. Whether you decide to drop $70 on a ten-year-old game with a new coat of paint is entirely up to you. However, it is clear that some damage control is needed at Playstation’s flagship first-party studio. Leaks are never a good thing for any studio, however they seem to have been particularly poisonous for Naughty Dog as of late.

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