I spent most of my summer staring at Joel Miller’s goatee. Naughty Dog, as it often does in the off years between major releases, unveiled its latest back-catalog remaster during 2022’s patchwork E3 facsimile. This time, the team was resurrecting the bleak, apocalypto-Western classic The Last of Us with the processing power now available on the PlayStation 5. It’s called The Last of Us Part One—formalizing its Godfather-like relationship with its 2020 sequel—and the graphics czars over at Digital Foundry posted a side-by-side comparison of Joel’s scruffy visage so the audience could marvel at the new duds. The problem? I could barely identify any tangible difference in fidelity.

Here is the goatee in question. In the remaster, you will notice that Joel’s hair follicles are flecked with a few stray gray hairs, and that the shadows on his face are mildly richer, but that’s about it. The gut punch of a generation leap—the ache of knowing that your tech is officially outmoded—was nowhere to be found. Instead, at first brush, The Last of Us Part One made me wonder if there is only so much juice to be squeezed from a remaster, particularly for a game that was released in 2013 on the PS3, upgraded in 2014 for the PS4, and is now being primed for the PS5.

I am not alone in this. By and large, fan response to The Last of Us Part One has been fairly tepid. Yes, more footage of th
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