To be clear, there is a lot to be hopeful about in this announcement. Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin is attached to write and produce the series. Neil Druckmann is joining him, and it always helps when the person in charge of an IP is influential in its adaptation. The Last of Us is one of the best storytelling vehicles in the video game industry, so it lends itself to other storytelling mediums better than most stories in gaming.
However, I’ve still yet to really be proven wrong about video game adaptations, and I’m definitely entering this one with reserved expectations.
My biggest issue off the top is that this intends to adapt the first game in the series. I love The Last of Us, but it is not a particularly groundbreaking or interesting story in its own right. it’s your typical grimdark zombie stuff, with all the same scares, deaths, and scenarios we’ve seen dozens of times over. The majority of what made it such a gaming juggernaut has to do with the fact it’s a game. That player interactivity creates a connection to Joel and Ellie that otherwise would not exist. Without player control, I’m just watching a story I’ve seen done dozens of other times. It’s the same problem any adaptation of Uncharted faces.
I’m not sure how a TV version of this story can be interesting enough to replace player interaction. I’m not sure how you make Joel the least bit likable without me controlling him.
It would be more interesting to see a story set separate from Joel and Ellie, to see new things we don’t know. What was Marlene’s life like before the events of the game? Or Tommy? How did his community form? What other interesting stories are there to tell in this wide world of zombies? Newer stories would give them more room to tell this story their own way. Adapting The Last of Us itself just leaves you with the monumental task of trying to inject something more interesting into the story without losing what attracted people to the story and characters.
Now, I’m not going to say Mazin and Druckmann can’t make this a good show. Like with every other video game adaptation, though, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m very open to being wrong.