The original Last of Us is a powerful game that starts with an emotional prologue and ends with a scene that makes you wonder if it was all worth it. It’s a game that has seen the test of time and a sequel that brought the series to the modern era with improved controls and visuals. It makes sense, then, that a remake that bridges the visual gap between the two would be the direction Naughty Dog would go.
It’s a bit controversial, really, seeing that the original received a remastered version already a year after it released to update its graphics and visual output. Because The Last of Us Part 1 is the same game but with PS5-friendly makeover, calling it a remake is a bit ballsy considering the experience is technically the same. Think of this one as a remastered Remastered, if you will, so you may be disappointed that gameplay is identical to the one you played almost a decade ago. If it’s your first time, however, then that’s a different story as this is the definitive version you want to play.
Revisiting a Masterpiece
Playing Last of Us after playing it years ago is a bit like watching your favorite movie again after seeing it when it first came out in theaters. The emotions you get from certain scenes are still there and you may catch something you didn’t notice the first time you watched it, but you generally know what to expect because you remember the plot. That’s how I felt playing this version of the game considering I first played it back in 2013. Certain scenes came back to me right away, but other moments felt new and made me fall in love with the series all over again.
- Overhauled graphics that complement the emotional power of the game;
- Seamless integration of cutscene and gameplay;
- A classic story retold in the best way possible.
- Same puzzles and solutions from the original;
- Cosmetic changes outweigh any other improvements.
Of course, if you played the Remastered version recently on your PS4 Pro and you play Part 1 now, you won’t be that enamored. The power of this remake lies in you forgetting the original and picking it up years after your last adventure. Because the story is unchanged, the gameplay is the same, and even the combinations to various lockboxes are the very same ones you first discovered years ago, this game will feel too similar and may not be something you will want to play right away. It simply will not be worth its updated visuals—at least, I would have major reservations about purchasing it at its current price.
Instead, if you are like me and haven’t played the game in a long time, Part 1 feels like a masterpiece of a game that tells a poignant story of a man named Joel who has to escort a teenager named Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States for the chance to save humanity. It has your usual zombies that want to eat your brains, but the true threat, like most apocalyptic narratives have taught us, are the humans you meet along the way. It’s a game that is dotted with emotional cutscenes after some intense gunfights and it’s one that lets you toy with various weapons and crafting tools to stay alive.
At its core, Last of Us has you exploring various environments from the bombed city of Boston to the deserted streets of Pittsburgh to a desolate college campus in Colorado—each one offering a nostalgic view of the past world juxtaposed by the gritty reality of what life has now become. Each area you visit is designed in such a way that it lets you explore its immediate surroundings while still keeping you on track towards your destination and goal. Yes, it’s a linear adventure, but you have time to breathe in some of its atmosphere in between combat.
That New and Old Feeling
When you do get into action, you will notice that the game feels more responsive and less clunky than the original. While you can’t dodge or go prone like you can in its sequel, Part 1 improves on weapon handling and offers you various options to adjust your aiming sensitivity to give you a style that works for you. Even haptic DualSense features gives each weapon its own sensation so your shotgun feels a lot heavier than your good old pistol. Newer menus and various accessibility options make the feel a bit more modern, offering a sleeker UI and features that lets more players enjoy the experience.
If it’s been some time since you played the original or if you never played it at all, The Last of Us Part 1 is totally worth its price considering it’s the best way to experience its wonder. Otherwise it just reads like a bestselling book with an updated cover.
The game’s AI is also much better both from an enemy and friendly perspective. Clickers and bandits will now flank you if you are not careful, and you can definitely feel their increased intelligence on higher difficulty settings. Even Ellie, Tess, and anyone else who follows you behaves better than they did in the original. Now, they won’t just aimlessly walk into a zombie but instead make more strategic moves before an enemy gets too close. It’s a small touch but greatly makes the game feel more real especially if you play it with stealth in mind.
Its other and more apparent upgrade is its visuals, of course, and this isn’t just an update to what the game looks like. Naughty Dog has rebuilt everything “from the ground up” meaning that character models and facial movements have been recreated and re-recorded. This gives each character a more realistic look and expression during dialogue-heavy cutscenes, but it also means cutscenes seamlessly transition into the actual game without any interruption. The high-fidelity visuals also bring the game up to par to those of recent PS5 titles like Horizon Forbidden West so you can really appreciate the realism in each performance in and out of its more cinematic moments.
Despite its cosmetic improvements, the game’s skeleton is still the same. Narrow corridors with conveniently placed crates for cover are still rampant in your playthrough, and even those repetitive ladder puzzles and areas where you need to help Ellie cross a body of water to return. These areas were never a favorite of mine in the original so realizing they are back without any changes feels like a bad case of déja vu. “Oh, this thing again,” as Ellie puts it, sums it up quite nicely whenever you need to find a wooden platform for her to cross.
Multiplayer is left out of this remake, and while some had mixed feelings about this mode, it gave the game replayability and was actually quite fun back when everyone was playing it. Naughty Dog is working on a standalone multiplayer experience for the series so what you get instead are plenty of extras like art galleries, new skins for Ellie and Joel, and both a permadeth and speed run mode to keep you busy. The Left Behind DLC is also included in the game so it provides a complete Part 1 experience that really sets you up for Part 2.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
For a full priced game, The Last of Us Part 1 asks you to love it again and that you consider it a worthwhile investment. It’s the same game you played back in 2013, but its improved visuals, rebuilt models and environments, and its ever powerful story are reasons why you may want to consider taking the plunge. As I mentioned, if it’s been some time since you played the original or if you never played it at all, this remake is totally worth its price considering it’s the best way to experience its wonder. Otherwise it just reads like a bestselling book with an updated cover.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com