I didn't think we needed a The Last of Us remake until I saw it in motion – that's what I said about The Last of Us Part 1 when we first learned it was being remade last summer. Less than a decade on from its launch on PS3 in 2013, just the thought of Joel and Ellie's maiden voyage being reworked felt off to me – and while I fully appreciate age can skew the perception of time, I just couldn't get my head around the fact that a game not even 10 years old was being given a visual and technical makeover.
As the headline above attests, though, that was until I saw it first-hand. It is drop dead gorgeous, to the point where I now think the original game looks totally dishevelled in comparison. Suddenly, a remake made perfect sense – a sentiment that's since been underlined by the arrival of the brilliant HBO TV show, as well as Naughty Dog's recent admission that Part 1 was given the go-ahead because the developer wanted it to be visually "contiguous" with Part 2. And it's with that last part in mind that I now think the 2014 forerunner to Sons of the Forest probably needs a modern day recalibration.
I'm only a few hours into Endnight Games' Sons of the Forest, but I cannot believe how beautiful it is. My gaming laptop can, granted (despite its RTX 3060 GPU and i7 processor, it often sounds like it's about to explode), but the occasional framerate stutter and deafening hum from my machine's exhausted fan aside, it really is one of the best-looking open world survival games I've ever played.
In comparison to The Forest, Sons' direct predecessor that hit Early Access in 2014 before being released in full four years later, everything has been upgraded in audio and visual terms. You can almost smell the crispness in the air in its outer sprawls, and feel the hopelessness levied by its twisted underground caves. When hacking at trees with a tempered steel axe, bark peels and vines tumble from above as they would in reality; while small fish dart around unpredictably in shallow rock pools just like the real thing. The idea that video game settings should be considered as central to their narratives as the characters themselves has been repeated to the point of cliche, but there really is something tangible about how well Sons of the Forest's world wraps around the player, their actions and their story.
Not that this wasn't the case in The Forest, but considering developer Endnight Games' humble beginnings with so few hands on deck in its earliest days, the fact that the first game looked as good as it did is pretty remarkable. Having opted to also steer Sons of the Forest down the Early Access road in order to sidestep another delay, the studio's current focus is growing its latest project – a decision that already seems justified, given the fact its first patch two weeks after launch added binoculars, hang gliders, a mini boss battle, balance tweaks, and loads of bug fixes among other things – but I would now love to see the same The Last of Us-style "visually contiguous" motive applied here.
The Forest looks nice, but the deluge of side-by-side footage that's since flooded pockets of YouTube aptly illustrates the glow-up the series has enjoyed in the wake of Sons' arrival. And so imagine circling around The Forest's loosely-defined story spots – the plane crash site, the yacht, the film crew camp, the pit, the lab; the lot – with its visuals dialled up to 11. Imagine the stomach-churning terror of haplessly fumbling around in the dark, with nothing but a Zippo lighter leading the way, as hordes of bloodthirsty cannibals circle in the shadows, somehow all made even scarier with Sons' character models and ear-piercing audio. In essence, imagine The Forest receiving the same unlikely but ultimately essential treatment applied to The Last of Us Part 1 and tell me you wouldn't be up for it.
Against the seemingly perpetual torrent of video game remakes rolling off the conveyor belt these days, it feels like an official remake of The Forest (with its 400,330-person 'Overwhelmingly Positive' review rank on Steam) is a matter of when not if in the longer term. It's just that after being wooed by the stunning prestige of Sons of the Forest's visuals I now want it sooner than later – against the will of my sanity, my blood-pressure, and my dangerously overworked gaming laptop in the meantime.
The best survival games will test your will to live