No, The Last Of Us 2 Remastered Is Nothing Like A Criterion Collection Release

If I had a nickel for everytime Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann said something that made my eyes roll out of my head, I could probably have added that side of guac I agonized over to my Chipotle order at lunch time today. Look, nickels don’t go that far these days. The point is, the man has a habit of saying eyebrow raising, self-aggrandizing things, and making bold claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Case in point: the assertion that the upcoming The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is a “Criterion Collection release for a video game.” No, it’s not.


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The quote comes from an Entertainment Weekly interview where Druckmann promoted next month’s rerelease of 2020’s TLOU2. As has become the standard for first-party PS4 games, the PS5 version of TLOU2 comes with some visual “upgrades” (with snarky quotes around it considering some of the side-by-sides aren’t very convincing), as well as faster load times, DualSense support, and more accessibility options. It also comes with a new roguelike game mode called No Return, and playable segments of cut content, along with developer commentary that contextualizes these “Lost Levels”. This seems to be what Druckmann is referring to when he says the remaster is Criterion Collection-like.

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While it’s true that Criterion pioneered certain behind-the-scenes bonus features, including the commentary track, that isn’t at all what makes Criterion what it is today. A DVD of Grandma’s Boy has deleted scenes and director commentary, after all – having those things doesn’t warrant a comparison to Criterion. Druckmann wanted to pull on the association to give TLOU2 Remastered the same air of prestige that the Criterion Collection holds, but a huge publisher re-monetizing a three year old game with bonus features has nothing to do with Criterion.

The Last Of Us Part 2 - Ellie And Dina Dancing Together

Criterion’s mission as a boutique Blu-ray distributor is all about the restoration and preservation of classic films. The company uses painstaking processes – often described and cataloged in the included booklets – to produce the highest-quality version possible of every film it distributes in an effort to preserve the artist work, in a physical format, for the future. Beginning with the highest-quality sources possible, Criterion uses film-cleaning and restoration techniques to create enhanced, but unaltered versions of films. This is about restoring the images that have degraded over time on aging film stock, not painting them with new details.

The fact that Criterion releases movies it itself did not produce is a small but important detail.

Preserving the original artistic intent of each film is essential, and to that end Criterion invented the letterbox format that has become the standard way to present films in their original aspect ratio. The selection of films is equally important – it is a collection after all. The 1,500 films released by Criterion represent the vast majority of the most important, influential, and beloved films from around the world, throughout the history of film.

I don’t really have an issue with the TLOU2 remaster. It’s regrettable that console manufacturers have trapped us in a cycle of rebuying all new hardware every generation, which has led to reselling us the same games, because I find the whole process decidedly anti-consumer. But if that’s the way things are, then at least Naughty Dog is doing right by its fans by including so much behind-the-scenes and extra content, and not even charging full price for it or force-bundling it with another game like a certain arachnid-themed superhero.

But permitting a next-gen upgrade is not the same thing as celebrating it, and I’d sooner turn in my film degree before I’d let anyone get away with saying PS5 remaster and Criterion Collection in the same breath. Criterion’s releases are necessarily physical, based in the desire to preserve art for future generations, and would never futz with the lighting and call it an upgrade. There’s a lot of opportunity for someone to make the Criterion Collection of video games, but the TLOU2 remaster ain’t it.

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Adding Cut Content Is The Best Reason To Rerelease A Game Like The Last Of Us Part 2

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is being marketed as a graphical upgrade, but three Lost Levels and a roguelike mode add much more.

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